Walking with a Dozen Irish Wolfhounds

This weekend we slipped away over the Misty Mountains to Mission, BC, for a 24 hour getaway. The whole purpose of our trip was to go walking with the BC branch of the Irish wolfhound club.

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Before we left, the girls asked, “why are we going, when we don’t even have an Irish wolfhound yet?” (Not that they were complaining, they were super excited.)

Their father replied… “We went to Harambee and adoptive parent meetings before we ever had you!”

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They thought that was hilarious comparison, but really, our visit was for the same reason. Before the girls came home, we learnt from any parents about hair, attachment-based parenting, and dealing with piercing questions. Irish wolfhounds are giants, and they have particular health and lifestyle concerns. We wanted to talk to other Irish wolfhound guardians, learn more about the breed, learn about raising them, health concerns, and tips and tricks.

So we drove down, spend the night in a hotel, and went for a 5 km walk with a dozen hounds and their people the next morning. It was very nice… We met lots of good people and got to chat about all things to do with the breed.

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The dogs were as I expected, but even more gentle, lean, and gangly. I was struck by how long their legs were… But they weren’t quite as tall as I had remembered. No, I’m not having second thoughts. Rather, I was enamored by them! I think Jason, with all his hesitancy about a giant dog living in the house, was also impressed by their lovely dispositions. The girls thought they were awesome.

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Maggie, our lovely old bird dog, did just fine. I couldn’t believe it she made it most of the walk, and what good condition she is in. If a dog came up behind her, with her being deaf and blind, it did start of her and she snarled once or twice. But generally speaking she seem to get along with the other dogs.

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Of course, Laughlin, our cairn terrorist, was completely overwhelmed and snarled and snapped of every giant dog became his way. (Embarrassing!) But it’s a testament to the wolfhound breed that none of the big dogs so much as batted an eyelash, and I was once again convinced that this was the perfect dog for us. Laughlin is what they call in Jason’s herbal medicine studies “hot ,” and almost all Irish wolfhounds are “cool.” This means that Laughlin, a typical terrier, is always running on instinct and adrenaline; whereas, the wolfhounds are much gentler and have a relaxed temperament. It will be a good combination to balance him out.

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This is a six month old puppy… Interestingly, Laughlin was perfectly fine with her. Somehow, even with the size, he knew it was a baby.

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The girls did us proud, as they told stories and ask questions of all the people they walked with. I barely saw them over the 5 km, but afterwards, several people came up to me and told us what lovely girls we have. True! And they did us proud. Unlike our terrier.

It was a great learning experience, and we will likely go back once a year to compare notes and learn more as our puppy grows…

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PS: these people are not running from the law, but I didn’t have a chance to ask permission to post their pictures. So you just got to see the dogs. :-)

Me, my two besties and Michael Franti

It’s been three weeks since I went to Vancouver for a girls weekend with my two best friends… But that shows you what kind of busy I’ve had since!

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I really needed a getaway… With starting the clinic, I hadn’t had a day off in months. So I asked Von and T to go to Vancouver for the weekend. As it turned out, Von was going anyway for some doctor training (she’s an MD) so T and I invaded her hotel room at the Fairmont. Sweet.

Oddly enough, Von, my best friend (since grade 4/5) and my best buddy in Kelowna T, had never met. Sure, they’ve heard a lot about each other, but hadn’t ever had the pleasure. I knew that they would get along well, and sure enough, they found common ground in teasing me, Asian cuisine, and raunchy jokes. :-)

We wandered about the city, eating at delicious restaurants. We all share a passion for food and eating, so we take the restaurant selection pretty seriously. We had Japanese tapas, hand pulled noodles, and French seafood. YUMMers…

T and I also caught the exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery about China’s emperors. I honestly don’t know that much about Chinese history, but I found it fascinating, and we both thought we learned a lot from the exhibit.

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This is not a goat… Donations supporting grassroots change in Africa

Have you ever bought a goat, chicken, or a medical kit from a charity’s gift catalog? I have… But I didn’t realize at the time the intricacies of goat purchasing. For many charities, the goat or chicken is simply a symbol of a donation amount, and in the fine print it reads that charity will use your dollars as they see fit. Other charities actually send out 300 goats one year, and 3000 the next, depending on what donors would like to spend their money on. In other words, goats are either inspirational pictures, or fluctuating, donor-driven programs.

