An Emotional Pilgrimage

Sunday, December 31st, 2017 (cont’d)

2017 was challenging for me, to say the very least.

Not only did my Granny pass away at the ripe old age of 96 years old, after a long battle with illness, but a dear friend from church was murdered in cold blood…senselessly, carelessly, confusingly.

It’s something that I’ve spent the majority of the past few months wrestling with. And something that has caused many a night of sleeping on tear-soaked pillow cases.

One night in particular, I was beating myself up about my grief. “Why can’t I move on?” I asked my cousin Sterling. She gently told me that what was happening to me emotionally seemed to be what I needed most, even if it wasn’t what I wanted! She suggested I give myself until Paris and to not even think about being hard on myself about my grief for one single, solitary minute…no, longer than a minute, months and months of forgiveness, even!

Murder is a heavy thing to deal with. Death is not something you get over in a day. Is there a time that can be devoted to “getting over it?” She thought NO and she is one of the smartest people I know, so I thought it best to agree with her. I let her clear-headedness and discernment guide me in a time when I could not rely on my own.

She also suggested that when I got to Paris, that I could try to do something symbolic, something that would release this emotion into the universe and let it go like a balloon on the back of the wind.

I resolved to take a ribbon to Pont Neuf (one of the many Love Bridges…not the original.) You may have heard about it and the locks that people flock there to lock onto the bridge in the name of LOVE.

I went with a ribbon because I’d heard the Parisians were worried about the locks eventually weighing the bridge down from the unanticipated weight. So ribbons it was for me.

Between the time of Wally’s murder and my trip to Paris, another thing happened. A secret emerged that really changed a lot of things for me. Something I can’t and won’t share. But what you need to know is that I was angry about it! Truly, deeply angry. An anger I don’t know that I’ve ever felt was constantly bubbling inside me, threatening to burn me up and leave nothing behind.

So, I made a vow to release this anger as well on the bridge and I offered the same to my family members who might be feeling sadness or anger of their own about this secret, about Wally’s murder, about the death of our Granny. All of these were big things to wrestle with and I wasn’t alone in needing a gesture to symbolize a new year.

What started as a small gesture turned into an emotional pilgrimage.

I wasn’t sure which day I would end up at the Love Bridge, so I kept my little ziploc baggie full of my family’s tokens, with me at all times. In case I happened upon it when I wasn’t expecting to be there, I wanted to be ready.

Lizzie Does Paris - Love Bridge locks
This is my ribbon for my Granny. I wrote her favorite saying on it, “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.” I also wrote the initials MHROTD on there. Another favorite of hers. She faithfully wrote it on birthday cards and in the memo line on checks for years and years. I think I’ll get a tattoo of it some day! It means: Many Happy Returns of the Day.
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This is the ribbon I tied on for Wally Worman, my lost friend! I wrote “Farewell, Dear One” on there. “Dear one” was a term of endearment we’d often hear him call people. I thought that was a fitting tribute to that kind man!
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This is my cousin, Sterling’s contribution in honor of our Granny. You have no way of knowing this but, Florida oranges are a very fitting tribute!!!
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My father forgot to give me his ribbon, so I had to improvise. I always carry a hair tie on my wrist. So I took one and added it in honor of my dad…in honor of his mom (My Granny.)
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And finally, this one is more of a totem than a ribbon. My Aunt Beck (my father’s older sister) made this herself and sent it along to be added to the bridge. And let me tell you…this bridge has never seen it’s equal! Each piece on the totem is symbolic and personal. She sent this in honor of her mother (my Granny.)

I wasn’t prepared for it when it happened. I stumbled upon the bridge somewhere between Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle on Day 3 of my adventure. How interesting it was to find the most touching moment between me and God and have it not be in either of the churches I’d stepped in that day, but rather outside on a bridge full of locks. God met me there.

Lizzie does Paris - love bridge locks

As I tied each ribbon on, I let go of what I was holding onto.

