Seeds in the Soul Garden

Recently, I stumbled on a social media post talking about how you shouldn’t tear out seeds before they are given a chance to grow. This struck a chord with me. The idea is so simple and the thought of new endeavors as seeds so perfect that I wanted to spend more time with it.

Have you ever taken a moment to look at a truly beautiful garden? Flowers and plants grow together in ways that both surprise and delight. Accent pieces and sculptures glisten among the flowers, drawing the eye and telling their own stories. There’s a magic flowing through the space that invites the viewer to slow down and breathe.

Now I want you to imagine all your hopes, dreams, and goals; all your accomplishments; and all your failures are represented as a garden. What does your garden look like? Are the various flowerbeds of your different interests and passions alive and well? Are there hobbies that are overgrown and taking over more space than they should? Are there personal care areas that have shriveled and grown weeds from lack of attention?

Just as a gorgeous garden requires consistent time, effort, and love from a gardener with both skill and experience, your soul garden requires the same. All areas of your life deserve the attention they need to thrive without overwhelming the others. Take time to prune back unruly pursuits (Diner Dash, I’m looking at you) and devote more time to growing the things that bring you joy.

Personally, my soul garden probably looks more like a zoo right now. There are errant sentient plants wandering around and messing up flowerbeds. One is trying to build a shed using toothpicks and chewing gum. The few nice flowers I’ve managed to curate must be kept under bulletproof glass domes to protect them from the roving hoards of plot bunnies that munch on literally everything. There’s a treehouse in there somewhere. It’s chaos, but it’s my chaos, and there’s beauty in that too.

I see you there plot bunny. Don’t you dare eat my petunias.
Photo by Diana Măceşanu on Unsplash

This whole authoring business has encouraged me to plant new seeds while continuing to care for for the ones that are starting to sprout. These seeds represent skills and connections that need to be built and strengthened. It might be a while before I see real growth, but I know the possibility is out there. I trust that with proper care and attention they will grow into something beautiful. And where skill is lacking, thankfully there’s always Google, YouTube, and fellow indies I can randomly text on random Tuesday nights with my questions.

I raise my glass to those amazing indie authors out there with gorgeous gardens – thank you for sharing the fruit of your experience. It’s not an easy road, but it’s easier because I have you trailblazers to follow and learn from.

Tell me, dear reader, how does your garden grow?


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The Satisfaction of Finishing

Back in September I discussed how I use journaling among other things as a productive way to handle stress and also help clear my mind. This practice is sometimes tedious but I’ve found I feel off on the days I skip. Because I do it regularly, it doesn’t make sense to fill up those gorgeous notebooks you see in store windows.

Instead, I use simple composition books and hoard them whenever I see them go on sale. Composition books are perfect for my style of journaling. Since they are so cheap, I don’t feel pressured to find pretty words or clean well formed sentences. In my style of journaling, trying to make things nice, or even correct actually harms the process of letting the mind say what it needs to say. I use it to sweep out the cobwebs and address the issues that take my attention, so the messier the writing, the more free flowing, the better. Composition books themselves are well made. The pages stitched instead of glued so the chances of the book falling apart is impossible.

When I saw I was close to finishing filling and entire book at the end of 2019, I kind of hoped I would finish writing the last page on the last day of the year in a kind gesture thatI was phasing out the old and ushering in the new. With all the holiday unpredictableness, this didn’t happen. I ended up filling in the last sheet this morning. Not perfect, but then again, striving for perfection usually means getting burned out or avoiding a project all together.

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Finishing today held it’s own satisfying perfection. It’s a Friday, the end of the workweek and a day that feels right for finishing things. I get to open a fresh new book on a Monday, a day meant for new starts and new plans. It’s also the tenth, which feels like a complete number. A perfect 10. It also thumbs the nose at all those who have their goals figured out and ready to go long before December ends.

This new book that will stick with me for the next four to five months as my journal is so clean and shiny compared to the one I’ve just finished. It lays flat and well behaved whereas the old one is plump, filled with meandering recountings of frustrations and successes, hard decisions and new projects. Where the old signifies progress, the new encompasses potential.

