Memory Remnants

It’s been months since I’ve written about the Secret Life of an Object (credit due to Dawn Raffel’s book). The other day I needed to make room in a closet and felt I should confront 3 vacuum-seal bags of old fabric scraps.

My paternal grandmother was a marvelous seamstress and tailor. I wrote in the posts, The Love Factor of Dolls and RIP Dreamland, that she was Head Fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago. When I was eleven, she moved to Kalamazoo, just down the block from us, and spent her early retirement years sewing clothes for us–especially my mother and me. In junior high, I learned to sew in  Home Ec class, and I began to sew my own clothes as well.

The motivating factor for me to sew was that my father wouldn’t buy clothes for me, but would buy fabric for me any time I wanted it. So if I wanted a new skirt, top, jumper, dress, or scooter-skirt (mini culottes), I needed to make it myself.

I think of the remnants of all this sewing Grandma and I did as Grandma’s fabric scraps.

I decided to unpack one vacuum bag and air them out. You see, some dummy (that would be me) put mothballs in the bag.

Anybody have an idea how to get out the smell of mothballs without having to wash the scraps?

What I found was that a great many of the scraps in this bag were either leftover from items sewn by me or items evoking memories.

In the above pile, you can see a navy gingham and a red gingham. I remember working with these fabrics; at least one item was a smocked top. Either the top or another item used both ginghams together. I wish I could remember it better. The orange floral in the middle was a granny dress with a red border at the bottom. The kelly green with tiny white flowers in the bottom left Grandma used for clothes for my mother and me.

This bright fabric on top with the sunbursts I made into a scooter skirt. It was actually wide-leg shorts with a panel on the front and one on the back that buttoned on.

The hat lady fabric was my absolute favorite. I bought it on sale and made a little flip skirt and bell sleeve top. I wore it all the time. The fabric was jersey, so very comfy and flattering.

Aren’t these fabrics a blast from the past though? Retro, vintage, and ancient haha.

In this pile are fabrics that I remember as well, although most of them were ones Grandma purchased for someone other than me–herself or my mother or my mother’s windows.

Maybe the biggest discovery in this bag, though, was a remnant of the fabric from the curtains of my bedroom when I was very young.

The walls of my room were painted a pale gray. isn’t this fabric great? Maybe these kittens imprinted themselves on me. They could be why I love cats to this day.

Do you have any old fabric scraps?

Since I no longer sew, what should I do with these scraps to give them new life?

***

Speaking of cats, the shelter I volunteer at hosted a 10 year anniversary gala. The gardener and I went with our daughter and her boyfriend.

I had to dress up for this shindig! Guess what? Jumpsuits are in style! So I bought a black jumpsuit, wore it with ankle boots  (for my crummy feet), and was good to go. But some people looked great, including the rest of my family.

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The Boss’s Tail: Part 6 of The Caterbuddy Tails

My name is Kana, which derives from the name Nakana, but is not short for Nakana. I am Kana, jungle panther, black velvet empress of the realm.

Being the boss is the most important job in the world because without a boss the underlings are without direction. Being the boss is unrewarding and difficult, but it is my purpose in life.

How would Mom handle these kids without me to help? The night I first met Mom and Dad (4 1/2 years ago) I could tell they were a little clueless and needed some help around Casa Castle. I was unappreciated at the shelter at that time because the roaming room was ruled by a monstrous male cat called Henry. Because I was the obvious choice for boss, Henry thought I was his enemy. I would have been content to rule jointly, but he told me that a female wasn’t going to be a boss when he was around. Henry attacked me, so the shelter put me in prison for my protection. I was in my cell when I spotted Mom. She glanced over at me, and I stood up on my back legs and drilled her with my piercing hypnotic stare. She was a goner after that.

But Mom and Dad didn’t take me home. I knew I had smittenized her, but they left me there. Week after week, they visited us for their janitorial and librarian duties, but they left without me. I got ringworm and had to go to the hospital room which might as well be an asylum straight out of Dickens. When that finally cleared up, they shipped me over to Petsmart, which is frequented by the lowest types. They obviously do not realize the talents of an 8-year-old big black female cat as they oohed over the silly kittens and prissy cats. I sat there under glass as if I were a pheasant waiting to be served. They brought me back to the shelter as if I were a loser.

