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The 406– My first month in Montana

Over a month ago, I moved over 2,000 miles away from home. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words “you’re crazy!” when I told people about my plans to move west. Maybe I was crazy, but after spending my first month here in Kalispell, Montana I can tell you that it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

If you haven’t made a visit to Montana, the Flathead Valley area specifically, well grab a jacket, and a pair of hiking boots and get your butt to Montana! You will not regret it. This place is breathtaking. I am constantly surrounded by beauty here and am reminded daily on what an amazing artist/creator that our Lord is.

Whether you’re seeking solitude or an action-packed getaway, Montana has something for everyone. I have spent every weekend adventuring to a lake, hiking trails or visiting a local hot spot, such as the local microbrewery or pumpkin patch. I also have met some amazing people here and have created some authentic relationships. There is so much to do and so many awesome people to meet and it’s pretty much impossible to be bored here.

When I’m not adventuring and taking in Montana’s beauty, I’m working at Montana Academy, a therapeutic boarding school. It is such a challenging and rewarding job. I look forward to going to work every day and I work with amazing people.

I am so happy that I put my faith and trust in God, because He really knew exactly what I needed. I won’t lie, moving so far away from home and starting a job in a field I had no prior experience in was the scariest thing I have ever done. I worried, stressed, cried, prayed a lot and finally just let it go and gave it to God. It was the first time in my my life that I fully gave it all up to God and it has been so completely worth it. I shifted my perspective, loosened my tight grip on my plans, and listened to God’s Word that says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”-Proverbs 16:9. God provided in ways I didn’t even expect. It really is true that God’s plan is way better than anything we could plan for ourselves.

So if you’re afraid to chase your passion for fear of being called crazy, be crazy anyway. Jump out of your comfort zone. I promise, with a little bit of faith and your eyes fixed on God’s power over your life, things will start to fall into place and God’s plan will reveal itself.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

 

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I’M MOVING

At the end of May, I was at a low point of my life. I moved back home and all the plans I had for my life disappeared in the matter of a few weeks. I honestly found myself asking God, “What the heck am I suppose to do now? What is your plan for my life?” I felt so frustrated and confused because this is not what I pictured my life would be like at this moment in time. I knew I had to find a full time job so I spent months applying to every job I could. Ideally, I was looking for a job outside of my home state of Pennsylvania. I just had this strong feeling that I was not going to get what I was looking for in life by staying here in my hometown.

I continued with my photography business and was lucky to have been able to shoot some amazing sessions and events this summer but I know that my business is not at the level yet to be a full time job for me. I continued to apply for jobs in what seemed to be about every state within the U.S. One of the first jobs I heard back from was ironically from a therapeutic boarding school in Montana. Now, I say this is ironic because for the past three years I dreamed that Montana would be the state where I settled down in for while. The irony of this made me laugh and thank God for answering a pray of mine even after I had lost all hope. It really made me realize that God had some crazy plan in the works for me.

I had three phone interviews and a visit to see the school. All of which went super well. After seeing the school and town, and meeting the people there, I had this overwhelming sense that I was meant to be there. I finally heard the news on Thursday that I received the position of Team Leader at the school.

The role of Team Leader relates closely to a parenting role. I will be advising and mentoring at risk teens and aiding in their recovery of addictive tenancies. I will also be in charge of creating and implementing safe and enriching activities to all Montana Academy students. I’ll be required to lead and participate in backpacking, hiking, biking, skiing as well as other sports related activities. I will also help lead a photography club as well.

As many of you know, my passion for working with youth is just as strong as my passion for writing and photography, so I am extremely excited for this opportunity. As excited as I am for this new adventure, I still have quite a bit of anxiety knowing I am actually having this dream turn into reality.

In all honestly, this is the scariest thing I have ever done. I am moving 2,037 miles away from home to a place where I do not know anyone. I have no friends and no family out there. I will be living completely on my own for the first time in my life. No matter what problems I may encounter, the only person I will have to depend on is myself, which is scary and exhilarating all at the same time. For the past three years, every decision I made was for someone else’s best interest, and for the first time I am able to make decisions solely for myself. I am moving to Montana for myself. I took this job because I want this job. I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut and haven’t been living life to the fullest. I know I have to push myself to do something that will be out of my comfort zone. I need to prove to myself that I can do something for myself and by myself. I need to be able to be on my own and make my own decisions without letting others influence me.

