“Losing” Mini Me

I’ve been away from the blog for quite a while. I have had plenty of subjects that are worthy of a post, but some I am not comfortable sharing yet, and others were just not striking any deep resonance within me to write about. In a way this is good because it means nothing especially terrible has happened. Plenty of great memories have been made in the last six months, including a husband and wife trip to Spain and Italy, and a family trip to Philly, Stone Harbor, NJ, and NYC. At some point I’m sure I will post about these wanderlust travels. Today, I want to talk about our youngest son. My taller-than-me male duplicate. My mini me. 

Brennan turned 18 in June. He graduated from high school in May with his International Baccalaureate degree and a departmental award in History. He is such a bright kid. His book smarts far exceed mine. He loves to learn, and really enjoys physics and history. I am one proud mama. We must have done a few things right along the way because he has grown into a wonderful young man. We have been preparing him for this moment his whole life. I knew it was coming, but time goes too fast. On August 23rd, We moved him into his college dorm. I had to say goodbye to my little boy. My mini me. 

We have been fortunate because our eldest, Ethan, has been commuting to college while living at home. We still get to see him every day. We know where he is most of the time, and we know he is safe when he comes home at night. I knew It’d be hard when the first one left, I’m sure it will be hard when the second and third do, but you never really know how it will feel until they are gone. I tell myself we are lucky. This is a good event. a GREAT event. We succeeded, HE succeeded, but I miss my boy regardless. I miss my mini me. 

It is getting better day by day. I even go a few days without texting him now. I try to give him space. Space to grow, to learn, to thrive. The nights are the hardest. I think it’s because even if he were gone all day before, he always came home at night. I don’t know where he is, what he is doing, or if he made it back to his dorm at night anymore. I have to rely on what we have taught him, the decisions he makes, and God’s protection. Stay safe, my mini me. 

I love you, Brennan. This house will never be the same, but this world will be better because of you, and I’m proud to be a part of it. You be you, my gift from God. My mini me.

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Live. Love. Laugh…….and Handle With Care

Sometimes we forget. We forget that life is fragile. We forget that we need to seize every opportunity we can with those we love, because those moments are fleeting and can be gone in the blink of an eye.

Occasionally God gives us a little reminder. Something unexpected and sometimes tragic. A house lost to fire, a car accident, a serious illness in the family, a life taken too soon and without the chance to say goodbye. It is easy to take those we love for granted, to forget we have a gift that can be taken from us at any moment, and that what is here today may not be here tomorrow. We often forget that our blessings must be handled with care.

It is one thing that we all have in common. No one is immune. Even those of us who have had those reminders in the past will eventually fall into periods of ignorant bliss again. It is human nature. We will fall into comfortable denial, until we are once again reminded to appreciate what we have, and who we have in our lives. We are reminded to handle with care.

So what do we do?! Do we live in fear? Do we avoid risks at all costs? No! We live life to the fullest. We step out of our comfort zone and experience the world. We make amazing memories with those we love. We take every chance we get to spend time with friends and family. We never miss a chance to say “I love you.”  Never miss a chance to make a new friend, to reach out to an old friend, or to show kindness to someone we have never called “friend” before. We choose happiness and love. We choose to appreciate the wonders of this Earth, and enjoy them with others. We choose to find something  positive in even our darkest moments. We choose to embrace life, and do our best to live a life without regrets.

If there is one thing I have taught myself in life, one thing that has brought me the most happiness,  it is reminding myself of this:  Live. Love. Laugh……….and handle with care.

 

 

 

 

Into the Darkness for Dinner…….Memories of Shanghai

Original post: Saturday, October 25th, 2008, on a blog that no longer exists.

Last night we ate at a restaurant called “The Black Cafe” with our friends Andrea and Patrick. It is a restaurant geared towards allowing its patrons to step into the shoes of someone who is blind.

The first level is a bar called “The Visual Zone.” It has dim lighting, and is a comfy area to have a few drinks. It is also where you look at the menu, make your dinner selections, and stow your belongings in a locker, in anticipation of the mess you’re going to make eating in the dark. Once you have prepared yourself, you are led up a narrow and winding staircase to “The Dark Zone.”