For the first time in my life, I became clinically depressed. What is a boss without peons to boss around? My life was over. Or so I thought.

One day, months after first meeting Mom and Dad, Mom came into the roaming room with a kennel. I was nearly suicidal by that point and ignored her. When she picked me up, I snapped at her. But she held on and pressed me into the kennel and snapped it shut. She brought me home.

But I wasn’t going to make it easy for anybody who made me wait like that. No matter that she had been waiting for her old cat to die before she could get me. That she had been telling everyone about me and how she wanted me to come live with her. Hmmph!

To show Mom–and Dad too–who is boss I started a campaign to run their stupid runty calico Tiger out of town. I had her quivering and shaking and running and crying. But my mother is as stubborn as I am. She came up with all kinds of tricks to protect Tiger. She never gave up on me either.

So I stopped bothering Tiger because it wasn’t getting me anywhere. And besides by then Mom and Dad knew I was boss. Mom loves and respects me so much. Dad respected me from the beginning, especially my teeth, but it took him longer to love me. He started looking out for my best interests and became my buddy.

Life was the best at that point. I was boss of the casa. Mom figured out I have IBD and gives me the right food so my stomach doesn’t hurt.

Then Perry arrived. [Kana visibly shudders.]

Perry is a handsome young male cat. He is good-natured, but unfortunately he also wants to be boss. Everyday we have to have little tiffs to see who gets to be in charge. The truth is, since he’s a nice boy and just learning I often let him think he’s in charge. But we know that I am the real boss just letting him have his baby way.

I am now 12 years old. Pear is the oldest at 19, but she is independent and doesn’t want the responsibility of management. Then Tiger is 15. She’s grown a lot since I’ve gotten here. I take credit for her transformation. Felix is 13. He’s a sweet boy who gives me no trouble. Then me. There are two younger than me: Sloopy Anne and Perry. These five are my minions. My underlings. My “kids.” I AM BOSS.

Sleepy Kana

INTRODUCING MY MINIONS:

The Baby’s Tail

The Dowager’s Tail

The Bitch’s Tail

The Outlier’s Tail

The Kitchener’s Tail

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Shore Perspective

I don’t often write super short poems. To send them out I really need to put several teenies together, but this is an only. So I will share it here.

Shore Perspective

After the storm,
blossoms sway upside down
on the lake skin,
looking like tiny sailboats.
Without me they are debris.

 

The poem and image remind me of time spent on Lake Coeur d’Alene this summer. I love boating and lakes. My daughter said she could tell I was really in my element at the lake.

***

Felix was completely constipated last week as a side effect of the pain killer he was on for his cystitis. He had to get an enema at the vet. Poor Felix. One thing after another for him.  I hope he is getting better now.

Happy Labor Day!

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Nurse Luanne and the Potty Cam

All week I have been dealing with Felix’s illness. He seems to have feline interstitial cystitis which is very similar to the interstitial cystitis my daughter was unfortunately diagnosed with last year. She is having difficulty getting hers under control. It has greatly affected her life.

Now that I am taking charge of Felix’s health, I am getting an idea of what my daughter is going through!

Two biggest changes that need to be made for IC: stress reduction and diet change.

I have accomplished the food change (to Hill’s CD stress chicken and veggie canned and Hill’s CD ocean fish canned), although I am having to give him fish half the time, which I don’t like to feed as it isn’t healthy for cats. I will work on this issue.

Stress is more difficult in a six cat household. Perry has had to sleep by himself in the guestroom because he’s the worst offender. Poor Perry can’t understand why he hasn’t been getting all the attention lately.

Then Felix needs subq fluids for now, given in shots under the skin. And syringes of water because he won’t drink any water at all.

Bladder meds. Pain meds. Anti-nausea meds.

We took Felix to the ER twice since his hospitalization because the IC causes him so much distress that he acts as if he is blocked even when he isn’t. And the reality is he could block again, especially so close to the original blockage.

