Puppy Love

Would it be weird to say that the smell of a young pup is the same as a baby child? Less the hair up your nose and a flea or two. We have a 10 week old puppy. I’ve never had a dog from this early on before and the sleepless nights, the crying when you walk out of the room, the need for quiet and calm and the never ending pee/poo cycle is oh so familiar. But that smell; it’s oddly reminiscent of inhaling that magical scent of one of my boys while they were nestled into my arms having a nap. And then doing it again. Suppose it doesn’t say much about the smell of my boys.

The new addition to our crazy life is Rusty. Rusty dog was named in honor of Husband’s dog at university; the one who was lost by his flatmate one night, and said flatmate was excommunicated from his life forever. Cut to 30 years later and a new Rusty dog is bouncing all over our family. Scarlet, however, is not amused. She sort of tolerates this new bundle of energy but makes sure through growling and dog ‘mouthing’ that she is the Alpha Dog. I thought I was supposed to be the Alpha Dog? The housekeeper who is usually persona non-grata with Scarlett was all of a sudden overwhelmed with affection and love from her. I had to laugh at the dance routine Scarlet was now performing for all who enter our domain to demand attention.

The trainer came over the other day for the boys and I to learn a few tips. Ten minutes in, my little one started a chase game around the house that made both dogs go completely mental. I started to sweat with embarrassment pretending that I was in complete control – not of the dogs, of course, but of my son! I couldn’t get him to sit still until I finally growled at him and used human ‘mouthing’ (mouthing the word sit-the-crap-down) and he finally acquiesced…barely. Then boredom set in and three out of four sons left to go upstairs and play with their balls…soccer balls. See, no real difference between puppies and children.

I do love him, though. Yes, my son as well, but this little puppy. He’s exhausting and demanding for sure but there is something so sweet about the look in his eyes every single time I walk into the room. I’m a friggin rock star in his world! My boys’ eyes still light up every once in a while, but it usually takes my standing there for a lot longer than a minute for them to notice.

It’s been a great tool as well, having this puppy. Our family routine became just that, pretty routine, in terms of the animals and the boy’s chores. The cat either gets virtually ignored or gets fed seven times a day and sleeps in someone’s bed. Scarlet gets walked by me and poo picked up by boys after some loud reminders. “I’m giving this dog back to the pound if you don’t pick up her poo right NOW!!!” comes to mind….Every book you read – I don’t read them, frankly, tangent, I don’t think I’ve ever read a single book through to the end on child rearing, sleep training or how to talk to a teenage – says that giving kids chores and responsibilities around the house makes them appreciate their life and honor their household more. I actually agree whole-heartedly with that notion and thus the puppy gives me numerous opportunities to grind those ideas into their gorgeous skulls.

I’m such a great mom. Oh shit, the dog just peed on my carpet. Boys!!!!!

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Summer 2013. We’ve been unmistakenly waterside this whole summer. Starting with the Pacific Ocean surrounding us in Kauai, to the Thames River, the North Sea on the British East coast, the Atlantic shores of New York and now here, on the Pacific West coast of Vancouver. It’s been a priviledge to have all of these visuals to put in my memory bank.

We went to Science World today – the most insane interactive Science museum we have ever been in – and there was this machine where two of you sit on opposite ends and place some elctron/metal things to your forehead which reads your brain activity and the object of the machine game was whichever brain was more relaxed, the ball in the middle of the two of you would roll to the other person, and you would win.

My boys were obsessed with this machine and so I sat there giving each of them a go to beat me. My son finally asked, “What are you thinking of that is relaxing your mind so much?” And it was easy. The waters of the summer.

There is so much endless chaos in my life and these weeks of discovering a different family rhythm, together, not living in parallel with each other’s schedules, but sharing a common one again has been deeply fulfilling. I love it; the boys love it, and even Husband finds solace in us surrounding him during his Skype conference calls with the UK. It’s hilarious watching my little one scramble under his feet so as not to be seen in order to get his ‘guy’ from under the table.

The level of activity with the boys is tremendous; their energy and desire to scramble, kick, grab, punch, climb, hit, run, skate, swim…leaves me breathless. I sometimes wonder what other girls or women would want to do in an afternoon and if it’s just me who wants to sit more than run, watch more than participate.