When you arrive at the top of the stairs, you are introduced to your blind waiter or waitress, who leads you and your party choo-choo train style, through a dark curtain to your table. Each person is directed to their chair, and once all parties are seated, the waitress will tell you where each and every item on the table sits. Silverware, cups, water bottles, napkin. The meal is served as in every other restaurant, bread and drinks, salad, soup, main course, then dessert. Bill and Andrea had chosen the beef filet, Patrick and I, “the mystery meal.” Each course would be a surprise, but we were assured it consisted of items we had seen on the menu.

The evening consisted of plenty of feeling around the table and your plate. There was a water bottle and bread basket for Patrick and Andrea, and one for Bill and I. ” Is this our breadbasket?” “Where’s my beer?” “Oops, there wasn’t actually anything on my fork that time.” ” I’m trying to figure out if there is anything left on my plate.” “What are you handing me, Bill? Oh, another tomato…..I see that you can even sniff them out. No fooling you.”

The food was extremely tasty, and for those of you who are wondering, the mystery meal was the same as the others for the salad and soup, and the main course was a very pleasant surprise. Chicken, smoked ham, shrimp, beef filet with a convenient bone handle, veggies, and a potato. The only thing I couldn’t identify was in my salad, and may have been a mild piece of fish…….but I don’t want to know, nor think about it.

We adjusted to being in the dark, and even stayed around to chat after we finished our meal. Nothing was spilled, and they kindly supplied napkins that were much bigger than your average China napkin, which is usually a cocktail glass size, or tissue (literally). It was a great night, and we would do it again in a heartbeat. All in all, a great life experience!

Author’s note: Unfortunately, this restaurant has since closed for business.

 

What I learned from my Crohn’s Disease

Part III –  Repost for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Spread the word.  Share to increase awareness. There is hope!

As I have said before, I have Crohn’s Disease. It has been in remission for 12 years, but from a year after my diagnosis in 1998 to August 2002, it was like a wildfire reeking havoc on my body.

I spent three years, from the summer of 1999 after Brennan was born, until my major surgery in 2002, fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. It snuck up on me in little increments, and before I knew it had overtaken my body. Specifically, my large intestine. I was on a severely restricted diet, and took handfuls of medication and vitamins. I was constantly in doctor’s offices, or emergency rooms. I had raging fevers, higher than you would think a person could survive. Higher than the kind that send parents into panics. I had a racing heart, even at rest, lost partial vision in my eyes, and fought a staph infection in my leg for a week in the hospital. I never had the stomach pains that many people with Crohn’s do, but I probably spent more time in the bathroom than the average person will spend in their lives. My weight went down to 88 pounds.

In the end of December 1999, after spending the holidays (which are crazy busy during NORMAL circumstances) at my grandmother’s and Bill’s grandfather’s viewings and funerals, I got what appeared to be the flu. It went on for a week or so, and didn’t seem to be getting better. As lay down for a nap one day, I said a prayer. I asked God to give me a sign. To let me know if I should go to the doctor after the New Year, or if it would go away on its own. When I woke up, I had little insect bite-like bumps all over my body. I will never forget that moment. We are a quietly religious family. I have always been a believer, but this was a pivotal moment in my life, my belief, and love of God. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

I remember, sometime in the second or third year of my Crohn’s, being exhausted. Tired of the constant battle. Laying on the bed, getting ready for another nap. I, again, said a prayer. I asked if I would be feeling better the next day, and begged that I would. Within a minute or two, and I kid you not, the phone rang a strange double ring. It reminded me of the way my phone at work rang when I was getting an interoffice call. When I picked it up, it was an operator recording. “I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please hang up and try again later.” I ran downstairs and asked Bill, who was sitting on the couch, if he had heard the phone ring. He said yes, but didn’t notice the weird ring. Another moment I will never forget. I am still quietly religious, but much more so. I believe. No one could ever tell me otherwise.

I fought having the surgery to remove my colon for a long time. I was too young to have an Ostomy bag. I was only in my early 30’s. How could I deal with that for my entire life?! I finally gave in to myself, it was my choice. I wanted to be there for my boys, and I was just too ill to be the mom I wanted to be. When the surgeon went in for my pre-op colonoscopy, he couldn’t even complete it due to the swelling. I had put the procedure off, and if it had been done sooner I’m sure they would have told me how dire the circumstances were. I’m glad I made the decision myself prior to that. I’m glad that I did it for the love of my family. In the end, it would turn out to be so much more than that.

