TGIF: The Risky Business of Changing the World


On writing a better story, sisterhood and chipmunks on Red Bull.

So, last week I did something crazy.

Not “Supersize-my-fries-and-throw-some-gravy-over-it” crazy.

But something that “scares-the-brown-out-of-me” crazy. 

Let’s backtrack … shall we?

Early January, I read Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The book wrestles with the question, “What makes a good story? More specifically: “What makes our lives a good story?” I started to reassess my life through the lens of a good story. When I found out that Miller was hosting a conference in Portland, I just knew that I had to be there.

In one sentence, my big juicy decadent takeaway from the Storyline Conference: I can write the story I want to live.

Let that sink in for a second. I know it doesn’t sound like much at first but it’s earth shattering. Read it again. I, as in me, myself, Tina can write the story I want to live? The key word being “I.”

Donald Miller says,“Good stories don’t happen by accident. They are planned.”

He also talks about how every great story has an “inciting incident.” An “inciting incident” is something that triggers or forces the character to step out into the uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s losing a loved one, a break-up, getting fired, etc. Or it could be self-imposed: signing up for a triathlon, taking diving lessons or teaching English in China. The common thread in all of the above is that it involves stepping out into the uncomfortable. The uncomfortable provides a premise for change, growth and transformation.

An inciting incident is what makes a story come alive. 

I’m totally guilty of sitting in the passenger seat of life thinking that one day I would magically fall into my story. Or, that my story/destiny would eventually find me. After all, 14-year-old girls get discovered in the shopping mall and become supermodels, right? Wrong. Supermodels are the exception, not the rule.

Here’s the good news for us vertically challenged humans: If life feels boring, meaningless, or predictable, we can write an inciting incident into our story! This would force us to step out into the uncomfortable and who knows what could happen next?

We don’t have to live vicariously through Lisa Ling, Susan Boyle or the “‘Real’ Housewives of Orange County.” We can climb Kilimanjaro, make that YouTube video, intern in Afghanistan or grow our own herb garden.

Ask yourself: “What would my character do next?” And then: DO IT.

Inciting Incident

It was at a Women’s conference last year where I first learned about the LRA rebel soldiers who terrorize northern Uganda. Women have had their lips, ears, noses and even genital parts severed from their bodies. Many of these women are HIV+, marginalized and ostracized from their own community and family because the scars are a constant reminder of their past.

Fakeleft for Watoto

My chest heaved as I tried to cry quietly. Sometimes you encounter a story that so deeply resonates with your purpose that every cell in your body is charged. I was so angry, that I was actually shaking. I kept looking over at my sister who was also crying, my eyes screaming, “Is this for real?!”

At the Storyline Conference, Donald Miller said: “Pay attention to what angers you, most likely it is brushing up against a core value.”

Even as I type this, I’m crying because my mind can’t process the sheer violence and injustice of having your body mutilated for no fault of your own.

Living Hope is a program that helps women who have been disfigured to undergo reconstructive surgery. These surgeries start at $2,500. The women are also trained with vocational skills and assisted in generating projects using micro-finance loans.

I heard story after story of amazing recoveries. Brave Ugandan women who dared to write a new story for their lives. I just knew in my gut I had to be part of the solution.


Back to my moment of total-crazy …

So … I signed up for a half-marathon to raise money for Living Hope. Eeeeeek.

My plan: Run half-marathon + Raise $2,500 = one woman’s reconstructive surgery

Those who know me well, know that running is way out of my comfort zone. I have barely mastered walking without bumping into things. I come from the school of thought that the only sane reason adults should be running, is if they are being chased. Read about my ridiculous first attempt at running a 10K here.

I called my gf Idelette to tell her about signing up for the half-marathon and my big scary goal. She piped up, “I think it’s a fabulous idea! We should ask our SheLoves family if they would like to join you on the half-marathon.” I squealed with delight, “Yes, yes, please run with me. I’ll die out there on my own. Plus it will help meet the $2,500 target.”