We go into a restaurant, a nice one, for dinner, and their level of activity doesn’t really change. My first thought is ‘please don’t hit each other, play fight or throw anything across the table’. It’s not that they aren’t well behaved and savvy at how to fine dine, but their instincts are all boy and the swirling energy they share can escalate in one-point-two nano seconds to a full blown tornado with silverware and glasses torpedoing everywhere.

“Which restaurant do we hate the most” is often a quote from Husband before deciding where we are going to eat that night. It’s a joke, of course, but potential destruction is never totally far off. I romanticize every time we go out that we will chat together and laugh and sit and wait patiently for our food. What usually happens is I give my Evil Eye from the moment we sit down and grab the bread basket after they’ve attacked it before the waitress can even set it down properly. My little one starts quoting SouthPark which I know puts me in that shameful mother category and I down my first glass of wine like it’s medicinal.

But we have had some great evenings this summer with food. Mostly when the equilibrium between hunger, tiredness and brotherly love is at its most zen. And for a moment in time, sitting at the table is relaxing, and a chosen activity. And I have learned…even eating dinner according to the Book of Boys is an active-ity.

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The other day I realized what it was, the phenomenon I was feeling. As all of my five boys were sitting on the couch with their hands, well, yes…I realized that my house has too much testosterone in it. I am the only female. The only one who really wants to talk; the only one who really wants to express my emotions; the only one who likes soft silence and taking a pause.

We were having a dinner on Saturday night family style and the moment the food hit the table, it was whoofed down with a burp and a fart and a giggle; and then dinner was over. Just as I was deciding on what to drink, it was all over. I grew up with two brothers – I know how fast one has to eat to get your fair share. Or at least dish it out onto your plate to save it. I know the strategies of not talking and just shoving/grabbing/pushing one’s way to the center of the table to each dish available. Five naan bread turns into nada really quickly.

But surely I can pour a drink and sit down before the end is in sight?? Just as I was saying, ‘So, how was your…’ boom slap (as young one would say), the hunger games began and after a few swallows, they were gone. I allowed it because it is summertime. Summer is that wonderful inter-phase of time where all is possible and usually nothing gets accomplished and lots of rules are broken. One son has summer school which would have been the bane of my entire July if I hadn’t found a carpool and booked a ticket to London for three of the weeks. That commute each morning nearly killed me week one, and it was Husband who decided that ‘perhaps I needed to hire someone to help’ after I would arrive home from a two hour commute each day screaming at everyone, anyone, maid/cat/dog/postman/whomever!

His generosity had more to do with surviving my stares then spending the money, I’m sure. But I digress… anyway…it’s the next night and I sit in a house having just fed 9 for kids’ dinner and it is still SO LOUD. They – the male race – seem to get louder and louder as they grow. And smellier and smellier. I use lovely perfumes, light candles, dim lights, create moods in our four walls that get completely ignored and overlooked. It’s three-two-one-it or zombie killing wars or just good ol’ fashioned fighting.

Lord help me when one of them gets a girlfriend. I am going to obsess on spending time with her. I know it’s going to be weird. She’s going to think that I have no life. But I don’t have a life, a life that involves quiet contemplation or lots of analyzing and chats in our home. The sweet smell of female energy does not exist beyond me. So I will track her down in the house, make her talk about everything with me, cook with me, rock out to songs with me and even take walks down to the bluffs with me. She will break up with my son not because of him, but because of his looney tunes mom. And I will feel…

Shitty. That’s why my obsession with Unknown Girlfriend will remain silent and I will live with this crazy, insane amount of testosterone on my own. Cuz we all know that out of four boys I’m bound to have at least one girlfriend whom I love and one that I, well, I don’t dare say it. And with that, I await the next chapter of what testosterone brings into my house with bated breath. It’s summer, after-all, and it’s only just begun.

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The echoes in my house resonate with me. Even the robins’ songs outside the glass doors find their way inside and bounce around a bit. It’s nearly empty, but for a few tables and chairs. And Brian of course, our plant, that will most certainly die if he’s moved one more time. It’s an empty vessel awaiting the energy of another carrier.

I have been through a week of owning my emotions, and letting them go. It’s been difficult to express why I’ve had as hard of a time as I have had with storing all of our things in this house. Living these two lives to the fullest has always been my greatest desire; the way I choose to create. Having the boys feel as much a part of this country as the US took passion and then a lot of energy on my part once we moved back.

