Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jar of Flies in Turkiye

Road Trip! Posted by Picasa

It's amazing to me how music reminds me of a certain time or place in my life.

As I was listening to some music on my iPod on the way home from work tonight, a number of songs played that took me straight back in time: But it was Alice In Chains Jar of Flies that took me back to October 2003, and Brian and my trip to Turkey.

It was a long trip we were on. Twenty-four days, starting in London, going to Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, with a flight to Athens, Greece, a boat to Samos Island, and ultimately another ferry to Turkey, where we landed in Kusadasi, and took another short bus ride up to Izmir, where we saw the ancient city of Ephasus.

From there we took a 9-hour bus ride to Istanbul, and this is where the stories and pictures begin.

The Ferry To Istanbul Posted by Picasa That 9-hour bus ride, which most people would want to avoid with a plane ride, was one of our best memories of Turkey.

In Izmir, a port city of 3 million people, was extremely welcoming, and not used to seeing American tourists. The two nights we spent there we enjoyed dinners on the waterfront, and shopping in their downtown area where I was stared at as if I were Julia Roberts walking down the street. The Turks' interest in us and overwhelmingly friendly attitude took me by surprise.

As we boarded the bus for Istanbul one morning, we met an Australian & Canadian couple who we would end up spending 4 days in Istanbul with, sharing the same hotel, and going out to dinners together after a day of touring on our own. It was so neat to make some new friends, and we are still in contact with Sergei & Sarah.

On that bus ride, we also met some kids. A high school-aged girl was reading a Harry Potter book in Turkish, and Brian struck up a conversation with her about the book, not knowing that it was something of a social taboo for a man to talk to a girl without some sort of formal introduction and someone there to chaperone.

But it wasn't the international incident one would think -- The girl spoke limited English, and Brian was soon using his Turkish phrasebook to talk with her and her friends. By the time the bus got to the ferry, which would take us across The Dardenelles to Istanbul, he had a following of several teenagers, including the ones pictured here.

Which brings me to Alice In Chains -- The boy in the picture on the far left began sharing music from his CD player with Brian -- he would play a Turkish song, and Brian would share some of his music. As the Alice In Chains, Jar of Flies CD got plugged in, his eyes widened -- apparently never in his young life had he heard the Grunge Rock music that is Alice In Chains. He smiled, and immediately tried to talk Brian into exchanging some music on a permanent basis.

I still wonder what he said to his parents or friends, and the story of meeting Americans on his school field trip to Istanbul. The very thought that we had such an impact on these kids -- who were so pleased to meet us and had so many questions about life in these United States, at least as many as we had about their lives. It warms my heart yet that we were there at that space in time, and that those kids got to meet some "regular" Americans who were friendly and open.

Pop Rocks

Boy On The Way To Istanbul Posted by Picasa

The kid in this picture was also on the ferry. I still have the small pack of Kleenex tissue that I bought from him. But he also got a remembrance of us. He was about 8 or 9 years old, wearing a Ford Motor Co. hat, but otherwise didn't have much in the way of experience with us foreigners. He persistently bugged me to buy some Kleenex from him, and finally I gave in.

But then, I surprised him. I pulled out a pack of "Pop Rocks" -- the candy that explodes in your mouth when you eat it. It was a tip from Rick Steves to bring things you could share with children as an ice breaker...and in many countries, the old addage "Don't take candy from strangers" doesn't apply.

I gave the kid a packet of the Pop Rocks, and he opened it as I told him to eat it -- He did, but ate the whole thing, and his eyes widened as the candy started to explode in his mouth.

"BAP!" he said. "BAP! BAP!" he said. My limited knowledge of Turkish figured that was the word for "POP! POP!"

He smiled a grin that still sticks with me. A grin so big, you would have thought he had heard Alice In Chains for the first time.

It's funny to me -- before Brian and I went to Turkey -- He had been there once during a USO Band Tour in the 1990s, I remember asking what I would now consider stupid -- or at least ignorant -- questions about Turkey.

Today, when I visit a internet board about travel, I do everything I can to explain what a wonderful country Turkey is (spelled Turkiye there). To tell the few stories I know of their national hero, Ataturk, to explain that they are a secular Muslim country, which means they separate Church and State just like us -- to explain that there are few placees on this planet where one can feel more genuinely welcomed. That is the joy in life.