I am exhausted because this summer has been exhausting anyway.

Yesterday we spent all afternoon installing a potty cam (pet monitor) over the main litterboxes (we have 2 in the laundry room) so that I can watch for signs of Felix being agitated and running to the litterbox repeatedly when we are not home. Now I get notified when the cats walk into the boxes!

In this photo you can see that the pain meds allow him comfort.

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The Kitchener’s Tail: Part 5 of The Caterbuddy Tails

Luanne: Felix, please tell your story to my friends. They have heard from Pear Blossom and Tiger and Sloopy Anne and Perry. But you and Kana have not yet told your stories. I need to coach Kana a bit on how to tell a public story, but you should be fine. Just tell it how you remember it. How you know it.

Felix: Mom! Stop! You tell it. I can’t.

Luanne: Sure you can, Fefe.

Felix: Aw shucks.

Luanne: You’re so big and strong. Why are you afraid to talk about yourself?

Felix: It’s embarrassing. People might look at me.

Luanne: OK, you tell me the story. I’ll write it down and then I’ll share it that way. Nobody will ever see you. We’ll negotiate photos later on.

Felix: Um, ok.

***

From Luanne: What follows is the story that Felix told me about his life. This story was being planned when Felix suddenly became ill last Wednesday. I was out of town for work in California, and when the pet sitter was watching him (thank goodness this happened when she was at the house). After he ate dinner, he threw up ten times, began panting, and made frantic runs to the litter box. She mistakenly thought he was constipated. I have made this mistake myself in the past when Pear started having UTIs. Rather than wait until my daughter could take Felix to the vet, I had the pet sitter drop him off at the vet as she left my house. It was a good thing that I didn’t decide to wait, thinking it was only constipation.

And a good thing that my vet decided to examine him before my daughter could get there. His bladder was the size of a grapefruit. He had a urinary blockage, which is a common emergency in (particularly) male cats, and fatal if not treated in time. It ended up that my daughter took him from the vet to the hospital because after they catheterize him he would need 24 hour care. He was in the hospital for three days. Now he is home, and I am watching him round the clock because there is a high possibility that he could re-obstruct within two weeks after the initial blockage. Felix is never any trouble except when he’s sick. In the past, it’s been parasite issues that stemmed from his life on the streets. This was the biggest emergency I’ve had with my cats, except for Mac’s end of life issues. And I wasn’t even home with Felix. The nurse who checked him out said that he was “famous” at the hospital for being sweet and soooo affectionate.

***

People think I’m scared, but I just don’t like confrontation. When I lived out there, you know, I tried to stay away from cats and other animals that wanted to fight me. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Remember when I ate in your front yard every day, Mom? You knew I didn’t have a home and you and Dad were giving me food so I didn’t starve! Then I started hanging around with your dog Sandy in the backyard because he was a lover, not a fighter, too. He told me all the stories about his good life in your house. So I began to stick close to your yard, hoping you’d bring me inside, but not wanting to make a mistake in case Sandy was wrong. What if you didn’t like cats?

Then I saw Mac in the window. I knew you liked cats, but would Mac like me?

I let you trap me in your garage using that silly “pull the string and the kennel door will shut” so-called trick. It never fooled me, but so be it.

You brought me to your friend, the emergency vet. That’s when we lived in California. Remember, Mom? She told her staff to be careful when they opened my kennel because I might be feral and mean. When she put her hand in my kennel herself (she doesn’t take her own advice), I rubbed against her hand. I’m a sucker for pets and rubs and scratches.

What? Oh, you want to know what my life was life before I came to live with you? It was kind of hard, especially when it was over 100 degrees in the summer. I got dumped by the people who fed my cat mother. There were too many of us, they said.

When you brought me into the house you let me live in the bedroom upstairs with the TV for two months. I didn’t meet my human sister for a couple of months because she had just started college and you and dad were what you called empty nesters. So you two watched TV with me every night while I was in that room. We had fun, and I didn’t have to meet Mac or Pear.

