My heart in the hospital

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There’s an old expression that says your children are like your heart, walking around outside of your body. Every time we end up in the emergency ward, that’s exactly how I feel.

This time, Spice slammed her finger in the gate, and has likely broken her finger as well as detached the nail from the nail bed. It was incredibly painful, and even with high doses of painkillers, she couldn’t stop crying.

There were a lot more serious times… Like when she had a seizure and we had to spend the night, and when she had Bell’s palsy. Oh, and wait… We can’t forget when she broke her collarbone at three years old. That was just horrible. The other two were much scarier… Because we didn’t know what was going on. But seeing your child in pain, and not being able to make it better, is a killer.

I don’t know why it is always her and never her sister. Not that I wish it on her sister! But the poor thing does seem to be way too familiar with the hospital beds and IVs.

I know quite a few of my friends have much more serious medical challenges to deal with, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a child go through multiple surgeries, or be in and out of emergency all the time. A couple of times a year is plenty for me.

I don’t think that you can love anyone as much as your own child. When they are hurting, it’s physically painful for you too. There is nothing in the world that you want to do more than to make them feel better, and take away their pain. Whenit’s appropriate, I can bring out the mama bear and advocate like tech form my kids. This waiting passively by, however; it’s much harder. We’ve been in the hospital four hours, and soon they will put her out, under anesthetic, so they can operate on her hand. And there isn’t anything I can do.

My heart will be getting her finger back together, and I will be cuddling my other heart in the waiting room.

Emergency. This really is one of the hardest things about being a mother.

Family Forest Fun: Bishangari Lodge at Lake Langano

In February 2014, we took our daughters back to Ethiopia for the first time, since their adoption in 2009. This is one of many blog posts we have written about our family’s homeland trip. I also go to Ethiopia every year with our charity, Vulnerable Children Society, so there are additional blogposts from my trips to Ethiopia to enjoy!

We had four lovely days at Bishangari Lodge at Lake Langano. There is lots to do at the lodge, nestled in the ecological reserve. When our daughters told us their priorities for their first trip back to Ethiopia, second on the list was to spend some time in the bush. We returned to the cabins we had visited five years before, when the girls were three years old.

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The girls and I went horseback riding the first full day we were there… And had a blast. These are literally the largest horses in Ethiopia… I don’t think I’ve ever seen larger ones. So I actually felt comfortable riding on one without killing it. We walked through the woods and the fields, causing to stop and chat with some of the locals. There were amazing birds to see, and it was just lovely to have that quiet time we’ve from the city.

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Back five years ago, the girls were terrified of the warthogs, and found the baboons amusing. Jason actually was grateful to the warthogs, because the only time the girls would come to him back then was if they were more afraid of the warthogs in the bush, than they were of daddy. The first time he really got to hold them was when he was “rescuing” them from warthogs.

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This time, they were delighted by the warthogs, and we spent several hours stalking them in the bush to take pictures. They are so neat, as they graze on their knees and the little ones follow them through the grasses.

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The girls were slightly afraid of the baboons, as the baboons have become a little bit more aggressive. Perhaps a lot more reasonable feelings around the wild animals! One time, Jason and Sugar had going off for a walk, leaving Spice in the hammock outside our cabin and me inside. I came out of the bathroom to hear “mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” I looked outside and saw the hammock rolled up into a sausage, and three baboons sitting around on all sides of the hammock. I chased them away with a stick and pulled my quivering, scared daughter out of the hammock and into the cabin. The poor thing. Another time, a big male actually came after Jason, growling and aggressive. I am told that the baboons are over populating, and the forestry service occasionally “removes ” a few of them.

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The girls spend copious amounts of time in the water, swimming and splashing around, and building castles and other architectural masterpieces on the beach.

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My parents went a little over the deep end birding… And took my husband with them. There were some Brits at the lodge, who had come specifically for the birding… They saw 120 species in one day, and a total of 190 in two days. We didn’t see as many as that… We aren’t so serious about the birds. But with a little guidebook and a little help from the Brits, we still saw enumerable amounts of birds. They came in all shapes and sizes, and you didn’t have to hunt for them very much. Just sit on a lounge chair by the beach, and 30 some odd different birds would fly or walk by. Just up into the bush, and you could hear their calls in the trees, and see them printing from branch to branch. It’s quite amazing. Even if you are not into birds, can’t help but be amazed by the variety of wildlife at Langano.