She giggled and said: “If it’s okay with you, I was thinking we could get twenty women to sign up and we could raise $20,000 instead?”

My tonsils, pancreas and kidneys dropped into a mushy pile on the floor. I was chattering like a chipmunk who chugged a case of Red Bull. “$20,000? Seriously? What the freezies!!! Can we do that? Who would give us THAT much money? How are we going to find twenty girls to run a half-marathon with us? This is insane but … YES. Let’s do it!”


50 women in Vancouver + Half-Marathon= Raising $50,000 for Our Sisters in Uganda

Donate Online: HERE

Facebook Event Page: HERE
(You can mark yourself as a “Maybe” if you don’t want to run but want to be part of the conversation)

Here is an Adele song that plays in my head every time I think I about the half-marathon.

“There’s a fire starting in my heart
Reaching a fever pitch,
And it’s bringing me out the dark”
– Adele


I found this great image that summarizes exactly what I’ve been feeling lately. The inciting incident is the overlap of comfort zone and things that make life worthwhile.

So … my global SheLoves sisters:
– Is this an inciting incident in your life that you need to say yes to?
– Do you remember the last time your anger brushed up against a core value?

Dear Vancouver Bravehearts,
The half-marathon is in September. We have plenty of time to train! It is going to be life-changing …
– Would you say YES to running or walking the half-marathon with me?
– If you can’t run or walk, would you please help spread the word?
– Why does this cause speak to you? 🙂

If your heart is beating fast and you have butterflies in your stomach, leave me a comment saying “Yes” and I will send you more information about registering for the half-marathon!

Love you more than Banana and Nutella Cream Cheese Cake,(<- Recipe)

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

(Image: Anne Frank, Venn Diagram, Living Hope Women)
Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis


  1. Incredible. What a story you’re living!

  2. Anne Polonen says:

    Big Tight Hug! Love ya.

  3. SO inspired by this! Your project, the way you express yourself, your cause. YOUR story. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

    Make sure to send me the donation link when you have it.

    Playing big for sure!!

  4. Rebecca says:

    Um, hi. I feel like I’m cautiously announcing my presence — I’ve been quietly stalking (and devouring) SheLoves since I stumbled upon it 2 or 3 weeks ago. (I’m Adriel’s sister-in-law, to make a small-world connection).

    I’m so grateful to have discovered SheLoves. I’ve got three babies right now, and have really been finding it hard to think beyond the next load of laundry lately. I would not trade this season of life for ANYTHING and I love my kids with all of my heart. But in this season of (what feels like) lack of perspective, I’m grateful for the stimulation that you all are providing — thank you! And Tina, you are such a fantastic writer. Seriously. The way you write makes me want to be your friend (I hope I’m not totally creeping you out). Brave, beautiful words and tremendous creativity. Thank you.

    Also, I want to contribute to Living Hope and your venture! Thanks for bringing this to my (our) attention and speaking for those who aren’t always able to speak for themselves. Lord help us all to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with you.

    Thanks again!

  5. Hey missy, Im so excited for you , do let me know if I can pitch in from the UK. Im considering a 10K later this year, the sheer thought of it scares me.
    Love the line ‘something that “scares-the-brown-out-of-me” crazy’. I can relate.
    I have been a massive procrastinator recently and I think the Donald M book is exactly what I need to shake me up a bit. *fingers crossed*

    x Heidi

  6. Taelor says:

    YES! My sister-in-law to be is going to join me as well! 😀 We are very excited

  7. Julie Moore says:

    I’m in too girlies!! Thank you, Tina, for rallying us!

    • Jules!!!!! YAY. Thank you for saying yes! I noticed that your mama-in-law said yes too!! So great! I’m smiling from ear to ear! xo 🙂

  8. YES, YES, YES… I’m going to do it with you. I’m doing a 200K bike ride early Sept and I think it’s crazy to do the run, but it’s SUCH A GOOD CAUSE!!! I’ll be registering once I get my time off granted. This reminds me of a quote on Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere: “If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.” (Matthew Arnold).

