Full Moon Rising…

Full Moon Rising

I’m in the middle of working on 2008 AND 2009 taxes–ugh. A bazillion receipts that need to be poured over and a mountain of 2009 medical bills is now growing exponentially and is beginning to resemble a full-scale replica of Mt. Kilamanjaro. I hate doing this. I have software programs that should simplify this part of my life and great paper systems that claim to do the same thing, but what I want to do is anything but taxes so, I put it off. I absolutely hate bean counting. It takes me forever to catch up and granted, it’s my fault I’m now in a state of freak out, but I’ll get it done somehow–I’ll just be a lot more worse for wear over the next couple weeks. Hopefully I’ll make some headway soon and this mountain of paper will get under control in time for the holidays or at least by the time Jasmine comes home. Yep, you heard me…she’s coming home…soon.

As thrilled as I am, I am extremely nervous. I don’t want for old habits to rise back up to the surface, but I have to pray that she has learned a great deal of coping skills and she will rise above all the triggers that she will be faced with daily. We had the pleasure of spending our Thanksgiving with her while she earned a 4-day pass. It was filled with love, laughter, good food, and family–just what Thanksgivings are about.

Together for Thanksgiving '09

It was our biggest blessing–to see her alive and doing well and clean and sober and genuinely happy to be with us. That blessing could only compare to our family’s other biggest blessing–me–and the fact that I am still alive 10 months after being diagnosed with breast cancer. We built fires and roasted marshmallows. We stayed up all night long and watched movies. We laughed until we cried, lost our voices, and acted completely crazy as Jasmine joined Jordan and I on our psycho shopping sprees where we waited for hours in the freezing weather just to be pushed and shoved through the stores and become so discombobulated that we were standing in the wrong lines to check out more than once. She had never shared in the Black Friday tradition before and was absolutely shocked to see the chaos.

She wanted to surprise everyone for Thanksgiving dinner and so we dropped her off a block away from Jeff’s sister’s house and as we all loaded into the house without her, she snuck up several minutes later and burst in on the crowd. Tears flowed, cameras flashed and a young girl was reminded while she was sober how much she was loved. She met up with an on again off again boy who proceeded to stay with us over the course of the next few days. He’s leaving for the navy boot camp in just a few days and I knew they both wanted to see each other. I was reminded watching the two of them that out of all the boyfriends she’s ever had–I liked him the most. I also liked the fact that when he messed up he took my motherly bitching and came back apologetic and sincere. No matter what went down between them or whose fault it was–I couldn’t help but think I’d be pretty lucky to someday have a son-in-law that nice and down to earth. They are both still young and I don’t expect anything, but I can dream and I can always hope that whoever my daughter is lucky enough to find–will treat her with as much loving kindness as Dylan has. He was also instrumental in helping me find her in Ohio after she had been taken. That alone, in my book, earns him oodles of brownie points.

Jasmine & Dylan Thanksgiving Eve '09

Jasmine made it a point to find meetings near here that will help keep her on track and we set up necessary services that will help her deal with her lifelong struggles that she will face. Before we knew it, the 3 full days flew by and it was time for another day long trip in the car to get her back. She’s been doing well and pulling straight A’s once again, but I do worry that when she comes home, it won’t be as easy for her to stay focused. I guess all I can do is pray about it. If all goes well, she’ll finish up one more class–hopefully two–and then be able to come home in time for Christmas.

Jordan, Jasmine, and I loaded up the car last Sunday and we set out (late) across the state. We went out to eat for breakfast with Jeff and Justin beforehand so we wouldn’t have to worry about eating junk food the whole way out. What usually takes us between 5.5 and 6 hrs. took us almost 7.5 just to get across the state. We followed every holiday traveller out of Iowa in bumper to bumper traffic–both lanes–never making it over 60mph. Torturous for speed demons like me. I kept reminding myself that patience is a virtue and I needed to channel all the patience I endure daily with the children I work with every day. Easier said than done when your in that much traffic.

