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Farewell To Joe

I have to take a break from the unexpected life, single scene, dating, dances, and men to pay homage to an important member of my family I’ve never written about.


Our dog.

A gigantic white lab (more like a miniature horse) with the best looking dog face I’ve ever seen. In fact, when my oldest son saw the movie “Marley and Me” his only comment was that our dog was much better looking than the movie’s star! Our canine star, however, hated water, was afraid of a lot of things, but tried to protect us by barking a fierce bark (yet gave himself away with a tail that never quit wagging.) He LOVED all people!

When our world fell apart in 2009, and our unexpected life began, believe it or not, in addition to all of the worries I was trying to balance, I was worried about our dog. I didn’t know where we would be living (much less if our living situation would be conducive to a dog), I didn’t know what we’d be eating (much less if we’d be able to afford dog food) and I knew we really couldn’t afford a dog, but I just felt I had to do everything in my power to allow my children to keep their pet. They were losing everything else and as crazy as it may sound to some, I hoped and prayed, for my children’s sake, that they wouldn’t have to lose their dog too!

We were blessed to end up in a home in Utah with a fenced backyard. So my children kept their dog for awhile. And then Joe developed a health condition that had no guaranteed fix. Our only choice was to free him from the extreme pain he was in. And as the only adult in my little family, it fell to me to take him to the veterinary clinic that final time.

I have always dreaded a moment like that.

Just when I thought we were healed, we had to lose our Marley.

In the terrible moments of 2009, in the height of my despair and when there was nothing I could do but endure my pain, sometimes I just had to get away from my life. A couple of times, when it was THAT bad, I jumped in the car and drove the country roads near my old neighborhood. Sometimes I simply had to get away from the stranger I had allowed to remain in my home, quickly, and so late at night I’d go outside to be alone.

I’d sit outside in the pitch black dark and mourn my losses. I mourned the end of the only life I had known as an adult. I’d worry myself sick about the future and all that lay ahead. I’d cry. I’d pray. I felt more alone than I imagined it was possible to feel. And then, in the midst of the pain of my grieving (and wallowing in my misery) I’d hear a thump and find a giant white head attached to a wet black nose in my lap. Despite how I felt, another manifestation that I wasn’t alone.

Joe. There for me. In the literal and figurative darkness of my new unexpected life.

That was all I could think about as drove to the clinic and as I sat in the examination room the last few moments of Joe’s life.

My oldest son was with me too. As we sat in the room, he looked at me with tears streaming down his cheeks and told me how Joe had been there for him always, but especially during the terrible events of last year, when my son didn’t know what he was going to do or how our new and unexpected life could be his. He told me how he’d lay on his bedroom floor by Joe and cry. And how Joe had helped him carry on.

Boy, Joe was a busy dog. Especially last year. I’d had no idea all that he had been up to.

Joe was there for me. Joe was there for my oldest son. Joe was there for all of my children when they needed him. And in the end, although I couldn’t be there for him to miraculously save his life (like I felt he deserved after all he’d done for me), my oldest son and I were there for him as he departed.

Sometimes I hate being an adult and having to make adult decisions. But it’s a part of life.

Another unexpected aspect of my farewell to Joe was the thought of another person who flashed across my mind in those final moments. I couldn’t believe it. It will probably make me look psychotic, but this blog is my attempt to share the whole truth and nothing but the truth of my unexpected life. So here goes.

I thought of Him.

Shawn Merriman.

And this is what I thought: “I should hate him for putting me in this position. For making it so I have to endure this, too.”

I couldn’t believe it had been one year and He came to mind. You remember your former spouse at the oddest and most unexpected moments. At least, I did. And then, just as quickly, I pushed that thought out of my mind.

I went into this whole unexpected life determined not to hate and I still feel that way. I believe it’s the right thing to do.

Life. It’s unexpected. There’s nothing better. And yet, there’s nothing more difficult, at times, too.

All I know is that you have to keep looking for the good. You must keep counting your blessings. You have to forgive. You can’t hate. And you must keep pressing forward and carrying on, ideally, with a smile.

I Interrupt This Blog

To anyone who grew up in the 1970s-1980s: Do you remember those tests of the emergency broadcast system?