Here’s to both the satisfying conclusions and the fresh starts that occur in every day life.


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The big oops of reading the wrong schedule

There is a weird time vortex that happens around the holidays. Days get sucked into deep black holes and no one knows if it’s a Friday or a Tuesday. The only clock that sticks is how many days, hours, minutes, until the next thing happens.

Behold the holiday vortex!

Which is why I find this story so funny.

As someone who is trying to run her own business from home, schedules and plans are the only way to get things done. Some of these things require intense focus, so I save them for when the house is quiet. Ideally when I’m home alone. These precious silent hours are when the characters talk the clearest and the settings bloom to life.

Needless to say, I was eager for the day the kids went back to school and hubby went back to work. So eager in fact, that on January 3rd I woke my two youngest up at 7:20, fed them, made them get dressed and brush their teeth, got their backpacks and shoes figured out and was about to shovel them into the car and gleefully escort them back to school when I got a phone call.

“Hey hon,” hubby says. “I’m looking at the calendar and it says that K and D are off track,”

“What?” I hurry to the fridge and rummage through the papers important enough to earn a magnet, school schedule included. Sure enough, no school today.

No school for my younger two kiddos until the freaking 22nd of January. Yay for year-round school?

Here I am, literally tasting the sweet nectar of that most elusive of motherly gifts – free time – and I find out they will be hanging out with me for the next. three. weeks.

I might have cried. Or ate the rest of the stocking candy. Can’t quite remember.

Fast forward to today. While there’s none of that wonderful thing called silence. (Any parent will tell you that when it’s silent in the home and the kids are around, that means trouble.) What there is instead is plenty of laughter, fun, and games.

They’re pretty good about letting me escape to my basement dungeon and work, especially when it’s still early and they’re still sleepy haven’t booted up for the day.

As for my writing goals for January, this might be interesting…

Wish me luck.


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Reflections on 2019

No. I’m not writing a goals post. I refuse. Not even the most persuasive chocolate bearing sweet-talker can talk me into one. So there. Ha.

Why? No one wants to read a goals post. Yes, I totally have a few (hundred) goals that I’m making plans to make happen, but waxing all poetic about it all over the blog feels, well, pretentious.

That – and of the hoard of goals I put into writing, I’ll probably completely forget about 70% of them before January ends. It took forty years to figure out that when it comes to personal goals, I tend to go a little crazy – and I can’t handle crazy right now.

Does this all sound a bit familiar? Yeah… I totally did it last year with my whole power word campaign.

Here’s a review of 2019

I really liked the idea of power words, but the idea faded out after the first few months. I still have two words posted here at my desk and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they were. Note to self – don’t pick nine power words. Instead of digging deep into one idea, I was all over the place with a constantly shifting focus. It was an interesting experiment and if I did it again, I would approach it differently.

As a family, 2019 was busy. With all the kids in school but none of them driving, it means lots of being a mom taxi for me. We traveled quite a bit in our travel trailer, including heading down to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Currently, the kids love video games, board games, and exploring new places.

At the beginning of 2019 I’d just barely survived putting my first book into the world and was already on the edge of a significant burnout. Most of January of 2019 consisted of 6-8 hour days contacting reviewers and learning how to best market a new product, all while being a mom to young kids and also maintaining a home. What made me more tired than anything was not knowing what needed to be done and and trying to do all the things anyway. I’ve learned a lot this year and going forward I have a better plan for future releases.

Which leads me to my most significant moment of 2019, the decision to request back my rights to my first book back and create my own publishing label – Stone Orchid Press. This was not a decision I entered into lightly. I agonized for months over the pros and cons of staying with traditional publishing vs taking up the banner on my own. In the end, the flexibility of setting my own deadlines combined with having more control over the quality of the finished project and the production schedule helped me make my decision.