After I met them and moved into the rest of the house, Mac was kind of mean. Sometimes it irritated my good nature, and we would have tussles, even pull out each other’s fur. Pear was fine. She just ignored me. But a few weeks later, we all moved to Arizona. I was so scared. I wouldn’t eat for three days, and you had to give me special medicine because. Remember, Mom?  Huh? Remember? But after that, Mac and I were friends. Mac, Pear, and I were all close from that time on. We slept on 3 beds on the kitchen counter like three little kittens. The ones who lost their mittens. But we hadn’t lost anything. We had found each other. Mac was my hero.

That was the start of my kitchen life. Once I moved into this kitchen with the long counter I never wanted to go anywhere else. The only times I’ve moved into the closet upstairs is when your dad would visit. Remember Mom? He had such a loud voice? I couldn’t listen, so I lived on the shelf in the closet while he was here. He never comes any more, but when Grandma comes now by herself I stay in the kitchen and she calls me “Mr. Big Eyes.”

You and Dad and my human siblings call me Fefe. And, Mom, you call me Feeferelli and Mr. Scoobydooby Man. You call me The Kitchen Cat. You call me Feef a lot. I love to crawl into your lap when you’re at your laptop at the kitchen desk.

But I don’t watch TV with you and Dad and the other cats. I like my basket in the kitchen. I have a window to the beautiful yard Dad created, and a nice cool sink to lie in for a change. I’m also very close to the food. When the other cats are done eating their breakfasts and dinners, I like to finish up their food. I eat a lot, but I really am a big boy with lots of muscles. And lots of love. I’m not shy. I just don’t like confrontation. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

Love,

Felix

 

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How Can Restaurants Best Offer Gluten-free Food?

It’s so hard to travel–whether for business or pleasure–when you have celiac and have to be completely gluten free. The gardener has a pretty bad case of celiac, so he has to be vigilant. Unfortunately, travel and being vigilant don’t mix very well.

A lot of people comment to me that it’s so easy to find gluten free in restaurants today. Well, it’s easy to find restaurants that say they offer gluten free options. But are they really gluten free? Judging by how the gardener reacts, many times they are not.

Then I found an article in the newest issue of Gluten-Free Living called “One-third of labeled gluten-free restaurant food contains gluten” by Van Waffle. (Yup, that’s the byline!)

The title kind of gives away the gist of the article. SO DEPRESSING. And I am so not surprised. Time and again, we have to correct servers about items on the menu. An entree labeled gluten free, but made with regular soy sauce. GONG. Chicken noodle soup listed as gluten free. GONG. French fries made in a fryer that cooks glutenous food. GONG. It goes on and on. Then they lie, too.

The other day I picked up burgers and fries at our favorite local place that has a dedicated fryer, meaning it only fries gluten-free food in it. As usual, the gardener’s burger and fries were in a box. I opened it and looked at it. The lettuce, onion, and tomato were missing. When they gave it to me I said, “This is gluten free, for sure?” Oh yes, yes. Actually I asked two different people! But I had a funny feeling. Our burger place is a brewery, and it’s dark by the bar where you pick up take-out.

When I got to the car I noticed that the box did not say GF on it as it usually did. So I went back in. This time I was very insistent, and the woman who checked it said it wasn’t gluten free. They would make a new one. “They can’t just take it off that bun and put it on another one, you know.” She knew that.

While I waited I wondered why I had given them a nice tip. Three different people had “helped” me, and nobody seemed to care if my husband got sick from their food or not.

What we are doing wrong, for the most part, with gluten free food in restaurants is not taking precautions starting from the menu planning and kitchen design.

One of the places we traveled to this summer was Quebec. There were three restaurants with distinctive ways of handling the situation. As a side note, this issue of Gluten-Free Living has an article about GF food in Quebec!