We still don’t plan beyond a year, which is why it remains only for the next year. And what I’ve really come to realize is that life is full and crazy for most of the people I know. Their kids, their work, their travels. And so my trip back here wasn’t marked by anything other than mid flow, mid thought, mid sentence connections. No welcome home or bon voyage. Just dinner at 8 and meet you down the lane for a walk. It’s perfect because it feels so authentic.

The disconnect from the house is one thing but there is no disconnect from the people who make up the fabric of my life; our lives, here. That is what I learn with each visit, in both places. It may take a few days to find my feet, but I always do. It’s like a small shift takes place inside of me and I pay attention to the subtle but different nuances of my self. These two lives allows me to push my own boundaries and check in with myself to see what it is I really see. Like wearing different clothes, or shoes, and how that makes you feel a different side of yourself. London and LA wrap themselves around me in unique ways and my perspective shifts and grows.

I am back now in LA and wake up each morning to emails from my tenant as she sorts out the needs of my house. I am trying to keep the barrier up and not allow myself to picture her things there. She is lovely, thank God, and hopefully her energy will add and not take away. I am so insane with the boys’ schools that my anxiety has gone about London which is a good thing. This summer will be super strange for all of us and it will be interesting to see how we all feel living in friend’s homes. Will not having our house pull on our heart strings, or will we be able to re-tune?

I vote for singing.

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Bits and Pieces, Part II

It is a particularly interesting time for me to invite my readers to a Part II. But here I am, at 10:30 pm in my house, on my own. Did I mention I was on my own??? It is quiet when I choose it to be, and loud to the sound of my soundtrack, if I want. And yes, the soundtrack is often playing in my head, anyway. The painter just left after having dinner with me. John the painter slash handyman looks like a college professor, with a proper English accent. Lord knows his story and why he travels from west Sussex to my house… a long way, to paint my walls. But he does and he has done a twelve hour day and celebrated his work over a bowl of pasta with me…why not.

Husband has called today concerned. He has heard from reliable sources, ie his best mate, that I am crying and not doing well. I am, fine…I really am. It’s a coming together of all I believe in; perspective – it;s almost everything, mixed with a true sense of being with oneself, mixed with perspective again. How you look at something depends on the lense you’re wearing. And if it’s not making you happy, change the friggin’ lense!

I love my house. I love the fact that I find meaning in a box of crayons left by a bedside table. And I love the ability to cry about it. I don’t believe in holding it in…much like birth, you have to allow yourself the dignity and honor of knowing that yes, you are feeling something huge, in order to let it go. So many times we suck it up and store it away in order to present a better self. Those emotions that we feel are indulgent and full of insecurity. But the truth is, I don’t know how to be in that space before I’m in this one.

The painter painted; the electrician gave me the thumbs up and presented a certificate for our tenant; our house is getting ready. And…crap…so am I. Not thrilled, but at least happy to paint the walls covered in God knows what dirt and get the all clear that our electrics were actually done to inspection standards. Tomorrow morning, 8 am when jet-lag dreams will be invading my soul, the movers will come. Five big, burly men will arrive with boxes and Saran wrap and wrap up my home in London…figuratively speaking…for a while.

I’m sure I will greet them with half an eye, like a pirate, for lack of sleep, but yes, ok, I will open the door. I will treat this exercise of clearing out my house as metamorphic and will hurl myself to the other side of all of my commentary with force, and some good Chablis. I await tomorrow’s adventure with a soulful awareness that my family is not tied to these walls, to these drawers, to these crayon boxes that seem to have crazy meaning right now; but to each other, and the exchange between.

Finding meaning in a box of crayons. Now that is either sad, or ‘Awareness’ in its spotlight.

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Bits and Pieces

I went to a dear friend’s wedding in New York this past weekend and have just arrived at my home in Richmond to pack up our belongings. I walked through the door exhausted from the red-eye flight and walked into my house as I have never once done before…alone. I have left the boys and Husband in LA to clean up and clear out our stuff this week and as I entered the quiet, clean, calm space, I started to cry. The tears slowly, but effortlessly, began to creschendo to sobs, and I wailed and wailed for a good long while.

