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Sundays That Do! (Go better, that is)

My precious granddaughter, Charis, had spent the night on Saturday night.  She is an early riser, as a rule, and I felt her slip into bed beside me just as I was ready to get up on Sunday morning.  The smell of roast beef was wafting up from the kitchen, and I remembered that it was “Carry-in Sunday” at our little country church.

The man who was supposed to bring the morning message had been waylaid by surgery that hadn’t gone as well as expected, so Friday night, the Leadership Team had decided to have a “fifth Sunday” plan for the morning service and that meant we would have a song service instead of a morning message, and follow that by a potluck “dinner on the grounds” kind of thing.  Only it wasn’t dinner on the “grounds” to be honest.  It was “dinner underground” in the basement of our church.  It’s a beautiful and convenient gathering place and will easily handle our congregation.  I was so glad for the decision to have carry-in.  I missed last month’s when we were in Missouri, and it’s always a good time with our church family.

So Charis and I got ourselves up and betook ourselves downstairs.  We stirred about, she having coffee and a breakfast sandwich and watching Veggie Tales, and I, making succotash, getting the roast out of the oven, making gravy, collecting the mushrooms for the mushroom dish I like to take with the roast, and trying to calculate if there was enough tea concentrate to take Garden tea along for the meal instead of the usual Southern Sweet eat that we take.  Certain Man came into the kitchen and carefully sliced the roast into the usual pan, and Middle Daughter came down and helped out with the dinner preparations, and we finished in good time.  It’s always a scramble to get out of the door on time any Sunday, and this day was no different, but with the good, good help of everyone, we got everything loaded and got to church on time.

We had a wonderful time at church.  The “mature women’s class” had a splendid time together.  There was so much to catch up on and there were things to cry about, things to laugh about and lots and lots of things to pray about, for sure.  And the song service was heartwarming and worshipful and familial.  And yes, I did mean familial.  If there’s anything we are at our church, it is that special feeling of being a family.  We don’t always agree, and we don’t see everything eye to eye and sometimes feelings get hurt, but most of the time, for most of the folk, people are caring of each other and how people feel and think.  And we really do love to sing together.  I thought Sunday’s songs were especially thoughtfully chosen and enthusiastically sung.

But it wasn’t just the service and the meal.  It was the announcement that was made during the service.  The announcement had to do with a notice that was put on the back bulletin board.  And for all of you who haven’t heard, this is now the official word.

Here, see for yourself.

Clint & Sharon

Now you know!

(This is the “happy news” alluded to in the last post, and it is exciting for all of us.)

My heart truly does give Grateful Praise!

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Filed under Family, Laws Mennonite Church

February Mix: Winter’s Chill and Spring’s Warm Hope

The wind whipped cold around the corner of the bedroom where Certain Man and I sleep. It howled and complained and I could feel the cold that wanted inside around the window by our bed.  Out from our window, I caught the sound of our chimes, (named “Mozart” because of the chords that are able to be distinctly heard in the composer’s scores and had been recreated in these chimes) as they bravely withstood the onslaught.  The silvery notes hung in the darkness on the cold, cold wind and comforted me.

I thought about cold.  I thought about fear.  I thought about darkness and hope and silvery notes on the night air.  I thought about the things that hold us steady and give us joy when it feels as if we are buffeted by unexpected, icy blasts.  I thought about how beautiful the weather had been just a day before, and the daffodils that were nearly six inches high in my yard, and the tulips peaking through the cold ground on the sunny side of the barbecue pit.  Just yesterday I had noticed the crocuses poking through the mulch on the peony row by the front door and thought that they are late this year.  I thought about the incoming Spring.

The second week of February was a tough week for the family unit at Shady Acres.  Monday of that week was spent doing “prep” for a scheduled colonoscopy with our one handicapped individual, BL.  In a delightful surprise, it was way easier than I had anticipated.   Over the years, BL has honed her control issues to a very tight ship, and one of the things that she has controlled in almost unbelievable ways has been her bathroom habits. (As in holding everything until it is a most inopportune time or for someone that she doesn’t like.)  This habit that has been one of the hardest for me to be gracious about (particularly when she is giggling out loud over an “accident” that has me scrambling) actually worked in my favor in this particular situation.  Since she is non-verbal, I trucked her to the bathroom at timely intervals, and she never once made a mess for me to clean up. This gal really does have control!

Another thing that made this prep easier than it would have been with another individual is her ability to down large quantities of liquid with scarcely drawing a breath.  (She will actually chug 12 ounces of Pepsi without stopping for a breath if someone doesn’t intervene.) So getting her to drink her “Go Lightly” mixed into 16 ounces of water?  Piece of cake.  16 more ounces of water?  She was holding her hand out for it.  And 16 more?  Bring it on, she was ready!  Of course, I didn’t allow her to drink it all at once, but it was no problem at all getting her to drink all 48 ounces in an hour.  The second round of prep was likewise finished just as successfully, and we were finally ready for the visit to Milford Hospital’s Day Surgery department.

That day was long and hard.  BL’s veins are difficult and beyond the abilities of even the best phlebotomist.  Precious time was spent (and lost) as tech after tech tried technique after technique with no results, or minimal results at best.  We started at the Day Surgery Department at 7:30 a.m.  The clock on my dash read almost 4 p.m. when we headed home.  Dr. K had come in after completing the colonoscopy with the words, “We’ve got to talk.”  My heart sank as the import of the words settled into my brain.  “Mass, cecum, surgery, cancer and ASAP” swirled around in my brain as he gently tried to impress upon me the importance of his find.  The staff was terrific.   They made an appointment for the surgeon already the next morning, and scheduled two CT scans for yet that day, with and without contrast.  They poked and prodded poor BL until I was past being able to bear it.  Each department was sure that their vein finding prodigy could surely get a viable vein and until they were convinced otherwise, BL had another infiltration, another poke, another cry like a wounded animal.

