Tag Archives: family

Our Engagement Story: AKA – The CD Case Explained

“What’s with the cd case?”

I’ve been getting that question a lot after posting this picture of Joe’s and my engagement.

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So here it is, gizmos, the story behind the cd case.

Not all of you may know that Joe is a musician. And I don’t mean he covers Green Day tunes in the basement and doesn’t shower until late in the afternoon, though I wouldn’t rule that out altogether… Joe is a bonafide, music education major, cd releasing musician. He teaches band and private guitar lessons while following his dream performing and touring with a ska/reggae band, TUGG.

When we first met, he played in a funk/rock band called Hooch. I still have one of their benefit t-shirts, on which I got his autograph – only HIS autograph. He likes to remind me of what a lovey dopey dovey schoolgirl crush I had on him. 

I didn’t even know his last name for awhile. I called him ‘Joe Paisley’ because he performed with a pink paisley guitar on stage. It was awesome. Now he more commonly plays with some kind of Les Paul, amber colored guitar with a whammy bar. It’s probably driving him nuts right now that I didn’t fact check what guitar he uses.  *shrug*

Anyway, he had a stint where he performed with a successful musician that was born in this area and came back to do some touring. I didn’t like the guy. Talk about womanizer! And I mean c’mon, who NEEDS to perform six effing encores in a row, be done dammit! Some of us have drinking to do!

*eh hem* So, fast forward to our 7 year anniversary this past October. We decided to celebrate by going to one of the joints we hit on our first date. When we got there, I see one of Joe’s buddies and his parents there – the friend that set Joe and I up on our first date!

This is where I confess to being completely and utterly clueless. I had NO IDEA the boys had planned all this together. I was all like, “Wow, that’s so crazy you’re here! It’s our anniversary today and you’re responsible for initiating our first date. How cool you’re here!”

Seriously. No clue.

So this friend of ours tells Joe he’s got a cd in his car, and it’s a recording of him with the successful musician that I do not like. Yippee!…..Not.

All through lunch, the cd is sitting in front of me. Vague and brief references to its presence are made, and I push it farther away.

When it’s time to leave, I purposely try to leave the cd there!

“Grab that please,” Joe says. I do so, but grumble about it.

We say our goodbyes and Joe and I get in the car. Our plan was to drive up to the bluffs and go hiking to enjoy the fall colors one last time before the cold really set in. He asks me if we can play the cd on the drive up.

“Do we have to?” I whine.

“Please,” he says.

I take the cd and remove the tape seal. When I open it, there’s no cd. There’s a ring! And the words: “I love you lots and lots. Will you marry me?”

2013-10-20_14-29-51_513Once I stopped stupidly muttering the words “Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!” I said YES!

So there you have it, our engagement story, AKA – The CD case explained.

Here’s to a year of new adventures!

If you’re married, what’s your engagement story? And for all you sassy singles, what’s your dream engagement like?

Was Santa Good to You?

Happy Early New Year Everyone!

I’m feeling very blessed these last few days of 2013. Joe and I spent Christmas Eve with my family, made it back to La Crosse safely for Christmas day with his extended family, and spent friday night with his family for a Christmas pajama party sleepover! Over the weekend, one of my best friends, who I’ve known since high school, came with her boyfriend to stay the weekend with us!

And bonus of all bonuses, this was the first Christmas in 6 years I didn’t spend in retail during the ho ho horror of the holidays! Yaaaaaaay!

 

*Note: Shopping online is AWESOME!
I know for many of my WANA friends, this has been a difficult year. So many of you have suffered losses in the form of both people and things, be it jobs, manuscripts, and health. I’ve reminded myself often that this was a year for growing. Quitting my job was the right thing to do, and it resulted in a fantastic new job and the time necessary to complete the first draft of my book. But several months of unemployment definitely took their toll. I’m still paying off credit cards and loans I needed to use in order to make do. I often felt (and ok, still sometimes do) embarrassed by this fact, but you all have been so supportive and I must say THANK YOU!
Thanks for being a part of my happiness project in 2013! I mean it when I say that your comments are verbal gold! They fuel my spirit, and definitely give me happiness!
*****
But enough of the gushy stuff! I want to know what your favorite Christmas present was!!
Who was the person that gave you the most thoughtful gift? Or the funniest one? What surprised you most? Or even what made you cringe?!
My favorite gift this holiday season came from my soon to be sister-in-law in the form of Clue themed espresso cups and matching dish towel!
photo 1
You all know how much I love Clue right?
It was Mrs. Peacock in the Billiard Room with the Wrench!