Lizzie does Paris - love bridge locks

I symbolically let go of what each family member who’d taken me up on my pilgrimage was holding on to.

Lizzie does Paris - Love bridge locks

And when I walked off that bridge after fulfilling my mission…I felt lighter, like a burden had been lifted. I felt lighter, like a darkness had receded. I felt lighter, like a candle had been lit. I felt lighter, like the souls of those I came to honor.

On this, the Eve of a New Year, as I prepared to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018 with open arms, I let it all go. I forgave the secrets that had hurt me personally. I accepted hard truths about the world that I had been either unwilling or unable to accept. I remembered that these emotions, these big mountains cannot be climbed or healed by big symbolic gestures alone. Rather, the practice of forgiveness is something to consider each and every single day. Some days harder, some days easier.

The journey I took travels forward with me as I walk off this bridge and into the future that awaits me. The ribbons I tie here for me and my family…they stay, but we walk forward…lighter, better, bolder, brighter!

I think it’s fitting that I chose the word “Bright” as my word for 2018, because with this weight lifted from my shoulders…forgiven, not forgotten, I sure do feel Bright!

An American in Paris: Day 1

Ok, now you know how I made it to Paris.

Lizzie does Paris

Friday, December 29th, 2017

But I’ll bet you’re wondering what I got up to when I finally made it over there.

Before I even left for Paris, I created a very tentative list of things I wanted to do, along with a vague outline of when I might cross each thing off my list. Traveling with a strict schedule is just not how I do things. I wanted to leave a lot of space to change my mind, add new things to the list and choose days I thought would be best for each item.

Here’s the Master List:

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I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at about 1:30pm on Friday afternoon, December 29th. I opted to rely on wifi in places and turn my phone on airport mode to avoid roaming charges while in Paris. This meant that simple tools like my GPS and the internet were not available to me, except when I was in my hotel or at a cafe that had wifi. It also meant that I had to rely on my scrappy travel skills (of which I have many!)

An excerpt from my travel journal upon arriving in Paris after finding my way to my hotel:

“Finding my bearings in Paris makes me feel like it’s my first time in New York City all over again. There’s a feeling that I truly have no clue where I’m going or what I’m doing. I don’t speak this language and maybe I’ve been out of the big city game for too long.

But, there’s also the absolute knowledge and confidence that I am capable of mastering this. Flying solo can be a little scary initially, but also exciting and energizing! I’d forgotten that feeling. It’s not something I feel very often in Winter Park, Florida.

On the plane, I sat next to Max, a very kind, young guy, probably a bit younger than me in age if not in spirit. He gave me some recommendations and we shared laughs throughout the flight. I was reminded that there are new friends waiting around every corner, if you’re open enough to look for them. Brave enough to talk to them.”

Interjection: This was the start of a flood of writing that began the moment I landed in Paris and has not stopped since I’ve returned home! And I was certainly grateful to be reintroduced to the writer in me, all over again!

“My hotel, Libertel Gare du Nord Suede on Boulevard Magenta in the 10th Arrondissement, is so charming and tiny. It’s the absolute perfect size for me and my solo adventures! It’s cozy and has the right number of hangars for the Paris wardrobe I brought with me. More than just coincidence, I think!

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I laid down to take a quick 30 minute cat nap, here on Day 1 of my adventure, and woke up an hour and a half later than anticipated. Apparently my body had other plans. Once I finally woke up, I felt rested and ready to walk and see and EAT. Above all…EAT!!

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Interjection: I just sat down to my first dinner in Paris and I’m implementing a new rule…wine and dessert will be ordered at every meal! No exceptions!

My neighborhood is charming! I think I’ll be using that word a lot in Paris. There’s a lot to see. Plenty of hustle and bustle and I find it surprisingly easy to navigate, given the language barrier. As I took the opportunity to get the lay of the land in my Arrondissement, I passed my hotel 3 separate times without meaning to. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding my way around. It really does feel somehow like I’m back in New York, but maybe all big cities have this energy and I’ve just forgotten what it felt like.

