When maternity leave leaves you on the scrap heap

 

maternity leave cartoon humor: 'Good to see you back at work.'

After another glorious year of maternity leave it is that time again to start thinking about returning to work . I have written before about my frustrations with having to return to the bottom rung each and every time you have maternity leave (read it here-  New Year, New job and the Glass-Uterus Effect ) and I have conceded that this is just life, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.  Since having my eldest son 6 years ago I have always been all to aware of the need to maintain my teaching hours in order to stay up to date with changes in curriculum and methodology. For you teachers out there I am sure you would agree that a year is a long time in Education. As the school year comes to a close I ‘ve started to look at my options for next year and to be honest there aren’t many at all for a mum of three who is no longer a permanent employee who can’t face working full time.

If you are permanent then in most cases you are able to return to work in a jobshare/ part time capacity as the school/ principal is obliged to assist in your return to work where possible.  If you aren’t permanent then you are free agent, no one owes you a thing and it is up to you to start again from the bottom just to get some relief work. With this uncertainty comes having to commit to 3 days worth of childcare x 2  ‘just in case’ you get called in for a relief day on those specific days. If no work comes up then you are stuck paying $300 for nothing.

I have always loved my job. In the early years after graduating, single, childless me worked my bum off, volunteered countless hours and would attend the opening of an envelope in hopes of gaining a permanent position. It worked and after 3 years I was given permanent status. No more worrying about whether you had a job each December and if you were going to be paid in the holidays. Fast forward 12 years and a resignation after moving interstate and now I find myself competing with young girls with 2 years experience and hours to give for even the most graduate level positions.

It makes me angry, I feel like I’ve done my time- but what is the solution? Well that is to go back full time and start from the bottom again. It was my choice to have my three beautiful children, and as my husband points out, there are many childless women in leadership positions who would happily swap for my position as a mum. I agree with him. I also look at friends of mine who for various reasons have gone back to work full time with small babies and wonder if i could do it too.I did do it with my first son, and at the time it felt right. It wasn’t until after that it felt so wrong. Maybe I should have and I wouldn’t be sitting here with 12 years experience looking for jobs again. But then I look at my last baby girl (as she rips this laptop from my hands) and my stomach hurts thinking about leaving her with some one else every day. Before long she will be waving at me through the school gate and I’ll then have those hours to give again, just like  did 12 years ago.

I know what my heart says- but I still have this internal battle every school year as I see opportunities come and go.It would be much easier if I hated my job and could use that as an excuse not to return, as I am sure many mums who weren’t particularly keen on their careers pre-children do, but I don’t, I love it and couldn’t think of doing anything else.

I guess for now it is part time relief or bust! How did you feel about returning to work after maternity leave?

 

 

 

New Year, New job and the Glass-Uterus Effect

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Tomorrow is my first day at a new school. Since arriving in Queensland 6 years ago I have been extremely lucky to have remained employed at the same wonderful school, conveniently located ten minutes from home. I remember my first day six years ago. Having just moved from a really tough school in the dry, northern suburbs of Adelaide I arrived at what looked like a tropical holiday resort. With a golf club across the road, the Surfers Paradise skyline in the background and a lake right in the middle of the school oval.  I remembered thinking, ‘we’re definitely not in Elizabeth’ any more, closely followed up with ‘I probably won’t need to worry about my car being stolen while it’s parked out there’.

During my time there I have welcomed my two beautiful boys, and to be honest it has become more of a social outing than a job. Amongst the staff are teachers who have become great friends, and in some instances I have taught all siblings from the same family. For a school that was only ever meant to be a temporary stop gap while we figured out if we wanted to stay on the Gold Coast, It turns out to be the longest stint I have had in any one setting. My second home.

I am so sad to leave, but so excited to move forward. After a lot of thought my decision was confirmed last week while watching my friends prepare to go back to the classroom full time. At my school it was full time for me or nothing. That is the problem with teaching, it is often all in or nothing.