We stopped by a rest stop for a break and Jasmine came out looking for a woman that had left her purse on the back of the toilet. I saw the woman came out and thought, “cute haircut” when I saw her and then she left quickly. We peeked inside the purse and found her phone. Going through her contacts we found a Steve and called him to explain everything to him. He was able to contact her and her sons so they were able to turn around and come back for her purse. It was an expensive Kate Spade purse and it was filled with cash and expensive perfume and credit cards. It would have been so easy for someone to steal it and go shopping. I was so proud of my daughter wanting to do the right thing. We agreed to wait and I told her that this woman was so lucky it was us and not some crook.

When the woman showed up in her fancy Lexus SUV she got out and was totally snobbish. She wasn’t overly appreciative and she didn’t even offer Jasmine $5 for returning it. I know we did the right thing, and yes we did it for that reason and not for any monetary reward–but let’s be honest–some munchie money for the trip would have been nice. We were travelling in comfortable clothes and she sized us up and down and figured we were below her class and couldn’t be bothered with us. I could read it all in her eyes. I just hate snobs. This setback cost us another 45 min. and I just had to tell myself and the girls that it was 45 min. more we had with each other that day and it was a test to see if Jasmine would do the right thing. She passed.

Working our way westward, I knew that I had one more stop in store for us. There is a tower that sits on top of a scenic overlook along I-680W in Iowa close to the I-29N exit. I’ve always wanted to stop each time we have gone to visit, but the first couple times I missed the exit. Each time after that, Jeff was with and driving and couldn’t be bothered with such trivial memory makers. On this day, though, I was in charge. We arrived just as the sun was setting. The air was crisp and cold and even though we weren’t going to stay long, I wanted to take the girls up. I wanted them to look out over a very large area and see where states of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota converge. I secretly hoped that as Jasmine and Jordan looked out across the countryside that they would see that the keys to their success are in her hands. I wanted Jasmine to see that her possibilities were endless and that she was lucky to be alive after what happened to her this summer. I hoped that she would see that her destiny was out there in this world and that with God’s grace she would find her way.

The back of the tower appears dark because of the setting sun.


The front of the tower was illuminated with deep golds and just beyond the tower, I saw a full moon rising pictured above).

When I saw my daughters up on top of that tower–I couldn’t help but think quickly over the past year about how far each of us had come.

Jasmine looks out

Jordan joins her sister at the top

Holding on for dear life

We had all battled demons and even though we weren’t completely free of their grips, we were still standing. We were still surviving. We were still breathing. I joined my girls at the top of the tower and looked out. I needed to practice what I preached and I needed to grab onto life again–a life I never imagined would turn out the way it had, but never-the-less still grateful to be alive to see my children grow.

The air was biting and the wind caused my stomach to flip flop. I looked out over the meandering interstate that had carried my family members back and forth for months as we visited our very ill daughter over 6 hours away.



I never knew what the end of this part of the journey would look like, but with a crimson sky I couldn’t help but think it was amazing and better yet, it was almost finished. I looked at my girls and told them I loved them and then we took a picture of all of us.

Freezing our butts off

A gust came whipping through the tower and scared all of us. I began to descend but got really scared and had to sit down and scooch down on my butt while my daughters laughed at their “chicken” mom.

Me--realizing how I hate heights

Stop laughing at me!

With the last burst of sunshine, I took a little video of my girls playing. When I see the opening picture of the video–before I even click play, I am reminded that they are still little girls. In the grand scheme of life and for how fast they are trying to get on with their lives or grow up before they are ready–it just reminds me that right now, this very instant, whether they like it or not–they are still little. It also reminds me of a more peaceful time in our lives. A time without the drama and crisis and heartache and devastating health issues that plagued our family this year. I can see my LITTLE girls in this picture–I can see the glimmer of hope that tomorrow holds limitless possibilities. The video is just pure silliness–and also gave me a shot of my second full moon that day.

This parting shot of Jasmine with me is priceless. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how hard she was pulling me toward her. I won’t forget her telling me sincerely and unsolicited–“I Love You”–over and over–something I hadn’t heard in years. I was glad that Jordan took the picture. I’ll treasure the moment always.

I Love You, Mom!

Jordan slept almost all the way home and the trip back was easy and much quicker–5.10 hrs. to be exact. I had never made the trip that quickly. There was noone on the road for miles and miles as I’m sure everyone was already home and tucked into bed awaiting work the next morning. I drove home listening to Christmas carols and thanking God for letting me live so that I may see to it that Jasmine would get the help she needed. I thanked him for not taking her home before me (at least this past summer this summer). I prayed for no more whammies. I told him that I thought I had managed the year as best I could and that I truly believed that I needed a break. I also wondered what lied in store for me and my family this next year.

