Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What a Gay, White, Jewish, Romanian, South African, Canadian, Emigrant thinks.

My father and his family fled Romania around the time of WWII. There is much talk right now about the world as it is today under the influence of Trump and Bannon as compared to that when it was under the influence of Hitler. Interestingly, articles appeared online today in response to calls for the UK to rescind it's invitation to Trump, or at least to prevent a meeting with the Queen, saying that if she could handle Nicolae Ceausescu, she can handle Trump. 

It hurts my brain to even start to muse on what I think. We laughed when he threw his name into the ring for US President, we laughed when he got the Republican ticket. Many aren't laughing now, but where were they when the US voted? How many voted for him but won't admit it? Does Gary Johnson now understand that his ridiculous insistence on running threw votes either way? Do we get it now that the anti-Vote doesn't work? 52% of eligible American voters did not vote. THAT! boggles the mind. I've always said to my Canadian friends: "Don't talk (complain) to me about Politics if you didn't vote".

I am no stranger to racism nor hate. I grew up in a predominantly racist country. I grew up sheltered from Apartheid and (thankfully) more liberal than most due in part to a European parent who didn't give a fuck and allowed Black people to eat at the table with us and sleep in our house when it was illegal. I was called bloody Jew and had the swastika painted on my school bag. Funnily enough I was never called Fag. I am both. I learned not to be affected by words. 
 
For a long time I struggled with the ways things were in South Africa. This post is not about that so I won't go into details but when I turned to a trusted mentor she told me to take notice of the things that were upsetting me, to pay attention to how they made me feel, not to be so arrogant as to pity anyone or anything that I knew only from my single perspective, and to realize that things are perfect the way they are. She told me to learn compassion, to learn to understand. She taught me to take a step back, detach and observe. 

I watch the News (I have no choice, Keith won't allow anything else), I read articles online, I scroll through Facebook and day by day Trump consumes every corner of these pieces that make up that part of my life. We had friends over for dinner on Saturday night and it was the first thing we discussed. It is rare that I ever make a political comment (I leave those to Keith) but it is becoming more and more difficult not to. It's starting to feel that I must speak up!

I have tried to live a non-judgemental life. This doesn't mean I don't judge; I'm human. It means I try to be as accepting as I can be without ever compromising my own sense of integrity. I am less politically correct than many of my Canadian friends; I think we can be too PC. Yet I am struggling as I realize that some of my Facebook friends are not who I thought they were as I see posts and shares in support of behaviour/actions/beliefs that I am unable to not-judge. Granted not one is a close friend and so I think to myself that I should just un-friend them yet don't because inherently I try to accept that not all beliefs are the same. I am generally confrontational and yet I can't bring myself to ask them why they agree/disagree because I am tired just reading, and engaging would require a lot more energy.

We are all being affected by this significant change in US Politics. But what strikes me the most is how it is dividing us and how it is uniting us. Trump's actions are extending far beyond his borders. It is forcing those of us that usually post pics of our meal to take notice of what is going on in the world and to pay attention. It is showing up prejudice and is it bringing out tolerance. 

I'll keep watching, unless of course I un-friend you. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

I (didn’t) fail(ed)


I am 284 posts short of meeting my goal of blogging for a year yet I don’t feel like I have failed. I ended my inaugural blog tonight one year ago with the words “Maybe this will be my own personal challenge and maybe this in itself will challenge me”. The latter part of this sentence was certainly true. I never wanted to be that person who had to write something every single day for the sake of writing and so it wasn’t long that I was running out of spectacular ideas to write about. It did challenge me and when I realized that I was more stressed about letting my “readers” down I knew I was writing for the wrong reasons.
 
Then I started writing birthday tributes to my friends but soon that also started to feel like a chore accompanied by guilt for writing about some and not others. When I received a notification that one of my 11 followers had deactivated their auto emails after the third or fourth tribute in a month I gave up.  It didn’t mean that those who got a tribute were more important than those that didn’t. The common lesson for me was reinforcement that when things become mundane, they lose their appeal. It is more about this than it is about finishing something I started.

I posted a video on Facebook a few months ago with the promise of a post. The message is simple; you should watch it (click here).  My sister worked hard, saved what she could, put a lot away towards retirement and died young. She left behind a lot of money and not enough of what I know she really wanted to do. 

“Look at the people who live to retire, to put those savings away. And they when they are 65 they don’t have any energy left”. 

Keith and I are different because we change it up constantly. We try new experiences (I get dragged along most of the time) and we take vacations with friends. Sometimes things cost more than we planned but we worry more about living now than saving for then. He has taught me that and for this I am always grateful (despite sometimes being frustrated). Next adventure starts April-2017. Watch this space.

My job involves a lot of travel and a few weeks ago I was flying back from a meeting. I am a frequent flier and so often get upgraded. This flight’s upgrade included a lie-flat bed. It’s a typical scene - sitting there watching the passengers walk by you and having them comment on your seat while they do. When we landed a family moved forward to disembark and the son of about 12 or 13 announced loudly “when I am world famous I will own this as my private plane”. I looked at him and thought to myself “be careful what you wish for”. 

“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end.  And the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or to dance while the music was being played.” 

When my life flashes in front of my eyes I want to have done enough cool shit to give myself a show.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Making a decision that is not about you

I read a very interesting article a while back entitled "I know you love me - now let me die". The article speaks about the ends we go to in today's world to prolong life, and often suffering. We have at our fingertips machines, technologies and medicines that can be used in a multitude of ways to prevent us from ageing, to make us look and feel better, to heal us from illness that was previously deadly, to make us live longer. When faced with a fatal disease, and I speak less from experience than from exposure, it seems that a will to live kicks in, both in the patient and in his or her circle of family and friends. In an earlier post I wrote entitled "Musings on death and dying" I wondered about the choices we have and the fears we face. 

When I was studying pharmacology at University we were told that the goal of chemotherapy in the treatment of Cancer was to kill the Cancer quicker than it killed the patient. This is certainly a dramatic over-simplification of the process and todays therapies are vastly different to those available when I was a student. I currently work in Oncology Clinical Research and so am continually exposed to novel and seemingly ground-breaking treatments working in ways that often could not have been envisaged or made possible twenty years ago. We can treat or cure many more diseases now than what we could before, and in 100 years they will say the same. But it is not always an easy path to choose. On more than one occasion someone has contacted me and asked for information about a treatment and I have said that while it may give a few more months, the end result is often the same but the path there can be vastly different depending on the choices made. 