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Also…I feel like I’ve found a familiar part of myself, long forgotten and abandoned.

Continue reading

Money Matters: How I got to Paris

Up until this very moment, this very day, even…if you asked me about money matters I would have told you: “Go ask someone else…I’m very bad at money.” And it would have been true. I have been bad at money my whole life. From the day I opened a Star Wars credit card when I first moved to New York City (the rewards earned were what one might expect from a Star Wars Mastercard), to the $10,000 I quickly racked up on it because…free money to the countless times I’ve overdrawn my checking account.

If you’re about to recommend Dave Ramsey’s books to me, don’t bother. I read them in college and again in New York and again and again and again. I have done his workbooks and always kept the concept of the “debt snowball” in the back of my mind. Sometimes I chant the words “gazelle-like intensity” to myself. But it’s one thing to read about something and another to apply it.

Flash forward to August of 2017. My Granny had just passed away and had left me with, what she called “squirrel money.” Basically, a sum of money that she’d been squirreling away just for me. It was a turning point for me, because I was being given a shot and I did not want to throw it away.

Some of the squirrel money went to debt. Some went to fun. Some went to savings and some…well, that went to a special travel savings account. Something I thought my Granny would appreciate me doing with the money she gave me. (The money I used on a tattoo was something she wouldn’t have approved of, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!)

My very first trip abroad was a trip to England with my Granny. When me, my brother and my cousin all turned 16, she made it her mission to get us abroad. That was her promise to us. And as the eldest grandchild, my trip was first.

She and I went on a group tour with a pastor she had known for years. He was preaching his way across London in Minsters, Abbeys, Churches, Cathedrals…and we were to join the bus tour accompanying him. It was my first taste of the travel bug. It was my first taste of another country. And from the moment I saw the chopping block and the crown jewels in the Tower of London, I was hooked on absorbing other places and their culture.

When I first entertained the idea of going to Paris, it was on a whim. One night, in the middle of the night, I was up and unable to sleep and I started searching the internet for whatever magical treasures I could find. Something I do often when I have bouts of insomnia. Etsy treasures, Pinterest ideas, cat videos on You Tube and then I wandered over to a flight search and randomly typed in “Paris.” It’s a place I’ve always dreamed of visiting.

Talk about finding treasures…I found a flight for $175, one way to Paris on Norwegian Airlines. And that night, I bought it. I thought to myself “Even if you don’t end up making it there, $175 is a bargain price for a big dream!”

I was still bad at money. But even being bad at money, I knew a $175 one way ticket was a good idea! I also knew that Paris was a city where I’d want to have money to spare for things like sight-seeing, eating and shopping. Enter, what I thought was going to be, an uphill battle.

I read an article on the The Penny Hoarder about ways to save and came across an app called Stash. It’s basically an easy way to set up a savings account with different low risk, or high risk if that’s your bag, stock options. You buy the stocks you want. They accumulate interest or lose it as the market dictates and then when you want your money back, you sell the stock and transfer the funds back into your bank account.

Savings accounts that I’ve used in the past have not worked for me, no matter how hard I’ve tried. And believe me, I’ve tried.

I tried the kind where it rounds up your spending and puts that rounded up sum into a savings account. But it’s linked to your checking, so when my balance got low it was very easy to transfer those extra monies right back into ground zero.

I tried an account that charged me every time I withdrew money prematurely…yeah, I lost a lot of stupid money that year on withdrawing money prematurely.

I tried an account with a completely different bank. But as with all my other attempts, I’d watch the number rise as I watched my checking dwindle and once again it was too easy to transfer it right back into the danger zone.

I tried and I tried and I tried. So I didn’t have high hopes that Stash would make a difference in the way I handled my savings. How would it be any different? Would I just end up abusing it the way I did every other savings account?

