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Quick, what definitions first come to mind when you hear the word "grounding"? For me, the first associations are either with electrical circuits or with the even more obviously metaphorical application of being stable and settled.  Since my kids were always very cooperative, I can't say that the other common use of "grounding" (as in a time-out, inside the house, for teens) has had much significance for me. I will also admit that I tend to use the past participle, grounded, rather than the gerundial form.

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I'd extend the invitation to ruminate a little on the concept, whether literal or metaphorical. I'll start by discussing the (very) little I know about the newly popular phenomenon of "earthing" or "grounding" as a method for encouraging health.

Is this something that you have already encountered, or is it completely unfamiliar to you? I first learned of it, as I recall, when I was at the detox center in the fall of 2011 ("enema farm," as we now call it at our house) and saw a periodical devoted to the health benefits of taking off one's shoes and walking around on the bare soil with one's bare feet. Whether the ground is cold or hot, wet or dry, re-establishing the connection between one's body via feet on the ground is supposed to be highly therapeutic.

I must admit to some skepticism, then and now. Surely the advantages of wearing shoes, I figure, far outweigh the advantages of going without them. However, I have encountered some barefoot advocates more recently who have encouraged me to open my mind to the idea.

One of my husband's oldest friends is a serious runner, a marathoner in fact, who has the kind of meditative and thoughtful attitude that I associate with long-distance runners. Last time we saw him, he was beginning to flirt with the idea of running barefoot at least some of the time, under controlled conditions. He had tried the "athletic toe shoes" (you know, the kind of socks that look like gloves and are also allegedly sturdy enough to walk or run in), and while they were all right in his judgment they weren't as satisfying as running barefoot. In his personal experience, his stride changed--became shorter, as I recall--and his posture became looser. Now, I am neither a sprinter nor a marathoner, so his example is not likely to apply to me directly. But I am still curious about the implications of getting closer to the ground on which we step.

Probably the closest I come to this version of "grounding" on a regular basis happens in the summer when I go camping. I love to camp, actually, and have done so happily for as long as I can remember. When I was a Girl Scout, back in the 1970s, our equipment was pretty primitive. The Scouts would supply the big tents, and we'd have our own bags and pads. All that was rudimentary compared to the equipment I have accumulated over the years, and I don't even do any winter camping or backpacking. Recently, I have acknowledged the demands of age and infirmity by acquiring good sleep mats, much thicker than the Therm-a-Rests and other compressible pads. I do not mind the greater comfort that they provide, even if they do lift me off the ground by another inch or two.

Now, I know that it's clearly an indication of some insularity (pun intended) that I can think about sleeping outside on the ground as being a good time. If it were a necessity, not a rare treat, either for me or for someone close to me I might think about it very differently. On the other hand, I am grateful for the very little bit of wildcraft I've acquired and would be happy to gain more; no telling when such skills might come in handy.

The other way in which I most like to get "grounded" is to go to the woods. There, it's not the ground--dirt--soil--that matters to me, but the big trees. Bigger and taller the better. Have you ever felt a tree's energy pulse through you? I have, most notably when I visited the Estivant Pines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the last stand of virgin white pine in the UP, according to the Michigan Nature Association, which was instrumental in the campaign to save them from logging in 1971. They're way too big around to be hugged by any one person, but it is still possible to get a sense of their energy by touching their bark. I don't quite know what I expected, if anything, but I still remember over twenty years later how charged that tree felt. It was far from grounded in one sense, of being electrically neutralized. Yet in another, it was a prime exemplar of groundedness, since it was obviously so deeply rooted and connected to the soil from which it sprang.

I know that for some of you, being outside is just not appealing for a variety of reasons. I'm not interested in limiting this discussion of "grounding" to the direct connection between body and earth, however. What matters to me for the purposes of this discussion is this: How do you feel connected, bonded, to the rest of the ecosystem in which you live? How do you understand your own place in the world? How has this sense of connection and relationship changed post-diagnosis (if it has, that is)? Thanks for sharing your thoughts about fostering a sense of being grounded.

Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7-8 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hello, MNCCers! (12+ / 0-)

    I write this diary with a large measure of chagrin for NOT mentioning my own neglected garden right outside my window. I am SO behind with indoor chores that I am more than happy for the cool weather we've had this year to slow the emergence of new grass and flowers. But my reprieve won't last for long. Thus, in the spirit of placating any angry garden goddesses in my area, I acknowledge how much I appreciate having a garden to work, even if I don't pay it nearly as much attention as it deserves.

    Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 04:24:08 PM PDT

  •  Grounding is what happens (7+ / 0-)

    when you don't have enough airspeed to transition to flight, and the plane doesn't quite make it into the sky.  :-P

    I would agree with you on the camping aspect...my "happy place" is a little scout camp on Lake Rossignol in Nova Scotia..a place I've not seen in almost 15 years now.  

    I shed many a tear after I was first diagnosed - I wondered if I would ever see it again.  (Looks like I might make it back now.)

    But on my road to recovery, I've got a question for you all.  What say you about "survivor's guilt"?  I read the story today about the lead singer from the Divinyls...she was only 53, not much older than me.

    I also have two friends that were diagnosed back about December.  My lady friend has breast cancer; she's already been through surgery and is doing well with her treatment.  But the guy I know at Scouts is not doing so hot; there's some concern this may take him after all.

    Why am I doing so well with this?  Why aren't my friends?  Should I feel this way, even about people I don't know?  

    I guess it's the metaphysical question.  How come I beat this, but other folks can't??

    I prefer to remain an enigma.

    by TriSec on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:34:37 PM PDT

    •  ooooh, I didn't think of that one~! (9+ / 0-)

      The diary might have taken an entirely different shape had I done so.

      I understand that Nova Scotia is divine. My husband's best man has property there and spends as much of the summer there as possible. Since he's a school superintendent, that means a few weeks every year. I hope that we will have a chance to visit him there some time. And I hope that you get to return to your happy place even sooner than that.

      The question about survivors' guilt is an excellent one. I think it deserves its own diary--by you, or by anyone else who is inclined to weigh in.

      It's particularly intense, in my experience, when the person you know has the same type (and stage and grade) of cancer. That was sort of my experience with the Kossack alliedoc, who unfortunately had a recurrence of endometrial cancer almost five years after her original diagnosis. The first time around, the stage was so early that her oncologist advised her that no other treatment besides surgery was necessary. Lo and behold, the cancer roared back and then she was gone within a year of its reappearance.

      Closer to home, I had a choir friend who had a recurrence of endometrial cancer when I was first diagnosed myself. There was something about her, all along, that did not bode well for her long-term survival. I don't know exactly what I was picking up, but I know I wasn't alone in that assessment. (It wasn't merely the "looks healthy" BS; something less tangible.) And indeed, she did die about a year after her own recurrence.

      There are several MNCCers who've had the experience of going through clinical trials and remaining as the last person standing. They might have some additional insights to share.

      But eventually where I've come down is to say to myself that just as cancer is a condition that emerges from within each of us, from the malfunction of our own cells, the trajectory that the condition takes in each of us is as distinctive as we are. Yes, it is possible to aggregate statistics of response and survival, but in the end we are each unique.

      If we knew the answer as to why, we'd be a lot closer to effective treatment.

      May your friends, and you, do better than anyone expects for a long time to come.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:53:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The husband of a friend screamed at (9+ / 0-)

      me years ago when her cancer returned. I did not know I was the only one aside from him who knew, and he was in such agony he cussed me out over the phone for half an hour. I never told her and I don't think he did either. I felt brutalized but I also understood. It's true; not everyone is a "f--king miracle!" Life just is. Some people get all possible treatment, the latest and best, and still die. Others, like me, haven't a chance, multiple doctors say less than a year, and twenty-five years pass. Right now, with one friend, I'm learning about faith. He's sure he's going to live. He was diagnosed a little over two weeks ago with brain cancer, stage IV. He had his 10th radiation treatment today. It's in his brain, his adenoids, his liver, his lungs, and his vocal cords are paralyzed. But until he decides otherwise, I'm ignoring all fact and rationale, and believing he'll make it too.