That, and sharing a little "Jar of Flies" with the world.

Friday, September 22, 2006

There's nothing like pleasing a kid

My youngest nephew Erik, is 10 years old, and the youngest of my brother and sister's kids. Ever since I made the Jacob's Ladder quilt for my sister, Erik has told me how much he loves it, and that he keeps stealing it. "Mom has to keep reminding me that it's HERS" he said a couple of weeks ago.

Tonight I talked to him on the phone as he came back to the car from soccer practice. Even though I don't know JACK about soccer other than "offense", "defense" and "goalie", I asked him about his game...what position he plays, etc. When I asked him if he ever plays goalie, he said "yea, but when I do, I'm REALLY BAD AT IT. I mean, I SUCK." he says. ROFL. Nothing like another kid in my family not mincing words. LOL.

Anyway tonight he said he is taking his Mom's quilt a lot, and I told him that I haven't made a quilt for any of the kids yet, and that I thought since he liked it so much, maybe he should be the FIRST. Well, that "YEAH!" that I heard out of him was all I needed.

I don't know what it is, but just knowing you put the last one first, and made a kid's day, will make my day for days to come.

There's nothing quite like making a kid happy.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

It's funny, how sometimes someone else's gift turns out to be yours too.

My friend Holly found this quilt among her grandmother's things recently. It's an unfinished quilt top and I'm not sure who made it or when. But because I'm a quilter, she asked if I might take a stab at helping her finish it.

What a gift! Not for her (well for her, sure), but for me too.

I've never met Holly in person, she's one of my online friends -- and so I've never met her family either.

But there's an unorganized sisterhood of quilters in the world. Many of us haven't met each other either, but we might run into and talk to each other when we wait in line at the fabric store, or like this situation, come across a creation someone else started.

I took Holly's quilt top to the fabric store last weekend, and matched some light blue denim style (a chambray, really, a very light denim fabric) to the existing material for the border & the backing.

The line at Hancock Fabrics was desperately long due to an apparent fire sale on fleece, which goes like hotcakes here in Denver this time of year, so I chatted with the lady behind me in line, and we started talking projects. I had Holly's grandma quilt in my bag, and I showed it to the lady, and explained my mission: to finish the quilt for my friend.

The lady gasped with a big "Ohhhhhhhh" as she looked at the ancient fabric.

It's an honor and a privilege to be able to finish an unfinished quilt. My husband the musician said it's like the honor that comes when you're asked to finish someone's symphony after they've left one unfinished after they've died.

Yes, it really is.

For us quilters out there -- we're a long line of people, related or not, who recognize the value of even the plainest of quilts as a creation of love and an act of artistry.

For me, it's a pleasure to work on this quilt. As I started to hand quilt it tonight, I was so glad I made that decision instead of rushing to finish it on my sewing machine. To hand quilt a relic like this feels like it's getting its justice. As I sewed tonight, I wondered about the lady who made it, what caused her to be unable to finish it. I think about whether someone will ever need to finish a quilt for me generations from now. I gently mended the worn areas, and hope that it will hold.

But ultimately, I know that it will become what it was intended: Something that keeps people warm at night, wrapped in the love of the family member who made it, and with a little extra from me.

And that's what makes me feel good.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Poem For Surviving Moms

A gal on one of my boards posted this tonight, and it really touched me:

My mom is a survivor

My mom is a survivor,
Or so I’ve heard it said.
But I hear her crying at night when all others are in bed.

I watch her lie awake at night and go and hold her hand.
She doesn’t know I am with her to help her understand.
But like the sands on the beach that never wash away…
I watch over my surviving mom, who thinks of me each day.

She wears a smile for others
A smile of disguise.
But through Heaven’s door I see tears flowing from her eyes.

My Mom tries to cope with death to keep my memory alive.
But anyone who knows her knows it is her way to survive.

As I watch over my surviving mom through Heaven’s open door…
I try to tell her that angels protect me forevermore.
I know that doesn’t help her… or ease the burden she bears.

So, if you get a chance, go visit her.
And show her that you care.
For no matter what she says… no matter what she feels.
My surviving Mom has a broken heart… that time won’t ever heal.