Right in the middle of a good song on the radio, or a fun television show, the song would silence or the screen would switch to a rainbow of colors and that irritating beeping noise would fill the air! It lasted forever, it seemed (to me) and then the voice would conclude the whole ordeal by thanking you for your participation. (Like we had a choice!) Then the song or t.v. show would return.

I didn’t enjoy those tests. So I apologize in advance, but I have to do the same thing to my blog.

Get ready!


I interrupt this blog for a very important announcement!

My blog is a bit behind the “real time” of my life. I’m trying to catch up as quickly as I can to the present day. However, something very unexpected happened recently and I can’t not share it.

Last weekend I was at a Sunday evening singles meeting. I was asked to play the organ. Over the pulpit, the man conducting the meeting thanked Andrea Merriman for helping with the music. After the program was over, as I sat waiting for the crowd to disperse so I could leave, a woman approached. She walked toward me with a huge smile and said, “Andrea Merriman!”

I looked at her, trying to place her face. She seemed very nice, but not at all familiar. My first thought was, “This person knows me! Did I grow up with her and I just don’t recognize her? Is she a friend-of-a-friend I’ve met and I can’t remember?”

But before I could place her, she clarified, “Are you Andrea Merriman of…The Blog?”

I admitted my connection to, she smiled and said, “I knew it! When they announced your name I wondered if it was you, so I had to come and meet you! I love you!” She put her arms around me and hugged me. An instant friend.

Because of a blog.

She could not have been friendlier or nicer. She gave me her name and contact information and told me we are going to do something social, as friends. I can’t believe it! It has been a long time since I’ve been invited to do something with a girl friend!

I met a new friend!

After our encounter I realized a couple of things.

First, what an amazing world blogging is! How grateful I am for the connections we make through them. To stay in touch with friends, get back in touch with old friends, and even to connect with new friends we haven’t met yet is an astounding bonus of blogging I’d never imagined.

Second, for what seems like the first time since my unexpected life began, someone said my name, Andrea Merriman. And I didn’t wince, cringe in fear, feel sick to my stomach, or want to hide! It hit me after my new friend left that I’d “forgotten” to feel afraid when someone said my name.

Somehow, I’ve been able to let go of that part of Andrea Merriman. The part I was so ashamed of for far too long as I was thrust into my unexpected life. I don’t know how, all I know is it’s gone.

The healing power of blogging is something I never expected. I guess it has been my self-therapy. Maybe putting myself out there on my terms, instead of the media, Ponzi scheme victims and hostile former clients of Shawn Merriman doing it for me, has something to do with it. (Not that they don’t have a right to be angry, I’ve just never understood their passion for persecuting me because of the actions of someone else.)

So whatever the reason, all I know is that I forgot to be afraid to be recognized. I didn’t even think to be.

I am back to the old me, the original me–Andrea Merriman.

Ironic, that they’re both spelled the same yet the feelings they engender within me are so dramatically different.

So, sorry for the interruption. Thank you for your patience. I just HAD to share that I met a blog reader! In person! A new friend!

Very unexpected.

But such a thrilling aspect of…the unexpected life!

“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.” (Carl Sandburg)

That night, that new friend, is certainly one of them.

New Year’s Eve 2009

Earlier this month marked the one year anniversary of the day my new and unexpected single life officially, legally, began.

It has been quite a year!

All of the fireworks this month reminded me of the last fireworks I experienced–New Year’s Eve 2009. My first New Year’s Eve as a single woman.

I spent it with one of the bachelor’s I’ve already written about. And as optimistic as I like to think I am, I probably felt a little pessimistic that night too. “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” (Bill Vaughan) That was me that night.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” (Brooks Atkinson) That was exactly how I felt. That was exactly what I did.

My New Year’s Eve involved dinner, dancing…and fireworks. And as far as “firsts” go, it wasn’t too bad.

But at midnight, as the fireworks exploded and I stood watching them light up the Salt Lake City skyline, I felt something unexpected.