      Forget the guilt. Just remember this: time is maleable. We need to rush to accomplish wonders in this life. Despite this, we must take time to be considerate, give our hearts  - we have all the time in the world to improve relationships. We have no time for those not worthy. During those times of guilt, take the time to give some of your heart away; the guilt will go away too.

      "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Mohandas Gandhi

      by cv lurking gf on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:08:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Powerful and direct response, cv l gf. (7+ / 0-)

        Thank you for answering from your heart.
        I agree with you: until your friend decides otherwise, then you believe, too. I hope he defeats all odds.
        And also:

        We have no time for those not worthy. During those times of guilt, take the time to give some of your heart away; the guilt will go away too.
        Beautiful.

        Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

        by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:23:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, I think cancer is a crap shoot. (7+ / 0-)

      I see women who are 4 time survivors at Gilda's Club and I'm sure they thought they beat it every time.

      I remember one woman replying quite snottily to my treatment plan by saying "she did everything she could to treat her cancer because she wanted to live".

      Side effects of her treatment were what killed her.

      Some women I meet had no cancer for 20 years after their initial round and then it came back with a vengenge. Some were given 2 weeks to live and it's been 10 years since then.

      Who knows? My stats are that a certain percent of women survive for 5 years or more cancer free, a certain percent live less than 5 years after diagnosis and a certain percent die from unrelated causes.

      I like to think that those unrelated causes are from being hit by a bus and I am just grateful I live in a town whose public transportation sucks.

      Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

      by ZenTrainer on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 10:09:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hello! (7+ / 0-)

    I do have those toe'd shoes.  They're ok to walk in, but I don't run anyway, so not sure if they are good there.  I like shoes and sandals.  Guess I am the ultimate tenderfoot - everything I step on can hurt!  I've told my husband that he married the princess from "princess and the pea."  I can feel anything that is on the sheets or under them!  

    I just did my first post-chemo event - the Color Me Rad 5K!  Runners/walkers are blasted with color powder and spritzed with color as they make their way along the course.  Good way to ruin a white t-shirt!

    •  I assume you find them comfortable then? (7+ / 0-)

      I just bought some yoga toe socks, so I guess I'll find out soon myself. My feet are pretty tough, though.
      Feet! I used to dislike mine intensely until I studied karate. Working out barefoot for many years did give me a much greater appreciation for how strong our feet have to be.
      The 5K sounds like a lot of fun! My older daughter has started training to do one around here, sometime this summer. She HATES to run, so I'll have to tell her that people do complete the event walking the whole way. I guess that makes your clothing a lot more colorful.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 06:23:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wear barefoot shoes (Vibrams) a lot but not (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sara R, Avila, corvaire, peregrine kate

        with the toes in them. I ordered some and after they arrived I remembered something I hadn't thought of since I was about 8 years old. I have webbed toes.

        I think they are very comfortable (my regular Vibrams without toes).

        And while I think perhaps we were meant to run or walk barefoot I also think we were meant to walk on dirt, grass and sand. Not concrete, asphalt, or wood floors.

        So.... whatever works, works.

        Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

        by ZenTrainer on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 09:47:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "grounding" to me (8+ / 0-)

    is becoming one with the trail.


    It usually takes about an hour,
    if the crowds are light,
    and scenery out of the ordinary.

    Eventually the mind quiets down,
    and your steps conform to the wild-rambling ground;
    and your soul is engaged with what's around the next bend.


    Some call it a "cathedral experience"

    (or "flow experience" according to psychology --
    which resets our inner clocks, clears the mind,
    and lets us realize we are part of something much larger,
    than our day to day problems.)

  •  The shoes are pretty comfortable. (6+ / 0-)

    They were recommended to me at REI.  The saleswoman said that they were good for fixing plantar fasciitis.  Since i have it in both feet, I thought I'd try the shoes.  Not sure if they help with pf, but they are comfortable to wear around.