It was Mrs. Peacock in the Billiard Room with the Wrench!

So Clue, originally called Cluedo, was created in England in 1949 and is quite possibly my favorite board game. A whodunnit mystery with quirky suspects and unlikely murder weapons! Hidden staircases you say? What’s not to love?!!

photo 2

That was my favorite gift this year! What’s yours?
Happy New Year!!!

The First Thanksgiving: It Happened in 1863

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Hanging out with Priscilla Mullins aboard the Mayflower II

Happy Thanksgiving Week Everyone!

As a descendant of  two of the Mayflower pilgrims, I’ve been sharing Thanksgiving stories on my blog all month. If you missed out, feel free to check out:

Starting With Some Gratitude

The Baby Born on the Mayflower

and The One That Fell Off the Boat

This week, I thought I’d share a history of the actual Thanksgiving.

Are you ready for this?

It happened in 1863.

Wait! The pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621! Your date is over 240 years later?!

That’s right my little pilgrims. The first official Thanksgiving happened in November of 1863, when President Lincoln made it a national holiday at the urging of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale.

Sarah was a New Englander who was interested in bringing a war-torn country together. She wrote editorials for a lady’s magazine on the importance of Thanksgiving, in addition to writing the President, all state governors, and every member of Congress once a year for 17 years!

It is Sarah Josepha Buell Hale who can be thanked for our national holiday being credited to the pilgrims. Many New Englanders did observe an annual Thanksgiving, however in 1863, the states were still divided about the holiday. The South believed the North to be celebrating their current success in the war, so many of them opted to celebrate on an entirely different day.

Playing house with the Pilgrims on Plimoth Plantation

Playing house with the Pilgrims on Plimoth Plantation

What the pilgrims really did in 1621 was celebrate their harvest. To truly understand how important that first gathering was for the pilgrims and the Wampanoag native tribe, you need to know that the pilgrims would not have survived without their native neighbors.

A local comedian and storyteller in my town put it like this:

If the pilgrims hadn’t invited the Wamanoag people, that first Thanksgiving would have been an all-you-can-eat barley buffet.

They were still learning how to live off this new land. Much of the food that became staples of their diet was learned through the Wampanoag. And it is a Wampanoag tradition to give thanks throughout the year at harvests. Since they lived off the land, they took time to celebrate it at every season. They knew the peak times for picking berries, fishing in the river, planting the crops, and hunting the forests.

Two native men burning a log to be made into a canoe.

Two native men burning a log to be made into a canoe.

A native woman tends to the fire where a fish is cooking.

A native woman tends to the fire where a fish is cooking.

See that long doughy item laying in the bark? There's a bluefish in there! It's wrapped in clay  and cooked over the fire.

See that long doughy item laying in the bark? There’s a bluefish in there! It’s wrapped in clay and cooked over the fire.

So in act of gratitude, the pilgrims invited Chief Massasoit to their harvest. He brought with him some 90 men, and the harvest feast lasted for three days.

The only known description of this first harvest was found in a letter written by pilgrim colonist, Edward Winslow. He was a key person who helped foster the friendship between Wampanoag and pilgrim. He wrote:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their great king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Clearly Edward Winslow didn’t care about run-on sentences.

Eh-hem. So there you have the first harvest, which we now refer to as the first Thanksgiving.