I am not the authority. I speak less from experience than from exposure. 

My dogs are my children. They are my family. My life is made greater and fuller because of them. I sometimes struggle to fully grasp the impact they have on me, the unconditional love they offer freely, the naivety and simplicity in which they live and the joys that they experience in every smell and every treat. But their lives will always be shorter than ours; they are here as companions and teachers of love and letting go. And they get Cancer too. When Jessie got sick at 5 years old we decided to treat her with radiation because it was non-invasive; she had no side effects at all and she lived to almost 11. We still laugh at the underhanded methods of getting her in and out of the human treatment center (click on her name to read about it). Dexter was sick for about a month and we struggled to figure out what was wrong. On the day he was diagnosed with a brain tumour we let him go. 

In February, Troy got sick and was rushed to the emergency veterinary hospital for surgery. A tumour had perforated his bowel and he was suffering from sepsis. He spent almost a week in ICU but he recovered remarkably quickly and came home to rest and recuperate. Within a few weeks he was back to his old self, barking and rolling around on the grass. Two weeks ago he had a follow-up and they found another tumour. We ordered some specific tests to find out exactly what it was and decided to try oral chemotherapy. He started his first dose on Monday and within hours he was throwing up. After his second dose he stopped eating and just slept when he wasn't being sick. There wasn't even a hesitation in either of our minds that we would not subject him to one more tablet ever again. In fact tomorrow I may just bake him a chocolate cake, because chocolate is what he loves the most and because dogs don't eat chocolate so he doesn't get that (well sometimes he gets a little piece but only when he asks really nicely and only when nobody is looking). 

Just because we have the ability to treat, doesn't mean we should. Or should we? Troy currently has no clinical signs or symptoms of this tumour. Any symptoms he has experienced are as a direct result of me putting a tablet in his food. I put that tablet there to see if it will make the tumour shrink, or stop growing, so that I can have him longer than an undefined period. He knows nothing of this other than Sunday he was barking and rolling around on the grass and yesterday he was throwing up. By tonight he was back to his old self, symptom free and barking and rolling (this is what he does best).

Troy is 12 going on 13. These tablets are not going to cure him. I have no more control over his end date than I have over my own. He is an old man. He is a happy old man. He is not a sick old man. We choose to let him be. We choose to let him bark and roll around in the grass until he can't any more. We have no idea when that will be because this is how things are, and how they should be.

When he is done, it will be because it is his time, and not because we made him too sick to be a happy old man.

I hope the same would be afforded to me, if it were me.

42.81

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A letter to Christina via Hamlet

Dear Hamlet, please read this note to your mom as soon as you wake up tomorrow (I'll make it short because I know you have a busy day). Tell her that this has nothing to do with her birthday, because we decided not to celebrate them any more. This is just a hello message from a friend who wanted to say something and it just so happens to coincide with her birthday.

Dear Christina,

Despite my ragged park clothes you agreed to come over for dinner; you let me into the inner circle. You noticed when I lost Jessie and walked up to me one day with a card. I was barely a stranger but it's a testament to the kind person that you are. You are thoughtful and generous. I can never adequately explain how much it means to me that you have opened your home to me as if it were my own. 

It really is not possible for me to tell you in words how much your friendship means to me. If I have reciprocated a third of what you have given me, then I am happy. 

Thank you for always being there, for knowing when to ask if I am OK, for giving without any expectation and for making me laugh so much that it hurts. 400 what?

I leave you with these important words: "Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sounds like a boy"

Happy Birthday 

With all my love,

La

 42.80

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

No. More. Zoos

Humans really can be despicable. Much of our actions can be attributed to naiveté but there comes a point where we have no excuses anymore. I often give a talk where I speak of human experimentation done in the past that brought us to where we are today in terms of medical research. I caution those listening to me speak that we must put ourselves in the time and place of those conducting experiments that they thought were humane. I do not speak of crimes against humanity conducted under the guise of science. I speak of infecting a young girl with cowpox that resulted in the eradication of an epidemic and invention of the vaccine. I speak of countless surgeries performed on women without anaesthesia that allows many of us to benefit from specific treatments, using special tools, today. 

They didn't know better but we judge them based on what we know today. They probably did the same when they looked back in time, and there is little doubt that the same will be done of us. 

But. We. Know. Better. Now.

We do not need to stare at animals in the Zoo for our enjoyment. We do not need to hunt them for pleasure. We do not need Circuses. We are destroying our planet. We have eradicated species. And we just don't stop. 

I grew up in Africa. I grew up watching animals in their natural habitat. I grew up watching African animals in their natural habitat. I did not need to see Polar Bears in Africa. I have never seen one. I am absolutely OK with that. 

A magnificent animal died today because someone wasn't watching their child. It is not for me to decide whether that child's life was worth more than the animals. He* should not have been in that Zoo in the first place.  

We can learn from incredible National Geographic programmes today. We can travel to sanctuaries and watch them in their natural habitat. I do not discount the scores of people that rehabilitate and care for, and learn from the millions of creatures in captivity. I know that we can't just release those animals that won't survive in the wild. If you really need to see an animal in the flesh then become a game ranger or volunteer to wash oil off a penguin. 

Let's love these creatures more than we do the Selfie. Or the Celebrity. 



* Harambe
* The kid

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Friday, May 13, 2016

To Gabi. A Birthday Tribute.

Gabs, I bet you thought I had forgotten your birthday. I didn't, I was looking for these........

It's been a long time that we've been friends. and while we don't connect much because of distance I have the best memories of the times we spent together. I remember the meals at your home, the peppers you made on the stove and I still tell the story of you putting on lipstick in the ER with your back out because the doctor was so hot. 


You are one of the most genuine, kind people I know. You are beautiful inside and out. You have weathered so much and come so far. I admire and love you, even from a distance. 

Happy Birthday........sent with love and a touch of lipstick. 


42.79

To Nicki. A Birthday Tribute.