  1. Ottavio in Gatineau is a very casual Italian restaurant. They don’t serve alcohol, so we picked up some wine at the gas station across the street. The wine was good! but I digress. Ottavio has two separate kitchens–one for gluten and one for no gluten. They also serve the gluten free food on red dishes (P.F. Chang’s also uses separate plates which has got to be so helpful to servers and makes the diner feel more secure).  The food was good, and the gardener did not get sick.
  2. Arepera in Montreal is an extremely casual Venezuelan restaurant that is gluten-free! The food was good, and there was no stress at all. The gardener can’t eat beans either (just one of many food intolerances that have developed as part of celiac disease), but there was plenty of food to eat.
  3. Bistro Le Veravin in Quebec City is supposedly 99% gluten-free. Personally, I think they ought to be 100% because it would make it easier, and I am guessing it is more like 90% gluten free. But the food was delicious, and the gardener did not get sick. He had a wonderful selection of food to choose from. I had the poutine au canard (duck confit poutine) because poutine you see.

So separate kitchens is a wonderful idea for providing gluten-free food for diners. But being 100% gluten free is the best because then the celiac can totally relax and enjoy instead of paying attention to everything so that a mistake doesn’t happen.

Back to poutine: this was a breakfast poutine in Ontario. Wowsa. So good. Sadly, not gluten-free.

Next week we are going to try a gluten-free restaurant that is a little closer to home. Fingers crossed!

Our gas station wine–tasty and gluten-free!

 

 

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The Self WHAT?

If you are disturbed by vulgarities and crass language, feel free to skip this post, but please come back next week because I don’t make a habit of subjecting people to it.

I have a nonfiction short story out in a new anthology published by Devil’s Party Press. The theme of this collection is a bad word in the title of each story. Lest you think this is sophomoric hijinks, the writers are all over forty!

Click through the photo if you want to order a copy. My story is called “The Self-Mindf**k.” See, I can’t bring myself to spell it out in public!  As for the title of the anthology, you can read the book cover above.

Seriously, though, my story is childhood memoir, about the way the fear and anxiety of living in my parents’ home over a basement bomber shelter affected my thinking—hence, the self-mindf**k. Here is a little “teaser.”

In the summer I turned six, my father dismantled his cozy basement workshop and built a secret underground bomb shelter out of cement blocks. This intrusion into our home was my first encounter with the Cold War. Television regularly put us through tests of emergency broadcasting via CONELRAD, and at school, duck-and-cover drills were weekly rituals. The goblins in our nightmares were “Commies, Reds, and Pinkos.” The anxiety this threat gave me was palpable and made even more acute because I was supervised by nervous parents. I had to wear a cumbersome lifejacket just to play in the sand at the beach. Overprotective was an adjective created for my mother and father. I don’t know if I would have been a fearful child if I had grown up in a different environment. Maybe part of it was genetic. But a fraidy cat I was–too scared to attempt cartwheels or to ride atop someone’s handlebars. Living across the street from an intimidating dog was one more frightening aspect of life in those days.

***

Thanks to Marie K. Bailey  I discovered I could post a deal on my first poetry collection Doll God on this blog. Ten bucks covers a signed copy and postage to a U.S. address I’m so sorry that I can’t offer the same deal to my friends in other countries. However, if you are interested in shipment elsewhere, please email me and let’s try to work something out.

 

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From Anne Lamott’s Pen

Following a writing prompt requiring the poet to pull words from a published book, I ended up with this poem. I wish I could remember which prompt I used–and how much I varied or not from it, but it was a couple of months ago. And these months have been full of work stress, so my memory looks moth-eaten.

The book I used was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a popular “writing text.” The subtitle is “Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” and I would say that the instructions are more on point for life–and maybe that’s why it is so popular!

 

WHAT TO NAME A CAT

(in the voice of Anne Lamott)

 

Find God

Propmaster

On Loan

Crazy Clocks

Special Effects

This Effect

Ring True

One Door Shut

R&B

Therapy

God’s Home

Samuel Beckett

Dirty Feet

Tiny Word

Redemption

One Leaf

Wordsworth

Rumi

Personal Drama

Delusion

Gorgeous

Pure Radiance

Way to the Truth

Present Moment

Home

Each one of these names resonates for me with what cats mean to me. Gosh, that sounds like an essay assignment for fifth grade. A fun assignment!

Maybe you can find a name for your next cat from my list haha.