At Vulnerable Children Society, the charity I co-founded and manage, we don’t have a gift catalog, and we don’t sell goats. Or chickens either.

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And this is why… Our programs are created by Ethiopian/Liberian organizations, to address the most pressing needs in those countries. The indigenous organizations, run by locals, create holistic programs to powerfully impact the lives of children and families. Our job as the fundraising partner is not to tell our African partners how many of anything they should have that year, or how to do their work. Our job is to connect you with them, so that children can be educated, families can be preserved, and communities can be transformed.

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We are transparent about our fundraising: you know that when you donate to Vulnerable Children Society, we send the funds to the program you have designated your dollars to help. And if that program is fully funded, or for some reason needs to be discontinued, we roll the dollars into our general program fund. Lastly, we publish our financial statements on our website, so that you can see, to the dollar, exactly how much money each program received.

For your holiday gifts this year, please consider donating to Vulnerable Children Society. We have three programs that need your help… Home tutoring and Ebola disease prevention in Liberia, afterschool tutoring at our Love and Hope Centre in Ethiopia, and retraining for teens who have worked in the sex trade in Ethiopia. Even stocking stuffer amounts are highly appreciated! and go along way to do good work in these countries.

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We won’t send you a picture of a goat, but if you donate and then send us an email, we will send you back a personalized card with a picture of the children you are actually helping, and information about the program. Your loved ones will love learning about the positive impact of your donation.

Many thanks! And warmest holiday wishes from all of us in Canada, Ethiopia, and Liberia.

Arnica Rowan, President
Vulnerable Children Society
http://www.VulnerableChildren.ca

Baby pictures!

Here in the Rowan household the only hotter topic than the Elf on the Shelf is the imminent coming of our Irish Wolfhound puppy.

I mean, this is BIG NEWS people! Worthy of classroom show and tell, discussion with the cashier at the store, and constant surveillance for new pictures. Speaking of which… The pictures you all have been waiting for…

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(Collective AWWWW….)

One of those little tikes is going to be our pup! There were four girls and ofour boys born in the litter to mom Glory and dad Torrin.

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Right now, they are living in Northern Alberta, growing under the watchful eyes of their mom and the breeder. They are 4 1/2 weeks old! But will be ten weeks when we arrive to pick out our little guy at the end of January. There are two breeders ahead of us, so we will get the third pick of the four boys.

A few more pictures of the parents, so you can imagine what they may look like, grown… They are lovely, aren’t they?

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My mom and I have a little road trip planned for that last week in January. We will zip over and spend a night in Calgary, go up to pick up the pup, spend another night in Calgary, and then come home. I think I’ll take Laughlin with us, to get him used to the puppy right away.

The pup will be bigger than Laughlin, though, even at that age. Likely he will be about 30 lbs (Laughlin is about 18lb.) so he’ll be slightly lighter than Maggie, but a tad taller.

Any, stay tuned for more pictures as they grow. Such cutesters!!

A new baby is coming the end of January!

We are adding to our family again…. Although not in the way you might think.

As our friends, family, and loyal readers know, we’ve been in the adoption process for four years now. Four years, four countries, a lot of emotional ups and downs, and still, no babies for me to snuggle. (I still snuggle the eight year olds, but they are far from babies now.)

I have a lot of love in my heart, and every couple of years, I have this overwhelming urge to have a new baby, of the human or non-human kind. My biological clock? Who knows… But every couple of years, it comes knocking.

My first baby was Hamish, who I will always cherish as my best friend and best dog ever. Really, Hamish was my first baby… He went everywhere with me, and my life centred around him. When he was two, I wanted a friend for him, and along came our cocker spaniel Maggie. Honestly, I would have had a human babe by then, but I was going through a mucky divorce, so that was out of the questions. A couple of years later came the cats, Vega and Haatim, in two batches, and then, after Hamish passed, our little cairn terrier Laughlin. I loved having puppies and kitties to snuggle, and to watch over. There is just this mothering instinct in me.

And then my human babies… Sugar and Spice. I love those little girls! My best babes of all, even if we got them when they were three. But now they are on the edge of puberty, and no longer toddlers-in-arms.

I need another baby, people. And this adoption thing is not panning out any time soon.

So, I am happy to announce, that I am getting a PUPPY!

And not just any puppy. Ever since I was in my early twenties, I’ve wanted an Irish Wolfhound.