Written by Kaye DesOrmeaux


I am sick to my stomach reading the story I found on Yahoo News today.

The US has held 14,000 detainees in its "war on terror" in its prisons both in Guantanamo Bay and in a prison system it has set up around the world.

It's downright shameful that we hold these people without the right to a fair trial, and outcries over our treatment of these prisoners continue to go unresponded to by the Bush Administration.

I'm all for keeping America safe. But I'm also aware that no amount of detainee camps are going to keep us safe. If nothing else, we'll hold them til when, they die of old age? Because if we let them go, Lord knows how many more terrorists we will have created as their resentment over being held for long periods of time grows. Not to mention their children and other family who's seen them disappear.

I'd hate any government who held one of my brothers for so much as a month without a lawyer or fair hearing, even if he HAD done something wrong.

I find this sickening, unequivocally wrong, and downright embarrassing to what America stands for.

Or should I say stood for?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Do What You Love, Love What You Do -- A Tribute To Fred Cox, Jr.

Think for a minute about who in your life has touched you.

Someone who has lit up your life. Someone who has changed it forever.

For many of us, that list is a short one.

Among the lucky, they met, knew and loved Fred Cox.

Fred Cox Jr. was only 27 years old when he died in the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. Working as an investment banker at Sandler O'Neill & Partners, Fred had talked and perhaps charmed his way into a job he loved. He worked on the 104th floor of Tower 2.

He was known to have called the World Trade Center towers "his twin girls" and loved his adopted city of New York.

Like the Towers, Fred Cox was as big as life, and will never be forgotten among the friends and family he left behind who live in his other hometowns -- in Georgia, where he was born, in Phoenix, Arizona, where he moved when he was 14 to live with his father, and New Hampshire, a favorite family spot.

All of those who I talked to while researching Fred's life for today's remembrance have a million ways to describe him -- just a few were giving, caring, devoted son, friend and love.

And his no-holds-barred approach to life was infectious.

As I began to put together the various pieces of information I could get from Fred's life off the Internet and from friends, I realized the best way to honor Fred would be to simply share Fred with the world through the eyes of those who knew him best, at least as many as I could find in these past few weeks.

One of his best friends, John Sebald wrote me after I asked his friends to tell me a bit about Fred. In an e-mail to John, I wrote that from what I was gathering, Fred was quite a character, which would prove to be an understatement of proportions as big as Fred's life was.

John wrote back "Fred was the epitome of one who took everything he could from life. All those who surrounded him -- family and friends -- went along for that ride, and quickly gained a deeper appreciation for life and all it has to offer."

John said he met Fred his freshman year in high school. "He sat behind me in my English class and consistently tried to copy off my tests. I didn't think much of him as he was a tall, gangly, skinny guy with funny hair. He had just moved to Arizona from Georgia, and didn't have many friends. He tried relentlessly to befriend me, but was such a pest that I didn't want anything to do with him."

"I finally gave in, had a serious conversation with him, and found out what a terrific guy he was. We had so much in common, and he seemed almost like a long lost brother."

Aaron Kuhl, another friend of Fred's, said "No one was more sincere than Fred. One of the most memorable ways he expressed that was in his bear hugs. If you'd extend your hand, he'd bring you in for a bear hug. This was sincere love."

Aaron also gave me some insight into Fred's precociousness, charm, and generosity.

"In college when Fred and I went to sell books in Georgia, after a few days in the car and a few days in a Motel 6, Fred found a mansion for us to live in for $10 a week. One morning he was messing around and ran over my bicycle. A few days later, he replaced it with a 1967 Cadillac Limousine at no charge to either of us. It was unbelievable, but just like Fred."

Fred would often get people to do things for him and his friends that no one else could have done. "After we missed our flight to Cabo, Fred arranged for a tour of Mexico with a stop in Mazatlan and a flight connecting to Cabo for us a few days later at no additional charge. He brought Lance, Brian and I along for the ride," Aaron wrote. "And last year at my wedding (in 2000), Fred had the bellhop give him a ride on the luggage cart to his room. The stories will last a lifetime."

For Heather MacLean, her life changed when she met the love of her life, Fred at a high school football game.