Each time a firework exploded into a colorful shower of sparks and light, I felt the “thunder” of it in my chest and saw a moment from 2009 flash before my eyes: I was sitting with Shawn Merriman at the table as he told me of his crimes, pending prison sentence, that I was left alone and with nothing to raise our four children and then, BOOM! That moment was gone. I was watching my children’s world shatter, seeing their shocked expressions, tears and grief, wondering how I would survive the moment I was present as my children’s hearts were broken and their childhood illusions were shattered and then, BOOM! That moment was gone. I was driving away from my entire life, the only life I’d ever known as an adult into a completely unknown life in Utah, wondering how my heart would ever heal and then, BOOM! That moment was gone.

The flashbacks continued for several minutes. Each explosion of light blasted away a hard experience from 2009; a piece of pain from the previous year. Pain I didn’t even know was mine, I’d become so accustomed to living with it.

Burdens I hadn’t even known I’d been carrying were lifted. I was stunned at how good it felt to see, hear and feel it all going away. It was healing.

So aside from the marriage proposal I got earlier that day (#2, if anyone’s counting!) that is what I remember most about New Year’s 2009. The fireworks. What they represented and how they felt to me.

Life was getting better every day and I knew that someday, every day would be a celebration again. That my children and I would continue on the path to happiness and joy in our new and unexpected life.

Just as the old moments had passed with each firework that exploded, new moments and memories were taking their place: my three-year-old taking off on his bike sans training wheels down our new Utah street, the family dance party my middle son was standing on a bench busting his best disco-karate moves and the bench shattered beneath him (he was ok, but we all got a huge laugh out of the whole adventure–and the first time I’ve ever lost a piece of furniture to a child’s antics), our first Christmas as a new family unit, our “group hugs,” the family drives, evenings in the canyon, and even our first family vacation.

“Everything is created from moment to moment, always new. Like fireworks, this universe is a celebration and you are the spectator contemplating the eternal Fourth of July of your absolute splendor.” (Francis Lucille)

You just have to keep living.

July 13, 2010: Life Lesson of The Unexpected Life

I’ve lived a few tough days in my life.

Here are just a few: September 26, 1986, the day the wreckage of my dad’s airplane was discovered and our wait to know his fate was over (as was his life); May 4, 2006, the day my mom suffered a massive stroke and doctors gave her less than 48 hours to live (she actually died a few hours later as I was rushing to Utah to see her one last time before she passed away); March 18, 2009, the day Shawn Merriman (my then-husband) informed me his business was a sham, that he had been running a Ponzi scheme since approximately 1994, that he had turned himself in to authorities, that he was headed to prison for a long time, that all of our assets were seized and I was left with nothing and left alone to raise our four children; and July 13, 2009, the day my divorce was final and I left Colorado for Utah to pick up the pieces and begin a new life.

Although there are a few other “miscellaneous” hard days I’ve endured, the above four days come to mind when I think of difficult days I’ve lived.

A few months ago I was struck by the realization of how much I’ve learned over the past year–things of a spiritual nature, things about myself and what I am capable of, things about people and humanity and life in general. So many things I have learned.

I realized I am grateful for every single thing I have learned. Even the hard stuff.

And I was shocked to realize I feel the lessons I’ve learned are worth the price I have paid.

I never imagined (especially during 2009) I would ever be able to say that or feel this way but I do. In fact, I would do it all over again. I would go through everything I’ve experienced again to learn what I have learned and to get where I am today. The lessons have been that valuable to me.

Mark Twain was right: “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” That’s true of life, too! Especially the unexpected life.

I believe that in life, when we’re holding that tail firmly in our grasp because there is nothing else we can do, and if we do our best to keep pressing forward through all of the noise, claws and pain, and if we can be humble and introspective and attempt to learn all we can and to better ourselves while enduring the challenges rather than question, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” and, “If only,” we will come to the same realization Mark Twain did.

We will learn things we cannot learn any other way. We’ll be better for having learned them. And hopefully, we will be grateful for what we have learned and the growth we have achieved. I believe that is one purpose of the unexpected life.

And not that we’d want to, but “If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires!” (Abigail Van Buren) A fun way to look at the lessons (and their value to us) in an unexpected life.

Another lesson I’ve learned is this: “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” (Kevin Henkes, “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”)

It really will.