Honestly, I need things to look up in 2010. I need time without crisis so that I can try to rebuild my faith, my relationship with my daughter and all of my family for that matter, my finances, my businesses, my educational aspirations, my professional endeavors, etc. As bleak as it looked several times this year I know I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I’m just ready to start snapping it again. –Watch out!

Formal shoutout to Dylan here–God bless you and keep you safe. Don’t forget our address and when you get out of boot camp–make sure to call. You are loved and you will be in our prayers.

P.S. I took my own advice and re-registered for the upcoming spring semester. I am going to re-take the two classes I let go. I couldn’t focus last year with the bombarding information coming at me and I also reached a point where I felt I’d rather be spending time with my family instead of having my nose in a book all the time. I was worried I was going to die and I worried about it all the time. I no longer think that way. I believe I’m going to be around here for a while and I may as well get my degree finished. I just won’t try to attain it at warp speed. Third reason–my scholarship people are getting ancy for me to fulfill my contract. I really don’t want to pay back all of the thousands they’ve given me because I’m in breach of my contract with them. I’ve hashed out an extension plan with the TEACH program and I am grateful they are understanding and accommodating to my requests. Now if I could just peel myself away from all the reality TV I’ve become addicted to…:)

Circle of Friendship


In this past year, I have come to grow a new circle of friends. An international collection of women and some men that have followed my story and been an ever present support to me as I have battled with many demons. When I started this blog it was to mainly keep a few far off relatives in touch with my progress. As the weeks and months have passed, an army has marched into my life. Some of these soldiers that keep me motivated are friends from my childhood that I have reconnected with through Facebook. I’ve even been getting the hand of Twitter-something that has been driving me a little nuts all summer. Many of my new friends now mingle in with my old friends and it doesn’t matter who drops me a line, I am always happy to know that someone is thinking of me. Many of my old friends now read my new friend’s blogs as well. Technology sure has had a way of connecting everyone.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this network that has spread across the world. My hits have surpassed 10,000 –something I never expected. It’s like opening up a present every morning when I wake up. I check stats to see where hits are coming in from and I quickly check for messages. Love getting them, but don’t get as many as I would love. I check world locator and find that people in Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Europe, Finland, Africa and beyond must be subscribers because of the regularity of their visits. I have also been surprised to see that my blog has been rated 4th in the top 100 blogs out there about breast cancer on Networked Blogs. That is fantastic! Now if I could just get all my readers to click follow on that widget in the sidebar–those ratings would shoot up even faster! (That’s a hint! 🙂 ) It is really the one thing that has helped me process this mind-boggling year. Learning how to build a blog, learning how to set up new accounts that support that blog such as flickr and youtube, learning how to grab code and install widgets, learning how to format posts and hyperlink are all newly learned skills that I now really enjoy playing around with. Through it all, I have maintained a clear vision of what I want to do with the blog and where I ultimately want it to go. “If you build it, they will come”, I keep reminding myself.

The way I look at it is this, I am providing my children with a glimpse into their mother’s life. Years from now, whether I live or not from this, my children will be able to understand what their mom went through. My grandchildren will know something of their grandmother. My friends will remember the fight and have a newfound appreciation. It is always humbling for me to see that as I lurk around in the middle of the night checking out other blogs that I find mine in other’s blogrolls. They may be commentators or just part of that silent army that keeps me in their prayers, but either way–to all of you, I want to thank you for your continued support. Then, there are a few that have really helped my army grow. Friends across the country and the world that have quoted something from my blog and hyperlinked your readers back to me. There are community forums that I am blessed to be a part of and in doing so, I have met even more wonderful individuals.

One such woman came into my life just recently, friended me on FB and also proceeded to quote me in a post she wrote for an online news source blog out of Seattle, WA. Her name is Carolyn Harris and she is a writer with a very interesting background. She pens a blog called Lyn’s Circle: Chronicles of a Married Feminist. I encourage you not just to check out the excerpt she wrote about me, but also to check out her bio. When I read it (and to clear up a misprint–my nickname is cj not cy but no worries here) I couldn’t help but close my eyes and imagine what RVing through New Zealand or Sailing to Cuba must be like. I have had the pleasure of chatting with her and am glad once again that in this giant world, I know that there are others that are equally impassioned about spreading the word.