But something changed. I didn’t abuse it. In fact, I didn’t even touch it. I started out by transferring $5 every Friday into my Stash. A small enough amount that I could spare it. A big enough amount monthly that it would mean actually creating some savings. Gradually, as I realized this was working for me, I upped the ante to $10 a week, then $15 a week and finally $20 a week.

$20 a week is not a great amount of money. It’s modest at best. But for me, it was a king’s sum. From August to December, I faithfully added to my savings. When I had extra money come in, I’d add more.

I started teaching an Art Class for Preschoolers to make extra money, my side hustle, and I put part of that money in there too. Before I knew it, I had over $1000. I have NEVER had $1000 in a savings account. I’ve rarely seen that amount in my checking account, to be honest. All of a sudden I was like…

You guys…I had done it. I changed the narrative of my relationship to money.

Days before leaving for my big trip to Paris, a trip that now seemed much more of a triumph and a celebration than it did back in August when I’d initially made the decision to dream, I was recounting how  all this had come about to my father.

I told him about the article in the Penny Hoarder, about the app Stash, about my $1000, about how I actually accomplished what I never thought I could. And I finished with “And you know how bad I am at money, dad!” He looked at me, rather intently, and said “I don’t think you can say you’re bad at money anymore.”

woah…

Woah…

WOAH!!!

Wake up call! Have you ever really had a wake up call? Do you know this feeling?

It’s amazing!

It’s life changing!

It’s a miracle!!

Not only did I afford to fly myself to Paris, but I could afford to actually stay in Paris and do everything on my bucket list and eat a fancy French meal every night and fully immerse myself in the Paris I wanted to see most. And yes…even fly home from Paris.

I have a lot of blogs coming your way in the New Year about my experiences in Paris and other things like  travel tips, how to get great photos when traveling alone, all kinds of things that came to me when the flood gates of my love for writing were opened up again because of this trip.

But none of those posts will be as important as this one right here.

No matter who you were in 2017, no matter what you thought you couldn’t do or what you think is beyond your reach…it isn’t. You can do that thing. You can change your narrative, like I did.

Guys…I’m good at money now. I’m paying off debt and starting new enterprises. I don’t have a credit card anymore because I know that I can’t trust myself with one. I have a checking account for paying off bills and a checking account for my spending and the rest, well you know where that goes! Right into my Stash for safe keeping. And I’m going the extra mile and adding Acorns to my portfolio. Another app that will help with savings. It’s always a good idea to hedge your bets!

I don’t think I’ve ever truly been this proud of myself in my whole life and it’s a great feeling! The confidence I have in my abilities, the knowledge that all it takes to climb a mountain is the proper training and the right equipment! You want Everest…you can have it. You just have to do the work. You just have to show up for your dream!

What a way to start the New Year!!

Star Wars Boot Camp Redo

Star WArs boot Camp fitness series

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…amiright?

The day I decided to start my brand new Boot Camp series was the day that we found out our friend Wally had died. After attempting to keep on keeping on despite the mounting grief washing through my soul, I finally came to the point where I couldn’t just keep on. I had to stop. Stop what I was doing. Stop and take stock of why I was doing it. And in the aftermath of tragedy, my body didn’t care about getting back into shape. The Dark Side had taken over.

I’d be lying if I said that the Darkness has left…it hasn’t.

But this past Monday, I decided to give my Star Wars Boot Camp a do-over. The desire to tune my body back to healthy has resurfaced and I feel extra motivated to make the best of my life. Especially remembering that there are people who don’t get one more day. It really does put your grief into perspective. It puts your fears and failures into perspective. And for me, it makes me stronger. It makes me want to fight for the best life I can have.