Moving to Montana and being on my own is exactly what I need right now and God has provided for me so that I can make this adventure happen. Thank you all who have prayed for me and given references and sent positive thoughts and vibes my way. I am forever thankful for it. I ask that you continue to keep me in your prayers as I make this transition in my life.

****For those of you who have booked me already for sessions in the future, I will still be able to fly home and do those sessions. For those looking to book me for weddings and portraits sessions in the future, I will still be available for that as well. I will be coming home to visit and am more than willing to work out dates. Please still reach out to me. The sooner you contact me, the more likely I will be able to travel home and make a session possible.

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Kalispell, Montana
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Foy Lake in Kalispell, Montana

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Tori’s Portrait Session

Tori’s portrait session throughout Beaver, PA on August 1 was so much fun! I have known Tori since middle school. In fact, I was the student who was assigned to show her around the school on her first day. We were super close throughout high school. In the years since, we both will admit that we haven’t done a great job staying in touch. Thankfully we were able to reconnect while I’m home and spend some much needed time together.

Throughout the years, Tori has been building her modeling portfolio and I was lucky enough to help her add to it. Tori’s shoot is quite unlike any shoot I’ve done before but seriously one of my favorites. I’m a big fan of sunsets, hay fields and more rustic-country settings, but this shoot inspired me to think outside the box. I pushed myself creatively and came out with a urban city themed shoot complete with fire escapes, rundown storage lockers and a laundry mat!

This shoot was so much fun and I’m so happy it allowed me to reconnect with an old friend. Below are some of my favorite from the shoot…

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Heather and Jon’s Wedding

Heather and Jon’s Wedding at Blinn’s Farm in New Brighton, PA on June 10 was one I won’t soon forget. This wedding I had been looking forward to for YEARS. Seriously. I have known Heather since kindergarten and watched her fall in love with Jon while we were in high school. Last year, Heather sent me a message and asked me to photograph her big day and I was thrilled to say “Yes!”
Heather and Jon’s love story is one I absolutely swoon over. She and Jon met while we were in high school and as the years went by we would always joke and ask Heather “When is Jon finally going to put a ring on it?” He finally did after eight years of being together. Not only did Heather fall in love with Jon, but also with his son, Riley. Heather has become such a blessing to them both and it was beautiful to watch them become a family over the years.
Heather and Jon define a fun-loving, caring couple in love and this is everything I hope for when I photograph couples. I wish for laughter, and joy, and down-to-earth brides with big hearts for the people in their lives. This is Heather and Jon to a T!
The day started in the cabins on the property where final hair and makeup touch ups were done. Cassandra was surrounded with so much love from her girls and her mother. As soon as Heather was dressed in her beautiful lace gown, Heather was jaw-dropping and her positivity was more radiant than ever, Riley walked around the corner to get a first glimpse of his soon-to-be mom. Let me tell you, it was emotional and many tears were shed. Riley’s smile told it all; he was so happy for this day and excited for his parents to finally be married.
The ceremony overlooked a small pond, with a covered bridge and their rustic and personal touches made the location very intimate. They read their vows and had a unity ceremony with sand, which included Riley’s participation throughout. The weather was a perfect 80 degrees with only small amount of humidity which was such a treat!
After the ceremony we took family and wedding party photos and then it was time for the bride and groom portraits!! We wrapped up with some portraits on the property and then went to the barn to get the party started!! The wedding party had the best entrances I’ve ever seen and the dance floor was hopping all night.

We snuck out for some sunset portraits and I’m so glad we did! I love these so much!!
All in all, it was truly a perfect day. Together, Heather and Jon completely compliment one another. They love each other deeply, and quietly. They are, indeed, a perfect match, and I am just bursting with joy that I get to document their love. No one deserves this perfect day more than the two of you. I am so beyond happy that I got to be there to witness the beginning of your next big adventure. Thank you a million times over for being so incredible. I hope this new adventure together gets better each and every day. Your joy is contagious and I absolutely loved being surrounded by it on your wedding day. Cheers to many more decades of love and happiness!