The only downside to our trip was that I got very sick the third day. I actually have never been sick like that in Ethiopia… And was grateful that I had a private cabin, with a private bathroom, to be miserable in. I didn’t leave bed for 30 hours straight. That was sick!

But there is a silver lining to everything, and because of my absence, Jason actually went with the girls horseback riding on the third day. I still have never seen him on a horse to this day! But there is photographic proof that this actually happened.

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To any families that enjoy wild places and peace and quiet, I can’t recommend Bishangari Lodge at Langano enough. The service is amazing… The people are super nice and accommodating. The food is good, and the cabins are delightful. Simple, but clean and amazingly privately situated. There are few wild places left in Ethiopia… And this is an amazing, safe, and family-friendly way to experience a real Ethiopian forest.

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Home Cold Remedies

Every family has their go-to home remedies for colds, and our family is no exception!

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When I was little girl growing up in the north, my parents would always give us warm chicken noodle soup, the kind made of powdered stock and dehydrated noodles, and copious amounts of orange juice. My father also tortured me by rubbing our chests and noses with vapor rub, full of Eucalyptus.

Then, as a teenager, I lived in Germany. My host mother Nanne had a different formula: smelling eucalyptus oil on a tissue or on our pillows, going into the sauna to release the sinuses, and a shot of schnapps to soothe the throat. And yes, even the six-year-old got the shot of schnapps. I think it probably put him to sleep as well.

Around our house, we rely on herbal remedies and soup as well. Our go-to soup is full of lemongrass and chillies, with a coconut base. Have you guessed it? It’s Thai Tom Ka Gai soup. This tradition started when I was sick, and my husband couldn’t/wouldn’t cook enough to make me chicken noodle soup. So we started getting Thai soup as takeout, and the tradition has stuck ever since.

When the girls are under the weather, like Spice has been this week, I give them immune system boosting echinacea tea and ginseng pills. I have an immune system disorder, so unfortunately, I can’t take these helpful tools. But all of us can have good night tea, full of valerian and passionflower. That stuff puts you out like you were hit by a train.

We all have our favorite cough syrups… Jason and the girls get the horrid tasting Buckley’s. But it works, as they say.

I spread eucalyptus drops on pillows for enabling breathing, and we rub the girls’ chests with vapor rub, full of the same stuff. Amazingly, they don’t feel as tortured as we did by my father. Maybe we’re just a little more delicate rubbing it in.

Lastly, we have the best sinus clearing tool out there. When we were at a traditional Berber pharmacy in Morocco, we bought some nigella seeds from the pharmacist. All you do is put some seeds in a tissue and rub them in a ball in your palm until that oils are released. Then you take the big sniff of the nigella seeds… Wow! Sinuses cleared!

Oh, and I forgot one last thing. Usually we don’t have any kind of tissue around our house. But when the girls get very snivelly, I treat them to a little package of tissues of their choice. Somehow this encourages them to wipe instead of snivel. Which is one of my pet peeves.

I would love to hear what kind of home remedies you use, and where they came from!

 

Gratefully, gainfully unemployed

Today celebrates one week of being unemployed! as of a week ago, I’m no longer “Professor Arnica.” Last Friday, I quit my job teaching at the Okanagan College.

I’ll be forever grateful for the many opportunities to teach and do research that I had there, and cherish the work with the many fantastic employees and students. But it was time to move on, and close that chapter.

I may indeed go back to teaching one day… But likely back to Masters degree students, as I did for Antioch University. For sure, I’ll continue to do research… Remember when I contemplated my ten year goals that ended in March, I hadn’t yet completed my doctorate? Well, that doctoral goal still is in the future, somewhere. When I wrote that post, little did I know that three weeks after my ten year goal deadline, I would be truly working for myself. 36 year old goal, complete!

It feels good! I have no regrets- like I said, I take many positive away. My most dominant emotion is relief. I’ve never quit anything before in my life… Not even my first marriage, which ended in a prolonged series of disasters, as I refused to give up. I don’t let go of things easily: this is one of my best traits, as well as my worse. Should I have quit a year ago? Probably… My health and sanity would have been in better shape. But I was clinging to what I liked about teaching, and clinging to the stability of a salary.