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If this breed isn’t ringing a bell for you, they are the tallest dog breed, and are shaped like an oversized, very scruffy greyhound.

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Ok, so let’s answer some questions.
Yes, I know they are huge.

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Yes, I know that they have a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds (average 8 years old.)

What you may not know is that they are called the “gentle giant” breed. I’ve always wanted an Irish Wolfhound,a new let me tell you why…

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They are amazingly gentle and great with kids. They’re quiet, intelligent personalities are legendary. Even though they do need to roam about and have a good run, Irish Wolfhounds are actually are lower energy dogs, and love more lounging on their bed or by the hearth. They are easily trainable (not like my darling cairn terrier) and are rarely aggressive with other dogs. You rarely have to bathe them and a combing is all they need for grooming. And, they are huge, and scruffy, and have lovely beards. Every dog should have a beard, don’t you think? Laughlin has a beard, and Maggie does too, when she hasn’t been to the groomers lately… :-)

I’ve sent a deposit into a breeder for a puppy in Alberta… The pups were born November 13th, and they are so so cute! Like oversized black and brindle hamsters, squawking and wrestling about. If she accepts my deposit and all goes well, I’ll go and pick the pup up at the end of January.

So excited!!

Africa Sleeps’ Sugarplum Faerie Lotions, Bodywash and Lip Balms

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It’s back! Our Africa Sleeps fabulous holiday Sugarplum Faerie Sparkling Lotion. And the best news? She came with friends….

Check out the delightful sugar cookie-scented collection, with label art by the fabulous Katie at Mossy Rock Designs! And yes, that is my darling little Spice acting out the Sugarplum role.

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It’s the perfect gift for all the little ballerinas in your life…

http://africa-sleeps.myshopify.com/collections/all/sugarplum-faerie-sparkling-collection

Thanks for supporting our family business!

Africa Sleeps
Organic, Natural Hair and Bodycare for Children of African Heritage
http://www.AfricaSleeps.com

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Wine Wednesdays: Lusitano Estate Pinot Noir

It’s been so long since I’ve written a Wine Wednesday post, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking wine!

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Tonight we were eating smoked pork hock cassoulet and roasted garlic mashed potatoes, perfect French paysan comfort food for the perfect Pinot Noir. I have now found a new favorite Pinot Noir from the Okanogan Valley… And surprise surprise, it comes from just across the street from my favourite, sorry, previous Okanagan favourite Pinot Noir! ( I still love you, Noble Ridge!)

Lusitano Estate Winery: I visited these folks in the fall, on one of my trips back from the USA. It was a spontaneous drop in. The sweet Portuguese lady, Fernanda, who poured for me owns the winery with her husband. They have been producing quality juice for other wineries for many many years, and only recently, they decided to open their own little estate winery. They are still selling the majority of their grapes to others, she told me… I wonder who is buying it?

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On the nose, his beautiful Pinot Noir smells like a robust dessert. With chocolate, sultana raisins, ripe raspberries, baking spices, good undertones of vanilla, and hints of herbs and that essential element of cedar, it’s feast for the nostrils. The wine in the glass is a slightly browned ruby, even though it is only a 2013. Did this wind sneak into exposure somehow?

On the tongue, it was incredibly smooth tannins. I mean, incredibly. They are there and support the structure of the wine, but they are as soft as suede. Jason thinks it lacks acidity, but it’s simply so well integrated but you don’t notice it. I would say, medium plus acid. If I was to choose a style, I would suggest this is more of a Burgundian style, but it also has a lot of berry in the nose. On the palette, you get more of that chocolate, as well as bing cherries and that toasted vanilla from oak.

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Ok… So here’s the kicker. This gorgeous Pinot Noir is only $19. I kid you not. When I told Jason this, the miser exclaimed, “buy a case!” Well, we might have to stock up, before all the rest of you get there.

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Thanks for a lovely visit, Fernanda…. I wish you and your husband all the best. And I will be visiting you annually for years to come!

PS: the rosé was also delicious. Hello… Same grapes, lighter pressing. A gorgeous off dry French rosé style.

Lessons learned from Backyard Chickens

It’s been two years since we drove up the Mabel Lake road to a small hobby farm to pick up our two fledgling Plymouth Rocks, Keelee and Hailey. I’ve learned a lot in those two years, including some unexpected lessons in peacekeeping and community.

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On a little fieldtrip while I work in the garden….