    Thanks Teen! xoxo!

  9. I’ll do it. I am SO WITH YOU! Running, along with math, has always been my nemesis. My whole life I came in last in all the races (I mean, ALL- I always got the ‘participation’ ribbon on school sports days) so I am not doing this for poops and giggles. This is 112% out of my comfort zone. When I was reading this post, I was tearing up and I just felt inside that I have and need to do it.

    So- there’s no turning back because I already registered and am getting the T-shirt. Boo ya!

    • Oh my gosh B, you and me both. My stomach has been in knots for two weeks now! I signed up and then was trying to figure out some of the logistics. Of all the things in the world I thought I would EVER and I mean EVER do the marathon was the least of them. Heck, it wasn’t even on the list! I figure its even more of an accomplishment if a group of athletic misfits can help raise money for their sisters on the other side of the world. I love that none of the girls are runners. Having said that this is going to be one heck of a ride!!! So thrilled you said yes. Xox, Teen

  10. Kelly Dawson says:

    oh man. evan is checking to make sure he can take that day off… that’s pretty much 100% though. wow… okay i’m in, boss permission pending. wow…….

    • Hi Kelly!!!

      *waiting before I get all-out excited* Just wanted to mention that the marathon is on Sunday, September 25th. If that helps with scheduling time off…

      Here is the website for more info:

      Love ya,

  11. Christy Gunson says:

    This is for me Tina! I don’t even run but the second I read this I just knew I was meant to do this!!!! Consider me in! <3 Now to find a double jogging stroller! 🙂

    • You.are.amazing.Christy!!

      I don’t run either but all of you guys are making me get so excited about running!

      I’m sososoosososo glad I don’t have to do it alone!!

      Tight Hugs,
      P.S. I’ve missed you!!!

  12. Yay, Teen!!!! I am so proud of you and inspired by you. So where is the donation link, my love, so we can support your cause? 🙂

    • Aww Tara-bunny,

      We are working on it! So many things to figure out with tax receipts and stuff. I will keep you posted!

      Thanks for being my cheerleader! So blessed by Kiki and you!!!

      Love ya,
      P.S. Praying for your Dad.

  13. Sooooooo proud of you Teen and all the other ladies. Let me know how I can help from Down Under?

    • Oh my dear friend, Happy Birthday!!! I hope 30 is everything you want it to be. I hope you write in some “inciting incidents” into your life this year. I know you will because Donald M’s book affected you profoundly as well. I’m so blessed by your friendship, your thoughts and words. Thankful that I get to have an old friend back in a new way. Who knew that our 5th grade friendship would last this long? Hope you feel celebrated and loved today beautiful. And oh! Eat ridiculous amounts of cake! Love you, Teen

  14. Mercie says:

    Hi Tina,

    You are truly an inspiration. I wish I could’ve signed up for the marathon.

    I lost my job on wednesday…. I was speechless, felt miserable, didn’t know what to do… Was just processing it all in my head for the last couple of days and there you go, I read your TGIF.

    Now my first step is buy the book, Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you have any suggestions, who would to hear em.

    I would’ve loved to participate in the Half Marathon but sadly can’t…


    • Hi Mercie,

      So sorry to hear that you lost your job hun. As someone who used to work in Media and found herself losing her job often. I totally relate. It never gets easy. *hugs*

      But yes, read Donald Miller’s book! If you can’t find it in Dubai, let me know and I will find a way to ship it to you. Donald is a Christian author so he may be hard to find. Try India perhaps?

      I would appreciate your love, encouragement and prayers as we prepare for this mammoth undertaking!