So now I’m unemployed.

What will I do with all my time, you may ask?

Well, that’s easy to answer. I’m building a veterinary hospital and pet store (soon to open in two months!) running my online hair and bodycare shop Africa Sleeps, parenting kids, running a household, etc….. no shortage of work!

Money will be really tight. That’s an understatement. Jason is loccuming now, but as soon as the clinic starts, the only income we will have is Africa Sleeps. A bit scary.

Besides being a little scared and a lot relieved, though, I’m feeling extremely grateful.

When I called my husband in tears, at the end of my rope, he had nothing but support for me. He threw financial worries to the wind, and told me to quit. There are few times I have loved him more. I felt unconditionally loved and supported.

And when I was still agonizing over the decision, my dear friend told me “don’t worry about losing your house… Your friends and family will take care of you. That’s what we are here for.”

And she is right. I felt so grateful in the moment… For her, and for my other wonderful family and friends. I felt blessed, and powerful enough to make a really hard decision.

With the support of my husband propping me up and the warmth of my friends and family around me, I’ve taken the leap. Now I’m gainfully, and gratefully, unemployed.

Finally! We have large sleep caps that fit the fro!

I’m so excited to announce that our store, Africa Sleeps, now has huge sleep caps! These amazing caps have a series of elastics inside that ruche the fabric, and provide an enormous amount of headroom for extensions, puffs and even big gorgeous fros!

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I’ve ordered just 100 as a trial, and they are already selling like bananas this morning. If you are interested in finding a cap for your child that stays on, looks fab, and fits free hair, check it out!

Thanks so much for supporting our family business!

 

Swapping Seeds for Spring Planting

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It’s that time again… Time to set up a cold frame, break out the cloche, or make a tiny green house in the window. Spring is here! And it is time to plant seeds.

Last year my goal was to grow tomatoes from scratch, and I was surprised at how easy it was. I have been saving seeds for two years, and sharing them back and forth with my best friend up north. Because she has a greenhouse, she actually plants earlier than I do, so I received this lovely package of seeds in the mail. All sorts of heritage varieties for me to try out! I also have some of my own tomato seeds sitting above the fridge from last year. Together, it should be a lot of beautiful things to grow.

I love it that she only sent me a few seeds of each… Because that’s all you need! Three cucumber seeds, two pepper seeds… I’ve never had much luck with peppers, so I think she is hedging her bets.

But the point is, you need so few seeds to grow so much food. Isn’t sharing the way to go?

If anyone has any heritage variety beans, peas, or spinach, or yellow zucchini that they want to send me… Please leave a comment below. And I will send you some tomato seeds back. (Yes, those ones that were sitting on my fridge all winter!)

Happy planting!

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Wine Wednesday: OMG, I Love Chablis

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There are few wines in the world that I enjoy more than Chablis. I think it’s no coincidence that it’s also one of my favourite wine villages.

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Let you take you back almost ten years… Jason and I were on our honeymoon. I had organized our wedding (the most smashing 1920s themed event!) and tasked Jason with our honeymoon plans. He plotted and planned, but three months before the wedding, let the cat out of the bag. For our three weeks together, we were going to visit the famous wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. But because we wanted to visit some of the world’s most famous châteaux, he needed help writing in French. You may or may not know this, but the majority of Burgundy, and all of Bordeaux, are private estates. That means that you can’t just walk up to the gates and ask for a tasting. We had to apply three months in advance, in writing, to see some of the chateaux.

Jason had picked the places that he wanted to see… He had researched the most innovative and respected château. No where on our list was Chablis… After all, it’s a bit of a cult following. But when we arrived in Paris to follow my dear old friend D out to her husband’s family château in Burgundy, life happened and she wasn’t able to host us after all.

We scrambled, using our wine guide and tourist guidebooks in a shadowy phone booth on the streets of Paris, until we found a little hotel in the very far north of Burgundy. It said in the guidebook “just five minutes north of the famous village of Chablis.”

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Little did we know that would be one of our favorite parts of the trip, and Chablis would forever hold a place in my heart. It’s a lovely little village, with the typical French market in the middle of town, stone houses with shutters closed against the summer heat, and a gorgeous little river running through the middle. I remember they were flowers on the streets, and wherever you went, whether it be the boulangerie or the patisserie, everyone was friendly and welcoming. It was my first experience of the French countryside, and I will never forget it.