That surgery saved my life. Literally. It was that bad. I can now eat anything I want, I take no medication for Crohn’s, and am back to a more-than-healthy weight. And I am LIVING. Living a life I wouldn’t be, if not for said surgery. I am living a life I would not be, if not for Crohn’s Disease.

I have learned to appreciate the little things that so many take for granted. The blue sky, white clouds, green trees. The contrast between them, and the beauty of it. The breeze. The birds. The smell of fresh air.

I have learned not to take my family and friends for granted, and to catch myself when I think that I am. To take care of them, as they took care of me. To love them with everything I have. To look to them for strength when I need it, and to give strength and support to them when they do.

I have traveled farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would. If not for Crohn’s we would not have traveled abroad, adopted our daughter, or lived in China. Before Crohn’s my life was ruled by fear of the unknown. After Crohn’s, by the spirit of adventure, and a love of life.

I have walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood before the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors. I have trekked through the rainforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, and floated through the mangroves. I have basked in the hope of longevity from the waterfall of the Pure Water Temple in Kyoto, Japan, and walked the Nightingale floors of Nijo’s Castle. I have explored the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and traveled through the Mekong Delta. I have walked the beautiful beaches of Vietnam. I have zip-lined through the trees in Thailand, and fed an elephant bananas. Right into that giant mouth. I have been to the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, and I have stood in North Korea, in the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building.

Through my Crohn’s Disease I learned how to live. How to love. How to learn. But I’m not done. I have so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to love, thanks to my Crohn’s Disease.

Crazy Lucky

I am crazy lucky.

I have three beautiful, smart, kind, loving, funny, and sometimes difficult,  children. They talk back, whine, fight, and complain. They give, share, hug, snuggle, teach, laugh, and smile. I wouldn’t change a bit of it. God has blessed me with, and trusted me to raise, three of His creations. I am crazy lucky.

I have a handsome, loving, intelligent, thoughtful, goofy, gentlemanly,  and sometimes frustrating, husband. There are times I think he must have ear plugs in. He is moderately forgetful, and definitely procrastinates. He opens my car door, holds my hand, including when we go to sleep at night, and spoils me rotten on my birthday. I’ll take it all. God has blessed me with the most amazing man. I am crazy lucky.

Thirteen years ago, I was severely ill, but I cheated death.  I never even thought death was possible, until the threat was over. Crohn’s disease, as I discussed in a post earlier this year, tried to kill me. It failed miserably. It may have taken a few physical parts of me, but it GAVE me lessons that were far more important. Appreciation. Love. Insight, to live happy, and grateful. In fact, it gave me life. Although I will always have it, I have been in remission ever since. God blessed me with the opportunity to make the most of my life, and I do. I have a love of life that I never would have had, if not for Crohn’s disease.  I am crazy lucky.

My family and I have been given opportunities that many are not. Adventures that I would have never taken advantage of, before my illness. We lived in, and travelled all over, China for four years. We’ve had family vacations in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau. My children took week-long school trips. Camped on, and hiked, unrestored sections of the Great Wall to see the sunrise. Excavated archaeological sites in Gansu province for dinosaur, and dinosaur-aged, fossils, and brought them home in handfuls, wrapped in paper towels.  Swim meets in Taiwan, and drama workshops in Manila. Finally, a girls’ weekend in South Korea. The DMZ, palaces, Korean BBQ, shopping, and a show. Thirty-six hours for a friend and I, before we moved back to the U.S. I have friends all over the world, literally. God blessed us with experiences, relationships, and memories that we could have never imagined. I am crazy lucky.

The kids and I returned from China six months before Bill, as I had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. It is a myeloproliferarive disorder, called Essential Thrombocythemia. It causes high platelets,  and requires that I take a chemo pill every day. It will always require treatment. It does not go away. It is fairly controllable though, and it is only a pill or two, along with frequent blood tests. The chances I will live a normal life span are fairly high. So, once again, God has blessed me. I am crazy lucky.