Other noteworthy topics of conversation you can toss around the turkey table this week with family, include…

  • The first Thanksgiving had no forks. They used knives, spoons, and their fingers. Forks were not yet invented.
  • Eels were considered a delicacy and lobsters were lower class.
  • Venison was the main course served, followed by turkey.
  • The Wampanoag word for “time of harvest” is Keepunumuk.
  • Beer was considered a normal drink regardless of age, gender, or class.
  • Both cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies came years after the first Thanksgiving.
  • In the 1800’s celery was the featured vegetable – pricey, but available, it was often laid on the table in a fine silver bowls filled with cold water to let the stalks crisp up.
  • Sports have always been present at Thanksgiving. After dinner was over, the men would go to the fields to play ball or pitch horseshoes.
  • It was President Franklin Roosevelt who made Thanksgiving a truly official holiday, signing the Congressional bill that made it law in 1941.

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

The Ultimate Mix CD Song Contenders

Listening to MusicHey Dudes and Dudettes!

Last week you all shared 57 song suggestions with me! BAM!

Nice work! I had some listening homework to do, but it was fun, and I have a loooooong list of possibilities now.

Today I’m sharing a few favorites and I hope you keep the recommendations coming! I’ve actually got 3 mix cds to make: the Phenomenal Woman Mix (all female dance mix), the Cafe’ Mix (chill, coffee mug in hand mix), and a Dude’s Mix (all male mix cd).

So if you hear something ya like, *raises eyebrows up and down*, don’t keep it a secret!

Three random commenters will win all 3 CDs!

Favorite Phenomenal Woman Contenders:

Love Me Right by Geek Swag ~ From Ginger Calem

Ginger said this is the song that makes her dance no matter what. I couldn’t agree more! And it has a very Sex in the City kind of vibe, I think. Brunch tomorrow, ladies?

Into the Nightlife by Cyndi Lauper ~ From Emma Meade

Definitely a dance song, and a nice throwback to the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Queen!

Mama’s Broken Heart by Miranda Lambert ~ From Julie Glover

I would describe this song as a 3 part harmony involving the True Blood theme song, Mad Men’s wardrobe, and the Desperate Housewives wig collection. In short, it’s kinda awesome.

It’s Too Late by Wild Belle ~ From Dawn Sticklen

Still a great dance song, but it’s probably played at some french club I can’t get into. Thanks Dawn!

Favorite Cafe’ Mix Contenders:

Say Something by A Great Big World w/ Christina Aguilera ~ From Misty Laws

Sad, poignant, haunting, lovely, honest, heartbreak, hope. This is the kind of thing you’ll play on repeat.

Stop Signs by The Moondoggies ~ From Mark Petruska

This could go on the Dude’s Mix or the Cafe’ Mix. Love his voice. Sounds like something you’d hear in a movie while the main character embarks on a long road trip.

What songs did you love?What else would you recommend?

What’s new with you?

The Ultimate Mix CD Project

Listening to MusicIt’s that time of year again! I’m working on the mix cds I make for my mom and sister every year. Since 2007 I’ve made them for Christmas and it’s become one of their favorite presents.

The first is called the Phenomenal Woman Mix – it’s a collection of all female artists/bands that are feel good and dance worthy!

The second I’ve dubbed the Cafe’ Mix – a more mellow, relax at home with a cup of coffee blend of male and female artists.

I need your help!

What songs/artists do you recommend I add to the mixes?

Here’s some of the songs I’ve already compiled to give you an idea…

For the Phenomenal Woman Mix:

Torpedo by Jillette Johnson – Power number to start the day feeling like you can conquer the world.

Closer by Tegan and Sara – Definite dance in your underpants all weekend!

This is What Makes Us Girls by Lana Del Ray – I love Lana’s retro Nancy Sinatra look and velvety voice. This is her latest song.

For the Cafe’ Mix:

The One That Got Away by The Civil Wars – Haunting and amazing. Perfect for staring out the window and reflecting on your past.

Please, Baby Please by Serena Ryder – Serena’s been on the last 2 mixes as she is my favorite musician. She just released her new album this fall, called Harmony, and every song is soulfully wonderful.

Heartbeats by Johnnyswim – Romantic and moody, I love both of their voices immensely.

What do you recommend for these mixes?

Please share! I’ll put my favorite suggestions in next week’s blog post and THREE lucky commenters will receive their own copies of both cds as well!