I had decided to get some backyard chickens, despite the mixed message I was getting about the legality of it all, for the wholistic benefits for our family. I wanted the girls to know where their food came from, and to build some of my own self-sustainability skills. I’d never farmed any kind of animal, and I figured two little cluckers wouldn’t be much work.

It turns out that I was right on all counts. The girls now know where eggs and meat come from, although they’ve reacted in different ways. Sugar wants to become a piscatorian when she grows up, and Spice wants to have her own farm and slaughter the animals to sell and eat. Ok, then.

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My animal husbandry skills have come a long way… I’ve built enclosures, including our passive solar chicken coop, checked the cluckers daily for eggs and kept their food and water fresh. The gooey side of chicken raising has been a bit yuck. I have my sister, the first to have chickens, on speed dial for such things.

Twice my hens have had mites, and I’ve had to dust under their wings and wipe down their blowholes. Ew. As much as I enjoy talking to them, I don’t really like handling them. They feel like a store bought chicken breast warmed up and wiggling. I’m not eating a lot of chicken these days, either, btw.

What didn’t I expect?

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Well, it was very hard at first to get the dogs acclimatized to the pullets. Maggie especially, our cocker spaniel, tried with all her might to lunge at the chicken tractor. We have to sit beside that enclosure with the dogs on the leash, on and off, for days. Finally, the only thing that trained Maggie to leave them alone was the citronella bark collar. We put the collar on her, and when she lunged at them (and barked) it sprayed citronella in her face. After a few times of that, she lost interest. Yeah for citronella. (PS, we sell these miracle workers at our clinic.)

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This morning in the back yard….

Now, as you can see, the chicken and the dogs peacefully coexist. Our naughty cairn terrier Laughlin is a huge defender of the alley, barking and running up and down the fence when people pass by. Keelee and Hailey don’t even look in his direction, they are so used to it.

Sometimes I open the gate of their hens’ yard and let them run around our lawn and garden. The dogs pay them no mind whatsoever; however I have to say that Keelee does peck Laughlin a little if he comes in to steal her food.

There are way more people with backyard chickens than I ever imagined. Within a two minute walk of our house, there are at least three yards with chickens. And we are right down in an urban residential neighbourhood, by the way. Backyard chickens are indicators of a larger sustainability movement, and we’ve met some interesting people just by having cluckers in common. For instance, we found the best caterer when my friend with the organic grocery business offered leftovers to the caterer and myself (for our repetitive garden garburators). There is also a certain social caché to having chickens… People know that you are extremely committed to local food, even if you have to be a little subversive about it (all true.)

Hmmm… What else?

I didn’t expect them to be so loud. Dang it, I bought Plymouth Rocks because they are supposed to make eggs and live a super long time (four years) and they were supposed to be a quiet, winter tolerant backyard breed. Poppycock. I have the most obnoxiously loud chickens ever. I couldn’t keep them from the neighbours if I tried to! Fortunately, none of my neighbours give a rip. I think when I put the clothesline up seven years ago, they knew what they were in more. Every time I come out in the yard, the hens start yelling at the top of their lungs. Just for me, btw. They know who the sugar mama is.

But seriously, the neighbours don’t care. In fact, we’ve had five different neighbours look after Keelee and Hailey when we are away, even for weeks at a time. Many have thanked us for the opportunity after… Not only for the eggs, but the chance to care for animals in a way they haven’t done since their youth. (And a huge thank you back!!)

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Lastly, I didn’t expect to like them so much. I thought “livestock is livestock,” very different than pets. But I can say honestly that my two Plymouth Rocks have become my pets. I visit them every day out in the yard, have a chat with them, and care for them. My daily visits in the fresh air and sunshine have also been a small dose of nature therapy each morning. The days I spend a little time outside chatting with the chickens always get off to a better start.

I hope this little article encourages more of my friends and readers to consider backyard chickens. A great mentoring resource, if you don’t have a friend with cluckers on your block, is AlbertaChickensEtc, an online community with over 20,000! Members in western Canada, all who have backyard chickens.

20% off Africa Sleeps Organic Shea Lotions

Organic Shea Lotion offerb

Fall is here, and winter is on its way. Time to nourish that skin!