As a freshman at an all-girls school who had never dated a boy before, Heather was at her first high school football game the night she met Fred.

"One of the few older boys I knew from the all-boys school next door called my name so he could introduce me to someone inquiring. "Heather this is Fred. Fred, this is Heather," and that was the very moment my life changed forever. He was larger than life from the moment I met him to the last telephone call I had with him on 9/9/01. He stood 6 foot 5 inches tall, had the most mesmerizing beautiful green eyes that you would ever want to see, the darkest of brown hair, the most genuine of smiles, and the character that would match a king."

She said Fred never did anything average or normal. Everything he did had to be better than exceptional, and he strove to be a perfectionist. "From being the best son...the best friend, the best listener, to giving the best honesty, to be the best partier, best boyfriend, to sending the best flowers and finding the best maple fudge..." Heather's list of Fred's bests goes on. "He not only longed to be the best...he was just that...the best."

In 2000, Heather was with Fred when they found a sign while visiting his favorite place in the world where his family had a summer home in New Hampshire. The sign said Do What You Love. Love What You Do. Heather said that little did she know while they hammered that sign on that amazing tree that the quote would be forever synonymous with everything Fred did and lived by.

Heather's Mom, Barbara MacLean, also wrote me an e-mail about her "son" Fred.

"The first day he came into my kitchen he called me Mom", she wrote. "Every time he came home from New York he came to visit and would always say 'Mom, play Amazing Grace for me.' We would go to the piano, and he would sing all the verses."

On New Year's Eve, Barbara MacLean remembers how handsome Fred looked as they got ready for a party. She remembers how he loved the gift of a white terry cloth robe Heather had given him and how he put it on over his clothes and wore it all over the house.

Just a day before 9/11 happened, Fred called Barbara to talk to her as she was enroute to her sister's funeral. "He said 'I wish I was there to put my arms around you during this sad time,'" and she said his just saying that helped her feel his arms around her.

"How could I have known that the next day, he would be gone. Why did his final words to me end with "Do you know how much I love you and Lee Lee?" (Heather's nickname).

This final photo I found among the memorial photos posted by family and friends on tribute boards for Fred following the 9/11 attacks. It's one of his nephew on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. As I look at this photo, I think of the profound loss of Fred and the 2,995 others who were lost that day, and wonder about the legacy and memories that each of us leaves behind.

The hard part about learning about someone as wonderful as Fred is realizing that I will never meet him because of that awful September day that is burned into each of our collective memories.

But for those who lost Fred that day, 9/11 isn't just a national event of losing people in general, but it is a day that they lost their friend, son, and love.

I think it's important to share the day of the loss of Fred in the words of his friends because it's a testament not only to the profound sense of loss for all the people who died, but a memorial to the fact that we each go on after a loss and grieve in different ways. It's not pleasant or easy, but the important thing is that we do go on, if for no other reason than to honor those we have lost.

Heather wrote to me "Everything I thought would be in my life forever, changed forever, with a glance to a television 5 years ago. It is a loss so deep that words can't even come close to expressing the significance of my world's loss that day. To lose someone that you love so publicly, makes the healing process almost impossible...It shows its horrifying face when you are watching the news, seeing a movie, reading a paper or a magazine. It comes up in dinner conversations and is forwarded to you in e-mails. That deep, all-consuming, soul-filling grief is felt each time I hear or see anything that has to do with that disastrous day, immediately takes me back to the morning of 9/11/01."

"I was so blessed to be given 10 years with someone so unmatchable in my life, and I continue to be blessed; I have the very best guardian angel walking by my side, every step of the way...while on this earth and after," Heather said.

For John, he wrote that he often wonders what Fred was thinking when he knew he wouldn't make it out of the towers, or was there even time to think about that?

"Unfortunately over the years we had seen a lot of tragedy with the loss of some close friends, and we had actually talked about death," John said. "I grieved for Fred as anyone would, and as many did. I still miss him and get a little sad, but at the same time I smile and chuckle every time I think of him. That might sound a little weird, but if you knew him, you would understand."

Fred's lessons for John didn't end with his death, John said. "I think I was stuck in cruise control until I met Fred. I gained a greater realization that I was missing out on a lot in life. After Fred passed away, I feel I finally realized many of the secrets to life. It was as if my eyes had finally opened. Fred had been teaching me the whole time to fully live and appreciate life; and I finally got it after he was gone."