"The Faktors are coming back", they said. It was all anyone could talk about. 

I think the year was 1989 (could've been (probably was) 1988) and I was still relatively new to Carmel High School in Pretoria but most of my new friends had lived there all their life, and this very exciting creature and her family were returning to South Africa from Israel. We were all very excited. I wasn't quite sure why.

She returned and almost immediately re-integrated into the class as if she had always been there. I was more than intrigued. I was in love. A few months later I would be chasing her in the dark at Lapalala Wilderness Camp. 

It is absolutely impossible to write down all the memories I have of a friendship that has now spanned almost 30 years. When you move or emigrate, you make new friends. I did it when we moved from Pietersburg to Pretoria and again when I left South Africa for Canada. You lose touch with the ones that have known you, and who you know. It takes time to build new friendships. I am blessed because I have friends in Canada that I have known for maybe 3 or 4 years, who are worth 30 to me. I am thankful that somewhere in the world, are people that have experienced every part of my life alongside me.

Nicki and I never lost touch, but we drifted as we moved through new relationships, different countries, careers, boyfriends (me) and marriage/children (her). In 2014 I happened to be in San Francisco and we met up. I wrote about that here. It was a profoundly soul-satisfying day. 

Something happened that day that fused our re-connection that has been tethered ever since. 

A book arrives in the mail. A hand-written letter is sent. Hugs appear in my inbox exactly when I need them. Impromptu weekend visits occur. Long (and often funny) voice-mails are recorded. She is West. I am East. 

Thank you for loving me like you do. Thank you for millions of thoughts and memories and for the deep down inside feeling that I feel when I think of you. 

Happy Birthday Nix. To 30 more.

 42.78

Sunday, May 1, 2016

To Violet. A Birthday Tribute.

You almost ruined our friendship with your mom and dad. When we found out they were having you we seriously thought about un-friending them. We were having none of it. But we hung around for a while and watched her belly grow and then one day your mom asked us if we wanted to go for lunch at a new place on the corner of Parliament and Carlton. The conversation (over lunch) went like this:

Lawrence to Mima: "Why are you making that face?"
Mima to Lawrence: "I'm a little nauseated"
Keith to Mima: "You aren't eating much"
Mima to the table: "I'm in labour"

And a bunch of hours later you arrived.

I have to admit you haven't ruined our lives as much as I thought you may. You're cute, very friendly and you like to hang out at the HOP where we drink caesars. There really is no better feeling than having you snuggle in our arms, no funnier moment than each time you decide to poo on Keith, the look on your face when you see yourself in the mirror, your chucky-moments when you don't realise the camera is looking.










Unfortunately your mom and dad have done it again and find themselves harboring a womb-fugitive that may escape any day now. This time they've gone too far. We may need to reconsider their friendship. You, however, can stay.

Happy First Birthday little Goose. The world is a better place with you in it. 

42.77

To Andrew. A Birthday Tribute.

In continuation of my current year of birthday tributes, here's wishing Andrew the very happiest of birthdays, a fat kiss and a bit of dust.

The history of our friendship can actually be found in Stephan's post here but it wouldn't be fair to not add to it. Whenever I arrived at 18OC it was Andrew that greeted me at the door, hand outstretched to take my bag and soon after putting a drink in my hand or licorice and sour gums at my side. And when it was time to say goodbye he would always walk me to my car and wave in the rear view mirror as I drove off.

Andrew is a passionate guy, hes committed to what he does, dedicated to his family and friends and that has made him the successful person that he is today. He loves flying and planes and we have a shared appreciation for the (one and only) Concord.

I hope your birthday is filled with love and brings a year of health, happiness, and a visit to Toronto......where I'll be waiting with wine and food, a hug and a bit of dust.

 42.76

Saturday, April 30, 2016

To Thean. A Birthday Tribute.

I got a phone call from a friend who said that a friend of his had just moved to Toronto and asked if I would reach out. First I stalked his Facebook profile. Then I sent him a message. We met at a restaurant downtown for dinner and we realized that we actually did know each other from South Africa. We worked out at the same gym, though never spoke and he had apparently spent a night at our house, but not with me or Keith......

Thean is a happy guy. Often he messages me about something that he is excited about, be it a new car or a technological invention or a funky pizza place. He has a constant level of enthusiasm that amazes me. He's a glass half full. 

Because we both work from home, and he's always been close by, he has always been available for a coffee break and a quick stroll around the block with the dogs. Tyson, my Boxer, adores him and leaps up to say hi when Thean approaches from the West. 

I long gave up my partying days but every few months he convinces me to get out and get down. On those nights we dance, and scream, and throw back the polar bear shots and stumble home at some ungodly hour. On others we take in a midnight movie and stop for pita on the way home because they boys behind the counter are really cute.

We see things the same, and we see them differently but we have never clashed. He's always jetting off to some exotic location, but don't expect me to travel with him, he has the worst luck! To friendship, to enthusiasm, to a glass half full.

Veels geluk met jou verjaarsdag maaitjie!

42.75

Sunday, April 17, 2016

When a book touches you deeply, you stop

I have always been an avid reader. When I was a kid I used to spend a Saturday afternoon lying on the couch reading, and eating chips. I would take at least 4 or 5 books with me on any holiday. I vehemently resisted the transition to eBooks because I love the feel of paper, the weight of the book, dog-ears and coffee stains. I have re-read my favorite books so many times, and will continue to do so even though I know the stories well. 

Over the past few years I have struggled to sink my teeth into a really good book. For some reason I dislike anything that is recommended. I've started so many books and just left them because they didn't grab me. I think I have Reader's Block.

Until Sunday 6 March when I received a text message from my friend Jen. It went like this:
"I'm reading the best worst book of my life. So well written but so devastatingly sad."
"What's it called?"
"It's called..."
(I am not going to disclose that because I have recommended this book to some friends, because this blog is about one aspect of this book, and because I don't want to give the plot away. If you are one of those friends, stop reading now! Come back when you've finished the book.)

"I was up reading until 4:30am. I slept for 2 hrs, got up and read again. And then hit such a devastatingly sad part that I went back to sleep to cope with what I'd just read."