      Love ya,

  15. TINA TEEEN! I love this so much. You are so beautiful. I am so excited. THANK YOU for having such a huge heart and helping Living Hope restore these ladies to dignity. It is because of women like you and all the others in this thread of comments that Living Hope’s work is possible.

    I hate running but I swear that if I was there I would be right next to you, running this marathon (more like a million miles behind, trying to catch my breath, but STILL…I’d be there!).

    I’m cheering you on all the way from Uganda. I am SO excited for you.


  16. OK Idelette, I told you the other day that I was “all in” so here’s the pudding…so excited to see such an enthusiastic, power-house group of women step up to the challenge, this is just the beginning:))

    Applicant Info:
    jodi reimer
    Payment Method: VISA
    Amount Charged: $ 52.00 CAD
    Date/Time: June 25, 2011, 1:02 am
    Receipt Number: 1721323
    Terminal Identifer: MRP5452610A
    Registration ID: 11596863
    Receipt Message: MAPPROVED 094306
    Card Number: XXXXXXXXXXXX3026
    Card Expiry: (MMYY) 0314
    Receipt Message Account: ** VISA ** **

    • You are a pretty important part of why I said yes to this Jodi. I was so moved by the 100-hole Golfathon updates on facebook, your interview with Idelette….I’m amazed by your heart and commitment!

      You are a personal hero to me….

      Much love,

  17. Helen Balzer says:

    I’m in too….heart, soul + body’s committed to cause!

    • Awww. It’s going to be amazing to have you running with us!!!! Ahhh. A powerhouse of women saying YES to restoring dignity to our sisters!

      Love you, xoxo, Teen

  18. Natasha says:

    Sooo, ummm, looks like I am coming home before Christmas. Shoot, just signed up!! Eeeeeeeek!!

    • September 25th?!!! You’re going to be here? I have tears in my eyes. I’m SO happy! Wow Tash. This is going to be HUGE! Wow. *heart full*

  19. Sharlynne Pickering says:

    I knew it was only a matter of time before I
    accomplished such a feat!!! And what an
    honor and a privilege to do it for such a cause
    and with such an amazing group of girls.
    I am blessed beyond measure!!!!!
    So YES I am officially in!

    • Sharlynne!!! I officially have chills running up and down. So thrilled to have you join the girls! The sheer speed at which this unofficial sign-up sheet is getting filled up is making me believe that this has God written all over it.

      Here is the registration info:
      **Registration is $3 dollars cheaper before July 31. **

      Love ya,

  20. Mercedes says:

    I will do it! however when in september is it!??

  21. Kortni says:

    Alright…. well, I am extremely excited and petrified to say ‘yes’. But here it goes, I would not want to miss doing this for such a wonderful cause. Lets do this ladies!

    • YES-YES-YES. If I could do a cartwheel, I would. First off, thank you for reading TGIF and visiting SheLoves!!!

      I love that you are scared and doing it anyway! Trust me when I say that climbing stairs makes me pant!

      More info: Registration is $3 dollars cheaper before July 31. 🙂

      P.S. Will try adding you on Facebook!

  22. Yep. Here I go as well. Thought it was 5pm but just tea it’s 20ish so I’ve never been this nervous/scared in my life so YESSSSSSSS!!!!! I’ve always dreamed of doing a marathon but never found a purpose in just doing it to ‘make myself proud of myself’. So thank you Tina, for giving the idea with a great, great reason.

  23. Lindsay says:

    Oh dear… Here I go… Tina, I’m in! I am so incredibly nervous mainly because I am so out of shape… But this is a great cause and I feel so moved by these women and their story. Send me the details girlie! Xo
    You are amazing btw. 🙂

    • Lindsay!!! I’m on floating on a cloud of happiness right now! So many beautiful women saying yes! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

      Don’t be nervous! You look like you have abs that I could crack open a coconut on! You’re soooo beautiful.

      Although, I do know what you mean. Cardio is tricky beast to master but on the plus side … We’re all in it together! We can do this!