After applying for jobs close to home and being honest about my plans to have more children, I was met with ‘In light of what we discussed, there won’t be any suitable positions for next year’ and I totally get it. Being that I am on contract, I am a liability in a classroom. Having a class is like taking guardianship of 30 little lives for a the whole year- not just for two or three terms until I dare decide to have a child in the middle of a school year. Before I  hear gasps of ‘discrimination’ it is so not like that. If you are permanent then you have a rite of return as a part time teacher. As a contract staff member I was lucky to have been looked after as long as I have been between having my children. To be fair, If it hadn’t been for stopping to have babies I would have had a permanent position here in Queensland as well as in Adelaide. They call it the glass ceiling effect- a woman’s inability to progress as far as a male in the same work place, and it is alive and kicking in the teaching profession. I just call it the ‘glass uterus effect’. Our progression is severely affected by our biological requirement to stop and have children, and lets face it, that is just tough shit! You can’t have years off and expect to be the boss when you get back!

So I’ve gone further a field for a 3 day classroom position (job share), and I couldn’t be more excited. Rather than dreading the return to full time work and leaving the boys, I can have my class…and eat it too (oops…cake).  Yes it is half hour away, and yes it’s not as pretty as where I was, but it is the best option for my young family at this moment in our short time together.

Teachers out there will appreciate the lack of ownership and achievement you feel when you don’t have your own class. We didn’t get into this profession to teach 12 lessons of back to back library lessons for prep children. On most days this involves getting them safely to the library without losing one or all of them as they cross the yard like a flock of sheep, sending at least three with sore fingers to the sick bay, a poo in the pants, having my feet rubbed (not so bad) and at least 3 comments about why I’m wearing the same clothes as last week.   (FYI you kids are just seeing me at the start of my washing cycle)

So tomorrow I meet my teaching partner and see what will be my new ‘home’ for a while. For some strange reason, what would have made me sick with anxiety once upon a time, is now so exciting! Maybe it’s called growing up.

Wish me luck 🙂

Awkward work toilet moments

When you work in schools or large office environments it is without doubt that you have encountered an ‘awkward shared toilet moment’. As a teacher in a large school, each trip to the toilet is an odd time, usually consisting of some controlled weeing pressure, loud talking or vigorous toilet paper ripping as a disguise to muffle the noise.

 Really when you begin to think about the logistics, whose bright idea was it to force relative strangers into the same tiny space to carry out their most ‘private’ business? Whilst I am intimate enough to share a wave with Wendy from the front office as we pass for the tenth time in the hallway, I certainly don’t want Wendy becoming a front row fan at my one woman toilet show.

 In some ways I admire those who can enter the shared toilet space and proceed as they would normally do at home. These toilet warriors have no shame what so ever and are happy just to let it all go, sharing their acoustic wee melody with all occupants. This person also doesn’t mind adding the occasional bottom burp to the mix. They figure, Hey, It is a toilet after all?

 Then there are those who take the cautious approach. They engage in polite yet pointless conversation over the cubicles in a not so discreet way to drown out the sound of the job at hand. Not sure I feel comfortable discussing report cards and children while reaching for the loo roll.

 What about the visitor who suffers from cubicle performance anxiety. This occupant enters at the same time as others but cannot proceed with business until the other person has at least started flushing the toilet.

 Some clever ladies out there who listened carefully to their doctors after giving birth are able to use the toilet to show off their amazing pelvic floor strength. These women are able to control the pressure and therefore the overall volume with more precision than a Foxtel remote. I applaud these strong and disciplined women, for I will never be one. I suspect I am headed for the ‘Nanna Nappy’ before the age of 50.

 My favourite toilet tales over the years have undoubtedly come from those who were suffering from ‘emergency’ toilet situations, with the consequences so disastrous they have had to wait in the cubicle until the room had cleared in an effort to avoid owning the‘pu-nami’. These poor souls, who are often experiencing the aftermath of a good curry have no time to employ the wit and caution of the above occupants. It is do or die.  It is the ‘emergency’ occupant who will also need to go one step further and sit with their legs tucked up to their chins so as to avoid the ‘shoe identification’ strategy. You know when you have a been a disgusted spectator and it is so bad that you can’t help but look at the shoes peering from under the door to see who it is that is struggling so badly in the cubicle. You walk out, sit at your desk then check every pair of shoes that leave the toilet for the next ten minutes hoping to positively I.D the ‘one’. The sole purpose of identification is of course to share the story with close colleagues and perhaps assign a completely unfair nickname to the owner of the black pointed heels.