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Olivia and Jon’s Wedding

Flashback to August of 2012, I moved into my college dorm early because I received a Leadership Scholarship which required some “team bonding” with the other scholarship recipients before the start of the semester. During this time, I met Jon, who a week later introduced me to his girlfriend Olivia, who happened to be in the same major as me. I instantly became friends with them and we remained friends throughout our college years. Throughout the years, one thing always remained the same with these two. I could always depend on them for a good laugh and even better advice. They compliment each other perfectly. Jon has always been a little more quite and laid back than Olivia but has always been the one to go out of his way to help people (I would know, he tutored me in math for a semester.) Olivia is the most outgoing, funniest person I know. I could always depend on her to make light of any situation. Together they make a perfect pair. Our sophomore year, they finally got engaged after dating since high school.  I was honored to have been asked to photograph their special day and I have never been more excited 🙂 On June 3, 2017, at Meadow Ridge Events in Windsor, Ohio, these two amazing people who I am lucky enough to call my friends tied the knot! It was a beautiful day spent at a wonderful location with some of the best people I know. I wish all the best to this amazing couple and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for them. I’m so honored to have been a guest and the photographer at this wedding and below are just a few of my favorite shots from the day:

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Love lost and moving on

It’s been five days since I last spoke to him; the longest I’ve ever gone without hearing his voice since meeting him two and a half years ago. I sit here in his old t-shirt, surrounded by pictures of us from happier days and I can’t help but wonder “How is he doing?”, “Is he okay?” I can’t help but hope that he misses me as much as I miss him. But I don’t call him to find out and he won’t call me because five days ago we chose to go our separate ways, a hard decision for both of us; at least that’s what I choose to believe.

Now, I’m not writing this to drag his name through the mud, in fact I won’t even mention his name. Those who know me best know who he is and those who don’t; well his name is not really important. I’m writing this for me and the fact that maybe someone out there is going through a similar situation and needs to hear the words I’m about to say. Also, I know this is my photography blog and nothing I am going to really talk about in this post has anything to do with photography, but I’ve been MIA on my photography page recently and I want to explain why, and be honest with all of those who choose to read on… so here it goes. Brace yourselves, it’s a long post.

The Beginning

I was a junior in college and he was going on his fifth year of being in pipeline construction. I was young, a dreamer, barely experienced and barely ready to take on the world after college. He was a year or so older than me, mature in his demeanor and had seen the world having traveled and lived in 10 different states throughout his years working. I was intrigued. I was nervous. I thought he was too good for me. He was tall, dark and handsome. I first saw him at the end of the bar at a rundown joint in Waynesburg, PA. He had on a red flannel, Levi’s and cowboy boots and I couldn’t help but stare at him for most of the night. He noticed and eventually yelled at me to talk to him. I did, and by the end of the night we exchanged numbers. We went on a date the next night to a local restaurant and it was the best first date I had ever been on. We talked about anything and everything and I had never felt so comfortable with someone before.

We then spent every day together and about a month later while helping me make my Halloween costume, he looked at me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I said “yes.” Honestly, I would spend the next few years looking at him constantly wondering “How in the world did I get someone so amazing?”, “How could he possibly love someone like me?”, and “Thank you God for giving me him.” Our personalities mixed so well. We had the same sense of humor and similar outlook on life. The only problem, I was still in school and he travels for work. We had seven complete months together in Waynesburg and they are honestly some of the best memories I have. But eventually he left for Texas and once Texas was done, then moved back home to Illinois, all while I was trying to finish my degree. We did a year and half doing long distance. Anyone who has done a long distance relationship knows that distance is difficult, extremely difficult. We made it work though with texts and phone calls every day and occasional visits, care packages and love letters—ones that belong in a Nicholas Sparks novel. We made it work and tried to see each other every two to three months. I thought if we could make it through this then we could make it through anything.