I am not alone. We all have ups and downs in life. Illness. Death. Job loss. Weddings, new babies, or an unexpected promotion. We have good days, and bad. It is how we choose to deal with those times, and what we take away from them, that matters. I choose to live my life with gratitude and happiness. I try to be the best I can be, and enjoy my time on Earth with every part of my being. I love my life. God has blessed me in many ways. I am crazy lucky!

 

Shipwreck on Vacation

In the early morning light, my husband and I paddle our kayaks a mere 50 yards from the rocky shore of the vacation cottage we are sharing with our Canadian friends. The water is calm, the sky is blue with fluffy white clouds. We look down into the water to view the devastation of yesteryear. It’s ironic, that in such a beautiful place, where it seems so peaceful, there have been so many disasters.

The ship we are slowing circling, with great interest, is the “Cascaden.”  It went down during a gale in the year 1871, in the Cape Hurd area of Lake Huron. It had been minutes from its destination. A lighthouse, just around the corner, whose keeper and family were in dire straits. I pray they made it to shore. They were so close.

We have been vacationing for a week in Tobormory, Ontario, Canada. It is at the very tip of the Bruce Peninsula, sandwiched between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is a small, coastal town that is miles and miles from any other, and it is surrounded by God’s creations. The water is clearer than I’ve seen anywhere else, and the stony beaches, whiter. The contrasts in color are amazing. Jaw-dropping  gorgeous. I am in awe.  I am overwhelmed by the beauty and peace I feel here. At night, there are a millions stars visible in the dark sky. I could look up for hours.

We have seen two other shipwrecks, but there are thousands in these waters. The photo above is from the Canadian schooner named “Sweepstakes.”  It was damaged near Cove Island in 1885 while transporting coal, and towed to Big Tub Harbour. It was not repaired in time, and sunk. The other, a two-story passenger steamer, “The City of Grand Rapids,” sits just a few yards away. It  caught fire while docked in Little Tub Harbour in 1907, and was towed out of the harbour and released. It eventually drifted into Big Tub Harbour where it sits today.

I continue to feel the conflict between the beauty above the water, and the tragedy that sits below. I feel the shipwrecks take on a beauty of their own, proving a home, or shelter,  for life below the surface, but they didn’t start like that. That is not where they’re meant to be. Or is it?

 

The Lazy Days of Summer

It has been almost three weeks since I last posted, and I have thought about why that may be. In the end, all I can come up with is my mind is at rest, and my heart is full of peace.

I have slept in, and enjoying the quiet of my bedroom until far too late in the morning. If I don’t sleep in, than I wake up and read or watch a show before taking a mid-morning nap. I bring my breakfast back up to bed. The boys are still sleeping, and Carleigh is watching TV or texting with friends downstairs.  Very few of our quiet morning have been interrupted. Twice we have had birds randomly flying around inside the house. They seem to have found their way down the furnace vent. Not quietly, nor gracefully, but they have lived to see another day. I wonder if it was the same bird twice. If it was, he seems to have learned his lesson now.

In the afternoons, I drive Brennan to work, or to a friend’s house. He is enjoying a new social life this summer. It makes me happy for him. He recently bought a jigsaw puzzle, and as soon as he gets home, he calls me down to work on it with him. Special memories I’ll never forget. Carleigh spends time doing errands with me. We have had a few fun shopping days. We have seen a few movies. She has a friend who sometimes spends days at a time with us. They remind me of my childhood weekends with my best friend.

Both Carleigh and Brennan have spent time camping with family “up north,” as we say in Michigan, and have spent a few nights on grandma’s farm. We have had several lunches and a barbecue with my side of the family as well. I had a very good friend and her son visit us for a day. They are Australian, and we met in Shanghai, but they have also lived in the U.S. They were passing through on their summer travels. It was a wonderful day. My childhood best friend, who lives in the south, was here with her family for two days in June. It was like we were never apart. I love her so much.

We soon leave for a week with our Chinese-Canadian friends on our yearly trip. Another blessing that came along with living in Shanghai. Although we are heading to a different site this year, it will include sun, water, fresh breezes, and plenty of fun catching up.

Loving the lazy days of summer.