I don’t want to rent my house. In fact, it’s not the renting of the house or even the use of my space that I am reacting to; it’s the knowledge that I have carefully placed all my random crap in random drawers throughout this house and I know where, and why, it all is where it is. Each drawer has a meaning to me, and each item has been chosen by me, to stay and form the magpie pile it has become. All through our three rentals thus far I have managed to keep that in tact. Until now.

Ms. Model, whom I am hoping is actually going to be sweet and honest, is moving in and wants my stuff outta here. And if I had to move the furnishings and that was it, I probably would have cried, but not wailed. But emptying drawers and corners and hidden piles into boxes that we all know will be absolutely ages before we open again, is grabbing my heart right now and making me very sad.

Money. Security. Alleviating stress. Important reasons to go through this self-inflicted torture. ‘Things’ don’t matter; England is in me, always, as a friend pointed out, no matter where we lay our hat. Friends opening their homes to us for the summer; new adventures to be had. It can all be exciting once I decide, and I know it’s going to have to be a conscious thing, decide to let go, let the brown boxes house our belongings for a bit and accept that we are not detaching from life in London; we are simply making some money on our house.

It’s incredible how awful I can feel when I’m tired. And awaiting my period. Not a good combo. Husband is actually in Toronto for 24 hours and during our three minute conversation on the phone, he said that he looks upon this week in London for me as a great opportunity to see friends, have some ‘me’ time in our home; I should enjoy myself. “It’ll only take you, what, like a half a day to pack it all up?” he remarks with seriousness. Men…they really are that clueless sometimes.

Well, I’m going to wallow for a bit longer. Eventually I will walk down the lane and see this decision as the right one. Not sure it’ll be until well after I hand over the keys and am staring at the Pacific once more, but perhaps I should buy something with the rent money to mark this occasion? I’m sure that’s what Husband meant about enjoying myself.

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These Four Walls

I have let time lapse between posts. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. The good news is I had a great friend come and stay from London and I was able to bridge my two worlds during her 10 day stay. ‘ A week in the life of’, she wanted. Day one had her sitting next to famous celeb singing a kum-ba-ya song with my little one practically in her lap and by the end of the week – after wine tasting in the St Ynez valley in Santa Barbara and filling our minds and bellies with delicious Californian grapes, she was having lunch on Abbott Kinney, mani/pedi in Santa Monica, dinner at the Soho House in Beverly Hills and of course 3-2-1 basketball knock out game with my boys.

We got scrubbed Korean style at a spa in Hollywood that leaves you slightly out of body, having bore every inch of skin to Korean therapists wearing black lace panties and bras. Nothing I could have prepared her for…the first look on her face along with the first gasp of ‘Oh’ as they began scrubbing was a priceless giggle for me. Her stay reminded me of the differences between my two worlds. I spend my time holding onto how they are my two equal halves that make me whole, never favouring one over the other as if I’d end up feeling like a guilty, cheating lover. So to just share the best of the West was a complete pleasure.

It was an exceptional trip which left me wanting the circle to remain complete. Bringing both worlds together is something that rarely happens for me, which is why when she arrived I burst into tears for the reality of the trip she had chosen to make, for me. Girlfriends, and sisters, are powerful people in one’s life. I am blessed for sure, and I think I nurture my relationships so much because these women are always my emotional touchstones.

This past week Husband has been gone and we got an offer of rental for our English house…for two years. Clear everything out and rent it for the asking price, an offer that sounds fantastic to a rational, business mind. But my house is my home and although we only stay there for holidays at this point, those weeks are sacred and not for sale! And yet, financial security and logic dictated the other argument made against my emotional plea of ‘I don’t want to’. What am I holding onto?? We can stay in a flat, or a hotel, or with friends. We can still spend holidays there, just not in our house.

I am holding onto the four walls; the life inside those walls that hold our English memories. My boys love their rooms, their rhythm and routine around that house and their identity there. Yes we could all find an identity elsewhere, I know that whatever I present to them they will accept if I do. But I don’t feel ready to shift into another gear and take our family home and turn it into a rental. Not yet. Not now.