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Our second day at the little hotel, we wondered into the village to buy some picnic lunch. I have an amazing memory for food, so I can tell you that we ate some baguette, tabouli, olives, and a local cheese.

After this quiet lunch, we wandered into town further and walked into a tiny storefront called William Fevre.

Of course at the time, we didn’t know that this was the most famous exporter from Chablis. We chatted with the man, who explained about the area’s steep little hills, and jagged limestone rocks that characterize the villages wine. He pointed out on a map the various cru, and we joyously tasted 9 different wines, each from one of the vineyards. It was amazing… Chablis all shares an overt mineralogy, caused by the limestone rocks in the vineyards. But there are nuances of different fruits, different flowers, and intensity. Meanwhile, we heard a man stomping around on the stairs and our guide mentioned that it was William himself. I was too nervous to ask to meet him… Today, I certainly would have been more bold!

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After buying two half bottles of this most delicious nectar, and stopping at one more winery storefront, we drove our rented VW Golf up the hillsides and into the vineyards. I remember walking about in the rocks, marveling at how anything could be grown here, much less the grapes that made this delicious wine.

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I hope you will enjoy an amazing bottle of Chablis. It is Chardonnay, but has none of that tropical bombastic nose that Chardonnay is known for in warmer climates. Here, it is restrained, and fresh. Dry, complex, and restrained. Serve it slightly chilled, with delicate white foods. I think of food in color… and Chablis is certainly amazing with the light gray of fresh oysters, or, with the paleness of eggs, as I had here for my lunch.

If you would like to enjoy your Chablis with the same delicious recipe, here is my egg salad recipe. Bon appétit!

Tarragon Egg Salad

Hard boil six eggs. Make sure that you don’t overcook them… I always heat the eggs up in cold water to boiling. Then I let them gently boil for five minutes, take them off the stove, and bathe in cold water.

Chill the eggs and peel them, then chop them up. In a little bowl, combine a third cup mayonnaise, with a teaspoon of seedy French mustard, a good pinch of sea salt, and a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon. Then gently mix the mayonnaise into the eggs.

Voila! Try this delicious simple lunch on a bed of spinach, crackers, or toast. It’s even better the second day, after a night in the fridge. Bon appétit!

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If you give a kid a box…

Don’t you love how creative children are? If the kids are asking what to do, I’ll often just plop down a bin of crafting supplies and they make the most random things. A stick, leaves and mud… A fairy kingdom! And a box… Well, you never know what a box will become….

What do kids need to know?

Rats, cats, and three wheat-free chocolate cakes

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Last weekend ended up as a five day driving marathon. The goal? A weekend away for mommy with her mommy friends. But to accomplish this, I had to arrange for babysitters. The closest candidates, since many of my friends were staying with me, and Gramma and Grandpa are in South America, were my sister and her hubbie over in Invermere!

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So our journey started on Wednesday, my birthday, with a surprise visit to my husband, who was working in Creston. He had repurchased a chocolate mousse cake for me, but honestly, it didn’t last past Monday. So we enjoyed my birthday, cake free, after scaring the bananas out of Jason. He didn’t know we were coming, and we coasted the car up to my parents’ house, where he was stating, out in the countryside. So when we banged on the door, he had a small heart attack. After he recovered from the shock of seeing us 500km from where we were supposed to be, we stayed up late playing battleship!

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The next day we were off to Invermere, but not without a stop in Cranbrook first. The girls’ oldest friends, also Ethiopian twins, live there. So we moms and kids had lovely visit in the kids’ school gymnasium.

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We arrived in Invermere, and the girls got busy right away making plans with their Uncle M. My considered sister, Ena, make me another chocolate wheat free cake… Yum!

After I left in the morning, I heard that they ate sushi, went to the lake, swam in the hot springs, played with their rats, played with their cats, made cupcakes, danced in the living room, played on the playground, coloured printouts of Ena’s new tatoo, ordered pizza, had a sleepover, etc…

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In the meanwhile, I drove to Silver Star, up by Vernon, for a weekend with my friends. We ate and walked and drank and talked… The usually mom stuff! And my buddy T, that you will recognize from our Ethiopian travels, made me the tastiest chocolate wheat free cake of all… I must get the recipe. I was feeling very loved!