 Lastly, I have also encountered my fair share of women who are too stupid to ensure that cubicles are empty before they begin a full scale bitch session about a co-worker. First rule of gossiping is 1. Don’t do it 2. If you must, then at least check for feet! Ignore this simple rule and you deserve to be caught.

 There are so many more stories to share on this unsavoury topic, but I will leave the rest to you guys.

 So don’t be shy, what toilet stories have you been keeping to yourself?

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I have married Captain Underpants

Today, for the second time in our relationship, my husband was caught outside in his underwear. At 7:30am this morning, this what not a funny event. At one point he was so furious he could not even bring himself to look at me. By 8:30pm this evening, it was one of the funniest memories I will ever have of him. You have probably already gathered that I am being blamed for this early morning ‘hiccup’. Anyway, you be the judge, here’s how it happened.

 Today was my ‘working day’, which as any mum would know is the only day of the week that the children are guaranteed to sleep in. Any other day you could poke a stick at, they are there tapping on your arm at 5.30am asking to watch the cartoons. To which you reply ‘Mate, even the cartoons aren’t awake yet, go back to sleep’. This little sleep in led to a cascading series of late events. Late showers, late breakfast, late dressing and a few little tantrums thrown in to remind you that they are feeling rushed. By the time I was finally ready to walk out the door, I was feeling more than a little frazzled.  Knowing my husband (Mr K) had a spare hour up his sleeve dedicated to getting himself ready in peace, quiet and solitude, I asked for some help in getting the kids into the car.

 Mr K obliged and proceeded out towards the carport. I followed shortly after with my keys in hand, turned around and locked the door behind me. This is just an automatic action, after previously having left the door open a few times. I remember looking at Mr K as he put the kids in the car thinking ‘Why is he outside in his undies?’ But then quickly dismissed it, gave him a kiss and hopped in the car.

 We waved to Mr K as he stood judging my driving ability and shaking his head at me as I avoided riding up the curb. I pointed through the windscreen to remind him about his undies, but he shook his head as though he didn’t understand. It was a short drive to the Kindy, and I had just pulled up to the front door, with Son 2 in my arms and Son 1 escaping through the Gate, when I look to my left to see a freaky, frantic, half naked man puffing with fear and disbelief shouting ‘Are you serious?’ as he cleared the gate in one huge jump. I was confused and a bit scared.

 I still didn’t know what had happened at this stage. I looked at him and realized it was my husband, but still hadn’t connected how and why he had appeared so quickly at the Kindy without a car, why he had no shoes on and was sweating like a pig and why he was in his underwear. In a state of confusion I asked ‘Are you coming in?’ ( kindy) He looked at me with disgust and jumped to hide inside the car. It was then I realized something wasn’t right. I opened the car door and there he was visibly shaking like a plateful of frightened jelly…a half- naked plate of jelly in the Kindy car park.

 After some expletives and a quick censored summary of the event, I was enlightened to what had occurred. As I was pulling out of the driveway to leave for Kindy, I had  locked Mr K out in the street, in his underwear with no mobile phone, no keys and no way of getting back into our house. His only hope was to do the 700m dash from our house, past the local primary school (with kids already at the crossing) across the main road and over the Kindy fence, barefoot and in his undies. He really had no guarantee of catching me before I left, but hoped if he ran fast enough I would still be there, sparing him the awkward situation in which he would have to try and gain honest entry to a childcare facility to use the phone. I can see it now ‘Yeah right naked guy with no shoes on…..sure we will let you in to use our phone, you’re not a safety risk at all!’.

 

Looking back on this now, I am horrified to imagine what the children at the school were thinking seeing this weirdo run past naked with no shoes on. I’m sure there were a few mums shielding their children’s eyes and avoiding uncomfortable questions.

 The best part of this story is that this is not the first time this has happened to him. So the sheer look of terror that plagued his face this morning, was a sharp reminder of how quickly this could’ve turned ugly….again. It was almost a post- traumatic stress reaction.