Along about 3 p.m., I stood by her stretcher over in the Cancer Center, where they had sent us, hoping for a quicker and more efficient finish.  The techs had gone off, looking for supplies and assistance.  It was just her and me in that big, cold room, and she was huddled under a warm blanket that they had brought in for her.  I stroked her wounded arms and rubbed her purple blotches and in the quiet of the room, I started to quietly sing to her.  “Jesus Loves Me,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Be not dismayed.”   She seemed to relax a bit and her face wasn’t as contorted. How I wished that they could just get this over with!

The techs came bustling in, then,  to try on their own one more time.  Linda’s anguished squeal started my tears, even as they exalted that they had gotten it this time!  When the vein blew just as they started to push the contrast for the scan, I was done.  I had stayed with BL for almost the whole day, but now, through my tears, I asked, “When am I allowed to say that it is enough and that you have to call Vascular Medicine down to start the I.V.?”

They looked at me surprised, and said, “Oh, we’ve already called them and someone is on the way down.  Should be here any minute.”

I took a deep breath.  “Okay,” I said, “I’m sorry, but I cannot bear to watch any more.  I will do what I can to help to get her situated, but when it goes to another stick, I am going to excuse myself to the waiting room across the hall.”  They were understanding.  They were kind.  And after a while, they came and got me saying that, after two tries, Vascular Medicine was able to start a suitable thread, they had completed the scan, and that I could take BL home.

I got her bundled up and tucked her into the wheelchair.  I pushed her through the halls of Milford Memorial Hospital, and I wondered what she was thinking.  I had tried to explain as much as I could all day long, as well as when I was doing the prep, but she sat in the huge hospital wheel chair as I pushed her along and she had drawn herself into a small lump, looking miserable and confused.  I spoke quietly to her as I pushed her along the almost deserted halls, cheery words of comfort and hope.  And then I thought about one of her favorite songs, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” as sung by Elizabeth Mitchell on one of BL’s CDs at home.

“Woke up this morning,” I started to sing quietly, “Smiled at the rising sun.  Three little birds sat by my doorstep . . . ”  I could hear the notes sort of echo off the walls, but no one was in sight, so I kept on.  ” . . .singin’ a sweet song.  A melody pure and true.  Singin’ this is my message for you -ou – ou !”

Now there were a few people moving along the corridors, some of them glancing furtively at this singing spectacle, pushing a blind, handicapped scrap of a woman in a huge wheelchair.

“Singin’ don’t worry,” I warbled on, “about a thing.  ‘Cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.  Singin’ don’t worry, about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.”  I got some sympathetic looks, and I thought about how embarrassed my kids would be if they were along, but I sang until I got her down to the entrance, where valet parking went to bring my mini van and I loaded her into her seat, buckled her seat belt and took her home to her chair.  She was hungry, and she bore almost a dozen bruises from her ordeal, but she was restive and quiet.

There would be time in the days ahead for me to sing other songs to her, (“God Will Take Care of You,” and “Why Worry When You Can Pray,” and “Whisper a Prayer in the Morning,” and “My Lord Knows the Way Through The Wilderness” and others) but for that moment it seemed like the right thing to be singing at the end of a terrible day, full of bad news, and needles and hard stretchers and cold rooms and great indignities.

Is “every little thing gonna be alright?”  I don’t know.  These days are filled with many unknowns, and I’m not at all sure how things will actually work out.  We are scheduling surgery, checking some other suspicious areas, signing papers, getting clearance, trying to cooperate in every way we can with recommendations and making a concerted effort to make things as normal and as cheerful as possible for both OGA and BL.  And the support and the words of comfort and encouragement have been freely given to and gratefully received by this Delaware Grammy who has been caring for handicapped individuals for over thirty years.

I am sometimes surprised at the people who imply that it’s time for me to quit.  I appreciate the concern, but I’m listening up to my Heavenly Father, talking to my family and doing a lot of praying, and this is not the time to bail.  Nor do I even want to.  We are BL’s “family.”  She has lived with us for over 17 years, and as I checked into her record, I realized that we passed, a LONG time ago, her longest placement before she came home to stay.  And just so no one worries unduly, I would like to say that the Delaware Department of Disabilities has been concerned, supportive, and more than generous in their offers of help.  I am not alone.  We are not alone.  God has a plan.  He loves BL, and He will do what is best.  By His Grace, we want to do our part, but health and healing are, ultimately, up to Him.

And in that, I not only rest, but offer here a sacrifice of grateful praise.

For those of you who would like to listen to Elizabeth Mitchell’s version of “Three Little Birds” you can find it here:

(And if you like Bob Marley’s version better, you can probably access it from that link.)

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Filed under disabilities, Family, Handicapped Adults, Praise, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