Hard Times

Eventually, I graduated and we finally were able to be together. I moved to Illinois with him where I got my first “big girl” job and he started a job not far outside of where we lived. We were finally together and everything was great. But a month or so later, he had to leave for Alabama and things got tough. I wanted a career but I also wanted to be with him, but since we thought the job in Alabama would be a short one, we decided I would stay at my job. We were stuck doing long distance again and things just seemed to get tougher. Eventually, the Alabama job finished but then he was off to Florida. We had had enough with distance so I finally decided to leave my job and head to Florida. We decided I would put my career life on hold for a few years while we saved money that would go towards our dream home in Montana. Though it wasn’t easy, I did it and became a stay at home “wife” where I took care of him, the dogs and our camper. Things were great but my mom once told me that “eventually in a relationship you start to realize your faults and usually it’s your significant other who points them out to you.” And it was true. All of a sudden we started noticing each other’s faults and we fought more than ever. We thought it was just a phase because we always talked it out and moved on.

I thought our love was unconditional and evenly matched. I thought that we were willing to fight for each other no matter what was thrown our way. And all of that was true for most of our relationship. He was my best friend, my boyfriend, my future husband, my everything. He made me feel loved and wanted every day. He fought for me. He didn’t let distance get in our way. He took care of me, was honest (sometimes brutally honest), was faithful and made me feel so special. He would occasionally cook for me (he makes the best salmon), he would make an effort to have date nights, he would dance with me in the kitchen when a slow song came on the radio and he would cuddle with me and watch scary movies. We would go out for drinks and talk to each other like we were the only two in the room. He would pray with me, go to church with me and read devotionals with me. I felt that I had found the one I was going to spend forever with. And from what he told me, he felt the same.

We both still felt discouraged though because we each had our faults that we struggled with and it wasn’t always easy for him to forgive and forget. We eventually went home to Illinois and then Pennsylvania. We took the next few months to spend the holidays with family. During this time, we were staying with family, neither of us was working and we became complacent. We were going through the motions and our faults kept getting the best of us. Though we both felt that we were struggling, we didn’t give up and we continued to work and love each other. That Christmas he asked my parents for their blessing to marry me and I thought we would be getting engaged this coming fall. He had told me that he had it all planned out. I was on cloud nine and thought our dreams of getting married and moving to Montana were finally coming true. We then spent the next few months together waiting for his next job to start. We were in Illinois, living with his parents for months and no call came. I think we both were getting nervous. We were fighting again about our faults and starting into a bad routine of “going through the motions.” We had the same routine and fought about the same things and we just couldn’t break the cycle.

Eventually we had a fight that was bigger than any we had before, and it was because of a fault of mine that I couldn’t seem to change no matter how hard I tried. We went a few days without talking, which was unusual for us because we always worked things out almost immediately but not this time. Eventually we talked and all of a sudden he didn’t want to work things out.  I still had faith in us and thought maybe he was just still mad and needed more time. We eventually talked it out and we spent the next few weeks trying to fix things. Sadly, he spent more time at the bars then trying to work on things with me. Looking back now I know he was done but I was scared to admit it and he was scared to hurt me. We eventually decided to “go on a break” which I never really liked the idea of. I was a firm believer in staying together to work out our issues but I was trying to honor his wishes and I could tell he needed this.

We went on a two month long break. I went home and worked hard on the faults that I had felt had caused us to get here, and honestly for the first time could say that I had finally broken myself of some bad habits. Sadly, my changes came too late. We still talked every day and still spoke lovingly towards each other, but he wasn’t working on himself like I thought he would. In fact, he changed more in these two months than some people change in a lifetime. He officially wasn’t the same person I had met and fallen in love with. I was able to change my bad habits because I would do anything for him. But for him, he took steps backwards and I think neither of us really knows why.

I moved back in with him and quickly found out that he couldn’t love me the way I loved him and he didn’t have the strength to keep fighting for something that he felt was not going to work no matter what we did. Apparently, there was too much damage done. Due to those feelings and some mistakes made along the way we felt that we had to make a decision on what was going to happen next. So on May 26, we sat down talked, reminisced, laughed, hugged and cried and made the hard decision that I would leave the next day, which I did.