      SO love you for doing this!


      • Lindsay says:

        lol@ Abs that could crack open a coconut….Not even close, but lets hope that’s the case after the marathon is over. 😉 haha!

    • Destiny Loeve Destiny says:

      Is this Lindsay Jangalee???

  24. Destiny Loeve Destiny says:

    um… yes.
    i don’t quite have Jess’ enthusiasm, but wouldn’t want to miss doing this with this group of girls.
    keep me posted Tina.

    • Dezzy-doo, Jenna just-just said YES! Woot. 🙂 No pressure but omg would love to do it with you ladies. We need to find a way to train together!

      • Destiny Loeve Destiny says:

        yes please! i’m out of town for a couple weeks, but when i’m back lets train!!

        • Eeek!!! So that’s a YESSSSS!!!! I’m so happyyy that I get to do life with my sisters. Thank you for not letting me run by myself!!!

  25. Jessica McGee says:

    Count me IN!!!! So inspiring, and something I definitely want to be a part of. Can’t wait.

    • Oh Jessica!!!! So excited to have you on board!!! WOOHOO!!! Now do you have any running experience? lol. We girls need some kind of leadership in terms of training. Thoughts? 🙂

  26. Fabulous!!!…. this is awesome writing and wonderful thoughts….. I too was moved to action by the story of the child soldiers and ‘Living Hope’ girls… and wrote myself into my own life story by walking into my destiny late last year. I visited Uganda in December and it has changed me forever….. I now have an art blog that continues to tell this story and we are continuing to raise funds for global endeavours. Go girl!!

    • Dear Kay! Thank you for your encouraging words! I feel so blessed by the online community on SheLoves. Props to you for taking control of your story and visiting Uganda! I’d imagine that the experience changed you for life! I’d love to check out the art blog. Is it Thank you for visiting and sharing your sweet encouraging voice. I’d love it if you’d come visit often! xoxo, Teen

  27. Trinity Robertson says:

    This is Danny’s sister Trin. I’ll do it too. Thank you for the inspiration!

  28. Ben McLoughlin says:

    Can guys run the marathon? Do you know the dates? If its completely closed to women I suppose I could disguise myself as one but I don’t how God would feel about that and it would be a little awkward.

    • hahaha. Absolutely Ben. It’s technically a co-ed marathon. We were just putting together a girls team. But hey! If you want to join us and help raise money! The more, the merrier! 🙂

      • That answered my question. Jeremy is considering my proposal so maybe we’ll put something together as a family.

  29. You go ladies!!!!
    Awesome story Tina, as always. And good luck – I would join you but life is already beyond crazy for me right now!

    • Aww…thanks Claire! If we live to talk about this one maybe you’ll join us on the next? Any insight on the actual process of training would be amazing? Did you sign up with a training team in Surrey?

      • My only tip is to follow the training program exactly as laid out and build up slowly so you don’t injure yourselves. Oh and the main thing – enjoy it. You will! And yes I would love to joing you guys next year!

  30. Daniela Schwartz says:

    Inspired by my husband. I’m in. How far is that?

  31. Joryli Muyco says:

    Uh. I have a lot of thoughts running through my mind. One of them is, I hate you for bringing this up. (but not at all, you know what I mean tho right?), and a few other words I won’t mention to try to deny the fact that I knew right off the bat that reading this article was going to be uncomfortable. (Weird how your spirit just knows eh?)

    Anyways, with my mind still arguing with itself, I am typing this to say yes. I would like to do the half-marathon with you, and raise money and awareness for this.

    Holy crap. Boo. (At this moment, I’m thinking of deleting this. Hold me accountable please cause there’s A LOT of excuses already running through my mind to back out last minute.)

    • Yaaayyyy!!!! I was really hoping you’d say yes! Don’t worry Jujubean. If I can do this, you SO can do this. I believe in you. I mean if PJ, Jodi and Ryan can do 100 holes of golf carrying their heavy bags, WE can do this! It’s going to be a brutal/amazing experience.