Centipedes, Spiders, and Slugs…..Oh My!

Centipedes, Spiders, and Slugs….Oh My!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bill and I have been looking into moving to an apartment when our lease is up in February. We have been fairly happy with the house we have been in, but among a number of other minor reasons, we are trying to get away from some of the bugs. It is very humid in Shanghai,  which proves to be a marvelous breeding environment for mosquitos. Every time we open a door or window, a multitude fly in. If we move to an apartment above the 5th or 6th floor, we will reduce the number of mosquitos that get into our home. This last summer, we slept with mosquito nets on our beds, and Raid plug-ins in each room. Bill would actually use bug spray when he woke up in the morning, so that he wouldn’t get eaten alive in our STUDY. One night a mosquito, (or two, three, four..etc) got into Ethan’s net, and he was bitten 69 times (yes, he counted.)

We also frequently have REALLY LONG centipedes in the house. Although they seem really cool to look at in books, on TV, or in photos, I haven’t found them quite as intriguing when they are skittering across my kitchen floor. They actually, to put it mildly, complelely CREEP ME OUT! I’m generally the girl who sees a bug, grabs a tissue, paper towel, or shoe, and smashes them without blinking. With centipedes, I grab a paper towel AND make sure I have shoes on, before I drop the paper towel on top of them,  and SCREAM everytime I stomp down on it. This must be done very quickly though, as they are very speedy little creepers! I think the children, considering how quickly they jumped on my bed the other day, have the same opinion as me. There’s nothing quite as terrifying as thinking that there’s a dead centipede on your bedroom floor, and calling the kids in to see it, and then having it suddenly come back to life and scurry off. YIKES!

Then there are the slugs. I have seen a few almost “cute” slugs on the street, while waiting with the kids for the school bus in the morning. If you look closely, you can see their antenna, and I can picture them singing, like in the movie, “Flushed Away.” However, one evening, when our inside kitchen door was accidentally locked (we haven’t been able to find a key for it), Bill ran outside to go through the back door to unlock it. He didn’t take the time to put on shoes, and apparently, the slugs that visit our patio at night are of the extremely large, mutant, variety with an especially squishy, slide factor when stepped on. This makes for a very unhappy husband.

We also have a resident spider (not the spider pictured above). Her web is suspended between two bushes right outside our house, where the children wait for the bus. She hasn’t bothered us in any way, minding her own business and collecting all sorts of bugs in her giant web, but she is one of those large, white, spiders, much like the one who was in my car on my way home from my 20 week ultrasound wihile pregnant with Ethan. The one that I was pretty sure my very nasty ultrasound technician had morphed into, before she stationed herself above my head on the car’s window frame after I left the hospital (what else could it be? I had never seen a white spider before!) I noticed her, right after I turned onto the main road on my way home. I started frantically looking for a place to pull over, but before I did, I felt her drop onto my head. I made a quick turn into a condo complex, all but FELL out of the car, and proceeded to jump up and down, shaking my head and hair towards the ground, doing the ” There’s a spider in my hair dance” in front of a lawn maintenance crew. Good times. Good times.

Last week we did find an apartment we liked, and if everything goes well, we will be moving in February. We will be on the ninth floor, and are hoping to at least REDUCE the number of bugs and such in our living space here.

 

The Town That Time Forgot

……………And back to my beloved China.

The Time That Time Forgot

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today, on the way home from the Chinese New Year performances at the children’s school, Brennan referred to the village we pass through as “the town that time forgot.” I have written about this town before, how poor it is, and the contrast between it, and the high-tech American school down the street. This statement made me start thinking about other things in Shanghai, and how they compare to what we see in the United States.

The cargo trucks which we see on the streets of this city look like they drove right out of the 1960s. Whether they are that old or not, I do not know, but the design does not seem to have changed since then, and they all look very weathered. The taxis seem to be 80s style VW Santana. Run down and stinky. Painted in crazy colors like “Aquafresh” green and “Monk garb” yellow.