Tuesday 15 March
"I started the book. Struggling to follow whose who! But slowly reading."
"Be patient. It will all crystallize about 150 pages in."

Thursday 7 April
"OMG that book.....it's blog inspiring."
"What part are you at?"
"I'm almost done. But I feel like I should read it again"
"I could never read it again. Too heart breaking. And haunting. For a while I regretted reading it".
"It is. It's really upset me"


Thursday 14 April
"I finished the book. I'm devastated."
I was devastated because it was finished. I was devastated because I could feel the book, the story it told. It is truly one of the most spectacular books I have read in a long time. And as Jen said, it's one of the most devastatingly haunting ones too.

There were many parts that touched me. One aspect that the story deals with is suicide. I have one friend that managed to evade it, I have two that succumbed. And if the book weren't enough of a memory, last week I spoke to a friend who was on the phone with someone that had taken an overdose and kept her on the phone while calling 911 and waiting for help to arrive. 

I have never understood suicide. It is not something I believe I would ever consider. I have experienced depression and lived with a bipolar, borderline mother that threatened often but never followed through. I have thought it to be a cowardly act, and a brave one. I remember being told by my friend that evaded it that unless you can truly understand the welcoming solution that it offers during your darkest moment, you can never understand it. Google "suicide trance" and you may be offered some insight. In the book, one of the characters describes this trance and says "Once he had decided, he was fascinated by his own hopefulness, by how he could have saved himself years of sorrow by just ending it - he could have been his own savior. No law said he had to keep on living; his life was still his own to do with what he pleased. How had he not realized this in all these years? The choice now seemed obvious; the only question was why it had taken him so long." 

Of my two friends that succeeded in their attempts, one was likely a mistake. But it didn't make the loss any less traumatic. I happened to text him one night from a hotel room in Cape Town because I needed him to do something for me. His son responded to let me know that he had passed away. A friend confirmed what we suspected. We will never know the truth. I think of him often.
The second tried twice. The first time he threatened, and his wife called me to try to talk him down. I had just landed in Vancouver on a visit from South Africa to attend a wedding. I stood in line waiting for the customs officer to call me and told my friend to think of one thing; his children. I reminded him about what it felt like to not have my dad around. I knew why he wanted to do this, I could see the other side of the challenge. I knew he could survive it. But he didn't. And when his wife called me a few weeks later and I saw her number come up I knew he never would.

I am still sad today that they are gone. I don't think of them always, but I think of them often enough. I stand firm in my belief that there is more to life than this, that they are somewhere, doing something. That it makes sense. To me, it doesn't. Because it feels like they have missed out on so much. Maybe they haven't. It reminds me that time is short and unpredictable. It reminds me to stay present. To let go. To live and to enjoy.

I remember them. They touched my life. So did the book. It made me stop for a moment. It made me remember. This is for Ian and Nick. May it be peaceful, wherever you both are. 

42.74

Monday, April 4, 2016

#To #Petra. #A #Birthday #Tribute.

We were sitting outside on the porch enjoying the sun when this little girl, not more than 17 or so, skipped past us. She was holding a tiny puppy in her arms and I shouted out for her to come over so that I could see the dog. The girl was Petra, the dog was Ruby. A friendship slowly started. I work from home and there would be days that I would walk past the front door, that was always open in the summer, to find Petra and Ruby sitting outside on our step. Waiting for someone to appear. One night I opened the door to find a jar sitting there with the words "Eat me" on a post-it note. I wasn't sure if someone wanted me dead or not; turns out Petra was trying to feed us.

She's been stalking us ever since.

Petra enjoys the things that we love most, our dogs, good food (boy can she eat) and wine, and travel. And we have experienced all three with her over the past almost-decade. We have tried out amazing restaurants together, spent days at the park or the beach and visited Costa Rica, Chicago, Mexico and South Africa together. 

I have survived her laugh, falling asleep at the dinner table and her driving. We have laughed, a lot. She's a friend, she's beautiful, stylish and she always smiles. 

Happy Birthday Petra

(I'm not wearing a tie. Tsst.)


 42.73

Monday, March 28, 2016

Being pragmatic

My friend Carrie called me "pragmatic" this weekend. We were talking about interactions and how people communicate. It started with me asking (married) friends if they fight. We were sitting at the dinner table and chatting. Carrie said that I am a good listener, but I start off with "First, stop crying" and then move straight on to the facts without emotion. My mother used to tell me that I am not very sympathetic. But I think that I am both sympathetic and empathetic. I just don't melt down. Carrie learned early on in our friendship that we can argue, and that it will never affect the friendship. In fact it has made us understand each other, be more open, find it easier to turn to each other in need instead of think that one fight will be the end and that we can be so vastly different and so incredibly compatible.

I generally stay away from commenting on Facebook on politics or sensitive matters. I read posts and react to them but it is rare that I comment publicly. When I do, it's because I feel strongly about the subject, like the time that someone gave Keith a hard time when he posted about people that didn't want to swear the Canadian Citizenship Oath. Generally I say what I need to say, to the person I want to say it to.

When I was younger I was not as brave. But many experiences have taught me that it's actually pretty easy to confront someone with an opinion or idea as long as you are open to receiving it back. Over time I have found myself a lot more comfortable being confrontational, and less tolerant of today's passive-aggressive behaviour I see, especially on Facebook. Maybe confrontational is the wrong word; I'm communicative.

Social media has changed the world in such a big way; different to what I grew up with and no doubt more different to that my grandparents knew. When I was growing up we spoke among ourselves in a confined space. This happened in our homes, over the phone, at school, over dinner. Sometimes information would flow outwards from these conversations and sometimes it would flow back. But today there are few boundaries. There are constant talk shows with panels of people spewing forth their opinions, there are tweets and posts and statuses (stati?) and it is a simple thing like security settings that determine how far outward the information flows. 

When you come home from work, and experienced something on the bus that annoyed you, and post a comment about it on Facebook is it venting? Is it just being silly? Do you really think the man who spat near you on the sidewalk on you will read it and apologize? When he did it, why didn't you say something to him? Or do you just want your friends to know about your awful day and commiserate? Does it matter? Am I being too serious? Sometimes I am.