Yutzy Family 2016 Christmas letter

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Dear Friends and Family,
A Merry Christmas to all of you!  This season is a great time to remember all the people who have been a part of our lives in years past, and we enjoy hearing from you.  (Well, we’d like to hear from all of you, but we are very grateful for the ones who have taken time to remember us.)  The pictures are great, and the wall is filling up with Christmas cards.  We leave the pictures up for a number of months after we have taken down the cards, and it is one of the things that people will stop and look at and ask about.  One of the questions that we often get asked is, “How in the world do you know —?”  Let me tell you, it really is a small, small world!
I’ve wracked my brain for weeks over this Christmas letter.  There seems to be a lot in our world today about which to be discouraged.  There are differences of opinions on many popular subjects, there are wars and disasters and oppression and haters and people who just give up.  I remember President Kennedy making the observation in a speech that he gave around the time of the Bay of Pigs incident that has impacted me ever since.  (Yes, I’m old enough to have been living during his term of office!)  But what he said was, “We are living in perilous times . . .”  If ever there was a statement that defines where we are now, it’s that one.  (And I do think about it often.)
However, there has been a most persistent reminder coming over and over again to my heart in these days of uncertainty and that is that we are to be people of HOPE.  We are to remind the world of God’s goodness, His justice and His mercy.  We are to live and love the people that God has put into our lives with an eye on the Eternal, and hands that are occupied and invested in the present.
And so, with that in mind, I come to this Christmas Letter with a sense of the need to recount God’s Faithfulness in Daniel’s and my lives as well as in the life of our adult offspringin’s and our grandchildren.  There has been much for which to be grateful.
Daniel and I are both 63!  Daniel had toyed with the idea of retiring this year, but has opted to remain with the State of Delaware for now.  (If nothing changes, he plans to retire at 65.)  In addition to his “day job,” he is still raising chickens, raising a few beef cattle, doing some woodworking in his shop, gardening, and serving as deacon at our church.  Here at home, he tore down an old shop and made a place for his sister, Lena’s motor home to park.  (Lena was officially here from early August until after Thanksgiving, and that was a happy time for us.  She is now in Florida for the winter, and will be heading west in the spring.)  He is continually making improvements to his farm, looking for ways to make things better.  He loves the land, and he has a great sense of design.  I’ve often said that he has the eye of an artist, and he puts it to great use in the yard and buildings of the farm we call Shady Acres.  He loves helping our adult children with work projects, and enjoys the grandchildren and other little ones who are in and out of our home.  His Christmas village is up again this year, and it is pretty stellar!  Come on by and see it!
Jesse and Christina still live close by.  They have had a full and interesting year.  Jesse is still at Burris Foods.  There have been many stressful days there, and his job is anything but easy.  He’s been blessed with health and has proven over and over again that he will do what needs to be done, even at great sacrifice to himself and what he may want to do.  He is a kind and involved husband and father.  He is still my “go to” guy when I need help with something involving computers, and he helped to get my new computer up and going, as well as getting our Christmas addresses onto labels for me.  Christina is a stay at home mom to Charis, volunteers for many things at Charis’ school, and still manages the coffee bar on Sunday mornings at church.  She is a loyal and loving wife, mother, daughter and friend.  She has a heart for the marginalized, and she cares deeply about people.  Unfortunately, this tender heart has not been extended to the puppy, Maisy, that became a part of the family on Charis’ seventh birthday.  While a delightful friend for Charis, Christina has had the brunt of putting up with the antics of a young puppy (. . .digging up the flowers, tearing the neighbors sheets to shreds, dragging trash into the front yard, whining to come in, whining to go out, and the smell!) and though she has adapted and been gracious (for the most part) it has been a sore trial to her patience. Charis dearly loves this Rottweiler-Dachshund mix (I know!) and has spent many happy hours with her pet.  She also enjoys school, is reading very well for being only a second grader, and is a great companion for her Grammy on Thursday nights.  She is involved in piano lessons, and will sometimes spend time at her other grandmother, Achi’s, book store. She loves to follow Daniel around the farm, digging in the dirt, looking for kittens in the hay, harvesting cucumbers from her own cucumber vine in Grandpa’s garden and having sleepovers whenever she can talk the adults in her life into agreeing.
Deborah made up for last year by being out of the country two times this year.  She went to Prince Edward Island with her friend, Kanina Miller, on a trip that she describes as a “Bucket List” trip.  She had a wonderful time, was gone about eight days, and made some great memories.  In September, she went to Great Britain and the Island of Guernsey with another friend, Liz Washburn Strite, and even though she has been to England several times before, this was a trip that she enjoyed immensely- partly because of the company, but also because she saw places that she had previously missed.  She proudly says that they “did Land’s End to John O’ Groats” which is the equivalent of “sea to shining sea” here in America. On the home front, she swam with friends and their children, made cookies and cupcakes for the Bible study that meets at our house on Thursday mornings, as well as taking an endless supply of baked goods to other friends.  She’s teaching Sunday school again this year, and enjoys her class of the younger women very much.  She just celebrated her six-year anniversary as a hospice nurse for Delaware Hospice, and even though I may be biased since I’m her mother, I’m often grateful for the natural talents she has been given that make her an excellent nurse in this capacity.  She is efficient, compassionate . . . and often TIRED!  She is planning a big trip next year with her Aunt Lena – either an African Safari or to New Zealand, but those details still need to be worked out.  She is still occupying “her apartment” on the left side of the landing upstairs.  We are glad to have her living at home, but she’s been thinking seriously about more permanent housing.
Raph and Regina have had a very eventful year. They were approved for another foster child and in May had placement of a wee girlie that we came to know as “Baby K.”  Raph and Gina and the boys had her for around 11 weeks, loving her and believing that God was going to do what was best for her.  She went home to a family that loves her, and Raph and Gina have been privileged to have ongoing contact with her.  Shortly after she left, they were contacted about a house that they had wanted to buy five years ago.  Did they still want it?  Absolutely!  The next weeks were such that made us all catch our breaths in amazement.  Baby K went home around the first of August, and by the end of October, Raph and Gina had sold their house, bought the new one, moved, had a birthday bash for the three boys, Raph was ordained to the ministry at Grace Mennonite Church where he has been employed full time since the first of the year, and they got a call for another newborn baby girl.  Whew!  I still find it all hard to believe!  Mia Faith has been with them for almost two months now, and she is equally as loved as Baby K.  Her future is uncertain at this point, but God has given grace to this family to walk with trust and courage and an open hand.  As their family, we certainly have been offering some fervent prayers for this little one, but it’s not our decision and God will give grace for whatever He asks of Raph and Gina and the boys.  The boys! Simon, Liam, and Frankie are growing, doing so well, and are three distinct personalities.   It’s hard to imagine our lives without them, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to be Grandpa and Grammy to these three live wires!
Lem and Jessica are now living in Washington DC.  This past summer, they purchased one floor of a condominium in the city.  They have worked hard to give it the feel of “home” and to make it a reflection of who they are.  It has seemed “right” for them to put down these kinds of roots, and we’ve enjoyed visiting with them in their new home.  Most recently, Daniel helped Lem install a set of shelves in the living area, and the result has been esthetically pleasing as well as serviceable.  In late March, Lem and Jessica took a trip to Europe that they had planned for long time.  By the time Lem had finished his course work for his Ph.D. and taken his examinations, while both had carried full time work loads, it was time for the two of them to have some time away.  They made some wonderful memories, took some marvelous pictures and came home still friends! They are employed by the same enterprises as they were last year; Lem at Alvord, Baker and Associates as a psychotherapist and Jessica at the US Government Accountability Office as a Research Analyst.  They have been associated with the Table Church since they moved to the Washington area in 2013, and have made good friends there.  We were honored to have some of their friends join us for an early Thanksgiving dinner in early November, and it is always so nice to meet and develop relationships with the people who are friends with our adult children.
Rachel spent the year at her job in Washington, DC at Catholic Charities.  It was an important milestone when she crossed the one year mark in early December.  This is a job that causes young social workers to rather quickly burn out and they tend to move on.  Though Rachel does get really weary of the dynamics of poverty, government and human nature, I’m happy to report that not only has she stuck to it, but has been a very profitable servant to this organization.  We are so glad that she has been faithful when it would have been much easier to quit.  She took a road trip this summer with her friend, Lynae Byler that satisfied her thirst for adventure to some extent, and she has developed some close friends through the Table Church that help to fill in the spaces in her life.  The more she establishes her independence, the less we see of her, but it’s gratifying to know that she has friends and is trying to be at home even when and where it may not be exactly easy.  She does talk of looking for another job, and that’s a distinct possibility.  The thing is, she loves the city, so it’s not just any old job that will be able to woo her from the attractions of city life as she has known it over the last two years- first in Philadelphia, and now in Washington, DC.
I’m still a care provider for the State of Delaware and Audrey and Linda are still here with us.  My interests don’t seem to change a whole lot from one year to the next.  There is still a Thursday morning Bible study at our house with young women who impact my life and challenge me constantly by their commitment to serve Jesus, raise children that are Godly, and to be women who impact their world.  I haven’t written as much this year because of the everyday things that take my attention, but it is something that I still enjoy and keep trying to find time to do.  The year has been full of many things, and I certainly have had many reasons to rejoice.  The Christmas season has taken on a different tenor in the years since Daddy died (and now Mama) but it is still a time of wonder and joy as I think about Heaven and all that was given to us when Jesus came to earth as a baby.  We have been given so much, and this season is a good time for us to remember and to give back to those around us.
May we never forget the Best Gift of all, JESUS!
Merry Christmas to all of you.  May your days be filled with Joy!
With Love from all of us,
The Yutzys