Africa Sleeps is our little family business, providing organic, natural hair and bodycare products for children of African heritage. Until November 22, 2014, you can use this coupon…

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…to order any of our luscious organic shea butter lotions at 20% off. What a deal! the lotions are made from Canadian botanicals, and fairtrade shea butter from Ghana. I don’t know how our daughters (or their daddy, for that matter!) would get through the winter without it!

Happy shopping!

This is it: the new normal

For the last few months, our family has been running on adrenalin. Starting a new business (Pandosy Village Veterinary Hospital), constructing, hiring, and hitting the ground running… The entire process is exhausting, and precludes any other true focus in life. I’ve found myself taking a week to get back to Africa Sleeps customers’ emails (sorry!!) and barely seeing my friends (double sorry!!) Thank goodness Vulnerable Children has a team of people to keep it chugging along, because I totally neglected my charity for a couple of months.

I liken starting a family business to running with blinders on… Knowing chaos is happening around you, but still focussed on just getting across the finish line, hopefully intact. It’s been about six months of running like this, gasping for air, and knowing that the harder we work, the better off we will be in the long run.

You may be wondering where the kids have been in all this. Well, I’m actually very proud of Jason and I in the parenting department. We may have been subsisting on subpar nutrition, but our kids have not in any other way been worse for wear. (I, on the other hand, have put on fifteen pound and aged five years….) We’ve spent every minute that we aren’t working with the girls, and even homeschooled them during three months of the teachers strike. They are proud of the clinic, and love being with us there. They are good.

One other activity we’ve been thankful for in the last two months has been Jason and I’s tango lessons. For one hour a week, we don’t talk about work or the kids… In fact, we don’t talk at all. We just look into each other’s eyes, and I surrender to being led around the dance floor. It’s been key on keeping a connection during a time of great stress.

If I truly take a birds eye view, however, this actually was the sprinted end of a marathon. We hung a billboard three and a half years ago, at what was going to be our clinic location, and Jason’s veterinary contract wasn’t renewed. So he started loccuming and working far away from home. I was waiting and waiting for the clinic to open, so I could wind up my career at the college, and slow down our pace. We were in this holding pattern of working too much, bridging the time until the clinic opened, for three years. We never intended it that way! The building we were going into had stall after stall, and finally went bankrupt. So then we waited another year for our current location to be built. What was meant to be a short-term inconvenience for our family stretched to a couple of years… All towards the goal of living and working within a couple of city blocks, in our own business, run our own way.

Now, two months into opening… This is it. We are here. The building is built, the staff are great and working well, the word is getting out. I quit my professor job this spring (in a torrential way that wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t at the end of q marathon…) and am now totally self employed. The kids go to school three blocks from the house. Jason walks everywhere, including the five minutes to come home at lunch. My Africa Sleeps business is doing well, despite my shared focus, and my marketing efforts are paying off at the clinic and store.

It’s finally time to stop running.

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In the world of adoption, we talk about the “new normal.” This is when, after turbulent months, the family recalibrates and becomes, well, a functioning family again.

What does this new normal look like for our family? I’m still building the family business, and the attention I give it and Africa Sleeps determine their success. But running full stream isn’t appropriate, nor sustainable any more. So how much do I work? It’s been seven days a week… So is the new normal seven with some afternoons off? Or five?

What about blogging? What about meeting up with friends? How about that garden that was planted in the spring but left unattended for the latter half of the summer? Where and when I am going to travel? What amount of time can I reasonably set aside for Vulnerable Children, the work that brings me the most gratification, but no income? Shall I bake bread, or buy it? How much time should I spend saving money by cooking etc vs making money? Should I be spending energy and focus on losing the weight I gained in the last few months, or will that fade off as the stress subsides? What should my day look like? Should it be multitasking or setting one day aside for one business/charity?

In any case, it’s a time of change. And what that new normal looks like… Well, maybe I’ll have to blog about it in a month or two.

October Family Photo Album

It’s been a whirlwind month, as October usually is… But we find ourselves having more time for family and friends. Thank goodness, because I’ve felt like a social recluse for the last few months.
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Jason’s parents joined us for a week from Saskatchewan, I won tickets and took my friend M to a wine and appie tasting, Jason and I went back to my old Rotary Club to speak about natural pet health, our community welcomed home a new little boy from Ethiopia, the girls had a sleepover with their pseudo-cousin N, and Sugar and Spice and I have had many hours on the back deck reading Harry Potter as the leaves fall off the trees.

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The Road Not Taken

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

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Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

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And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

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