Going into 2020

My big focus for 2020 will be to find balance between my career as an author, taking care of myself, caring for my family, and keeping the household in order. As we left 2019, I worked actively to find a way to handle my schedule in such a way that I could do all four things in a very intentional way.

My big kick off announcement for 2020 is the rerelease of Stonebearer’s Betrayal in preparation for the release of the sequel novel, Stonebearer’s Apprentice, coming later in the Spring.

You can totally order it RIGHT NOW.

Head here for the newly branded ebook

Or … here for the brand new shiny paperback (Note – the cover is still in the process of loading into Amazon, but this is the correct link)


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The Joy of a Beautiful Pen

This year I’ve developed a strange fascination with fountain pens. At the beginning of the year I taught a class with the Salt Lake Genre Writers, a chapter of the League of Utah Writers, and my friend there had this gorgeous pen. They told me all about how much they loved using it and all the different people in the League who were also pen aficionados. That idea of having a gorgeous pocket-sized piece of functional art stuck in my brain.

Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Years before, when I had been enamored with illuminated manuscripts and calligraphy, I received a very basic fountain pen set as a gift. I didn’t do much with it then as I was much more interested in the pens specifically used in calligraphy. Fast forward to a few months ago when I finally dug that old set out, cleaned out the old crusty ink, found a few cartridges that hadn’t dried out, and gave it a try.

There’s a reason fountain pens have stood the test of time. Compared to any other pen I’ve used, a fountain pen flows smoother and faster. Dare I say it it even beats out my beloved Uniball Jetstream 1.0. My initial foray into fountain pen use had me experimenting with different pen nibs in different widths. Initially, my favorite was an extra fine chiseled tip that gave just a hint of the calligraphy feel, without looking pretentious.

For my birthday I received a gift card to go shopping for a new beautiful fountain pen. While my newly minted fountain pen friends recommended a few different brands all ranging in style and price, I was drawn to the look of the Moonman pen. With its smooth curves and clear body, not to mention an impressively huge ink reservoir, I thought this would be the perfect pen to test drive. And did I mention purple? It came in purple.

Behold! My purple Moonman taking a space walk

Because I’d liked the extra fine points in my old set, I chose an extra fine point for my Moonman. Little did I know that extra fine points can vary between manufacturers. My Moonman screams along the page like the worlds best gel pen, both fast and incredibly smooth, but doesn’t have the sharp edges of a chisel tip. All hobbies have a learning curve, and this is mine. I still love using it, but perhaps if I get Christmas money I’ll invest in a different style and compare the two.

All in all, writing with this beautiful pen brings me joy and elevates my morning journaling practice. I love having it out on my desk where I can look at it. It feels great in my hand. Pens can be such simple things. We forget that the experience of putting ink to paper can be more than just jotting down words, it can be an experience.


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My Winter Self-Care

There is this weird stigma when it comes to the idea of self-care. For most people, the very words summon up visions of eating chocolate, taking bubble baths, and indulging in activities seen as vain and selfish. This viewpoint needs to change. What self-care really means is to do the things that are necessary to lead a happy and productive life.

Everyone’s needs are different. Like me, some people have trouble sleeping at night. Some people might suffer from a lack of energy, especially in the afternoons. Some people might fight cravings for junk food and sweets constantly. Some people might suffer from depression which makes it almost impossible to do everyday tasks. My point is, your needs will not look like everyone else’s needs.

What works wonders for one person might actually make your situation worse. Personally, I find my self-care needs become far more time consuming in the winter than in the summer. The moment the days start getting darker, my energy begins to flag, my anxiety increases, and sleep issues become a more persistent problem. The drive to complete all the things on my various to do lists is just not there.

In the clinical world, this is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). You are literally affected by the change in the seasons. It’s mother nature’s way of getting a final jab in before hibernating for the long winter. She’s still irritated at the invention of the light bulb.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

My self-care routine

Part of my winter self care routine this year stems from the tiny midlife crisis that kicked off a few weeks ago when I turned 40. All of the sudden getting in regular exercise and eating my vegetables seemed so much more important. This is the only body I’m going to get, if I’m not maintaining it in such a way that it runs well for me, then I’m setting myself up for a massive breakdown in the future. Something similar happened when I turned 30 and I realized that if I wanted to do anything with my life other than be a mom, I would need to start doing it.