Last week, a Facebook friend posted multiple comments that I wondered at. It was not the first time he had posted about this specific person, the circumstances were different, but the sentiment was the same. As with so many posts, I read it and opined and moved on. But a specific comment made me stop, and I decided to ask him about the comment(s). Sure, I asked in the public forum, but I directed it to him in response to a public post. His response was immediately defensive. So I explained myself; that I would rather ask directly to understand than to post my own nondescript public comment that was actually directed at him but yet cryptically exposed to the world instead. There to gain public opinion but not the answer I seek. He said he understood. I'm not really sure he did, I think he was still pissed at me. But that's OK. 

Things are as they are. We live in this world that we adapt to and fit in to. I will continue to read the comments, mostly with amusement, but sometimes with a resulting comment of my own. If you are my friend then know that I will always say it to your face. If it's worth saying.

42.72

Monday, March 14, 2016

To Cherise. A Birthday Tribute.




Once upon a time there was a girl who lived in a flat in Glenhazel (I think) who was friendly with a boy from school. That boy met another boy with the same name and they became boyfriends. The boy introduced the boy with the same name to the girl. This was in 1992. They've been friends ever since.

The boy with the same name went to hang out at the girl's place. She lived with her sister (I think) and she had a dressing table in the lounge. The boy thought that was a little weird. The girl was a waitress at the Black Steer in Yeoville.  The boy was impressed, because the girl had her own credit card. She seemed to be quite grown up.

The girl decided to go to school and study computers and make something of herself. The boy knew she would be successful even though the girl always said she was not clever enough. Little did she know that she would become quite an expert in her field (to her constant denial) and a strong woman very much in control of her life and her future. The boy always admired that about her.

For a while the girl disappeared. She had gone to live in London. This made the boy sad.

He found a way to get her back many years later, by giving her cell phone number to his mother.

The girl and the boy have a friendship that spans more than 20 years. Through these years they have grown, shared, nourished, flourished, loved, cried, lived, lost. It is important to the boy to have people in his life to whom he can say "remember when?". The girl remembers. He does too.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY STINKY POO POO HEAD


42.71

Friday, March 11, 2016

To Olga. A Birthday Tribute.



One word comes to mind when I think of Olga and that is dependable. I know that it doesn't matter where she is, or what she is doing; if I need something, Olga will do it for me.

Our friendship started through Keith, and the more that they started spending time together, the more that I got to love her. She is a free spirit, a strong woman, a caring and loving friend. She will give you the shirt off her back, and her room in her house. I know she's done that. 

In 2010 Keith was turning 50 and I had planned a surprise trip to Amsterdam. I knew that he would like nothing better than to see Olga and of course she said she would meet us. Keith and I flew from Toronto to Chicago and after getting him settled in the lounge I met Olga and she followed me back to where we were sitting. She just sat down in front of him, he looked at her and you could see his brain was trying to compute but computer said No. It took about 5 seconds before he realized that his best friend was sitting right in front of him. It was a priceless moment.

One of my favorite memories is seeing Olga drive past in her little black car, with this huge Boerbull sitting in the back. All you could see was Diesel's head staring out the window. He was a beautiful gentle giant.

Thank you for years of friendship, we don't speak often and we are far away but when I need you, your voice is there. I love you. I don't know anyone that doesn't.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OLGARINA!

P.S. Remember what I said about you at the beginning of this post? I'm still waiting for copies of that TV show ;-)
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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

To Traci. A Birthday Tribute.


I honestly don't remember when we first met. My earliest memory of Traci is at her townhouse, her green car, checking out her living stuff and realizing that her neighbour and I were old friends. I think it was around the time that she and Ken were deciding on living together.  I can say for sure that we all approved. There are so many stories I could tell, so many moments and memories that I sit here struggling to write them all down.

If you look at our Facebook profiles you will see she has listed us as siblings. Traci has called me her brother for as long as I have known her. And treated me as good as my sister did when she was alive. 

Leaving South Africa was tough for so many reasons, but one of the hardest things we had to do was say goodbye to Ken and Traci. Not a week went by that we didn't see each other and when you move across continents and time zones it is not always easy to keep the connection. But despite the distance, there is always that moment when a silly email pops up in my inbox, or my phone beeps with a hello or a funny (rude) pic (at 3am) to remind me that she's not far away. 

Traci is the purest soul I know. She is kind, and beautiful, gentle and warm. I love her stories, her gestures, her mannerisms, her laugh. She has comforted me in crisis and she has walked with me when the world was speeding by and I needed to go slow. 

Happy Birthday Traci. You are truly loved. 

 


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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

To Mitch. A Birthday Tribute.

It must have been sometime in 2012 when I was walking my dogs through Cabbagetown that I happened by a guy walking his puppy. I know that we stopped to say hi because I had Tyson and wanted to start getting him socialized. Also, that's what you do in Cabbagetown. The encounter didn't last very long. Thereafter we would see that guy again but when he saw us approaching would cross to the other side of the road. Or stare straight ahead as we walked by. I was flabbergasted that anyone would not want to stop and relish in the enjoyment of an encounter with me and my dogs. I thought he was rude. He didn't even notice, he was busy training his own dog. Neither of us knew that before long we would be fast friends. 

Or that Keith and I would try to sell his house when he and Mima were on vacation.

It must be an age thing but I don't know these days how many of my friendships started. The people in my life are there, and feel like they always have been. The communication slowly improved through frequent encounters at Riverdale. Turned out the guy was actually pretty friendly. Soon we progressed from Maggie and Tyson's dads to Mitch and Lawrence. Before he knew it Keith was cooking dinner for a bunch of strangers and not long after we were brunching Sundays at the Hop. 

I have always joked loudly about not liking kids and when Mitch announced his intention on becoming a dad I threatened un-friending on Facebook. But I fell in love with his daughter. Who wouldn't?

Mitch is a solid guy. He's a good friend. He's my movie buddy. His door is always open and beer and food are always available. Chances are you would struggle to find yourself a nicer guy.

Happy Birthday dude.


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Saturday, February 20, 2016

To Stephan. A Birthday Tribute.

I've always traveled, both for work and pleasure. It must have been around 2004 when Keith told me to check out a friend of his' new guest house in Cape Town. I was used to hotels, having only stayed at a guest house once before and so with trepidation I booked myself in on my next monthly visit.