The Baby That Was Born on the Mayflower

I didn’t get a blog up on Friday because I spent the weekend at home visiting the newest edition of the family!

Welcome Sarai Lorraine!

Sarai

It’s baby city in my families as both my sister and Joe’s just had little ones. We have a healthy baby girl and boy to celebrate Thanksgiving with this year. Both moms had some difficulty with labor, and it sure makes me grateful for modern medicine, knowing they (and babies) were in good hands.

I’m blogging about Thanksgiving this month and in honor of our little ones, I thought I’d share this story…

The only baby born on the Mayflower belonged to Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins. They named their son Oceanus in honor of the voyage.

Imagine being pregnant and packed below ship with 101 other people for months on end!

When the Mayflower originally sailed from England, it was to be accompanied by another ship, the Speedwell. Rumor has it that one of the voyage benefactors wasn’t too keen on the trip and purchased sails much too large for the Speedwell’s frame. When the crew raised the sails, they caught the wind so strongly that the beams cracked, turning the Speedwell into the Sinkwell.

Aboard the Mayflower II

Aboard the Mayflower II

Both ships had to turn back and families were forced to make the difficult decision of either staying in England and departing at a future date, or crowding onto the Mayflower, setting sail for the New World. Some families even split up, leaving the women and children behind and sending their men to procure land and prepare homes.

For the Hopkins family, the journey was a tumultuous one. The Mayflower had a boxy shape to it which offered some resistance to the bouncing waves, but didn’t counteract them altogether. The pilgrims were considered the worst lot on the boat. Captain Miles Standish, a fiery redhead with a temper to match, was a military man who hadn’t much use for farmers and families aboard his ship. Many of the pilgrims became seasick and the soldiers on board mocked their lack of sea legs.

What the crew's quarters probably looked like.

What the crew’s quarters probably looked like.

Below deck, the pilgrims crowded with their families as well as livestock into small bunks with nothing more than curtains for privacy. The noise was one matter, and the smells were an entirely different one.

Such was the environment that Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth in. And Oceanus was born.

These babies and their mothers remind me what we’re capable of. They overcome unbearable pain, the sense of being out of control, and yet so incredibly focused all at the same time. And they introduce us to the very essence of hope – a new child. What a perfect reminder to be grateful. Grateful for every day we have with our family. For every adventure we embark on – whether we know what that new world will bring or not. For every lesson learned along the way.

Here’s my gratitude list from this weekend:

  1. Holding baby Sarai.
  2. Hugging my sister and brother-in-law.
  3. Sleeping next to Sonja (Sarai’s 4 year old big sister) who kicked me in the ribs, butt, and thigh repeatedly on the hour every hour for two nights in a row. Once the soreness fades, I’ll remember how we got to snuggle in the early morning and she told me how excited she was to go home with mommy and daddy and her new sister.
  4. Concealer, to hide my lack of sleep. Coffee for the drive home.
  5. Being an aunt to some truly loveable kids, all five of them.

What’s on your gratitude list this week?

Starting With Some Gratitude

The house seems extra quiet this week since Joe took down all the Halloween decorations already. No ghosts or ghoulies to keep me company anymore. We’re still on our scary movie kick though. We spent Halloween watching The Lost Boys and The Exorcist! Classics. We still have a few in our pile to watch yet (Psycho (the remake), The Ring, Village of the Damned, The Prophecy…)

Even though Halloween is over, it’s the beginning of another favorite holiday for me. Thanksgiving.

This holiday is always special to me and my family because we’ve tracked our ancestry back to two of the pilgrims that crossed over on the Mayflower. John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. John Howland came from England as an indentured servant to John Carver, one of the Leiden Separatists (AKA: pilgrim). John Carver was Plymouth colony’s first Governor and the first person to sign the Mayflower Compact, which he wrote.