Starting in early October, I pull out my happy light and use it in the morning while I’m working at my desk. It helps wake me up and simulates the natural sunlight I would have experienced in the summer and makes my brain generate more serotonin during the day and melatonin at night. I also get far more diligent at taking my vitamins. Currently I take a general multivitamin, calcium citrate, B-complex, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. All of these are necessary in maintaining healthy brain chemicals and aid in better energy production.

I also aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Some of it is while watching Netflix and using an elliptical, or if the weather is nice, going out for a walk. On alternating days I turn on Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. If you are looking for a darling down-to-earth yoga practitioner who excels at making yoga accessible to anyone, check her out.

The other two things I do are regular journaling and meditation. Journaling helps me to analyze things that I would like to find solutions to, while meditation helps calm down the brain chatter and helps me focus on the things that are important and need doing. After exercise, these two practices do more to help me counteract daily stress than anything else.

Does this mean everything in my life is perfect right now? No, it really isn’t. But when I’m diligent at keeping up my self-care, my tools to handle problems are kept sharp and well maintained.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

A question…

What do you do for self-care? I would love to hear about activities and practices you’ve put in place to help you feel better about yourself.


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The Big 40 – I leveled up

Today is the big day where I cross the mile marker between heading up the proverbial hill of life to working my way down the other side. Let’s all go sledding, shall we? I mean, I’ve reached the “fun” part of existence, might as well enjoy it. I couldn’t think of a better group to hang out with than my fellow creatives.

However – for today, on the most momentous of days, I’d like to stop and enjoy the view.

Photo by Kym Ellis on Unsplash

Ahhh … That’s nice.

Have you ever noticed that the harder the uphill climb, the more breathtaking the view seems once you’ve reached the top? It’s the reward for the hard work it took to climb up to the summit. That, mixed with probably a little bit of oxygen deprivation and sheer relief to just get there, makes for a memorable experience.

My path to the summit has been challenging, but very doable. There have been a few boulders to skirt along the way, but I can say I’ve been pretty lucky. In all my forty years I have never had an extended hospital stay, have never had a serious injury, have never totaled a car, and have never been arrested.

Most of that might be because I’m probably far too careful for my own good. You might argue that I’ve missed out – you might be right. But look – I’ve got a whole parcel of years ahead of me to try a few crazy things. I’m okay with this.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

There are things I’ve done that I’m embarrassingly proud of. I graduated from college, I have three amazing kids (all of which are way smarter than me), I published a book, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve learned a foreign language, I’ve volunteered my time to a non-profit organization, I’ve owned a home, the list goes on.

And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family.

To all of you, thank you!

Photo by Howard Riminton on Unsplash

Now, who brought the cocoa? If we’re going sledding that’s super important.

Next up – BASE jumping!

Anyone? … Anyone? … Bueller?


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Sleep, The Final Frontier

Clearly this baby isn’t me. For one, it’s sleeping.
Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

The other day my mom shared a story with me. When I was a baby they needed to have me sleep in a different place for the night. I was just old enough to climb up and peek out of the crib, which, while adorable, can quickly turn into a parent’s nightmare when several hours pass and baby still refuses to lay down and asleep. Apparently I didn’t sleep the entire night and stood peeking out of the crib waiting to be rescued.

Knowing my tendencies, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. Growing up, I was the kid who was always the last to fall asleep at sleepovers, if I slept at all. I never could sleep well when camping, and the first night in a hotel anywhere meant a night of tossing and turning.

Everyone agrees that sleep is important. A bad night’s sleep can wreck an entire day. It cuts back productivity, drains energy, and makes us less able to cope well with stressful situations.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

As an adult, and especially as a parent, I’ve hit new exciting milestones of being tired that I’d never imagined. One day, when it had been several weeks since I’d had a decent nights sleep due to not one, not two, but three kids taking turns keeping me awake at night, I forgot how stoplights worked and who’s turn it was. I had no clue which way I needed to look to make sure I wouldn’t be plowed into.