Bachelor #8: The Stalker

Back in my old life, in Colorado as the stay-at-home mother of four children and the wife of a respected investment advisor, religious leader and upstanding member of the community, married for 20 years, etc…I got a kick out a song by Goldfinger. I think it was called “Stalker.”

My teenage son introduced it to me. He used to play it for me, we’d sing along with it in the car, laugh and dance to it in the kitchen, and were entertained by the lyrics every time we heard them.

“Uh-oh-oh she’s following me. Uh-oh-oh she’s out of her tree.Uh-oh-oh she’s off of her rocker. I wanna marry my stalker.”

I just never expected my spouse would one day reveal to me that he had been running a Ponzi scheme for most of our marriage, that he was heading to prison and that I would be left alone to raise our four children. I never expected my unexpected life. And I certainly NEVER expected to one day have my own stalker.

Bachelor #8.

He was probably the only true bachelor I’ve dated. He was 46 years old and had never been married. He also earned the well-deserved title of Stalker, according to my friends, family and children.

“A stalker will look for any kind of attention, positive or negative. A vast majority of them don’t see themselves as stalkers.”~ Jill McArthur

I met him online.

I should have known his type–I saw him looking at me, or my profile online, 30-50 times over the course of several weeks yet he never contacted me. Not one word. I couldn’t figure out why some random stranger would look at my picture or information so frequently. I finally figured it out, though. I think that’s what they call online stalking! Lol.

Eventually, he contacted me. Called me. Asked me to dinner. We met at a restaurant and I confess, when I finally met him in person, I asked him about his propensity to view photos and profiles so often for so long yet never contact the people he was viewing. He told me he was “just bored.”

I guess it’s true: “A vast majority of them don’t see themselves as stalkers.”

After we were seated on our first date, we started comparing notes and realized we’d lived at the same apartment complex while attending the same university. I’d even worked in the office of the apartment complex and had taken his rent! We remembered a lot of the same people. It was 20 years later, so his face wasn’t familiar to me, but I knew who his roommates had been. We had 20 years of catching up to do.

Instead, he looked right at me and said, “I know EXACTLY who you are!”

Chilling. Even, or especially from, a stalker.

My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I had distanced myself from every part of my old life. I had even moved to a new state where I didn’t know anyone. I lived quietly, under the radar, intentionally. I was trying to make a fresh start for my children and myself, far removed from the taint of a former family member accused of bilking clients out of millions of dollars through his Ponzi scheme. And in that moment I felt it was all for naught.

In my new city, in my new state, living my new life, I met a random “stranger” and my cover was blown.

Bachelor #8 had known my ex-husband and had been on business in Denver, CO, when news of Shawn Merriman’s Ponzi scheme and his criminal behavior broke and our assets were seized. Bachelor #8 had watched it all on the news. He put the details together while sitting in the restaurant with me.

He had a lot of questions. He grilled me about the Ponzi scheme, about how I could not have known what was going on, about my 20-year marriage, and appeared very skeptical of every answer I gave. It felt like Bachelor #8 was “good cop” AND “bad cop,” when all I was looking for was a social experience!

His side of the conversation consisted of comments about how while I had been married for 20 years, he had been doing the very same thing we were doing that night over and over again for the same amount of time. He told me he was sick of dating, tired of first dates, sick of getting to know new people, uninterested in the lives and stories of others, that everyone was the same and had the same story (I begged to differ on that one–I do not believe every single woman has an experience and a story like mine, but that’s just my opinion!) and he abhorred all of the “game playing” that was dating.

I couldn’t figure out why he had asked me out! And why he sat there, telling his date, me, that he hated what we were doing, didn’t want to get to know me, that he had heard everything I was going to say already before, and that he didn’t care about the details of my life.

It was the craziest first date I’ve ever been on, and all quite unexpected as a 42-year-old returning to dating after two decades of marriage.

The evening ended, I went home, walked up to my room and said to myself, “That was one of those ‘catch-up’ dates–what have you done the past 20 years? But I know I’ll never hear from him again!”

He called me the next morning at 9 a.m. and asked me out again for that night.