18 on Crox, named for its address at 18 Croxteth Rd, was newly opened and soon became my home away from home. I don't remember actually meeting Stephan and his partner Andrew for the first time, I am sure that we behaved with absolute professional courtesy. For about a minute. And I never stayed anywhere else again when I visited Cape Town.







Before long we were friends. I looked forward to every trip. My room was always ready for me, licorice and sour gums at the side of the bed, berry juice in the fridge. I would leave for work in the morning with ready-made protein shake in hand following a pot of fresh coffee. I would return from work and hang out in Stephan and Andrew's bedroom, with their dog Misha, usually eating something but always drinking. They worked incredibly hard to make the most beautiful, stylish guest house that was loved by anyone that stayed there.

Keith and I were so incredibly honoured to be a part of their marriage ceremony in 2006. We have all since move on; Keith and I to Canada and Stephan and Andrew to Spain. It's been a while since the four of us hung out together, but we are always in contact. Stephan is a beautiful man, who always makes me laugh, calls me affectionate names and sends me inappropriate messages.

I miss you, I miss the easy conversation, lying on your bed gossiping, talking for hours and moaning about our weight.

Happy Birthday my friend. May this year bring you only joy, happiness and health. And hopefully in the very near future a chance for a proper in-person hug.  I love you.
 
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

I not line, I lynn.

I woke up on a cold February morning. It was 5 months since I officially landed here as an emigrant, 4 months since Keith and the dogs had arrived and less than 3 months since moving in to our house in Cabbagetown.

I woke up to about 18 missed calls and as many text messages. I listened to my brother in law telling me to call urgently. I looked at the phone and as I dialled his number I mentally prepared myself to hear the news that my mother had died. It was an obvious conclusion to me. 

He answered, I asked what was wrong. He told my that my sister had passed away. I asked again, he repeated what he said the first time. I remember asking what had happened but my mind blanked out and I just put the phone down. This was not possible. I collapsed to the floor just as Keith came downstairs.

Friends of mine had the same reaction when they heard the news. They all thought it was my mother. Nobody ever expected the news to be of my sister. I was at the airport within hours, flew to Montreal, back to Toronto, to London, missed a flight to Paris. The weather was not on my side and I landed in Johannesburg hours before the funeral. I had cried the entire way there. Not one person had asked me if I was OK. 

I lost my baby sister 7 years ago today. 

We were born less than two years apart and as kids we behaved as any siblings do. We played together and we fought. I performed many surgeries on her dolls and she threw my toy cars away. We shared some friends and not others. We grew older but never apart. When I left for University our relationship matured. Everyone always thought I was the clever one but she was smart. She graduated top of her class in Criminology and Political Science at an Afrikaans University and was studying patent law when she died. She loved journalism and wrote for various papers and magazines. When she was dating her future husband she would stay at my house in Johanneburg and I remember her coming home one night to find a house full of students, having partaken in substances not to be mentioned in writing, following an evening of ritual and tradition. She just sat there and watched us. She took it all in. Then she wrote about it. Her words were haunting, insightful and beautiful. They will be mine, and mine only for the rest of my life. 

Carolyn had a spectacular imagination and sense of humour. As a kid she had her imaginary friends Geena and Peena. Maybe the weren't that imaginary. As an adult she had Dubrovski Urinovski 94-triple777-48. She would launch into her Russian accent and accuse us of all kinds of sabotage, and declar war on her adversaries. She would leave threatening voicemails. I wish I had saved them. She created an alter ego to deal with her mother-in-law that had us all in hysterics.  She would remain firmly routed in each character, only letting Carolyn back in on her own terms. She sang, she laughed, she spoke at the top of her voice, she was always present. She was so funny. 

My sister was the fat kid. She struggled with eating problems and weight gain. She struggled with all kinds of medical conditions that accompany obesity. Despite that she found love, she made friends, she excelled at her career. But a long life was never meant for her to be. Her body could not handle the abuse. 

We spoke every single day. She was the ying to my yang. We grew up alone and together. I still hear her voice. 

I miss her every single day. 

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Don't talk to me

My mother had a tumultuous relationship with her own mother. I am not sure I know the true details of this relationship as most of what my mom says has to be taken with a heap full of salt.  Truth is, my mother has little relationship with anyone she knows.

For some reason my grandmother didn't like my father. I think she thought he wasn't good enough, but frankly it turns out that she and my mother are one and the same, and so by this one can infer that my grandmother wasn't that good at relationships either. Needless to say there was a long period when neither my mother nor father spoke to my grandmother.

My parents did not want their issues to spill over to any relationship my sister and I had with my grandparents and so we would be dropped off at their place to play, and picked up at a mutually convenient time. My parents never came in, my grandparents never went out. It was a veritable Chinese wall.

The relationship between my mother and grandmother improved only slightly after my father died but suddenly, and without any clear reason, they reconciled. And my grandmother died six months later. My mother, always looking for a reason to be depressed, found solace in the guilt that she and her mom had not come together sooner. She mourned the lost time and the things unsaid.

I have a friend who has a grandmother that I believe she is close to, who won't speak to her. She's elderly and dying. My friend exposed a family member for things that should not have been done. But she exposed the golden child, and by so doing she alienated herself from her family at a time when she would want to be a part of them the most. I don't know the whole story, or the history. and I may have my facts a little mixed but the essence is true. I've told her to storm her grandmother's hospital room because this is not only about her. Because she needs to be able to say goodbye. Because when she's gone it won't matter that she didn't want to speak to her. Because blood is thicker.

I have a friend who left the man she was married to because he was not a very nice man at all. She tried very hard to put up with him, with his selfishness, abusive mouth and his nasty mother. I say this confidently because I witnessed each of these behaviors myself. She left him because she wanted to be free. And happy. It took time and a great deal of courage. And when she refused to accept ultimatums and money to forgive and forget, he took everything that he could. He took her belongings. He took her friends. And he took their children. Nobody is perfect. There are always three sides to a story. But there is never a valid excuse to poison children against a parent. My friend is one of the strongest people I know. And she longs for the kids that will have nothing to do with her. Kids that are too young to understand, too innocent to be told that the things their father did - the other side. And when I lash out at him she tells me to let it go. Because she has no hatred, because she is only open to love. Because she will learn from this. And because she will be there when her children need her.