That marked a turning point in my adult life to start learning how to get better sleep. I studied every article I could get my hands on to learn about scheduling, meditation, exercise, vitamins and supplements. I became more proactive about my kids sleep schedules and my expectations for them to stay in bed. I took back my night.

Most nights at least are okay these days.

It’s turned into a delicate balancing act. If I haven’t had my walk that day. or if it’s fall or winter and I haven’t used my happy light enough, or if I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins, or if I’ve got a lot on my mind or an unresolved problem, those bad nights still come, but much further apart than they used to.

My attitude about having a bad night has changed as well. Now it means I can go down to my office and spend a few hours working at my computer or reading in the silence of a sleeping house. Sometimes I catch up on YouTube videos.

I wouldn’t wish poor sleep on anyone. It’s disruptive, it means I’m tired during the day, and sometimes it makes me angry. But, had it not been for insomnia, I wouldn’t have turned into a voracious reader as a kid. When you’re too tired to cause havoc around the house, reading is a great alternative.

I’d even go as far as saying that if I didn’t have insomnia, I wouldn’t be a writer today.

If you find yourself struggling with sleep, I totally understand. There’s no easy solution and I wish there was. But, there are things that can help and it’s worth it to learn about your specific needs then make steps to work toward better sleep.

How do you feel about sleep? Do you sleep easily, or do you struggle? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


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Insights with Tarot

Last week my friend and all together interesting guy, Dennis Morrison, came to the Oquirrh Writers Chapter meeting (part of the League of Utah Writers) to educate about the history of tarot cards and also teach about how they can be used to help guide decision making and give insights into one’s life.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that someone’s future could be glimpsed at through reading the cards or by the lines on their palms. Clues to success could be hiding in the stars, in the careful study of numbers, or even in tossing the dice. Teenage me checked out books from the library about palm reading. Grade school me made origami fortune tellers and played MASH, the paper fortune telling game.

My friends and I would spend hours goofing off with the different possibilities of our futures, as if writing it out on a piece of paper would actually change anything. Thinking back, playing with these different possibilities was important. How do you work toward a goal or dream, if you haven’t made one? I’d always be excited when MASH told me I’d be a doctor and was annoyed if I got secretary. Down the road, I ended up working in the medical field, albeit, not as a doctor. It seems the truth wasn’t hiding in the paper, but in my own interests. The paper only helped reinforce it.

All through those years of playing with different future divining mediums, I’d never had the chance to learn about tarot. My experience was limited to what was shown on movies, and heaven knows that’s never a good gauge of anything.

Tarot enthusiast, Dennis Morrison

Dennis taught how tarot cards began as a simple card game, much like UNO or SkipBo. Over the centuries, the art on the cards evolved and the usage changed. The practice of using the cards to guide decisions or give insight grew as a natural result of them being in use for so long.

As writers and creatives, we discussed how the cards might be used to help guide our characters choices or what might happen in the stories we are working on. The beauty of tarot cards, is that each one is an evocative piece of art. Any randomly chosen card will introduce an idea or an emotion for the writer to consider, and often one that the writer might not have otherwise considered. We were encouraged to take a metaphorical view of the cards and allow our own experiences adapt the image to something relating to our own experiences.

Part of the presentation included a change to choose one card for ourselves and explore what it might mean in our current situation. This was done by having each one of us scan through the deck for an image that grabbed our attention more than the others.

I chose the Hierophant, one of the major arcana. The imagery of a man coming out of the shadows holding an orb struck a cord with me. There are scary things behind him, but they don’t seem to bother him. He’s a priest which means he stands as an advisor and has knowledge to help guide people along their path.

As Dennis explained the attributes of this card, it made more and more sense why the image resonated with my current situation. I’m at a huge turning point in my writing career going from traditional publishing to independent. I’m stepping away from one way of doing things and onto another path.While it’s scary to be the one in control of my future, it’s also liberating.