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Filed under Christmas, Family, Holidays, home living, My Life

Chicken Corn Noodle Soup Recipe

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Take one  4-5 pound chicken.  (Usually sold as a whole fryer) Put into a large pot — (I like to use at least an eight quart size) cover with water, add 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 medium onion, and two or three ribs of celery. Cover and bring to a boil. I usually let it cook on medium for an hour and half to two hours.

Take the cooked chicken and vegetables out of the pot. (I put it into a 9X13 Cake pan and let it cool until you can handle it enough to take it off the bones.) Discard the cooked onion and celery, skin and bones. You should have at least 4-5 cups of chicken from a single fryer.  (If you do not, check to see who was snitching your chicken before you got around to taking it off the bone.  Chicken cooked like this is good for so many things — chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken-etti.  Actually anything that calls for cooked, deboned chicken.)

While the meat is cooling, I like to strain the broth if there are lots of “floaties” in it and skim off excess fat. Put the broth back into the pot, and add about a four cups of corn (I use the home frozen variety) two or three cups of lima beans (If you don’t have home grown ones, be sure to buy Fordhook limas in the supermarket) a cup of chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onion and one carrot shredded and two or three packages of chicken flavored Ramen noodles with the seasoning packets. (I would probably use three, and I usually take my meat mallet and break them up in the package just a little before I put them into the broth.) Bring everything to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. If you want a stronger chicken flavor, you can add some instant chicken stock or some chicken bullion. Add the meat that has been taken off the bones and stir into the soup. (You can cut the meat into whatever size you want it. I like to leave mine chunky.)

And — (drum roll here!) it is ready to eat!

This makes about a gallon, more or less.

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Filed under Cooking, home living, Recipe, Uncategorized

Charis and Grammy Butcher a Chicken

The big trucks had pulled in and out of the lane at Shady Acres for most of Wednesday  night.  The big, fat, stinky chickens had been caught, put into the cages and hauled away to the processing plant.  Certain Man, short on sleep and long on labor, had finally come into the house and collapsed on his beloved chair and fell fast asleep.

The day was full with much coming and going, but somewhere along the line, Certain Man said, “The chicken catchers left one chicken — one big one!  Do you want to butcher it or shall I just put it into the composter?”

“I want to butcher it!” I said.  “I will probably not get to it, though, until tomorrow.”

“That’s fine,” he said.  “I will catch it and put it into my coop and you can get it whenever you want to do it.”

And so the day passed.  Thursday, I got a note from a cousin asking about some chicken soup for one of my neighbors, and I was reminded about that chicken, waiting for me.

“Sweetheart, did you catch that chicken for me?” I asked in one of my conversations with him during the day.

“Oh, no!” He said.  “I didn’t get around to it.”

“Do you think the fox got it?” I asked, reminiscent of the last chicken I had planned for a pot of soup.

“Shouldn’t have,” he said, “because it was in the chicken house and the doors were closed.”

Thursday nights are “Grammy Night” with Charis, and I decided that, unless her Daddy and Mommy objected, or unless she thought it was too gross, Charis and I were going to butcher a chicken for Grammy night.  I called her Mommy and told her my plan, and she and Jesse talked it over and decided to ask her what she wanted to do.  After school, when her Daddy was bringing her down he broached the subject.

“Grammy thought maybe she and you would butcher a chicken tonight,” he told her carefully, explaining some of the possibilities of the evening.  “Would you like that?”

“I wouldn’t like that,” she said, all excited. “I would love it!”  And so, it was decided.

She came into the house, all fired up to get busy, but I had something to get in to the post office before it closed, and she occupied her time with other things until finally, I was ready.

“I’m not so sure about this,” I said to her as we started out.  “Grandpa didn’t get this chicken caught, so I’m going to have to chase it down.  I’m getting a little old for this sort of thing.”

“Oh,” she said, confidently.  “You have me!  I’ll catch it for you!”

“I’ll be glad for your help, Charis,” I said, “but this is a big chicken.  It isn’t very easy to hold and it might hurt you.”

“Will it bite?”  She asked a bit anxiously.