    It makes sense that runners would get less color - walkers stroll through while runner spend less time in the color zones.  I've done several events as a walker.  Walked two 1/2 marathons and one full.  Tell your daughter that endurance is key.  Keep hydrated, some people have some snacks with them, and keep walking.  You will finish ahead of some people who "ran" the event.

    •  Good to know, all around. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila, Sara R, weck, ladybug53, ZenTrainer

      I had a bout of pf a couple of years ago. My goodness, but that was painful! Haven't had it since, and I don't know why it started or why it left. I hope yours doesn't become bothersome.
      I'll make sure to pass on the message to my daughter, thanks.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 06:50:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hello, dear Katie and MNCCers (6+ / 0-)

    thank you for this lovely, thoughtful diary.

    i'm almost embarrassed to admit that my first reaction to "grounding" is memory of being sent to my room as a teenager (semi-permanent restriction, it seemed then) for "tone," "insouciance," and similar offenses perceived by my pops. ;)

  •  There's a podiatrist in Portland (5+ / 0-)

    who is a figure in the "barefoot" movement.  He says a lot of problems are caused by modern footwear.  Our shoes deform our feet!  (They deformed mine.)  NW Foot and Ankle is his website.  

    Speaking of being low to the ground, I was recently contacted by a lady who runs a non-profit that has to do with cancer in service animals (she might be interested in carrying Pootie Pads in her store).  The non-profit is called Land of Pure Gold -- and the website has a lot of info on cancer.  Seems that cases of cancer are on the rise in dogs -- and that might tell us something about our environment.

    You can order Pootie Pads here until the website is back up. Pooties love them!

    by Sara R on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 06:57:15 PM PDT

    •  Interesting indeed. I've heard claims like that; (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weck, Sara R, ladybug53, Avila, ZenTrainer

      wish there were an easy way to validate them. My own feet would probably be much worse had I not stopped wearing heels of any height a long time ago. (Does that mean I can convince my daughters likewise? Hahahahaha. No.)

      That is dismaying but not entirely surprising to hear of an increase in cancer in our pets. I would expect the same to be true of cats as well. Not a good sign overall. I hope that the place picks up on Pootie Pads!

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:08:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also our vaccine practices. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sara R, Avila, corvaire, peregrine kate

      Down on the farm we didn't vaccinate our dogs and cats every year, year after year,

      Top 3 side effects of overvaccination:
      ~cancer
      ~epilespsy
      ~allergies - severe

      And our dog food. We used to feed table scraps. Fit for human consumption table scraps - chicken and rice and peas and watermelon.

      Not pet food with "poulty by-products" and "animal digest".

      Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

      by ZenTrainer on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 09:53:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When I think of grounding, I go to the earth and (6+ / 0-)

    find my food there.  My philosophy of diet is "the closer to the ground, the better the food".  

    I avoid "spreads" for butter, and cook from scratch, grow my veggies, and just use that thought when deciding between two foods.  Tonight I bought some whipped cream for a pie; one kind had cream, sugar as the first ingredients, the other said cream, water, whey protein, sugar.  I just put the second one back, the first was closer to the ground.

    If you read the cream cheese packages, the store kind still use just a few ingredients, but the Philly has added other things now, and the mouth-feel is grainy, not creamy.  Easy to choose when the ingredient list is only two or three items instead of 12. It will be less processed and closer to the ground.

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. & http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Okiciyap

    by weck on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:26:56 PM PDT

    •  I agree with you, weck, about food. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, Avila, ZenTrainer, Sara R, corvaire

      I don't come nearly as close as I would like to meeting those ideals. But definitely as a shopper I read labels religiously. I think I've actually succeeded in passing on that habit to both my girls (even if the younger one still likes fast food).
      I like that slogan, staying closer to the ground.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:35:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I spent forever the other day trying to find a jam (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sara R, Avila, corvaire, peregrine kate

      or jelly that was just fruit. Even the organic ones had sugar.
      I think I am going to have to learn to make my own. The same with nut butter. The only ingredient should be nuts. No salt, sugar needed.

      Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

      by ZenTrainer on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 09:56:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There used to be something called Polaner (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ZenTrainer, corvaire, peregrine kate

        All-Fruit, and there are some no sugar added ones.