In the end, I learned much more than I expected. While the card I selected didn’t change the reality I’m in, it helped me think about my situation in a new light and allowed me to consider different angles I hadn’t thought of before.

A huge thanks to Dennis for sharing his knowledge and insights with both myself and my group of writers. I know I came away feeling like I not only learned something new, but having a better understanding of the philosophy behind it as well.

And now I want to get a tarot deck of my own…

Have you ever had an experience with fortune telling or tarot? Share it with me in the comments!


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Lessons Learned from Buying a Used Elliptical

We’ve all done stupid things. Buying a used elliptical sounded so smart at the time. I was saving money, ensuring my wintertime happiness, and also giving my kiddos another outlet to burn off extra energy. Then reality bit me in the butt.

Let’s back up a minute. Last week I talked about the importance of taking walks to help clear my head and deal with anxiety. While walking is indeed the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to do this, the winter months are coming and the idea of walking outside during a blizzard or dreary freezing wind is not appealing in the least.

So, I had a brilliant idea – find a cheap elliptical that I could use on days when the weather is nasty and get in my exercise that way. As an added bonus, I could totally watch Netflix while working out – win.

Bad elliptical, go sit in time out and think about what you did. If you’re lucky, you won’t be a coat rack in the future.

For those of you who are experienced fitness machine users, yeah, feel free to laugh at me from this point forward. So many mistakes…

I found what looked like a great deal on a solid looking elliptical – $30 dollars and everything worked fine. We took it home at set it in the center of our family room to let the kiddos goof off on it. If anything was going to break, I’d rather it happen sooner than later and kids make excellent testing subjects. They hung on it, tried it two at a time, adjusted the built in fan, and made sure the heart rate monitor was accurate.

Even better, they didn’t break it.

What they did reveal is that it was a bit squeaky and thumpy. My goal, remember, was to be able to use it while watching TV. Being the uber-handy person I am, I decided it would be a great idea to lube the thing up and get rid of the excess noise. I looked up a Youtube tutorial, hubby bought some plastic-safe grease, and we went to town.

I’m one of those people who love taking things apart and putting them back together. It is very gratifying to fix stuff so it works better. Even better, hubby feels the same way. Usually. We lubed literally every joint and friction point just to be sure this new addition to our family could be as good as it be. If we’re going to do it, might as well do it as good as we can.

And it worked and ran as smooth as butter. For 30 glorious seconds.

Funny thing about moving parts, some don’t like to be slippery. In our haste to finish the job, we used a spray lubricant to reach a few places not thinking much about the drips. Those drips made their way under the tensioning belt and made the whole thing slip off.

Using and elliptical without a tensioning belt is WAY more exciting that I’m up for. There’s no friction at all and if you work hard enough you can cut a portal into another dimension. I think one of my kids summoned a minor demon as they cranked their way to infinity – and beyond! His name is Floyd and he now lives under my 7-year-old’s bed.

Did I mention that not only was this elliptical a great deal, but it is quite possibly the cheapest home elliptical known to man? We stripped screws, snapped plastic bits, and (possibly) swore more times than normally allowed in a home with younger kids. To fix the tensioning belt, we took that whole thing back apart and degreased all those essential frictiony bits to the best of our ability.

And put it all back together again…

And enjoyed another 30 glorious seconds of smooth silent operation…

Before the #(@&)#ing belt slipped off again.

Guess who gets to learn the finer points of how to properly retension an elliptical belt this weekend?

This gal, right here.

Yay.

The moral of this story is to research before you buy, don’t be too cheap, and for heaven’s sake, be careful where you spray lube!

Arrrg, Matey! When in doubt, use the white stuff. Smells like an old amusement park.

The real life lesson is never give up. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Stuff takes longer than expected. A great deal turns out not so great. Getting mad doesn’t fix anything. Whatever you do, keep trying. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Does anyone want to adopt Floyd? He keeps the youngest up at night with his cute demon snores.


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