At the end of her bio she states:

“Lyn invites you to join her circle of friends. She feels sometimes women get stuck in their seats because it’s easier to sit there, do nothing and stay miserable than risk a change. She wants you to reach out. Your problem is not unique. Somewhere in this circle you’ll find another woman who understands your scars. With a little help from our sisters, we can laugh a little, cry a little, and figure out what to do with the rest of our lives”.

When I read this, I thought you were talking directly to me. When you came along, I was beginning to retreat once again into a pit of despair, thanks for pulling me out. It’s a never ending struggle to get my head back in the game, just when I think I’m making progress, I have a major setback. Unless you’ve been confronted with something of such life changing magnitude–whether it’s a health related or not, whether its directly or indirectly, you can only try and imagine what another individual is going through. Reality is quite a different story and since we are all on this Earth together, it’s comforting to know that although someone may not actually KNOW what you think and feel, there are common bonds that tie us all together. The biggest of these are love, compassion, and empathy. Thanks for coming into my life, Carolyn. Your presence is appreciated.


Measuring Up to be Good Enough

measuring cups

It has been quite some time since I’ve written. I am completely exhausted and anxiety ridden. I truly feel like a punching bag at the moment. I feel like I am in the fight of my life. I feel as though I have been slammed up against the wall and am being attacked from all angles. I have never cared for boxing or WWF or ultimate fighting. I tend to click quickly past those channels while I’m surfing, so, it’s ironic that I actually see myself in the ultimate fighting cage, tattered and torn, worn and weary, bruised and bloody. I don’t see myself dripping with sweat, arm raised in victory. I see myself on the floor of the ring barely able to breathe, unable to stand, eyes swollen shut, and assuming the fetal position while I’m being pummelled from all directions. Far cry from how I felt watching the Rocky video I posted in the Boob Tube many months back.

I know that those that survive or succeed at anything view themselves as winners. Positive thinking, visualization, prayer, and attitude play a huge part in a person’s overcoming anything in life. I preach it everyday to the kids in my care and my own. However, as intelligent as I am, the overwhelming feeling I have—the gut feeling that really gnaws at me constantly is something quite different. Mind over matter, right? I wish. I am really struggling to stay focused, determined, and in control. AAAHHH—there it is, again. Control. Something I have been told by many that I need to chill out about.

I have never viewed myself as a control freak. My interpretation of that is quite different than others. But, to my own chagrin, I keep hearing this in regard to my behavior when it comes to my children, my cancer, my opinions, etc. This infuriates me because only I know how out of control I feel. Only I know how easy it would be to lose it. Only I know where my head and my heart are. I have actually fought back against those that have said this to me this summer–which in their eyes–makes me appear to be more of a control freak or just the opposite and out of control (some of those individuals would be my surgeon, my oncologist, my husband, and other family members that are more interested in enabling my oldest daughter’s behavior than to actually be responsible and do the right thing when it comes to her).

This vicious circle makes me turn inward and not want to respond to anyone. If I do–rest assured–there will be a verbal onslaught of epic proportions. “I will pick my battles more carefully”–I’ve thought–and I have–things that are truly important to me. I will, however, admit that I prefer to be in control or lead things because I know that way things will get done and they will be done well. This is in terms of my business, my schooling, or the best interests of my children. I mean really–who else is going to care as much or as deeply about those things than me? I’ll also admit—I like things being done very well. In my adult life I have strived-not for perfection which is impossible—but for “very well”. For great–not just good enough. There are so many people that are happy with good enough. I’m not–It’s just the way I am.