Barbara, Heather's Mom, wrote:

"I will hold in my heart his boy-like giggle, his asking for me to play one more time "his" song, his twinkling green eyes, his patting the pillow and saying "come over here and sit by me, Mom", Barbara wrote. "I look at that seat where he sat and feel his long lanky arm around me still. He and I were buddies and I will forever miss him and forever love him. He was bigger than life. A life that can't be snuffed out, as his spirit shines on in all who loved and knew him."

A note from Jules of PlanetJules: This tribute to Fred Cox started because a friend told me about a massive project by bloggers to honor each of those lost on 9/11 with an individual tributed -- called 2,996 -- and that she was disappointed because as of that day, her friend Fred Cox had yet to be assigned someone to honor him.

My only aim initially was to help a friend by signing up for this project, and to specifically choose Fred so my friend's pain would be somehow comforted by knowing he was not forgotten.

But what I got back was so much more. It is an honor to take the time to get to know someone like Fred, and to try and do justice and honor a man who so many people loved, adored, respected and ultimately lost, but whose character lives on in the hearts of many.

For a full listing of the blogs honoring all 2,996 of those lost on 9/11, go to http://www.dcroe.com/2996/or click on the title of this post.

Here are some additional links to sites to learn more about Fred:

CNN: http://www.cnn.com

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/23/national/portraits/

The New York Times Memorial Page: http://www.legacy.com/nytimes/GB/GuestbookView

Fred's Memorial on The Fred Society website, of which he was a member:

Also, a scholarship fund has been set up for the memory of Fred at the University of Arizona, where Fred graduated:

Fred Cox, Jr. Scholarship Fund
Karl Eller Center, Berger Entrepreneurship Program
McClelland Hall, Room 202
1130 East Helen
P. O. Box 210108
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108

Thanks to all of Fred's friends who took the time to help me write this tribute, who were willing to go back to that dark day to remember someone so wonderful. All of Fred's friends and family will be in my thoughts and prayers for their continued healing.



Wednesday, September 06, 2006

You're Not Alone.

There are still rough days, as there will always be for months and possibly years to come.

As of tomorrow, it will be two months since the birth and loss of our son Jacob.

As my friend Teri said when she called me "You're doing normal." Normal is good in that as she said, if I wasn't having down times and up times too, she'd be worried about me.

I have a project that waits for me.

It's a box of everything from Jacob's birth and loss. It's all the cards friends and family sent me, the medical diagnosis, the trinkets, the photos and other mementos.

They all need to find their way to where they need to be. I bought a scrapbook, and it needs to go in. I need to print the pictures and a copy of his full birth story and put those in too.

It's actually beginning to nag at me that I haven't done it.

But this weekend is my 9/11 project. I'll post it here as well as on my regular public blog for the 2,996 project I signed up for.

As many of you know, I've chosen to blog about Fred Cox, Kristen's friend. Just researching him and his life, and receiving the very personal e-mails from his friends has helped a great deal to put my grief aside for a while and focus on someone else.

As much as it is difficult, it's also healing to be reminded that other people lose loved ones every day. It's been five years, and they've gone on. I can only thank them too for their contribution to my healing.

Thanks for all your love and support.

Good vs. Bad

It's amazing to me how much my attitude on any given day can give me either a better outlook on the world, or a worse one.

I honestly believe that sometimes one's day can be brightened just by trying to see the little good things in the world when the worst seems to be happening.

But this morning on my bus ride to work, a little girl who looks to be in the first grade -- and her Mom with her infant baby -- all got on the bus as they do at 50th & Federal, and got off a few blocks away. The little girl as she boarded the bus noticed me, as I've smiled at her in the past. This morning she smiled at me and said "good morning."

She's beyond cute. Her Mom does her hair every day, and she wears pink head to toe, including a large Barbie backpack with a water bottle in it, which looks like if you overloaded it, she'd be stuck on her back like a turtle flipped on its shell. You can tell by looking at this little family that they are happy together. Mom, who has two little ones, smiles often and speaks kindly to her girls. Given what I've been through, it's hard to see parents talk sternly to their children -- even if I can understand they're tired, or the kid is being particularly demanding. When I see someone give their children love and attention, it just warms my heart.