Me, standing in front of the Mayflower II - an exact replica of the original 1600's ship

Me, standing in front of the Mayflower II – an exact replica of the original 1600’s ship

But John Carver and his family did not survive the first winter in the new world. In fact, most of the original passengers on the Mayflower did not survive that first winter. My 17th Great Grandfather, John Howland, who was in his 20’s at the time, now found himself a land owner and became a prominent member of the community. He would later become quite a reputable fur trader, working with Native Americans along the coast of Maine, and ending his days as a farmer in Massachusetts.

Elizabeth was only a teenager when she made the voyage across the Atlantic with her parents. Her parents did not survive the first winter either.

Eventually, John and Elizabeth married in the new world, and over their life together, gave birth to 10 children! What is so remarkable about their story is that they all survived! The Howland line is the most common bloodline for pilgrim descendants to belong to because it was so rare that these people lived as long as they did. Elizabeth was in her 90’s when she passed!

Me standing in front of the Jabez Howland house in Plymouth, MA - one of only two houses still standing where a pilgrim (John and Elizabeth) actually lived.

Me standing in front of the Jabez Howland house in Plymouth, MA – one of only two houses still standing where a pilgrim (John and Elizabeth) actually lived.

I am fortunate in many ways. I’m fortunate that I know where my people come from. I know their story, or at least as much as I can know. And I know we are survivors. I’m also fortunate to have visited the land and place where they walked. The first time in 2010 with Joe, who was patient and understanding with me while I took photos of everything and felt like I was walking in a really good dream. The second time, just this year, when I took my parents to tour Plymouth and watched my mom have the same journey I did three years ago.

Mom and Pop outside Plimoth Plantation

Mom and Pop outside Plimoth Plantation

So Thanksgiving is a meaningful holiday for me. It’s a reminder of who we are and what we’ve been through. What we can endure, with hard work and family, in order to achieve our dreams. It’s a reminder to change for the better by learning from others and seeking understanding more than being right.

This month, I’d like to focus on thanksgiving. I’ve kept a journal since I was 13, but within the last year or so, I’ve turned it more into a gratitude journal. At the end of each entry, I write five specific things I’m grateful for.

Here is today’s list:

  1. The opportunity to travel to Plymouth this year with my parents.
  2. The chance to tour my ancestors’ home and see artifacts used by them.
  3. The sound of my mother’s voice, telling John and Elizabeth’s story at the dinner table on Thanksgiving day.
  4. My mom’s dairy potatoes.
  5. Knowing my family is full of survivors. If they can cross an ocean with only the stars to guide their way, then I can publish my damn book!

What are you thankful for today? What does Thanksgiving in your house look like?

Have Seniors? Will Travel.

Back in the Mighty Midwest again! I survived vacationing with my parents in Boston for a week.

DSCN0259This is them.

They did me a solid by dressing alike so I told them they didn’t have to wear the leash backpacks. This time.

You know the ones.

The week went fast touring Beantown and we did it triumphantly – with senior discounts and 90° weather!

Traveling with my parents was so fun. Every day we spent together was like deja vu memory making.

Boston Harbor

*Note to Readers Who May Be Thinking of Traveling With Their Senior Citizen Parents*

Bedtime is at 9 o’clock. If you thought you were going to get some writing done or read that book you brought with you, think again. By 9:15 the snoring will become so loud you will pray that a masked stranger will break into your room and club you to death. At least then there will be silence.

Conversely, you will never have to set an alarm because your father will wake you up between 5 and 6 every morning. (And let’s just remember that Boston’s an hour AHEAD).

So,

What does one do exactly with senior citizens on vacation?

Trolley Rides!

Trolley Ride

Admire Other Old People’s Clothes!

John Hancock's Suit

Help Them Meet New People!

Sailors

Take Them to Places That Serve Soft Foods

Dinner Out

Major Successes of the Trip:

  • Did not lose one or both parent(s) in airport/airplane/subway system/trolley ride/hotel elevator/commuter rail/taxi cab despite their being prone to wandering off. (Especially the old man – keep your eye on that one.)
  • Mom completed her first ever subway ride, and said she will “NOT miss it when she’s home.”
  • No one lost any teeth, glass eyes, or hearing aids.
  • Drank some Sam Adams lager with my Pops.
  • Tried fried clams for the first time – Taste good, look disgusting…like fried snot.
  • No one fell overboard on any of the boats we went on.
  • I only thought about leaving my parents to fend for themselves once. In the airport on the way home. And let me tell you, Dad would have never made it out of Philadelphia.
  • All said and done, we’re still talking to one another!