“It probably won’t peck you, but it has spurs on the side of its legs that can scratch pretty hard.  I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Oh.” She said.

“Maybe you can chase it towards me and I can catch it,” I said.  “We’ll just see what works out.  Do you know which chicken house it is in?”  (She had been conversing with Aunt Lena who had helped Grandpa with some of the chores in the chicken houses that follow the movement of a flock.)

“Yup!” she said proudly.  “House three!”  So we headed out towards house three.  I was on the golf card and she was on her bike.  We stopped at the barn and the shed, also at the ante rooms of both house two and three, looking for the hook that makes catching a chicken a whole lot easier, but alas!  None was to be found.  I was wondering how in the world all of this was going to work out.  Chasing a chicken in a newly emptied house is precarious business for a woman of my age and weight and athletic ability.  The litter is uneven, with ruts and often wet places.  Chickens are crazy birds, with the ability to turn on a dime and run in the opposite direction.  They squawk and flutter and they are often the bearers of chicken poop on their feathers and always on their appendages that you are most like to grab when you are trying to catch them.  And without a hook?  I was most certainly in for some trouble.  But there was Bright Eyes beside me, chattering cheerfully and so very excited about our upcoming adventure.

We pulled up at the end of the chicken house and I opened the end doors.  It was dark and reeking of ammonia and the foul smell of a chicken house.  Charis nearly gagged at the heavy wave of barely breathable air.  We peered down the long expanse towards the other end, and in the darkness, somewhere near the middle door, I saw — well, something!  It didn’t really look like a chicken, but it was some sort of interruption in the emptiness, so I said to Charis, “We are going to go down to the middle door.  Grammy thinks she sees that chicken down there.”

We both got on the golf cart this time, as Charis decided to leave her bike and come back for it later.  Away we went, down to the main side door.  I opened it wide and stepped inside.  Charis stayed on the outside, undecided as to what she wanted to do.  She let the door swing shut.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I opened it back up.

“Charis, can you hold this door open so that I can see?”

She half-heartedly held it a bit, then stepped inside, then stepped back out, then held it open about a foot.  I still could barely see, but I could make out our intended victim.  He was a big old duber,  and when I stepped in his direction, he started getting away as fast as his little legs could carry him.

“Charis, can you come and help to chase him towards me?”  I was of the opinion that she could at least stand guard while I snuck up on him.  I caught on really fast that wasn’t a happening thing.

“Grammy, see, I can hold a little chicken,” she said from the safety of just outside the door, “but I don’t know how to hold a big one!”  She watched as I traversed the litter and got him over to the other side of the house.  Then, “Grammy, I’m gonna’ be down here,” she hollered as the door slammed shut and I heard no more.

I had a little more light at the far side of the house and it occurred to me that darkness might be in my favor in this situation, and so I eased myself slowly in the direction of the chicken.  He watched me with his beady eye.  I was almost ready to reach out and catch him by his wings when he suddenly took off towards the other end of the house.  About then I heard Charis at the end of the house where she had gone to retrieve her bike.

“Grammy, I’m down here, if you need me,” she hollered.  It was only 175 feet away.  I was pretty sure that she wasn’t going to be much help.

“Okay,” I yelled back.  “That’s good!”  At least she wouldn’t be getting hurt by a frantic rooster.

The things I had been concerned about were reality as I went over the ridges and rolls of the litter in the empty chicken house.  It was loose and I slipped and skittered around, trying to keep my balance.  Oops!  There was a very wet spot.  I hurriedly dislodged my foot from there, wishing with all my heart that I hadn’t worn my sandals for this job.  It already felt like there was at least a half a cup of litter between my sandal and my foot and now there was dampness. Oh, yuk! But I was intent on my prey, and he was stepping closer and closer to the wall.  I very slowly  narrowed the distance between us and suddenly made a grab!  Caught him squarely!  He squawked and protested mightily with his strong wings, but I quickly subdued him.  Charis, noting that he was safely in hand, disappeared again from the back doors of the chicken house and with amazing speed, met me at the side door as I exited with him.

I had procured some baler twine from the side wall of the barn when I had been in there looking for the hook, and I wrapped it around his legs while Charis made comments about his soon demise.  I put him into the back basket of the golf cart where my unreliable efforts to incapacitate him would not allow him to escape.  He looked questioningly at me through the wires.

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Charis fancies herself an animal whisperer.  She got up close to him and started to talk to him.

“Hey, little guy,” she crooned.  “Do you know you are going to get butchered?”  She didn’t seem sorry at all, and there was no pity or compassion or even regret in her voice.  She said something about it being her relative, but when I asked for clarification,  she changed the subject.

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“Come on, Charis-girlie.  We need to get this fellow up to the house and find a place to hang him.”

“Are you going to cut off his head?”

“I am, but I’m going to hang him first.  That’s the way my Daddy taught me.”

“Aren’t you going to lay him down and chop off his head?”  (There was entirely too much enthusiasm for carnage in this little person.  Maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all.)

“No, Charis, I’m going to hang it from the baler twine, then while it is hanging, I am going to go in and get some water started to scald him with.  While the water is heating, I will come back out and cut off his head.  But I don’t think you want to watch that part of it.”

“Yes, I do!”

“Well, we shall see.  But for right now, we need to find a place to hang it up.”  When we tore down the old shed, I lost my row of chicken hanging ropes.  I needed to fashion something to hang this chicken where it could bleed and flap about.  Charis and I checked out several possibilities while the chicken watched from his spot.

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I was feeling sorry for him about now, but my companion in crime was going full speed ahead.  “Why are we hanging him upside down, Grammy?  Why don’t you hang him on your onion rack?   Why are you doing that?  What are we going to do next?  Are you going to cut off his head with your knife?   Are you going to get your knife?  When are you going to get your knife?  Why do you need to get water?”  I answered questions and did my best to downplay any violence either intended or implied, but her thirst for gore was unabated.

I finally hooked the blue baler twine over the railing for the sliding door to the woodshed and secured the poor chicken into its restraint.  It was beyond much protest.