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It was very relaxing… I was supposed to go to a baby shower on the Saturday, but my car actually got snowed in. So Sunday, we dug it out, and I skied down the hill and back to Revelstoke to pick up the girls. Auntie Ena and Uncle M obviously had a great time… But they also looked tired! He he

The things you do for a couple of days off… And totally worth it! The girls thought so too! Thanks Ena and M, for the fabulous babysitting… And thank you to Jason, Ena and T for the cakes!!

The road to Lake Langano

In February 2014, we took our daughters back to Ethiopia for the first time, since their adoption in 2009. This is one of many blog posts we have written about our family’s homeland trip. I also go to Ethiopia every year with our charity, Vulnerable Children Society, so there are additional blogposts from my trips to Ethiopia to enjoy!

I resume our travel blog …
… as we were heading south of Addis Ababa towards Lake Langano.

The best times in our lives, and certainly the best vacations, have been by ourselves in the bush somewhere. For our family of four, this started with our last trip to Langano. I think that is where we really started to become a family.

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Five years ago, when we picked the girls up, we had to stay in Addis and Adama most of the time. We were waiting for their visas and were city bound. However, as soon as their visas were announced, we heaved a huge sigh of relief, and headed out of town to Lake Langano.

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Now, five years later, we were heading down the same road… but with long legged girls writing in their journals in the backseat, and grandma and grandpa enthusiastically thumbing through a bird guide for Africa in the middle. I had time to look out the window, and simply enjoy the scenery.

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There is a huge difference in landscape and lifestyle between west and south of Addis. South of Addis, you enter the famous Rift Valley, one of the best locations for bird life in the world. Along with Langano, there are a series of famous lakes: Lake Awassa, and Lake Ziway. The land here too, here, is over farmed, but it is not done with the same density as west of Addis. The families own bigger farms, and you can see during harvest season bigger piles of wheat and teff. The trees becomes sparse, and the land is dry. There are less big ficus trees, but millions of shorter acacia trees.

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Our destination, Lake Langano, is the brown lake amongst the blue ones. It seems silly to be heading for the only brown lake in the area… Really, it is the color of milky English tea. But it’s one of the few lakes that doesn’t have bilharzia, so it is perfectly safe to swim. The girls do love swimming! The other attraction is the eco reserve on the south side of the lake. Last time we stayed at Bishangari Lodge, and we wanted to return to the same lodge, due to the eco reserve. Within that preserved forest, is one of the few intact ecosystems in the whole region. The cabins delightful… And the whole place is off the grid solar with compost generated methane cooking.

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As gorgeous as the lakes are, don’t expect much for tourist services in this area, on the road in. We did have a delicious vegetarian dish at the “Tourist Restaurant” in Lake Ziway. But except the eco-lodges, there really isn’t much to eat, sleep in, or do.

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A funny thing happened on the way into the lake.

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We had just turned off the highway and were heading down the dirt road, when we saw a bunch of camels. I looked around and didn’t see anybody who belonged to the camels, so I started taking a couple of pictures. Sure enough, three Southern tribesmen popped out of the bush and surrounded the front of the car. In angry voices they demanded payment for the camel pictures. I follow enough Amharic to understand the negotiation and they had settled on 10 birr as payment for the grievous affront.

One of the guys came around the side and stuck his arm in the window for the payment, muttering angrily at us. When I put the 10 birr in his hand, he gesturing wildly at my wallet and wanted some more. He scowled, he shouted! But the deal struck is a deal done, as far as I am concerned, so I lost my temper. I smacked him on the hand, and replied in a firm voice “bucka!”

He withdrew his hand, and we pressed on in the van. The girls were nervous at the time, but as soon as the van pulled away, they thought it was hilarious that I had smacked the hand of the tall, angry, Southern tribesman. I think the tribesman thought it was a little funny too, because amongst the anger in his eyes I saw a little bit of humour as we drove away.

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As we drew near the lodge along the dirt road, the evidence of wealth coming from this local employment was everywhere. The houses got nicer, the children looked healthier, and there were even obvious medical centres and schools. It was really nice to see the positive effects of this tourism industry. You can also see when local tourism is working well when there isn’t a lot of begging. The children were delighted to see a Farengi vehicle, as I’m sure they do several times today, but they didn’t shout “money!” But rather just waved and smiled. That’s a good sign of stable income and non-dependence on handouts. Again this is not everywhere in Ethiopia, so I really noticed it.