That was my week! How was yours?

What tips do you have for traveling with seniors?

Hello from sunny…Boston!

Boston Postcard

Hello from sunny Boston!

I’m just sending a quick little “postcard” to all my blogger friends! This week I’m on hiatus in Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts! Taking a vacation with my parents (hope Dad packed his butt soap) touring the sites and visiting the land and home of our pilgrim ancestors! Joe and I went 2 years ago, but the ‘rents have never been, so I’m playing tour guide this time. We’ll be visiting Plimoth Plantation and the Jabez Howland House, one of two surviving homes in the country where a Mayflower pilgrim lived, one who just happens to be our ancestor! We’re descendants of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley who made the treacherous voyage across the Atlantic in 1620.

Knowing my family, I’m sure I’ll return with lots of stories. Here’s hoping no one gets lost on the subway, breaks their nose at the aquarium, or poops their pants in a native wigwam.

Wish you were here!

-Jess

Gift Giving Gone Wrong

My father, Jerry, is a good man. A hardworking, well-intended and thoughtful man. Any time I go home, he never fails to send me off with some homemade food, a spare cake or two (he’s a baker), or a surplus of some great deal he found – anything from mini cans of juice to say…soap.

One such visit home my dad sent me away with two bottles of soap and two bottles of lotion. They looked like your basic sanitation brand, some great deal he’d found that did nothing for my mother’s decor but got the job done. I grudgingly accepted the bottles and once back at my place offered up the lotion to my boyfriend and my roommate. If they would use it, good for them. I was going to stick with the far better smelling and more visually appealing lotions that I bought, the ones with flowers on the bottle that smelled like coconut or almond oil.

A few months went past and I decided “What the heck! Put the soap in the main bathroom and use it up.”

Later that night I could hear my roommate and his girlfriend laughing in the bathroom. It got so loud I opened my door to see what the fuss was about.

soap and lotion bottles

Of course! It was the soap.

Had I, or better yet my father, bothered to read the bottle, I might have known why my roommate and his lady had a serious case of the giggles.

To start with, in its bold yellow lettering it reads: MULTI PURPOSE PERINEAL CLEANING* BODY WASH AND SHAMPOO.

Good gravy! Where do I begin?!

My dad gave me free butt soap!!!

The definition of perineal is the skin in front of one’s anus. You may know it by its street name, the taint. Please imagine now the sheer look of momentary horror on my face. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If that wasn’t enough of an introduction, the back of the bottle gave more explicit instruction.

image

If you’re not already a fan of this FABULOUS multipurpose cleaner, just read: it’s “designed to dissolve fecal soils resulting from incontinence.”

Well yippy skippy! No need to rush when the urge strikes any longer! One pump of this magic and you’re fecal free fresh!

Can I get a “just clean ahhhhh!”

But if simply clean is simply not enough, there’s a lotion for that too!

Between the his and her snickering I was subjected to from the roommate and his girlfriend, I pulled a “Jerry”, shrugged, and said “It’s free.” I also reminded them it was the same brand as the lotion I gave them earlier, which prompted sock-footed running to their room to gather the other bottle.

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PROTECTS AND HELPS RELIEVE CHAPPED OR CRACKED SKIN AND LIPS. ALSO HELPS TREAT AND PREVENT DIAPER RASH!!!

Where exactly should one rub this lotion? I’m not sure I feel comfortable using the same lotion a person puts on their kid’s toucas also on my face! Though when questioned later, my dad said it’s good at preventing wrinkles.

Gee Dad, your gift was really something! I wonder what you’ll share with us next time! But be warned – this soap could end up in your “Welcome to the Nursing Home” basket!

Have you ever received a gift that was well intended, but so wrong? Did you tell the gift giver? Have you ever BEEN the shamed gift giver? How did you recover?

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