        My sister boils down the fruit, especially berries, until they are quite thick, like  a syrup, and then freezes them in small containers (baby food jars).  The flavor is intense enough for toast and is delightful on Ice cream.

        If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. & http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Okiciyap

        by weck on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:20:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Healing Journey course (6+ / 0-)

    Went to week 3, level 3 today.

    We talked about ways to let go of being pissed off at people who piss us off.

    Too bad you have to have had cancer to benefit from this program. It's really nice.

    You can find it here.

    I think most of it is free to download.

    •  Funny and fitting that you would post this comment (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, Avila, ZenTrainer, corvaire

      here for me to read. I am still struggling with that letting-go stuff. Maybe I'll get it sometime! Thanks for the link.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:37:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Grounding in the physical world (7+ / 0-)

    I've commented and diarized at length about my son's cancer and how the physical therapy in the four years since his diagnosis drives both him and me towards new levels of physical fitness and exercise. And as I ponder it a little more in this context, I realize that part of it is also an exercise in control, in returning from the madness of a two-year-old's cancer diagnosis and endless months of intense treatment to the quote-unquote real world. Running makes sense. Weight lifting makes sense. Archery and horseback riding and all these other physical things exist in a very pure, organized, mathematically precise space: If you do action X, result Y will occur, and the more you repeat action X, the more precise result Y will be. So very different from the unpredictable chaos of chemotherapy, of biological witch's brews with some effects that will not be seen for decades. And of course the act of exercise itself is intended to reshape the body in a positive manner -- the exact inverse of a disease that reshapes the body in a rampant, senseless, chaotic manner. My son and I push back against the uncontrollable by reasserting control over our own bodies.

    •  Very well put, poguesrun. The effort (6+ / 0-)

      to regain agency after so much helplessness is vital to recovery, especially to experience it in and through the beleaguered body. I'm delighted to be going back to my regular exercise programs tomorrow.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:49:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Reminder of possible MNCC topics (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, Sara R, Avila, ZenTrainer, corvaire

    available, unless already claimed, to be covered by you!

    Cancer and PTSD
    Cancer and Depression
    Cancer and Anxiety
    Race and Class Disparities in Cancer Survival
    Clinical Trials (murasaki)
    Cancer and Genetic Testing
    Cancer and Environmental "Hot Spots" (DWG)
    Cancer and Patient Advocates (Avila)
    Politics of Cancer (ZenTrainer)
    Cancer and Survivor's Guilt

    (The last one suggested by TriSec's comment tonight.)

    I look forward to other people's exposition of these subjects; soon I will be contacting the volunteers via Kosmail to set specific dates.

    Good night, all. Hope everyone has a healthy, peaceful, and well-grounded week.

    Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:55:09 PM PDT

  •  OMG! I was just talking about grounding (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sara R, Avila, corvaire, peregrine kate

    today. My dog, Said, celebrated Earth Day by digging a hole and lying in it. He looked so cute with a ring of brown dirt around his black nose.

    I have a friend who is crazy nuts for all new health fads. She takes 30 minute baths every night in ice water. She just rewired her (rental) house to protect from wi-fi something or other.

    And yes, she stands barefoot in her yard for a certain period of time every day.

    Whatever makes your boat float I suppose. I don't really like anything about being outdoors unless it has to do with water and even then I'd rather be inside.

    Go ahead, send me to my room, I like it there!

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 10:02:54 PM PDT

  •  Walking the Beach (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, corvaire, peregrine kate

    is perfect grounding. Especially after a storm in the wet sand. talk about reconnecting with the Planet. yummmmmmmm paradise.  Hugging a Redwood Tree is about the same thing too.  Actually like you noted PK, you can actually only touch the bark but hey, it felt good to me.  Even better is when you can sleep in a sleeping bag under giant Coastal Redwoods and and then go into the mountains and sleep under Giant Sequoia's too.

    True Nirvana for the soul.

    Life is not a problem to be solved but an adventure to be experienced.

    by DarkHawk98 on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 10:49:10 PM PDT

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