 Back when we first moved to the Gold Coast, My husband flew up a few weeks early to get a head start in setting up our apartment. Not knowing a single soul in the state, he was left to unpack boxes one night in our six story apartment block. As some will know, many apartment blocks have a communal rubbish chute located on each floor. So again, in his underwear Mr K thought it a good idea to go and empty the bins. Not realizing the doors to the apartments were spring loaded, he found himself stranded, alone and in his underwear and locked outside of our new home. With no one to call for help or for clothing he was left with 2 choices. Sleep in the hallway and hope help arrives or perform a rather risky Spiderman impersonation up the side of the balcony and hope to hell the balcony doors were open. He chose the latter and made his way up several storeys in only his jocks. One can only imagine what would have happened if he had been caught by neighbours scaling balconies in some old jocks, that definitely had a few holes in the wrong places.

 So you see my dilemma, was it his fault for being outside in his underwear again? Or mine, for being so frazzled that I locked the door on him? You be the judge.

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To Work Or Not to work? Go on I dare you……..

 

Yes it is that time of year again. Unless you are one of the odd people who have placed a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on your letterbox (odd because- I personally love a good thick wad of Junk Mail) you could not have missed the mountains of back to school sales dominating the catalogues.

 

 

 

The first day back at school is fast approaching and for some parents it couldn’t come quick enough. Many have run out of interesting ideas to keep bored children entertained, the play dough is mouldy, the textas are all stubby at the tip and the blow up paddling pools have gone a little green and funky. Parents everywhere are shouting ‘What about the two hundred toys you got for Christmas?’ For others it is a sad time of the year when they lose their babies and hand them over to be cared for by strangers for perhaps the first time in their short little lives. For some it also means that they are left wondering what to do with their spare time, and whether or not it signals time to return to the workforce after the ‘childrearing’ has become more of  a part time job.

 

 

 

It is also back to work for many teachers and educators, and for myself a return to work after spending the year with my family. There are certainly mixed emotions about this. You see I am probably in a small minority of people who adore their children but also actually love what they do. For many years my job was my identity and it was what made me tick. I arrived early and left late, and enjoyed the challenges and rewards of each day. I still believe there is no greater place to work than in a room full of fresh and innocent little people. Even if I could afford to have twenty years off, I would still choose to work.

 

 

 

Then there are the financial incentives. For many, working is essential. There is no magical bank account that continues to top itself up. I have worked from 15 years of age and cannot handle the feeling of ‘not contributing’. Yes sure, I realize my contribution is raising the children, his money is your money blah bah, but at the end of the day I have always earned my own money and contributed in some way. I also love the feeling of independence that comes with earning your own income.

 

 

 

It is also time for my eldest son to spend some time with someone other than me. He is ready, and I am ready too. He doesn’t see many people besides myself and is craving that play time with his peers. He tells me he is so excited to go to Kindy. We are the best of friends but can also have the best of battles. It is like arguing with a 3 and a half year old version of my husband and a couple of days at Kindy will do him the world of good. There are lessons that can’t be taught at home and those that can only be taught and understood in the context of a room full of children. I am so excited to get back, but only for a couple of days a week this time around. I just want to dip my toes into the adult world for a bit, whilst still enjoying vegemite on toast in my undies and the musical perfection that is ‘Playschool’ for the rest of the week.

 

 

 

 

 

Then there is the obvious down side. As a worrier, I panic that someone else will be caring for my children. Strangers. Are they really qualified? There is no one who loves my children more than I do, will they hold them if they cry? My ‘little’ one is still so little, what will he think when I leave him?

 

 

 

I was never destined to be a full time stay at home mum, it was never something that I wished or longed for. I still believe it is the hardest unpaid job around. No one knows how hard you work to make it look like nothing has happened all day and the days just roll into one. Whilst I love the clothes and lipstick….I was never going to make a great 50’s housewife. As controversial as this topic is, and always will be, I would love to hear the reasons and circumstances by which mums decide upon their pathways.

 

 

 

Is job satisfaction prior to having children a deciding factor as to whether people even want to return to their jobs?

 

 

 

Is it pressure from our families? Do we follow in the footsteps of our own mothers?

 

 

 

Do we feel less ‘valuable’ to society when we tick the ‘home duties’ box?

 

 

 

Is it just a financial decision?