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But, wowser!  That fellow was really heavy.  Certain Man had said that he didn’t think I would have any trouble catching him because he was too fat to run too far, but for as heavy as he was, I thought he had run pretty fast!  Now, hanging him up, I wondered if my baler twine would hold him.  I didn’t think it would break, but it kept slipping down and the piece of wood that I had gotten to serve as an anchor wasn’t proving reliable.  I finally twisted and wrapped and wrapped again and decided that it would hold.  Charis wanted to touch him, but was worried.

“Do you think he will bite me, Grammy?”

“No, Charis.  I’m pretty sure he won’t.”

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And then we left him dangling in the evening sun, and we went into the house, started the water in a big kettle on a power burner, and sharpened my favorite butcher knife.  I tried to talk her into staying in the house with Auntie Beebs while I took the head off, but she insisted on accompanying me back outside.  The chicken was quiet.  I explained that hanging upside down like that made all the blood run to his head, and it kinda made him unconscious.  I told her that the knife was really, really sharp, and it only took a second to cut off his head.  I told her that her Mommy and Auntie Beebs and Auntie Rach and even the neighbor children and Grandpa didn’t watch while Grammy cut off a chicken’s head.  I told her that Grammy didn’t even watch while she cut it off.  She found the place on the neck that the knife needed to go and turned her head away so she wouldn’t have to watch.  I told her, again, that I didn’t want her to watch.  I told her that she had to stand back because the chicken would flop around up there on the rope and she could get blood on her.

“Okay, Grammy,” she said cheerfully.  “I’ll stand clear over her and I’ll do this.”  She backed about ten feet away and covered her face with her hands.  I checked to make sure she wasn’t peeking through her fingers.

“That’s good, Charis.  I think it’s better if you don’t watch.  I’ll tell you when you can look.”

“Okay, Grammy.”  Still cheerful, still not looking.

I grabbed the head of the big old rooster in my left hand.  He had a really thick neck.  I felt for an indention where I could put my knife, and put it there.  I turned my head while I made a quick, clean slash with my razor sharp knife, then dropped the head on to the grass.  And turned my head far enough to see two brown eyes peeking through conveniently spread fingers.

“Grammy!  I saw it!  I saw it!  I saw you cut it off!”  There didn’t appear to be any trauma connected with it, and I decided that I wasn’t going to make anything big of it.  In years gone by, many were the seven year old children who had to help with the family butchering, and seemed none the worse for it.

I gathered up my knife and said, “Come on, Girlie.  We need to go get the boiling water.”

“What are you going to do with the water?” She asked.

“We will put the chicken into it and scald it a little and then the feathers will come off.”  We procured the water, got it into a big pail, and came back out to where our now very dead chicken hung.  I dipped the chicken into the water and checked to see if the feathers were pluckable.  They were, and I hung it back up and started pulling feathers off in great quantities.  This seemed to bother Charis more than anything else.  She had donned latex gloves with the intent of helping, and I explained what she could do.

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She helped for a while and then, “Grammy, I didn’t know that I would have to do this.  I don’t like it.”

“It isn’t the most pleasant, but it is something that we need to do before we finish butchering it.  We have to get all the feathers off.  That’s first!”

“When are you going to take the guts out?”

“That will be next,” I told her.  “But first we need to get as many feathers as possible off.”

She manned the hose when I wanted the chicken rinsed off, and then we carried it over to the outside sink that her Grandpa had installed by the garden.  I scraped the skin and cut off the legs.  She watched in great interest as I made the first cut to loosen and remove the crop and windpipe.  She was unabashedly curious about every part that I removed.

“This windpipe feels like a tube!” she said as she fingered it.  And then, “Grammy is there any ‘chicken’ on the wings?”  I must have looked surprised, because she motioned towards the wings and asked again, “Is there any ‘chicken’ on the wings?”

I realized then that she meant “meat” and I said, “Oh, yes, there is.  You know, when Daddy goes to get hot wings, that’s what he’s eating.  Chicken wings!  Lots of people really like them.”

She looked thoughtful.  Then puzzled.  “Grammy,” she said, “do buffalo have wings?”

I had to laugh.  “No, Charis, buffalo do not have wings.  When the wings are called ‘buffalo wings’ it is talking about a certain spice that they put on chicken wings.  It’s still chicken wings, but it’s called by the name of the spices that are used.”

“Oh,” she said.

By then I had made a cut into the abdomen to draw out the innards from the bottom.  (I seldom cut up a chicken into pieces because I mostly use them to cook whole for soup or to stuff and roast whole or to soak in Tenderquick to put a different taste-twist on it.)  It was here that I expected some gagging or some serious revulsion and a hasty departure.  There was nothing of the kind.  The gizzard, the heart, the liver, the lungs, the intestines and even the gonads were duly noted, examined and discussed. And when all was cleaned up, a little girlie carried the heart, the liver and the gizzard to the house while Grammy carried the big old bird.  Inside, we put him into a big container and Charis added a cup of salt.  We filled the container with water until the chicken was covered, added ice, snapped on the lid and left it for the night.  I got a little pan and fresh cooked up the giblets.  Charis wasn’t much interested in partaking of any of them, so Grammy got the liver and Grandpa gladly speared the heart and gizzard for himself.

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Then her Daddy and Mommy came and fetched her home, and her Mommy reported that she slept almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.  Another “Grammy Night” was history.

After the chicken had spent the night in salt water, I took it out and put it into a big Ziplock bag to take to the fridge in the garage. On the way out the door, I stopped at the scales in the laundry room and plopped it on.  A full 8 pounds, all dressed.  He was big!

Then I cooked him up and today I made him into a big pot of chicken corn noodle soup with a generous portion of Delaware lima beans in it.  It made over two gallons.

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That’s enough to give away, share with friends and feed my family (who just might be getting tired of Chicken Corn Noodle Soup!) for a few days.

And that’s the news from Shady Acres, where Certain Man is always glad to let the butchering of chickens up to his wife, where none of The Offspringin’s are interested in learning this particular skill, and where Only Granddaughter has some stories to tell about her latest Grammy night.