Then there was the punk rocker kid who gets on closer to 38th & Navajo. The new bus driver almost missed him today since he had to take a detour, and I mentioned it to him so he could honk at the kid down the block since the bus missed the stop. Punk rocker kid is about 16 or so, dressed head to toe in black, and wears his bangs completely covering his eyes, so you can't see the first thing of what he looks like from his nose up. But as he ran to to catch the bus today, he smiled and thanked the bus driver for stopping. I love it when I see kids like that who are dressed to impress with their rebellion, but are just good kids at heart.

Then there was the old guy with a missing leg who got on the bus with his friend. People in Denver move to help make space for him. I got up and moved the seats up out of the way so the driver wouldn't have to come back to do it. Small kindnesses on everyone's part. The guy in the chair thanked people for making room for him as he came on board.

I often ride the free 16th Street bus in the afternoon during my lunch hour. My favorite thing is listening to tourists talk about Denver. Sometimes when someone is trying to find something, I'll let them know where it is. I'll ask where they're from, and often it's Kansas City or some other Western/Midwestern town, and sometimes it's someone like the Indian man who asked me where "Arapahoe" was who I had to stop and think a minute because of the way he mispronounced it. I love helping people get a good image of Denver, because it's my adopted city, and the people who welcomed me here did all the same things I did.

The very first time I bought a Denver map, I stood on a street corner and looked at it, trying to figure out my bearings. A man on a bike stopped and said "Can I help you find something?" and I said "No, I'm just new to Denver and wanted to find out where I am on this thing." To which he answered "Welcome to Colorado!"

There are times like this that I'm glad I ride the bus to work. Yes, we get the occasional guy who wants to ride for free, or worse, at 9 a.m., seeing someone waver on board as they get on the bus reeking of liquor at that hour. But generally speaking, I run into good people on the bus every day.

This is a good town. With good people in it. I only wish that more people here would take that pride.

Because it's all true.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Belief-O-Matic

The past few days I've bookmarked Wikipedia on my computer and used it several times.

I am continually amazed by the amazing amounts of information you can get from the Internet, especially when you don't have a nice old copy of the Encyclopaedia Brittannica laying around the house like we did when we were kids.

For example, I couldn't remember what year (or what century for that matter) The Schism happened between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic church (The year was 1054). The Reformation wouldn't start to happen for Protestantism until 1517, initiated inadvertently by Martin Luther, who wasn't looking to split the Church, only wanted it to change.

A friend was using the Belief-O-Matic online, and had come up high scoring for believing in many of the same things as Eastern and Greek Orthodox, but wasn't sure what Eastern Orthodox was.

In my travels several years ago, Brian and I went to Greece, including the Greek Island of Samos off the coast of Turkey. The island had the town of Pythagoria (named after the Greek mathematician/philosopher Pythagoras who came up with with the theory of a2+b2=c2, which is a proof that the sum of the squared two sides of a 90% angle equals the square root of the hypotenuse).

Among the other interesting sites on this island was the small, lone, almost toy-sized chapel that sat at the top of the hill between Samos Town and Pythagoria (that's me walking around the side of it). This was fitting since we were also driving the lone rental car on the island, also toy-sized, which had the feel of a car that should have hamsters running it.

We also stumbled upon a monestery, where we gave a few Euro cents to see their chapel that had been built in a cave. It was so small a single person could stay in the one room at a time.

As a result of our travels, I learned that The Greek Orthodox church is also a split off of the Roman Catholic Church. I had no idea that the two were so similar until we went into their cathedrals and churches in Greece.

In the past, when I've done the Belief-O-Matic test, I've come up more Bahai, since I clicked on a different answer for my belief in some of the fundamental beliefs of God and his personal or impersonal involvement in my life. This time, I came up a high match with Mainline to Liberal Protestants, and a very close match for Quakers.

Now I'm going to have to go to Wikipedia and find out more about the Quakers!

So what are you? This test will tell you: Just click on the title and it'll take you to Belief-O-Matic. It take a few minutes, and you have to give yourself a chance to really think things through, but I thought it was well worth it.


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