Most of the time, the locals here do not wear helmets when riding bikes, scooters, or motorcycles. If they do don headgear, it seems to have popped right out of a Godzilla movie, or maybe Hogan’s Heroes, and is usually not secured to their head. Here it is very common to see an entire family (usually one man, one woman, and a child, but sometimes more) riding around town on the same bike. Baby or child sandwiched between mom and dad, or a woman or child riding side-saddle on a board attached over the back wheel.

Outside the gates of our compound, they are building new housing. The crane they are using appears to be a hand-me-down, passed on from generation to generation for the last 40 years. Some of the materials they are using look like they have also seen better days. Rusted metal re-enforcing bar, broken bricks. These will all be concealed in a thick layer of cement. In China, the bricks go on the inside of the structure, never seen unless the building is going up, or coming down.

In Shanghai, there are no drive-thru restaurants. Take out, actually requires getting out of the car (unless you order Sherpas, like we do, and have it delivered to your door), and your food cannot be paid for with a credit card. Regulations on food, such as milk, eggs, and meat are just recently starting to catch up with western countries. Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold off of the back of trucks and carts parked throughout the city. Many locals buy their food on a day-to-day basis, as not everyone has a refrigerator.

This “lost in time” feel can also be very charming, though. In China, you can walk around the corner from a five-star hotel, and feel like you have just travelled to a quaint 1940s Chinese village. A place where life is simplified. Far from the hustle and bustle of today’s world. Where neighbors sit and chat outside for hours at a time, while they shuck corn, or snap green beans. Above their heads, their laundry is hanging on a line to dry.

Shanghai is at the same time, very modern. The five-story science museum is like none I have ever seen before. There is a Maglev train. It is not uncommon to see Ferrari and Porsches. There are almost 100 Starbucks throughout the city. Five-star hotels, five-star restaurants, upscale malls, countless fancy, expat, housing compounds, international schools, and billion-dollar western companies. Disney is very close to a deal with the Chinese government to build its largest park in the world here (Shanghai Disney is now expected to open in 2016.)They have recently opened a cruise ship port. The soccer events for the 2008 Olympic games were held in Shanghai, and the World Expo will be held here in 2010.

I guess these things are what keep Shanghai so completely engaging to me. I never get tired of watching out the car window, as we travel the streets of the city. I will always see something I have never noticed before, or something I expect I will never see again.

 

Visions of China…….

This blog was written during our time in Shanghai, our second home, which I miss everyday.

Visions of China

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As I look out the window of the tour-style bus that I ride with the children on Tuesdays, I think about how my views of China have changed in the last 8 months. When we first arrived I noticed the extreme poverty that is prevelant in so many areas, and how it is so close in relation to areas of extreme wealth.

Right outside of the gates of over-priced, over-sized, ostentatious compund, is a gentleman who sells Chinese pottery. He has just recently chosen this spot to set up “shop.” A mere ten feet from his products, stands his tent. This is his home, not just shade for the day. Just 50 feet from his location, the migrant worker’s housing starts. This is a “neighborhood” built of tin shacks, where the men, and sometimes their families, who are building the new part of our compound live.

When we first arrived, I was greatly bothered by these sights, but they are common to me now. I still find it very sad, but it is no longer a shock to see. It is everywhere. Tucked into the corners of downtown Shanghai, next to five-star hotels and expensive shopping, and on the road which leads to Shanghai American School.

I have stopped looking at these things as upsetting, and begun to enjoy watching the people within them. I find these areas are one of my favorite parts of life in China. Of course this is from the outside looking in. I could never imagine living this way, but they handle it gracefully. It is all they have ever known.

On the road to the school, there is a small, poor, town. It is not a tin shack town, but a few steps higher on the housing ladder. People sit outside their homes eating breakfast, doing laundry, taking care of grandchildren. The “shops” consist of open stalls, selling whatever the locals may need. Everything looks old and dirty. Items we would probably never touch. The local school looks like a warehouse, or even an abandoned buiding. It took me a long time to realize it was the town school. I see the students occasionally, lined up to go inside.

A few hundred yards away, the gates to another expensive housing compound, and an international American school. Millions of dollars of materials and technology, just a short walk from poverty. We know which provides the better education. We know which kids are sure to have a full tummy at night. We know which children have a better chance of physical health.  I wonder how the souls of those children compare with mine. I’m sure they’re full of family, friends, and love, with no expectation of anything else.