The other side of the argument stares at me with disbelief and even a little disdain as I dig my heels in harder. I think I’m scared. I am scared of losing too much of our English identity at a time when the boys need fueling and consistency in their British lives. I am scared to let go of a house that has weathered all of my ups and downs and helped me remain calm, peaceful and present when I am there. It’s more than this rental opportunity, it’s what is will translate to mean. Maybe nothing; but maybe just that slightest bit more disconnected when I am desperate for all of us to remain connected. I have spent their life times going back and forth and round and round and have made maintaining their dual cultural lives, and mine, the uppermost priority, above all other expenses and desires. I’m scared of losing that, any of that.

Not sure if the tenant’s offer still stands, considering our counter. And if it does, I will readjust my mind, sell the story to my boys like it’s a great idea and use the money wisely. We will find ourselves our own rental and have a different type of English holiday. And it will all be fine. It’s just perspective. Holding onto these two lives isn’t always easy, I could write the book on it. I suppose these blog entries are the words on how confusing it can be and the reality behind what and why we hold things so dear. My wish for myself is that I can always really feel a part of both; like a full circle.

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Starbucks to Staples

I was standing in Staples the other day staring at the clerk behind the counter. She was asking me a question and I couldn’t hear her. My mind was so loud that her words flew past me like the wind. ‘Are you okay?’ I finally registered from her voice as we remained staring at each other. I wanted to tell her how much this moment meant, this silly little postcard we were designing together; that making 500 copies of it was tangible evidence I was starting something that began months ago.

But I spared her my monologue and paid the deposit and left – of course not before buying fifty number 2 pencils and colored pens and scatch ‘n sniff stickers that we never need. I sat in my car and called Rory. Rory is a dear friend that started a writing class called Write to be You over a year ago and now she deals with a wait list each month. I encouraged her to take the plunge with her intention of this class and now she has pushed me to get Yurtime pregnancy classes – my doula driven course for pregnant ladies – out there in the Universe. I started dreaming about it, literally, which she said was the final sign that I need to just bloody do it!

I find it incredible how long I can procrastinate about something that I really want to do. From London to LA and back again, I can organize my boys’ routines within an inch of their lives and yet when it comes to me, my work, filling the fridge and the cupboards and the boys’ schedules becomes necessary even when it’s not, and takes away all the time in each day. It must be fear; my fear of trying to create an environment that I know is worthy but having to translate what’s inside my head into a successful class structure. Why bother to do the class, why care? Because I do.

None of my friends, or any of their friends, are pregnant. When you surround yourself with people in roughly the same age group, it’s as if none of you age. Until something like finding a pregnant lady enters the game and no one knows any!! Are we all on the other side??? When the heck did that happen? Personally Husband would have us having another and I suppose I love him for saying it; keeps us young, or thinking we are young. Babies in your forties make you younger even though our bodies would disagree. It’s having that newborn energy in the house that makes the family focus on the simple joys all over again, like smiling and the first funny fart, instead of the terrifying teenage angst and puberty and beyond.

So I find myself in Starbucks staring at pregnant women and wanting to walk up to them and tell them about my class; or follow them around the corner and see where they are hanging out so I’ll know where to place my fliers; as if they are alien creatures living on the Pregnancy Planet and hold the secrets to where all the pregnant women are hanging out. I want to put myself out there without having to sell myself. My own self, it feels like, my personal self. Why the hell am I doing this again???

Oh yeah, because it’s fair to say I know a lot about having a baby and want to try and make a tiny difference in a woman’s life by giving her support and a safe place to be during her pregnancy. And breathe. Off to Staples tomorrow to pick up the fliers.

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This past week took me by surprise. We arrived home late Sunday and I got the call that my client was being induced. She was over 42 weeks pregnant and I really thought that I was going to miss the birth. I awoke before sunrise and drove the 50 miles to be with her and her fiance. When I walked into the room, she looked up at me and sighed relief and we embraced for a long time. She was exhausted from no sleep and lots of pain and was confused about how to deal with the next stage of labour.

The look in her eyes is why I love being a doula. I understand the emotions but am distanced enough from them to see things more clearly. And let’s face it, I’m not the one in pain. Creating a supportive environment filled with love and security for a woman during childbirth is beyond important; I wish every woman had that comfort. In a hospital you can’t help but feel so much is at risk, it’s so clinical and harsh. Staying in the zone, her zone, was our focus and she was incredibly brave and strong.