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Designs on the Resolve

It had been a long day.  And as it got later and later, I felt some dismay creep into my soul.  I took a quick appraisal and decided that there were still some things that needed to be done before I climbed the mountain to my sweet, sweet rest. Middle daughter was home, but working, Certain Man’s day had been physically and emotionally taxing and the two of them were out of sight for the duration of the evening it seemed. Certain Man was within shouting distance, but Middle Daughter was documenting a complicated Hospice admission that she had just visited, and that rendered her pretty much oblivious to the goings on down in the main floor.

I sighed a bit (since Certain Man was NOT within sighing distance) and looked at the kitchen that I had just straightened a few hours earlier.  Since then, I had made a coffee cake for Certain Man, fed my ladies, picked and brought in some garden tea, and the kitchen was in disarray.  Over 50 containers of strawberry jam sat on the counter, ready to be taken to the basement and the tea hadn’t been made, so there was a small, green mountain on the cupboard where there were some small beasties crawling around.  There was still laundry to be sorted for the morning washing, and I was really tired.

There is only one thing to do in these situations, and that is to get busy QUICKLY and do what needs to be done.  But I’ve found that, while the sighs don’t help, and neither does feeling sorry for myself, it does help to look for things to be happy about. So I got busy and sorted some laundry.  Certain Man had already fetched the laundry from our side of the upstairs and brought it down to the laundry room.  (He’s always done that for me, ever since our children were little, and it is a big help!)  Our Girl Audrey had also gotten hers and Blind Linda’s into a big basket and pulled it out to the laundry room, which was another gift to be counted.  And Middle Daughter would bring hers down later.  In case you’re wondering, my angst was not at any of them.  It was just that this needed to be done and there was no motivation on the part of the one who needed to do it!  Uh-huh!

So.  Since I felt like I was supposed to stop sighing and be cheerful about things, I turned on one of my favorite CD’s and sorted the laundry that was available.  That was easy enough.  I like sorting laundry.  Especially to music.  And then I looked at one of those yet unappropriated laundry baskets and decided to use it to carry the strawberry jam to the basement.  I would need to make a couple of trips, but not FIVE.  So I started some water for the tea and then loaded my first sturdy basket with thirty jars of jam and headed on down to unload it.  The freezer needed some rearranging, but it wasn’t too bad, so I smiled at it and resolved to be cheerful and did what needed doing and got my first layer of jam jars into the freezer and then went back for more.  The water was boiling and I had managed to strip the leaves off of enough tea for a gallon, so I got that steeping, and then took the second load of strawberry jam to the basement and got it arranged where it belonged.  Wow!  That was satisfying!

Upstairs again, I found that Certain Man was off his chair and winding his clocks.  He was working his way around the family room, living room and then into the sun room.  I stirred about in the kitchen, finishing the tea and getting it into the fridge.  Then Certain Man said something about thinking it was time to go to bed.  Which suited me just fine.  He came out into the kitchen to see how things were progressing, while I finished arranging things in the laundry room for the morning’s chore of laundry.  He was saying something to me, and I was replying in my cheerfullest, brightest voice while I stacked some wash baskets around the corner from him when–!

Ker-thunk!!!

Down came a heavy wash basket right on my toe!  Right on my big toe.  Right on my toe that I had done surgery on to remove an ingrown toenail two nights ago!  It hurt so much that I couldn’t see straight, much less talk in a cheerful, bright tone.  I kinda’ stopped everything in that split second and didn’t say anything out loud.  (And NO! I wasn’t saying any bad words!)  But in my swirling head where all the stars were milling about I was saying, “REALLY???  (Oh ouch!!!)  All this concerted effort to not feel sorry for myself, (Oh ouch!!!) to count the gifts and to be cheerful, and this happens to me???(Oh ouch!!!)”  And of course, I had to say to my Heavenly Father, with my face all scrunched up and water standing in my eyes, “I just don’t get it! (Oh ouch!!!)  And why is this hurting so much?  REALLY much!!!  (Oh ouch!!!)  What sort of unholy design is there upon my honorable resolve???)  Thankfully, I was around the corner from Certain Man and he was sleepy enough that he never noticed the abrupt (long) pause in my cheerful, bright conversation.

After awhile he said, “You ’bout ready to go up?”

I took a deep breath, and discovered I was not going to die of toe-itis-meyeomia and decided to go for it.  “Yup!”  I said in my cheerfullest brightest voice while my poor toe throbbed and I gave thanks he couldn’t see my face, “I’m just finished.  Let’s go get some sleep!”

And so, we did!

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Grandchildren Gifts

The call came on Friday night.  It was our Oldest Son, Raph, calling from Sugarcreek, Ohio.  I wondered what was up.  Raph (almost) never calls.  When he does, there is a reason, usually.  (Mother’s Day, my birthday, plans for arrival, etc.)  So when I heard his voice on the other end of the line, I was puzzled.  Maybe he wanted to talk to his Dad.  No, wait!  He had called my cell phone.  That meant he wanted to talk to ME!

We exchanged our usual banal formalities, “how are you doing,” and such and then he said, “Mom, I wanted to tell you in person so you don’t find it out online or otherwise, (because you will hear it there) that Regina and I are going to be getting a  baby  girl to foster in about 45 minutes. She’s about two weeks old, and we don’t know much.  We could have her only until Monday or Tuesday, but it could be longer.  We don’t know.”

. . . and thus he set my crazy heart straight into another tailspin of joy, hope, worry, pessimism, optimism, and Grammy-love.

Later that night, we saw pictures of the little one, with the little men of the family swarming (there’s no other right word for it) around the big guy who was holding the baby, cradled in his big arms, all of them looking almost like they couldn’t get enough of this new bundle.  My heart ached with wanting to be there —  to see her and to touch her.  How long would she stay?  How long would we have?  What would the morrow bring?  And how would the boys deal with this new attention grabber? How would they like her if she stayed and grew and got into their things?  What would it do to their hearts if she had to leave?

Oh, Lord Jesus!  I had better pray!

And pray, I did!  And then again, and then again, and still praying!