      Thank you for saying Yes!

      That’s 6 people so far! Yahoo. 🙂


  32. Eliza B says:

    For any fellow readers. This is what I have messaged the lovely Tina Francis and I hope it encourages you to join us:


    Hey Tina,

    Just read your most recent TGIF. Fantastic as always. Don’t know what the heck I’m doing saying this but I’m interested in this half marathon. I hate running. I really do, but recently I’ve taken it up (for health reasons) but thought that maybe if I run with purpose I could forget for one moment about myself and lean into the discomfort.

    Let me know the details. I’m still not quite sure about this, but with a little encouragement and knowledge I’d like to say that I’m with you on this.

    – Eliza

    PS. It’s funny that you put “Rolling in the Deep” as your marathon song. It’s been on my ipod repeat this whole week every time I go out to run. Talk about a sign 😉


    Her reply was quick and swift — so not outsies anymore!

    • Love, love, love that you’re in!!! We’re already at 5 people. 🙂 Idelette, yourself, my sister, Ash (unofficially) and me! Other than my sister I think we are all around the same athletic aptitude. Woot. It’s gonna be awesome. At the very least, it will be memorable. xoxo

      Thank you for saying YES.


  33. I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for exactly, but YES. I’m in. I’ll jump off this cliff with you, girlfriend … Here’s to thumbs crossed that the Sisterhood will join us. xoxo

    • It’s the blind leading the blind. I have no idea what I am doing either. But Eliza already said yes!!! YAY!

      Thank you for jumping off the cliff with me in doing the marathon!

      That $20,000 number is BIG. And I jumped off the cliff with you in that area. So its 50-50! 😉 xo


  1. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: […]

  2. […] – I got wrecked, because my friend Tina had been wrecked. […]

  3. […] There was a moment February this year, when Tina wrote these words on my facebook wall: “We have a pulse!” That sentence marked a moment in our SheLoves story. With every post and share after that, our pulse became stronger and more rhythmic. By May, we proclaimed the words to the Manifesto: Let Us Be Women Who Love together at LifeWomen conference and in September, we were up and (literally) running on behalf of others. […]

  4. […] “How much have you raised so far?*” he said resting his coffee cup on my cubicle wall and peering down on me. [*Context: On June 24th 2011, I announced a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG): 50 women in Vancouver + Half-Marathon = Raising $50,000 for Our Sisters in Uganda. Read more.] […]

  5. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE […]

  6. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE […]

  7. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE […]

  8. […] started with the historic TGIF post by the ever-fabulous Tina Francis: “The Risky Business of Changing the World.” It was a […]

  9. […] Friday Tina wrote a historic TGIF column. (If you haven’t yet read it, do yourself a favor and click on the […]

  10. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE […]

  11. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE […]

  12. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE […]

  13. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE ______________________________________________________ […]

  14. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE ______________________________________________________ […]

  15. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE ______________________________________________________ […]

  16. […] Half-Marathon for Living Hope – How it all got started? Read the story: HERE – Donate: HERE – Facebook Event Page: HERE […]

  17. […] TGIF empowered readers to begin training for a half-marathon to raise money for an awesome cause (Go here for the full story). At first I thought I would support financially. (After all, I’ll be living in Calgary in […]

  18. […] looks very different on the flip side of my BIG YES. (<- read story […]

  19. […] of women: A sisterhood in North America, rising up strong on behalf of sisters in Uganda. (Here’s the beautiful, brave story here of how it all started; or join us […]

  20. […] for the benefit of those who missed last week’s TGIF post, here is the back story. Last week I asked our Vancouver SheLoves readers if they would […]

  21. […] Teen (who inspired me to come out to all of my friends on Facebook) is grabbing the reins and creating her own story.  A must read.  A must run.  (You’ll see what I mean if you read her […]

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