I couldn’t go. But my stalker didn’t give up. He called or texted me several times a week for the next few months. He asked me out when he came to town. If I couldn’t go out with him, he’d ask, “Why can’t you go? You got a date, don’t you?” And when I admitted the reason for my unavailability, he wanted to know all about the man I would be with and what we were doing–and then he’d text me throughout my date with the other man!

“Where are you?”

“What are you doing?”

“What restaurant are you at?”

“Do you like Mr. A.F.?” (He always named every one of my dates–Mr. A.F., Springville Guy, Tall Guy, Mr. P.G., etc…)

“What are you doing now?”

“You kiss him yet?”


When he asked me a question, and if I answered it, he’d always argue with me about my answer.

One night we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. On the way home, he suddenly decided he wasn’t taking me home. Instead, he was taking me to the grocery store. The grocery store? I told him I didn’t want to go. He argued with me about that. I told him I didn’t need to go. He argued with me about that. I told him I wasn’t going to go. He just kept driving. He told me I was a single mom and single moms always needed food and always needed to go to the grocery store and buy food. He told me I could shop in peace, and he would follow along and push the cart for me. I had no course but to settle in for the drive to the grocery store. My stalker was as stubborn as they come.

At the grocery store he insisted I shop for what I needed. I didn’t really need anything–except groceries for the dinner I was making for Bachelor #7 the next night, so I finally thought, “What the heck? He won’t take no for an answer, he made me come here, he won’t let me leave until I shop, so I guess I’ll buy food for tomorrow night’s date!” And that’s exactly what I did.

Bachelor #8 followed me through the store, pushed the cart, gave me recipes he insisted I cook (and texted and emailed me several times to see if I’d cooked what he told me to cook–I never had), and even threw a few ingredients I absolutely DID NOT WANT (and later threw away because Bachelor #8 would not let me leave the store without the items he insisted I try) into the cart. After checking out, he loaded the sacks into his truck and drove me home. On the way to my home he instructed me to call my teenage son and tell him to meet us outside to haul the groceries into the house for me.

THAT bothered me. I didn’t introduce my children to the men I dated. I didn’t even let them see each other, usually. I argued against it, but my stalker insisted, so I made the call. I knew better than to try to argue with him.

My son and a nephew came out, met Bachelor #8, hauled in the groceries and were very quiet about him to me, but they did not become his fans! In fact, goodwill toward Bachelor #8 spread throughout the household. I don’t know what was said between brother and sister, but my teenage daughter started patrolling my phone, checking my texts, grabbing my phone if it rang, and if she saw it was my stalker, she would demand I not answer the phone! Bachelor #8 could have used some serious help from Dale Carnegie on “How To Win Friends And Influence People” at the Merriman house. At least with its teenagers!

Off and on, Bachelor #8 would continue to visit my profile. His views crept into the triple digits. I could NOT figure out what he was doing online at my profile so often! If I got online to check messages, he’d start IM chats with me and grill me about men I was dating, or argue with me about something. But he always called when he came to town and offered to take me out. (I should say he was progressively more cheerful and positive as the weeks went on. He was nicer and friendlier with each successive date. He was even funny sometimes. It was just that crazy stalking tendancy that was the issue. That, and the fact that besides me not being interested romantically or long term in Bachelor #8, he and my children would NEVER have meshed. At all.)

Eventually, one night he proposed marriage. In a roundabout way he admitted he didn’t love me, but firmly believed two good people, with the same beliefs and values, could marry, make it work and have a happy life together. I didn’t just say no to the proposal. I told him NO WAY. And of course, true to form, he argued with me about my answer!

He argued for my acceptance of the proposal. I absolutely argued against it. In the end, I told him I believed his theory could work but that I didn’t want to test it myself. I wanted more for me. I felt I was too young to settle for anything less than my ideal. I was holding out for love.

I still believe in love. I still believe in fairy tales. And I’m still waiting for my happily ever after ending. (Boy. I say that so often it’s almost as if it’s my mantra! Lol.)

But maybe, just maybe, if I say it often enough or long enough, it will eventually come true for me.

Finally, the stalking of my stalker, Bachelor #8, ran it’s course. I got busy with other people, and Bachelor #8 went on a date with someone else. (And called to tell me about it afterward.) I didn’t hear much from my stalker after that…until I started this blog.