Enter…

Week 1: Sith Apprentice Week (Anakin Skywalker)

I’m altering the routine I had previously shared just a bit (pray I don’t alter it further.) 😉

Here’s a look at my morning routine, which I will do every morning this week:

1 min of each

  • Jumping Jacks
  • High Knees
  • Squats
  • Butt Kickers
  • Leg Lunges
  • Jog in Place
  • Crunches
  • High Kicks
  • Plank
  • Jump Rope

Arm Routine

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (4 sets, 8 reps)
  • Standing Dumbbell Curls (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Reverse Curls (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Hammer Curls (2 sets, 15 reps)
  • Tricep Press (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Upright Dumbbell Row (3 sets, 12 reps)

Here’s another look at my playlist this week:

 

Bonus Rounds

To add a little extra oomph to this week’s workouts, I’m adding some YouTube videos that will focus on some Sith skills, such as lightsaber combat, Kendo and martial arts.  I chose one of these 4 days out of the week to try. Take a look:

No guarantee that I’ll master these in a week…in fact, it’s a safe bet to say that I won’t. But that’s not really the point of Boot Camp. This Boot Camp is supposed to give me focus. Every morning, I’ll be narrowing in on what’s happening with my body. Where the pain is, where I need to push myself. And by focusing on those things, it will take my eyes off of the unhealthy habits I’ve been forming in the last month or so.

As of today, I’m 2 days into it and I’ve had successful morning and evening workouts each day since starting! Now it’s time to add on these extra bonus workouts and push more…just like a Sith Apprentice would. Channeling my inner Anakin!

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Here’s a look at some of the training Hayden Christensen did for Episode III to get you inspired!

Star Wars Boot Camp

Well, once again I’m standing at the start of a workout series. The last one was very successful. I felt good, I felt fit and then life interjected and while I haven’t completely regressed, I have not been at the level of fitness I’d like to be. The kind of level that energizes me. The kind of level that has me feeling my muscles in the good way!

So…here we go. But this time I want to invite you all into the process. Instead of showing you the results and breaking it down after 6 weeks of hard work, you are going to be my inspiration, my accountability, my reason for staying true to my 6:30am alarm each day!!!

If you want to follow along on the whole journey, come on over to my Instagram and keep an eye out for my stories each day. I’ll show you what workouts I’ll be doing and whether or not I actually do them. As well as daily inspiration to get me going and keep me going!

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What is this workout, you ask? I’m glad you did!! Cause it may just be my best idea yet. It’s a Star Wars Boot Camp!! That’s right…I said Star Wars!! The franchise that beats all other franchises IMHO!

You know my deep and abiding love for that galaxy far, far away. Now it’s turn that love into some fitness currency and put that love to work! Here’s a rough outline of week 1, but I’m leaving myself room to adjust each week as I need to.

I’ll be sharing my journey with you as I go and as usual, if you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments below or email me (nerdinthecity01@gmail.com)!! I’d love to hear your thoughts!!

Week 1: Anakin Skywalker (Sith Apprentice)

Week 1 is all about Anakin’s Dark Side, his fight with the ways of the Sith. I’m following the Sith Code this week:

Peace is a lie,

There is only Passion.

Through passion, I gain Strength.

Through strength, I gain Power.

Through power, I gain Victory.

Through victory, my chains are broken.

The Force shall set me free.

This week is all about Passion, Power, Strength and Victory. And since this is Sith Apprentice week, everything I do will be at home utilizing the resources I have at my disposal. You Tube videos, apps, weights, bodyweight exercises. This week is all about quantity over quality. Reps, reps, reps! Going till I can’t go anymore. Channeling my anger and my passions into strong fitness routines that will be explosive. Just like Anakin Skywalker and his decent into the Dark Side.

Here’s my playlist for Week 1:

Let’s talk food. This week I’m going to be eating lots of protein and cutting out all those foods that weigh me down: dairy, bread, bad sugars. And replacing those things with dark greens, black beans, black berries, red raspberries, black lentils, black teas, basically anything dark, black, red, bitter, etc. Things that will keep me on the path to the Dark Side. 