Those that don’t do things like me love to sit back and pass judgement on how “un-very well” things are going at the moment. This is also very saddening to me–I know people love to build something up just to tear it down–its human nature and we all do it in one way or another during our lifetime. I just wish those could sit in my shoes and live just one day. I wish they all had intimate knowledge of how much that fact is killing me every day. Those that really know me know I don’t want to do anything if I can’t do it well. If I am involved in something, I want to give it my all and then some—150%–I want to be proud of my work and I want others to be proud of me. I like being recognized for a job well done. Don’t you? This aspect of my character doesn’t, in my opinion, make me someone obsessed with control because–when it comes down to it–you can’t control anything, really. So, my heart is extremely heavy because–only I know how much I have fallen short in the areas of my life that mean the most to me. To have things spiraling out of control in front of my very eyes and I am completely helpless to do anything about it to help–leaves me literally paralyzed.

Perhaps my expectations have been too high in life.

Maybe I should have settled for Good Enough.

When I try to explore why I feel this way, I try to go way back. Is this something that ultimately leads back to my childhood? Most definitely, I think. When I was growing up, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. I could never measure up to whatever unattainable standards my family or my peers set forth. I wasn’t smart enough, strong enough, talented enough, pretty enough, funny enough, etc. I always tried my best, but sometimes that didn’t produce the results I wanted. I wanted to be those things mentioned earlier. I wanted to be the girl with the perfect hair. I wanted to date the most popular guy. I wanted to fit in with the jocks. I wanted to be super smart and in the National Honor Society. I wanted to be the most popular girl, the homecoming queen, the one that never had to worry about whether or not she was going to get asked to the prom. I was never those things. I was just good enough and it really drove me nuts. I should have been happy with good enough. I wasn’t, though. I wanted more. Not out of greed, but because I knew I would only get one go around in this lifetime and I wanted to make the most of it.

I was involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities and although now I understand completely the importance of a musical education—at the time, it was hard to be all those things I aspired to be and still be a band geak. I fought hard against that stereotype and I do know I was well liked by many. So, I decided I needed to redefine my vision of greatness. If I couldn’t BE that girl—I was going to be liked by those girls—and as only my young mind could understand—I would become those things through association. I would become a social butterfly—bubblicious as I tell my own girls. I would make it my mission to be friendly with everyone—braniacs, jocks, nerds, emos, punks, cheerleaders, even the kids at the smoke tree (those of you from G-town know what I’m talking about). I would try to figure out where I fit in and if I had to, I would fake it.

These are things adults do as well. At my age now, it is called networking. Having friends in high places does have some benefits. If you don’t think you’re qualified for the job and you’re going to back out of the interview—go anyway and fake it. Fake that you are charming and charismatic. Fake that you are a team leader when all you’ve ever knows is to be a team player. Most importantly, dress the part. If you want to be successful—you have to act successful, behave successfully, and hang out with others who are equally successful if not more. In otherwords—fake the attitude, visualize getting the job or whatever it is you want, think positive and then close the deal. After doing this repetitively–pretty soon it becomes second nature and you aren’t faking anymore. You actually have become the things you wanted to become. I KNOW THIS! WHY CAN’T I PRACTICE IT RIGHT NOW?

Growing up is so hard and when you are dealing withal those immature emotions. It really all comes from a need to feel accepted or loved or even liked in this big world. What I found out doing this back in school was that many of the girls I wanted to be–were mean. Something I did not want to be or be associated with. They were two-faced. I began to see them not as the most beautiful, but some of the ugliest girls in the school. This discovery helped shape me and I began to accept me for who I was. I began to figure out who I was and who I wasn’t. I was able to begin to form my life long set of personal values and a belief system that still carries with me to this day. I was happier to walk as a lone wolf then to join the pack and submit to the leader. I wanted to be my own leader. In doing so, I knew that I would have noone to blame but myself if things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I was in control of my destiny (or so I thought at the time). So, my earliest memories of “control” were born during the catfights of the locker rooms and in the hallways of the schools where I was being educated.

Throughout my life, I would watch friends become controlled by drugs, or alcohol, or other demons including abusive partners. I even found myself caught in those traps for short periods of my life. Each time I fell, I blamed myself. I knew that I was stronger and could quit those vices–cold turkey–and so I would. I knew I was prettier than that hung over party girl in the mirror–and so I swore off alcohol for a good 20 years. I knew that I truly did have more control than the asshole who was beating me and I knew I had the strength to walk out–so I did. I vowed from those early years of my 20’s that I wouldn’t be controlled by anyone or any substance ever again. I have lived the way I envisioned–being in control of my life and not backing down too much to those around me that want to tear me apart. I would take life by the horns and I would attempt to hang on with a stern resolution.