Bachelor #8 found it, contacted me, and argued with me about my blog. He argued against my blog with everything he had. When all of that failed, he brought up the safety of my children (he knows how to cut right to the heart of a mother, huh?) and every other thing he could think of to dissuade me in relation to blogging.

But in the end, as in many other times in my life, past and particularly present, I had to stand alone and do what I thought was best for me. (And my children.) And do you know what? I’m still blogging. It has been five whole months of writing and my children and I are not only safe, we’re better and happier than ever!

Who said stalkers know best?

I only know this: “But I do know people that have stalkers and it’s not nice.” (Daniel Craig)

On to Bachelor #9.

Schmuck Of The Week

I read in the media one day that Shawn Merriman (my husband, at the time he was nominated for the dubious distinction) was the “Schmuck of The Week,” and in the forerunning for the “Schmuck of The Year.”

How does it feel to be married, or to have been married, to the “Schmuck of The Week”? It’s a little bit of a dark spot in the otherwise bright existence, overall, I like to think of as my unexpected life. But not as dark as some moments. Like another dark day of last August 2009, the day He was formally charged by the U.S. attorney’s office and taken into custody.

It was a necessary step in the administration of consequences of the crimes He committed by running a Ponzi scheme for 15 years and stealing approximately $20 million from multiple victims. (I’m not saying he didn’t deserve the consequences. I’m simply saying it was another sad, tragic day in what had become many since the revelations of the crimes He had committed.)

We were divorced, but He called me that morning (basically because He had no one else to call) to say goodbye. I felt as if he were saying goodbye before heading to the electric chair. We’d been living in limbo, to some degree, prior to that day and it had finally arrived. I knew it was coming. I just could NOT comprehend it had actually arrived.

I worked all day, tried to focus on my projects, and the minutes ticked by on the clock. It was a very long day.

Periodically (at lunch or on a break) I’d check the internet for media coverage–any word of what, if anything, had transpired a state away. Nothing. It was my secret vigil. No one knew that while I was working in Utah, my former spouse was heading to jail in Colorado. It was a challenge of epic proportions: to keep my mind on my work and the tasks at hand…while waiting for word and publicity of something so dark for our family.

And then late in the afternoon, although I had to have been expecting it because I’d been looking for it all day, suddenly…it was there. I had intentionally sought the information, yet I was stunned when it actually popped up on my computer screen! I’d been on pins and needles all day. I’d had a pit in my stomach for hours. For good reason.

The media reported the whole thing, including federal marshals “clasping handcuffs on the accused Ponzi schemer Shawn Merriman in federal court” and the courtroom of smiling victims errupting in cheers and applause. One victim commented, “That was us clapping hard.”

It sickened me.

I went in the bathroom and didn’t just cry. I think I threw up. I was filled with dread at what had transpired, and I was absolutely sickened at the behavior of some. What kind of people exult in the demise of another–regardless of what that person has done?

“How could man rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?” (Lao Tzu)

It caused some serious introspection on my part. I tried hard to think of anything anyone could do that would make me smile, clap and cheer at the demise of another. Thankfully, I couldn’t think of an instance. And I hope I never can. I think I will have lost some part of me, some degree of goodness or compassion or humanity (I don’t know what you call it), if I ever allow myself to exult in the tragedy and demise of another regardless of whether or not some may judge it to be deserved.

Another victim commented, “There won’t be justice.”

They’re probably right. I know I will never have “justice” in this life. And I’m ok with that. That isn’t why I believe I’m here; it isn’t what I am about. Even little kids know life isn’t fair, don’t they? If life were “fair” a lot of things would be different, including justice. But would we be better if it were? Would we learn what we need to know? Based on the behavior of those wronged by my former spouse, I have to wonder.

And in the midst of my musings, I had to commute home and prepare to face my children. I had to look in their eyes, and watch their expressions, I had to comfort them in their tears when they learned what had taken place that day.

Another strange state of existence that day was the fact that for the first time since 1989, I didn’t know where He was, how to reach Him, what He was enduring, how He was being treated, or how I could contact Him for the sake of our children.

Not a fun day. Slightly less fun than having once had marital ties to the “Schmuck of The Week!”

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