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Update on Perry

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: I am adding this to what follows and in doing so I am putting the end at the beginning. The latest word is that Perry’s lab reports were normal, so it’s extremely unlikely that he has cardiac disease. He will get a chest xray to rule out anything obvious in his lungs that would account for fast breathing. If that is normal, we will just have to watch him. He doesn’t act sick, by the way. So in a couple of weeks he will get an xray, but I think it seems  that he must be OK. My sweet sweet boy. WHEW!

Good news!!! I think.

The gardener and my friend who is another crazy cat lady cat mom went to the vet with Perry and me. She is studying to be a vet tech, and I wanted her opinion of the visit.

Perry did not have an echocardiogram because the cardiologist said he doesn’t think his fast breathing is cardiac-related. He did bloodwork instead, including a test that he hopes will rule out cardiac disease. A few days for that to come back.

If he has no heart disease, we still don’t know what causes his rapid breathing, but at least he won’t have a serious heart diagnosis hanging over his head.

I took a video a couple of weeks ago to show his “resting” breathing rate. In 31 seconds his rate was 47!!! That is very high. So why? He was just chilling at home at the time.

Our boy was such a sweetheart. He was very docile and easygoing for the vet and for the tech.

We are calling this a possible victory at this point. When the lab results come back negative/normal, then we can have our victory dance!

Thanks for your prayers, vibes, and virtual hugs and pets for this sweet boy.

Perry trying to get Tiger to play with him

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The Back-of-the-Cupboard Cook’s First Recipe

If you are like me, you well know that feeling of not having “anything” in the house to eat. Well, the truth is there are always some old cans in the cupboard. And usually some eggs and herbs and an onion or two.

The other day I found myself in this situation and couldn’t get to the grocery store. So I took out my last can of salmon and an antique can of crabmeat. Seriously, the expiration date was sometime last year. They were both small cans, so I toyed with the idea of making a tiny recipe of salmon patties and a tiny recipe of crabcakes, but that sounded like more work than I had time for.

I figured what the heck and created my own recipe. I can follow recipes pretty well, although I do tinker with measurements under the guidance of the glass of wine I keep close to my hand and lips ;). Nevertheless, I am not a creative cook who concocts new recipes from scratch. Until now. Maybe I should start a blog called THE BACK OF THE CUPBOARD COOK because these lil suckers were yummy.

Here is the recipe:

 

SALMON CRAB CAKES

  • 1 6oz can salmon
  • 1 6oz can crabmeat
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup panko (gluten free is what I used)
  • 1 t. herbes de Provence
  • big dollop mayo
  • salt
  • pepper
  • (can use touch of sriracha, but I did not want the heat)
  • olive oil to fry in

Mix together everything except the oil. Let set in fridge for ½ hour (or less or more) because of the panko.

Form balls in your hand and then flatten into the hot olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and cook until browned on both sides.

Eat with whatever else you can scrounge up, even if it’s an old frozen side dish. (OK, that’s what we did).

The advantage to these cakes is that they are much tastier and less “fishy” than regular salmon patties. They are also easier and quicker to make than good crab cakes. The two seafoods actually complement each other very well, and the texture was lovely.

And because I was sneaking little pieces from the pan, I forgot to take a pic! I shared my recipe with my kids afterward, and my son who likes to cook said you could use a flavored mayo, too. If you do, change out your herbs if they don’t match the new flavor.

Now, don’t trust me on these salmon crab cakes. I know. After all that, she says, “Don’t trust me.” But I wasn’t using measuring cups and whatnot. I was just throwing things in. I’m only sharing because these combinations of flavors and textures worked.

###

A very cool thing happened on the way to not writing lately. My poem “Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill” has been nominated for Best of the Net 2019 by Nine Muses Poetry with five other poems. A big thank you to editor Annest Gwilym! You might have read the poem before. Some of you wrote lovely comments, too :). If not and you want to check out these six nominations, the links are available here: Best of the Net 2019 Nominations from Nine Muses Poetry.

###

Perry is getting his echocardiogram today, so good thoughts, vibes, and if you don’t mind, prayers for my boy, please.

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