After 28 hours of labour, 16 of which I was there for, she was nearly ready to start pushing, and I had to make a choice. Husband was on the other end of the phone encouraging me to come home, that it was too late to drive so far and I was in jet-lag hell. I wanted so much to stay, to help with the final birthing and see this new spirit arrive. That is the honey of the job and leaving felt wrong. But then, so did staying. My client and her partner were more than connected and in the zone together. To stay would mean to sleep in their grandparent’s guest room nearby and to take away some of the focus at hand. Attention was beginning to shift to my exhaustion and that felt counter-productive to me. So I left. Left her in great hands, left a room that was harmonized and magical. Left because I physically had to, and the job of doula was complete.

Driving home I had to get it all straight in my head; being sensible and selfless meant leaving but feeling complete meant staying. Birth is pure and the emotions one takes away from a day in that sacred room are simple and absolute. What I walk away with every time is the essence of everything I believe in; love, life, unadulterated joy – being there moments that last a lifetime. Missing their baby arrive, I realized, didn’t change any of that because his mom and dad had what they needed by the time I left. And that is the job. That is why I do what I do. And sometimes if you do the job properly, you don’t get to taste the honey.

I arrived home and collapsed. Husband didn’t know what to make of me at first and I had no desire to share the extraordinary emotions I was feeling. I needed to be quiet and take a shower and have a bit of a cry to try and release all that I had just been a part of. Maybe there’s a reason why being a doula has come back into my life right now; perhaps it’s because I’m coming to the realization that even with Husband’s desires to have another, I’m probably not going to. Or, perhaps I have found a hat to wear that fits very comfortably. Whatever it is, my life is filled with goodness because of it.

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New Year’s Eve. It’s pouring here. Apparently the wettest year on record. It doesn’t really stop us from doing anything, even our neighbors were bbq’ing yesterday. I’m stranded in the house today waiting for the plumber and without a car. My little one has reconnected with his first friend from aged 2 and now at aged 8, I need to be around regardless. They are so funny with their reunion. My boy is quite tactile and keeps touching his little friend’s cheek and shoulder and the other boy has become very English and isn’t too sure about all the touchy-feely stuff. I feed them all the good UK crap that’s in the cupboards: Quavers, Digestives, Whatsits and cheesy strings. We’re so excited to have our English versions of all our junk food that I buy everything while we’re here and I bet our little visitor thinks he hit the junk food jackpot with his Hamm lunch, adding Cadbury fingers for dessert.

It’s our third week here and true to form, we are all finally really here. The first week is full of jet lag and anxiety, with an overwhelming desire to settle. The second week is in fact settling and our family rhythm is found and by the third week, we have stopped visiting our lives and started living them. And now it’s the last day of the year, and no matter where anyone is in the world of December 31st, it is the same feeling for all…the great Marker Day.

What will next year bring? What happened this year? How the heck did it go by so fast! We celebrate en familie at Sophie’s every year with a careless abandon of real reflection and a lot of boogying. The boys get suitably embarrassed by my dancing and I wiggle at them from across the room with no apprehension whatsoever. It is always good fun and usually ridiculously funny.

Husband and I have managed to reconnect from all the time spent away from each other and have brought the whole emotional ride into one look from across the room; ‘I love you’ my eyes say, he returns with an ‘I need you’ from his stare. We write this story together.

Packing awaits me at the end of this week and I will do so with a heavy heart. It’ll be six months before I can bring everyone back again and it’s a wrench in our hearts. Our neighbors announced they are moving – got an offer too good to refuse for their house. It was like they told us someone was dying. We all nearly wept, we were so upset. We live on a lane that faces a golf course and is too narrow for cars to fit down. The six houses that face the lane are special. They live two doors down and have done so since we moved here 12 years ago. Our kids have grown up together. We have no leg to stand on with our declarations of disapproval as we are the ones who left for LA. But we always come back to the lane, and their presence has been key in our life feeling fulfilled and at ease here.

Change; it’s inevitable most of the time and uncomfortable. My family have been masters at it but it still can make us feel scared. The best way to deal with it is to embrace it. So here we go, 2013 upon us without a map yet of what it’s going to look like, where we’re going to be, as always. It’s not the usual set up, but it works. And for that, I am very, very grateful.

Happy New Year.

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