 

 

 

Is it generational? Most judgement I have received is from ladies nearing retirement.

 

 

 

 

 

I think it is all about the great balancing act. Some families want to live like kings and therefore must work full time to afford the lifestyle. Some want to just ‘live’ and so they work their bums off to pay the bills. Some would rather live a humble low income existence and watch their children grow, whilst the lucky ones stay at home and can still afford to live big. Whichever category we fall into, it is not our role to judge the situation of others, we choose what is right for ‘us’ and for our families.  We do not need the opinions of people who are wearing their ‘Mr Judgy Judgy Hats’.

 

 

 

Go on I dare you, What are your thoughts, should women stay at home, or return to the workforce?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where have you been?….I’ve had ‘cantbebothered-itis’

It has been a shamefully long time between blogs, but it seems my allergic reaction to writing has come to an end. Maybe it’s the ‘Christmas’ in me, or perhaps the guilt of seeing out the year without one more entry,  but either way I’m here, and here it is.

So much has happened since last I wrote, the small things, the big things then the truly life changing things too. There are those moments in life where you stop and take a deep breath in your own silence and think to yourself ‘ This is one of those times’ . By ‘those times’ I mean the things that happen to us (good or bad) that go on to become major clips in our ‘life highlights reel’. I always imagine that when we die we are given a bucket of popcorn, large coke and are asked to watch a highlight package of the life we led…in Gold Class of course, and no you don’t have to share your popcorn. Some of the clips we choose to include, like falling in love, births, successes and happy times, and others are forced upon us, like heartbreak, illness, death and disappointment. It is safe to say I have made many moments this year, and this is why I think I have avoided this blog…because writing makes you confront your fears and realize your truths.

As the end of 2013 draws near, I wanted to document my inclusions to the highlight package for this year, just in case heaven needs help remembering when the time comes.

After spending a full year away from my son, working full time, we begin our ‘Gap Year’ together. Over the year we enrol in and try every activity known to man in an effort to make up for lost time. We realise his favourite place is with mum at the park, and it is free! I feel such resounding guilt at having missed a year with this beautiful little human. Next year, let’s continue to enjoy eating vegemite on toast, watching Peppa Pig and fighting about if you will be having a ‘sleep.

I have learnt that despite trying my hardest, I am never going to be ‘Playgroup Mum’. I am never going to care as much as they do about cake tins and still believe ‘The Cheesecake Shop’ will always present as a far superior option to anything I can make. I do shout at my son’s, but I always say sorry and kiss them straight after. I don’t always make my baby fresh food, and whilst it does worry me that a food item has an expiry date 3 years from now….when I surrender to time and energy I am guilty of using dirty little jars. At times I also really enjoy eating foods with artificial colouring and preservatives and am sick of feeling guilty about it. Oh, and my son is also allowed to eat chocolate occasionally.

My second child Sam is born this year. Life will never be the same. If we leave this earth tomorrow, my boys will have each other and this leaves me with peace. His smile lights up the room and his brother has finally accepted he is here and has stopped trying to bite him. (For now…or at least until we can no longer use ‘Santa watching’ as a threat.) If I am honest, I can enjoy this birth a little more, as I’m not as scared, not as tired and not as ‘perfect’.

The first of the ‘Dads’ passes away. My best friend loses her dad to cancer, reminding us all that we are now at the age where family and friends are not ‘forever’.

Within the fortnight, God calls his second great man for the month. My grandad Sean Mansfield is taken, but not without putting up his greatest fight to date. I don’t really know what to say about him, because I still haven’t realized he has gone but also because some people have such ‘outstanding highlights’ that to choose one would be an injustice. My last memory of him is looking up to the altar at my son’s christening and me catching his eye in the congregation. It was a ‘freeze’ moment that seemed to last a lot longer than it actually would have to everyone else, I remember this being ‘one of those moments’.  He couldn’t hear a word of what was going on, but I know that he didn’t care, because at least he was there. I have so much more to write more about him, but that’s a blog for another day.

My boss called me during the funeral, and offered me a part time position for next year. This is my dream job, and will allow me to do ‘what’ I love as well as still being with ‘who’ I love for most of the week. It is time to go back to work, I really think my eldest is sick of me and needs some time to miss me.