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When we stopped at the lodge, we were greeted by the gahri, horsecart, that trucked our bags over to the cabins. As soon as we got out of the van, you could just feel the pressure and the stress level of traveling go down. It was such a good idea…

After unpacking our bags in our cabin godjos, the girls immediately got into their swimsuits and headed for the beach. We all grabbed our books and binoculars, and set out in the sunset, watching the birds with wonder and anticipating a dinner of locally caught fish.… Heaven…

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Enjoy the pictures on our way down to the lake. I will post many more as the week goes by.

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Coming of age: Looking back at my 10 year goals

This week I celebrate my 37th birthday. It seems like an odd number, but it has real significance for me.

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When I was 26 years old, I was in the midst of a messy divorce, a new career, and a move to the middle of nowhere. It was a scary time in my life, and I had to come to terms with a lot of changes happening at once. Tools I’ve used to help me deal with overwhelming challenges are goals and plans.

So when I was 26 years old, I set out my 10 year plan.

#1 start a family
#2 get my PhD
#3 work exclusively for myself, as a consultant or business owner.

Those were my 10 year goals, and much of my life planning has centered around those priorities for me. So where am I am, 10 years later?

#1 Start a family. Well, that goal has been soundly accomplished. As of this summer, we will be the family for five years. I actually set the goal when I didn’t have a long term partner in mind; I had just met Jason and wasn’t planning on sticking with him, necessarily! But here we are almost 10 years later, him and I together, and we share our lives with the best two kids in the world.

#2 Get my PhD. Well I started off strong on this one. I actually had my Masters degree by the time I was 28. However, my PhD is unlikely to happen anytime in this decade. Other priorities got in the way, such as being with children, paying the bills, and starting our own business. Honestly, the years that we have waited to open our business and to complete our second adoption, have put off this and my goal to work for myself behind. I still plan on completing my PhD, but maybe not until our business is making enough money for me to be financially independent, ie: footloose and fancy free to spend the majority of my time reading, researching, and traveling.

#3 The third goal was for me to work exclusively for myself. Let’s get one thing straight… I am a good professor, and a very good teacher; I enjoy the students, research, and many of colleagues immensely. But I don’t generally like being supervised. I have had some great bosses along the way, that has made it much easier. But I much prefer to follow my passions, nurture my creativity, and push my own boundaries, instead of somebody else’s.

I will continue to teach and research over the next few years, but I still have this goal of my primary income coming from my own business, or businesses.

There are many things that I didn’t know about the last 10 years, when I started that decade of goals. For one thing, I didn’t know that at the ripe old age of 28, I would get a crippling disease. My rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis have had huge influence on my life… In ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I used to have super human amounts of energy; now I just have the energy of a normal person, and an overwhelming need for sleep.

I didn’t know how involved our lives would be in Ethiopia. It was always part of my planning to adopt children, but I didn’t know where from, and I certainly didn’t know that I would start a charity in the country of my children’s birth. Our entire family’s commitment and love of Ethiopia is one of those strange blessings that you never predict.

I never knew how much I would love my children… And what good friends we would become. I was never a person who wanted to be a teacher or hang around with little kids, so I have to admit that I have treated my children as “small people,” more than “just kids”. But in them, I have found a wonderful friendship. I also had no idea, on the flipside, how completely annoying and overwhelming children could be! I didn’t realize what massive time and resources, that we would choose to invest in our children and our family.

So what will the next 10 years bring? I think I am going to have to give this some thought. My ten year goals were very private, and only a few people knew them. But it didn’t mean that they didn’t influence my life, Jason and I’s life, constantly. The next decade will be that of a growing family. OMG, in 10 years, my daughters will be either heading off to university, art school, chef school, or backpacking across the world. That’s crazy to think about. The next 10 years will be investing in them and helping them become the compassionate, responsible, and adventurous people I hope they will become. But what for me? What for Jason? This is food for many discussions.

Luckily, we have our 10 year anniversary coming up soon. Maybe we will spend some honeymoon time and figure out these next 10 year goals together…

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