Moving On is Hard

I can still feel the strength of his arms.

I can still feel his kiss.

I can still see his eyes when I close mine.

I can still feel his hugs.

I can still smell his cologne.

I don’t know how to be something he misses, and I can’t help but think of how I never thought we’d have a last kiss or that we’d even end like this.

I remember his sarcasm and his favorite jokes.

I remember every curve, every scar and every line and freckle on his body.

I remember his handshake when he first met my mom and dad and then everyone’s excitement when he eventually asked for their blessing to marry me.

I remember his smile and laugh after I would say something awkwardly funny and then he would say “Oh I love you, Jenny.”

I remember how he use to kiss me when I was in the middle of saying something and now there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss those rude interruptions.

I remember him singing songs to me and in between verses leaning in to kiss me and then pulling away just in time to catch the next verse. Now, I listen to the same songs alone remembering how we would smile and debate who was better at hitting the high notes.

I remember how he would pull me in to dance with him and how patient he was when teaching me how to two-step.

I remember the long walks we would go on with our three dogs. Technically, they were his but I can’t help but feel like they were my children too, and I can’t help but miss them so much.

I remember all the times we would go to the gym to workout. I’m not much for running but for him I did.

I remember  how I would lie my head on his chest and feel his heartbeat and wish that one day I hoped my heartbeat would stop before his so I would never have to experience a day without him.

But now it feels like I watch his life in pictures. I’m not there to experience all the moments in between. I’m not there for all the good and bad moments like I had been for the past few years.

I lie in bed thinking about how I used to watch him sleep while thinking how lucky I am to have him.

I stare at my social media accounts trying to bring myself to delete pictures of us but failing to have the strength to do so, yet.

But now with each passing day, I feel him forget me instead of feeling his love. All I have are memories and the words that he left me with. I overthink, twist and unravel every word he said to me that last day and I can’t decide whether to believe or accept any of it.

Life is tough without him and moving on is heartbreaking, but there are things I can find peace in.

I thought I was supposed to be with him forever but knowing what I know now, I believe God only intended me to be with him for these two and half years so I could learn and grow in the areas I didn’t know I needed to; maybe so I could become a better person for the man I will eventually spend forever with.

I have grown up because of him. I am a better person now because of him and that relationship, and I hope that he feels the same. I have traveled and experienced things I never thought I would experience. This past year, I drove fifteen hours to Florida all by myself with three dogs when just a few years ago I was afraid to even drive on the highway. I flew on an airplane and navigated airports all by myself when just a few years ago I had never been on a plane and just the thought of airports gave me anxiety. I now know how to pack light (well kind of) and cook without a stove (thank God for the Crockpot.) I know how to love unconditionally and how to work at a relationship. I know my faults and how to work on them. I know how to be brutally honest and speak up for myself. I know how to take care of another person before myself. I know how to compromise, pick my battles, and sacrifice for someone I love; I learned all this and more because of that relationship.

I’ve been asked if I’m mad at him or if I regret the past two and half years. To be honest, the answer is no, for many reasons. One, He made mistakes (mainly in the last few months) that he knows about and it is not my place to judge him. That’s God’s job. Also, we both made mistakes along the way and things ended because the BOTH of us decided to end it. No one is at fault. He deserves to be happy and I deserve to find someone who loves me unconditionally and wants to fight for me. Second, I felt that I had lost the person I fell in love with months ago, before he made certain mistakes, so I choose not to be mad at a person who feels like a complete stranger to me now. I choose to remember the person who wrote me letters and made me feel loved and cared for. Also, I may never know why he changed or pinpoint exactly when, but I know all people change and we don’t always have control over whether it’s good or bad change. Thirdly, God forgives and loves his children no matter what, so I’m choosing to love him the way that Christ does. I forgive him. That’s one thing I wish he knew. I never told him in person because I wasn’t ready to forgive him then but I am now and I forgive him, I hope he knows that. I want the best for him. I want him to be happy even if that means not being happy with me. I want him to have an amazing life and get to do everything that he has dreamed of. I want him to meet someone amazing and fall in love again. If he ever has kids, I know he will be an amazing dad and that those kids will be so lucky to have him. I want him to be happy. I’m not mad or angry, I still believe in love and though I am still upset and not okay yet, I know I will be. I used to think I couldn’t live without him but I am stronger than that and I can do anything and that relationship has given me that confidence. I never planned on him changing his mind. I never planned that this would be my life, but it is and I have to pick up the pieces and move on.