Last week I thought I was going to lose my little baby boy. After an accident at the park, he took a turn for the worst and my husband and I found ourselves screaming at the roadside, cradling our son in our arms while we waited for the ambulance. I remember people just walking by, carrying on with what they were doing, and not caring that my baby was falling asleep in front of us. This was the longest wait of my life, and I sincerely hope that this was also the worst day of my life as I don’t think I could handle anything worse. Every night I am dreaming about losing him, and wake up searching for him in my bed. I don’t trust myself anymore and don’t think I can go back to the park. The next day, when the dark clouds had passed, there he was smiling, completely unscathed, with the only evidence of his fall, a tiny graze on his nose. We will carry the scars of his fall for life, just as every other mum and dad have in the years gone before us. In some small way, I don’t want us to forget this, because then we will again start taking life granted, and worrying about things that will never worry about us. Who cares if he whinges, who cares if you haven’t slept, he is awake and he is alive.

After looking at his ‘big boy’ bike for months, My eldest son finally rode down our hallway (no we didn’t complain) shouting ‘I did it, I did it’. He also started wearing no nappies to bed, my first little baby has become a little boy. This week he also told me that he was going to marry me….I will remind him of this when he is 18.

Not the happiest, or most exciting blog but it was one I had to write to get life off my chest. Sometimes your shoulders get heavy, and there’s nothing wrong with shaking them off and letting the crap fall down around your ankles.

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Things you should probably know…….

Unbelievably it seems that a large proportion of people I know (and some I don’t know) find themselves in very ‘silly’ and awkward situations on a daily basis. Situations that I feel could be prevented with a little prior warning from a friend I like to call ‘Captain Obvious’.

Every day I hear another story about someone doing or saying something utterly ridiculous, and I want to slap their forehead and say ‘Come on now…did you really think that was a good idea? When was that ever going to be a ‘good idea’? I’m not ashamed to say that many times this person has been me. The following suggestions may or may not be based on true people or events.

Getting drunk at the work Christmas party and deciding that it would be best for everyone if you took on the job of telling the ‘work pest’ that they were in fact a pest, is not going to appear ‘helpful’. Also offering up suggestions for self- improvement and ‘less annoying workplace behaviours’ will not be well received.

Just a guess but he probably doesn’t really love you or want to marry you if you have never actually met him in person, he wants you to transfer $2000 before 2pm or requests you post him your nannas left kidney to a ‘secret’ overseas location.

Buying your three children Sprite Spiders as a ‘treat’ from McDonalds at 9am is probably going to cause you a great deal of grief for the rest of the day.

Driving your car to Friday night drinks and saying ‘If I decide to stay, I’ll leave my car and pick it up in the morning’ is never a good idea. You won’t even be in a fit state to pick the car up in the next week, never mind the next day and then someone will have to drive you to find it while you hold a bucket with your head out the window declaring ‘I’m never drinking again’ and reassuring the driver that you were sure ‘I left it around here somewhere’.

You will never open the new ‘large’ box of Maltesers and just have ‘a few’. You will eat 99 of them and feel as sick as a dog, but will leave 3 solitude balls rolling around just to prove to yourself you haven’t actually eaten the whole box. You will then revisit the pantry just before bed, and say to yourself ‘I may as well have those three now, just to get rid of the box’.

You will never meet the ‘fake friend who you awkwardly bump into again at the shops’ for a coffee. You will pretend that you don’t already have their number as some sort of crappy way out of admitting you just haven’t called them. You will both know that it will not be happening, but will still both actually spend the next agonizing few minutes frantically putting in numbers that are already in your phone.

If you leave the house with no makeup, dirty track pant, no underwear or hairy legs or toes, you will be spotted by someone. You may not realise it at the time, but two weeks later someone will say ‘Hey I saw you at the shops last week, but you looked busy so I didn’t stop you’. This actually means ‘You looked like you had been involved in some type of terrible trauma, I didn’t know where to look.

Your car does not have magic windows. Just because you are driving does not suddenly make you invisible, everyone CAN and will see you when you pick your nose. You are not protected by a ‘nose picking amnesty shield’ have some shame.

Just a thought……………………………………………

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