Here is a look at my morning power workout. I’ll be doing this every morning and pairing it with workouts like Power Yoga, Boxing, Arm Workouts and Tumbling/ Acrobatics.

Morning Routine:

-1 min indoor jog

-1 min mountain climbers

-1 min jump rope

-1 min jumping jacks

-1 min skiers

-1 min front kicks

-1 min power skips

-1 min high knees

-1 min squats

-1 min butt kickers 

(Repeat 3 times)

Embrace your Dark Side and together…we can rule the galaxy!!!

Thrift Store Cosplay Big Finale!!

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31: Star Wars Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 31: Princess Leia, Han Solo & Luke Skywalker

Today is the final day of my thrift store cosplay series. I really hope you all have enjoyed my shopping adventures. I certainly had a blast doing it! And now my wardrobe is tricked out!!

I wanna hear what your favorites were and if this inspired you at any point to give your local thrift stores a try. Is there a cosplay you think I should resurrect for Halloween in October? Or a character you’d like to see me try for the next series? Let me know!!

For the big finale, I pulled out all the stops and I’m bringing you characters from my favorite movie franchise of all time. This should come as no surprise…it’s Star Wars. I chose Star Wars! A Princess, a Scoundrel and a Farm Boy!! Enjoy!

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31: Star Wars Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker fashion blog post

Princess Leia:

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31 grand finale Princess Leia Star Wars fashion blog post

Dress from Plato’s Closet

Shoes from OMG Thrift

Belt from Goodwill

Han Solo:

Han Solo thrift store cosplay

Vest, Pants and Belt from Goodwill

White Shirt from Plato’s Closet

Boots from my shoe closet

Luke Skywalker:

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31 grand finale Luke Skywalker Star Wars

Tunic, Pants & Shoes from Goodwill

Belt from Salvation Army

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 30

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 30: Mickey Mouse styled by Disney World fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 30: Mickey Mouse

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I am a die hard Disnerd. Mickey is my ride or die Mouse!!

What would the world be with the OG Mouse? Mickey Mouse

Black Turtleneck, Red Pants and Yellow Shoes from OMG Thrift

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 30: Mickey Mouse flat lay styled by Disney fashion blog post

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Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29 Lilo and Stitch Disney Style fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 29: Lilo from Lilo and Stitch

You guys!!! Thrift Store Cosplay is winding down and I only have 2 days of cosplay left to share with you. I have really enjoyed tricking out my closet with fun, whimsical and practical items. Some of which are very specifically costume-ish and others that I will definitely get some more wear out of. My closet is pretty amazing right now!! I must admit and because everything was procured at vintage, thrift, consignment and resale stores, I feel hella good about it!!

I’m gonna be taking some polls on which were your favorite characters and such from the whole August series, so keep an eye out for that!! Also I have a giveaway going on right now with JORD Watches. I hope you’ll take a minute to enter to win $100 at JORD! Use this link: woodwatches.com/g/nerdinthesand

JORD wood watches giveaway entry form nerd in the city nerd in the sand collab
Photo from JORD 

Ok…back to the cosplay. Today, I give you Lilo:

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29 Lilo and Stitch Disney Style fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29 flat lay 'Ohana Lilo and Stitch styled by Disney fashion blog post

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Thrift Store Cosplay Day 28

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 28: JEM and the Holograms rock star fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 28: JEM from JEM and the Holograms

Out of all the characters I’ve chosen to cosplay this month, JEM is the one who is nearest and dearest to my heart. I used to watch the cartoon when I was a kid and dream of the day I could have pink hair and be a rock star!

SHOWTIME SYNERGY!!!

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 28: JEM and the Holograms rock star

Dress from OMG Thrift

Star Earrings and Heels from Goodwill

Belt from Salvation Army

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Truly Outrageous!!