Find your worth in Christ

For those of you who read this post and are going through a similar situation, I am here for you. When a relationship ends it is devastating. You are left with a lot of questions that you may never get answers to, and if you’re like me than not having answers will keep you up at night. Even if you were given answers, you wonder which are true and which are lies. To be brutally honest though, it doesn’t matter. I find myself, and maybe you do too, overthinking and replaying every moment, wondering and questioning every word. But STOP DOING THAT! I’m slowly learning that no answer is going to change things and replaying every moment will only make it harder to move on. Because that is exactly what has to happen.You need to move on. You can’t survive off hope that you may get back together with this person because you could be waiting forever. You have to believe God has something better, more amazing in store for you. You were made for so much more than to just be someones girlfriend. You don’t need to be on that man’s arm to be seen as worthy. Your worth is in Christ and no one else.

If your not there yet, that’s okay. I’m not quite there yet, either. I’m also learning to not rush things. I’m taking the time to mourn, cry and listen to all the sad breakup songs I can find on Spotify. No matter what any one tells you, you can take time to be upset, but don’t take forever because you could miss out on some amazing experiences and people. God wants you to be happy and enjoy all the amazing things that he has provided for you.

It’s not the end, maybe it’s just the beginning

I gave up so much in this relationship. I gave up my friends, family, career life, my home and myself. Don’t feel bad for me though. I don’t regret it and I would probably do it again if I had the option to go back in time. I was raised knowing relationships take work and sacrifice, and I was willing to do that and I don’t regret it. But sadly, I feel that it got to the point that I started getting my self-worth from him and the relationship, which I never thought would happen, but it did.

I’m taking a step back now and finding my worth in Christ, again. I’m learning to love myself and the journey. I’m learning to trust God’s plan. I’m going to start doing things for myself. I’m getting back to my passion of writing and photography. And who knows maybe I will find opportunities that I can still travel and experience new things. God has a plan for me and I know that it will be so much better than anything I could plan myself. Though I wish His plan didn’t involve such heartbreak, I know it will be worth it. I try so hard to focus on that simple fact. IT WILL BE WORTH IT.

I was looking through my journal this evening and throughout this relationship I would right down prayers, quotes and random things about the relationship. I was flipping through the pages and found two Bible verses that he had texted to me on January 27, 2016. Ironically, I found them quite fitting for the situation. They were:

Psalm 143:8 – “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

Proverbs 21:21 – “Whoever pursues righteousness and love will find life, prosperity and honor.”

I will be okay. He will be okay. I’m following God’s path for my life and I hope he does the same. I know we may never speak again or see each other again, but that’s okay. I’d like to think that if we do ever see each other or randomly call each other one day then we can smile and know that we are both happy with how our lives turned out and that we have nothing but fond memories of these past two and a half years.

Rose & Mike’s Engagement

It is such an honor when friends of mine ask me to photograph them. A month or so ago, one of my good friends from college got engaged and asked me to shoot her engagement photos, I of course agreed.

I first met Rose during our freshmen year of college. We were in the same major, which means we endured a lot of the same classes. Quickly, we became friends. Late night Sheets runs, studying together, letting me use her shower when my dorm’s water was turned off; this girl and I have so many memorable and hysterical memories together. Adding engagement photos to the list will surely be one of the memories I will cherish the most ❤

Rose, Mike, another good friend of ours: Olivia, Jordan and I spent a cold December day adventuring around the Martin Dairy Farm taking photos and below are a few of my favorites.  I am so glad that Rose found the man of her dreams and that I was able to be apart, even for only a small portion, of their love story.

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