I wonder how it would be to await the birth of a grandchild knowing that there would be no question of DNA or biological parental relinquishment or court orders or home studies or social workers.  I’m not criticizing any of these, you understand, because it is through these channels that we have been grandparents to our four (or, now five, however temporarily) grandchildren (and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon).  I’m not raining on anyone’s parade who have grandchildren the natural way.  I’m all for that, as well.  (Youngest Son, if you and The Girl With A Beautiful Heart are reading this, take heed!)  And I rejoice greatly with friends and siblings and cousins who have precious grandbabies to show pictures of, expound upon, and brag about.  I look at those pictures and  think I see the DNA of the generations in the little noses or eyes or chins.  They are so beautiful.  I am so happy for each and every one of the little ones, their parents and especially their grandparents.

But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) there’s something that has been niggling at the back of my heart these days.  One of the things that has been exciting to watch has been the nurture and the excitement of other families over the coming arrival of the little one that is growing within the body of someone we love.  From the joy over the first positive pregnancy test, to the first doctor visit, to the first sonogram pictures, to the first movements, to the inconveniences of each trimester — all building up to the time when those contractions start and there is the long expected little one. A wonderful, albeit expected culmination of months of expectation

That.  That is what has been so different for our family.

It’s been close to a year since we knew that there had been application made for a baby girl to foster with the intent to adopt.  Over the months, it was amended to a girl, age three or younger.  The nursery was ready, the crib was set up, and the family waited.  In September, our daughter in law, Regina, whose instagram name is #Hopethriving wrote the following words, captioning a picture of the ready nursery:

Sometimes I feel like a piece of my heart is missing and I don’t know where it is. And the wait is exciting and scary and sad because I know the gift coming that will fill that piece comes at the cost of pain to a child, physically or emotionally or both. It can consume me, this wait. The questions of when and how long will that piece be here and how will a loss affect the boys is terrifying. So I put my trust in God for his timing and protection and whenever I walk past that room with that empty crib I say a little prayer for that little hurt heart that will someday fill it. #fostercare #waiting

(I shed some tears over that one, yes, I did!)

And so, yes, we had about nine months of waiting, not knowing, hoping and waiting some more.  When we were in Ohio a few weeks ago, I peeked into the room that had been made ready for the baby, and it was back to being a little boy’s room.  I knew it wouldn’t take much to make it into a nursery again, but it was symbolic to me of how hard it is to hope and hope and not have the ongoing testimony of things happening.  I watched my daughter in law care for her boys, her heart so full of love for them and hopes and dreams for their futures.  I watched my son, tussle and play and tease (How can that Raph Yutzy be so LOUD???) and sing and pray with his boys, and knew that this family gave more than lip service to a God who was going to do what was best for them. When they spoke of expectations, their voices changed, and there was a quiet resignation to what was, and a willingness to wait.

But still they hoped and prayed that God would send them a little girl.

So when the call came on Friday night that two week old “Baby K” was coming to their family (and ours, as well) my heart, as I said, went on a tailspin of emotions. As I processed the kaleidoscope, I realized that, for all the joy of this moment, and in spite of how grateful I am to God for this priceless gift, there was a deep heart envy of something that, while being a given in the arrival of most grandbabies, was not ours to savor and enjoy.   I wanted the joy of the anticipation, and I wanted the security of knowing that she was ours to keep for all the days of her life.  And, if the truth be told, memories of little ones that Daniel and I loved and lost under the same circumstances seemed to haunt my heart, cloud my vision and kicked me hard in the gut of hope.

“This will never do!”  I think in my saner moments.  (I do have them!)  “It will not help me.  It will not help Raph and Gina and their family or our extended family.  Most importantly, it will not help Baby K.”  And then there was that business about God being pretty specific about what he thinks about us wanting something that wasn’t ours.  He felt it was important enough to put it in The Ten Commandments, for pity sakes! So. What do we do with those empty places in our lives that feel like they are our right to enjoy, but (obviously) are not ours?  Where do we go with the broken dreams, injustices, unanswered prayers and the bitter taste of envy or resentment or disappointment?

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

It sounds simplistic, and it sounds like a stock answer.  But I’ve found that it is always the first step for me not only to acceptance, but to embracing what has been given, and believing that God has a plan, a “better thing” in what He has given than I ever could have dreamed or would have had on my own terms.

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

I wrap up the “might have beens” the “should have beens” and the “if onlies” and “I wishes” and specifically and intentionally leave them there.  I ask for clear vision to see the good that God is doing here and now (as well as what He wants me to do) and I need to push that foot right out of the gut of hope and replace it with a conscious recounting of God’s faithfulness in the past, the mercies He has granted, and the gifts that He has given when I thought that all was lost.

I go to the foot  of The CROSS.

I bring a sacrifice of praise when it feels like it might choke me.  I remind the LORD how hard this is for me, and I am not quiet about my fears, and then I fill this mouth with praise until my heart follows.  Then I purpose that I will not hold back my heart from love or hope or joy  when I think about a little girlie, loaned to us for now, and I will borrow from the strength of family and friends who love and care and support and pray.  I will remember the words of our brave daughter in law, #Hopethriving when she says, ” . . I feel very at peace and am trying to just enjoy every minute we have.”

For sure.  That’s the best thing to do.  And God helping me, I intend to do it.

“We have this moment to hold in our hands-
  And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand.
 Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
 But we have this moment.  Today.”  (Gaither)

Here’s to our personal raft of grandchildren:

Charis, Simon, Liam, Frankie — You four are THE BEST!  And I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  I love all four of you to the moon and back.  I bless the day you became ours and I’m so glad you all have come to stay.  I’m more than glad that I am your Grammy.  I’m ecstatic!  (Let’s see what we can do next to make life interesting!)

And Baby K — welcome to the crazy, noisy Yutzy family.  We not only confuse people who watch us, but we confuse ourselves sometimes.  It’s a wild ride but the love holds fast and is big enough for you.  However short or however long, we welcome you and you will always have a piece of our hearts.  May Jesus stamp His image on your heart through this encounter and may you find in Him the Friend that will never desert you or forsake you.

We think you are exactly right for this time and this place, and we’re so glad you are here.

Love Always,
Grammy

 

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