Then a year like 2009 hits and my whole world and everything I ever thought to be right with me explodes. Every facet of my life has been derailed. I am no longer able to accomplish the myriad of tasks I once used to. Some days I am lucky just to breathe. In the blink of an eye, what I always did or thought or felt was changed. My life will no longer be the same as it used to. My anxiety will no longer be satisfied with a giant piece of cheesecake. My fear of the unknown has exceeded my expectations. I feel as though my ability to do things “very well” is slipping away. I feel that I am going to have to settle–for good enough. I know that change is scary. I know that without fear there is no change and without change there is no growth. I know these things. But…..

When I visualize myself riding a mechanical bull–one hand in the air in defiance or victory (however you choose to view it) and the other firmly gripping the saddle; feet firmly planted in the stirrups; and going with the rhythm despite a modicum of jerks, twists, and turns–this is how my life has been for the past 20 something years. Now, I see myself slipping off the saddle and about to be thrown into the surrounding wall. I know I will need to get back up and climb back on the saddle because really what other choice is there? Then again, is there a choice? In order to face my fears, I am going to have to deal with them head on. The problem–I’m scared to death. I can’t control any of these factors going on, in, and around me these days. I don’t want to mess up. I don’t want to try because I may not be able to do it or get through it well. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to be just good enough. I just don’t. I don’t think I have a choice, though. I liked being firmly planted. I don’t like chaos. Yet, that’s all this year has been. Chaotic. Stressful. Unpredictable.

I’m going to have to redefine, once again, who I am. Am I living up to my own expectations? Have I set those sights too high? Should I just settle for Good Enough? I feel as though I’m just stumbling through this year, though, and I just can’t seem to grasp the handle on the saddle–it’s like its greased or something. I’m going to have to fake it–that’s what I’m going to have to do. I’m just so exhausted–there’s no energy in me anymore–not like before. Then that scares me to death and I wonder if the cancer is spreading and that’s why I’m so tired. I’m also tired because I truly feel as though I have failed to accomplish all I used to. I’ve even given up in areas of my life–especially school. Part of me just can’t handle anything else. For the first time in two years straight–school was cast aside. I just let it go. I just couldn’t do it and I just didn’t think it was a priority at all and if I were ever to be questioned by a Dean or registrar about why I went two years at a 4.0GPA to giving up on my last two classes and ultimately failing–I would have to just pray they would understand. Sometimes life throws such a huge wrench in your life that it takes a crane to move it. I’m still waiting for the crane to arrive on the scene.

Knowing that I failed in whatever area of my life and for whatever reasons, though–helps fuel my inner thoughts. They help keep me chained to the cement block that has been thrown over the side of the bridge. I want to just let it go, but I can’t. I’m trying, and then the problems with my oldest daughter have manifested themselves into something that is at times suffocating to me. So, I feel as though I have failed her in some way–no matter whether I truly know I haven’t or whether everyone under the sun tells you what a great mom you are or that you did your best–I wonder–“Did I?”. I truly feel as though I was meant to lose it all this year. To some who view their glass half full–that might seem like a winning lottery ticket.

I wonder if this is my wake up call. My lottery ticket. My chance to change the things that weren’t working and fine tune them. I have a chance to throw it all away and start over. I have the chance to become the person I want to be in this stage of my life. That means I will need to peel back the layers of myself and give birth to a whole new me. I know that in order to be the person I want to become I must throw away the parts that aren’t working–well–or at all–and maybe entirely. I don’t know how to do it. I’m trying to figure it out. I am a chaotic soul at the moment. I’m trying to measure up to my own standards and I’m not sure if those standards are even applicable in this stage of the game anymore. I’m trying to lose control and that’s the scariest thing I have ever had to do. Imagine a young child in a temper tantrum trying to stay her ground and while mom is dragging her in from playing in the dirt by her wrist–that oppositionally defiant child with a halo of golden tangles has dug her heels in and won’t give in without a good fight. That’s me and as much as I don’t want to go in to take a bath–I’m going to have to succumb at some point. Things are never going to be how they used to. Change is on the horizon and through that change I will strive to be good enough.

Started Tracking on 12-1-09


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