Keith didn't speak to his father for many years. He wasn't there when his dad died. It was his choice not to speak to him and he had his reasons. I know what they are and I understand them. This is the opposite side of the coin.

Is it different when we choose, as adults, to sever a relationship? Will we still regret it, when that decision is made on our behalf, when we are too young to understand for ourselves? Can we make up for lost time?

People have come into and moved out of my life. There are people that I was so close to we spoke every day, that I have forgotten about. Some drifted away, some were severed. None of these were blood but each was my choice. A few years ago I wrote about the family bond. Maybe blood shouldn't dictate or mandate any form of relationship. I don't know.

But what I do know, is that the choice should never be made on your behalf.


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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Guest Post by my friend Jennifer


“That doesn’t count as a blog post,” I tell him.
“Pardon?” He asks.
“That thing you posted last night.  That “happily ever after” nonsense.  It doesn’t count as a blog post.”
“Well then why don’t you write me a guest blog post?” He challenges me.
And so I am.
* * * * *
1995
University College
University of Toronto
Downtown Toronto, Ontario
Canada
I am in my third year of my undergraduate degree.  This thing called “email” is brand spanking new.  There is no internet en masse as we know it today.  There is no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram.  There are cell phones, but they are the size of a lunch box and prohibitively expensive.  When I listen to music on my commute to and from school, it is using a yellow Sony Walkman accompanied by a bag full of cassette tapes.  When I leave home, there is no getting in contact with me unless I used a pay phone (remember those?!?) to call home and check the messages on my answering machine. 
This is the state of life, this is the state of technology, or lack thereof, when I am “introduced” to Lawrence Reiter.
As with all of my best friendships, I do not remember exactly when or how our introduction came about.  I do recall that a South African friend from high school had a cousin who lived in South Africa and Lawrence was “friends” with her cousin.  Kind of like how Ernie and Bert are “friends” on Sesame Street….  But I digress….

I had just received my first email account in 1995.  Very few people had email in 1995.  I received my email account through school and somehow or other I was given Lawrence’s email account information (or was he given mine) and we started corresponding, me from Toronto and him in South Africa.  There was the huge time difference to contend with and responses most certainly were not instantaneous (How could they be?  There was the torturous process of dial up internet to deal with….) but somehow from this new technology a beautiful courtship was born.
Or so I believed. 
These were the days before Match.com and Plenty of Fish.  The most “advanced” technology in dating at the time was in the form of “tele-personals” where you’d dial a phone number, listen to recorded messages and decide if you wanted to leave a message in return.  <Shudder>  These were the good old days where you actually MET people, IN PERSON, and decided based on that IN PERSON meeting whether you wanted to date them. 
So I was quite enchanted when my friend gave me Lawrence’s contact information (or did she give him mine?) and, suffering from the delusional belief that we were being set up to live happily ever after, we exchanged emails.  Being young and naïve, I didn’t find it creepy that he was constantly in a laboratory at all hours of the day and night checking in on his “cultures”. We got to know each other.  As much as you can know someone you have never met, never spoken with, who lives at the opposite end of the world, in a completely different time zone and who is not, as it turns out, completely honest about the minor details of his life.  Like the fact that he prefers cock.  But again I digress…..
What I wouldn’t do to have those emails today.

Eventually, the day came when, miracle of miracles, my beloved Lawrence, my future Jewish doctor husband was coming to Toronto to meet me!  It would be love at first site, we would consummate our intentions and I would finally, finally, live my happily ever after.
You can all stop laughing now.

* * * * *
It is 2008.
Downtown Toronto, Ontario
Canada.
Winter.
Snowstorm.
My second marriage.
My first child.
Lawrence is in Toronto. 
He is moving here.
We are driving around with my infant daughter in the Volvo Lawrence had just licked scouting out different parts of the city for he and Keith and their fur babies to live.
A few months later, the big move takes place.
And we all find our happily ever after.  


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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

To Tracy. A Birthday Tribute.

Yesterday I wrote about not having anything to say, and today I not only had an idea for a post, but it also happens to be a birthday and that requires a tribute!

I don't know how long I've known Tracy for. I know that my dad was alive when we used to visit them in Johannesburg so it's way more than 30 years. My mother claimed that Tracy's dad was a cousin but I called him Uncle Farnol. Tracy's mom knew my dad's first wife Pearl who I previously wrote about. They were best friends. We go back a very long way.

For a few years we lived in a small town about two hours north of Johannesburg. When we visited we would often stay at Tracy's house. We loved it there! Tracy and her sister used to spend time with us, play games, and if I remember correctly we ate Nutella which we couldn't get in Pietersburg.

We drifted in and out of each other's lives. Tracy and her sister were older than us and I am sure that at some point we became those annoying young kids who weren't much fun to be around. I do remember once looking at her sister and boyfriend and thinking "wow, they sure are cool". Later on during University I remember hanging out with her (pic below at Uncle Farnol's birthday) and then life happened, and I emigrated and we lost touch. A few years ago we connected on Facebook; I think it was through a mutual friend. It was a surprise to see her name pop up and one of us messaged the other. We have since spent time catching up via email/message.

Happy Birthday Tracy. We may not be of blood, but you are family. I love you and I wish you the healthiest, happiest year ahead!

(P.S. Yes Mandy - if you are reading this, that's your waistcoat. Yes I stole it).

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Becoming weary

I chatted to a friend today who is a writer. A real one. Nicki gets paid to write and has been published in the Huffington Post and New York Times, among others. I love her honest, beautiful writing and she inspired me to write more. She told me today that she has writers block and that it's pretty frustrating. I told her that I felt like a bit of a fraud saying the same thing but it's the truth. I have nothing to say.

I've said this before, when I first started blogging way back in 2008, that I would only write when I had something relevant to say. And I did. And sometimes months would pass. When I did write people would tell me to write more. Setting myself this challenge for the year was easy and I've pretty much stuck to it for 60 days, even when I was on vacation. But there is only so much I can say about my childhood, or my mother, or how I feel about butternut (I love it) and babies. I've been keeping a list of things I should write about and generally I am able to put something interesting together. But lately I've been struggling, and so I resorted to publishing some of my old high school poetry or rambling on about something that was crap (according to Keith). I like it. I like that what I say will be preserved in cyberspace for a long time. I like that things I wrote 20 years ago, some of which was published in a school yearbook, is remembered. But when you do it every single day, it becomes routine. And that defeats the reason why I set myself this challenge in the first place. 

I worry about letting myself down. I don't want to let you down. I've received such wonderful feedback to some of the things Ive written about. But even those have waned, because you can only take so much and life is busy for us all. Nicki said to me "Sometimes you want to take a break, give people something to want. Something to look forward to". 

This process in itself is a lesson for me. This is about setting goals, and sticking to promises, and learning to adjust as you go, and setting expectations, and meeting them, and not meeting them. It's about holding on, and letting go. This simple task is about so much more than I ever thought. And yet it's also not.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Three

I missed the past few days on purpose. They say that things happen in threes, usually bad ones if you belong to a superstitious Jewish family like mine. According to Pagan or Wiccan belief anything you do comes back to you threefold. I've been traveling the past few days, mostly for work, but a little for pleasure. Three kinds.  

For someone that claims to not like children I sure am finding myself surrounded by them. And I've come to realize that I am actually quite comfortable around them. I met Ivy in Los Angeles. She's a bundle of joy with the most gorgeous full head of hair. And she smiles. We hung out and chatted over a burrito in Rondondo. 

In Vancouver I met Ian. He's a gorgeous Irish redhead who sat in my lap, held my fingers tight and stared at me. He let out the biggest, deepest sigh. The kind that Tyson makes when he is just so relaxed. He camped out in my arms while his mom and I caught up on life. Olivia, the greyhound, observed quietly from her spot in front of the fireplace. 

Tyson (my Boxer) has a rather large family. Frankly I'm jealous given my sad history and so I live vicariously through him as a member of his family Facebook group. Sometimes I can't keep up with the posts, comments, and invitations to family gatherings. By chance I fell in love with a little girl named Kaija who is the image of Tyson. Her pictures could be of him. She does the same things he does. And so it was inevitable that his mom and I became Facebook friends. When I learned that her human husband's name is Tyson and her favourite food is wine I knew it was meant to be. Turns out Kaija is Tysons niece. I arrived at Kaija's house and knocked on the door. It opened and I was greeted by a whole lot of crazy. I was in love. We hugged, we played, I bit her cheeks, she nipped at me and brought me her ball. We drank champagne and wine, ate oysters, risotto and home made sauerkraut. We had never met before but we hung out in the kitchen talking non-stop like old friends. 

Tonight I went to Merle's place for Shabbos.  I always see them when I am in Vancouver. We've been friends for so long that I don't remember how we met. She has twins and I believe it is my job to spoil them. Our text messages back and forth about the difference between what they want and what they need could start a comedy gig. Finally we agreed that I would take the kids to a toy store and they could pick out something they wanted. They did. We broke the rules (nothing needing batteries, nothing over $5) and we went home to build and play with our toys. We had Shabbat dinner, with a friend I have not seen since Merle's wedding in 2003. We laughed that we couldn't even remember the year. We hung out and played and caught up and though we don't see eachother often, it's like we are always together. 

Dogs make the best friends. And dogs make the best friends. Get it?

I played with some babies, I met old and new friends, and I loved up a beautiful Boxer. 

Keith tells me that sometimes my posts are crap. This one may just be one of those but that's OK. These three things have made the last three days so much fun and totally rewarding. 

Sometimes life is just that simple. Simple enough to write about it. 

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Making babies

There are two common questions any (gay) couple is asked; first is "when are you getting married?", and the second is "will you have / do you want children?".

This post is about question number 2.

I had never given too much thought to having kids; for me it was an aspect of straight life that I didn't see me being a part of. I think however that if I were to have children I could be a decent father. At some point in my life I did ponder what it may mean to have children. This may have coincided with many of my friends suddenly becoming parents but frankly I don't really remember. What I realized at the time was that if I were ever to have children of my own that I would want them to be biologically mine. That immediately ruled out adoption. It occurred to me that the reason for me wanting children was quite selfish. If I were to have any, it would be to continue my line, my name, my genetics and to give me an opportunity to part way with my knowledge and experience. And be remembered. 

I am the end of my name, my sister didn't have any kids and even if she did they would not have been Reiters. I have no other siblings, no cousins. My mother was the last of hers too. Does it matter? 

I considered too that the world is filled with children in need of a home and that having one of my own for the sake of it was not that critical. I wondered about bringing a child in to a world where so many existed without a loving home. I mourned the only desire I did have, to experience that feeling of holding your newborn in your arms for the first time. 

I have a friend that used to continually remind me that I would never know the love of a child if I didn't have my own. This may be true. Yet I know what it is like to look after someone that is wholly dependent on you, to love them with all your heart, lie awake watching them breathe when they are sick. Many do not understand it, but even more do. And unlike children, to live with the knowledge that you will have to say goodbye. Because our fur children don't live forever. 

I hear that parenting can be the most rewarding experience, ones greatest achievement. But from the outside I also see the emotional drain, the frustrations, the inability to hold an uninterrupted adult conversation and the huge change of priorities. The older I get, the more selfish I am with my life and my time. I enjoy being able to determine my own time, to come and go as I please, to vacation when and where I want, to be quiet when I need to be quiet. Am I missing out?

If it weren't for me, my mother could possibly be homeless. She has depended on me for most of my life. I have supported her financially since I was in my teens. I resented her for this for a very long time. I wanted a mother like my friends had. One that took an interest in my life, that met me for lunch, that I did not have to parent. Have I resisted the idea of children because I felt like I already had one? 

I worry about growing old, being alone and not having someone to look after me or stand at my bedside at the end to say goodbye. But that is not a reason to have kids, nor any guarantee that they would do it. 

Straight couples choose not to have children. Gay couples are having kids of their own. Adoption allows for multi-cultural family units. And soon the only question we may be asked is "when are you getting a dog?"

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