Lessons in Loss

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This year has been marked by loss for both Lindy-Ann and myself. As we all struggle to process our way through these difficult times and cope with our own temporariness, I have been overwhelmed with life lessons. Things I have taken away from the lives of those we have lost, watching the people around me process through their grief, and best of all seeing how good truly can come from tragedy and loss.

From a grandfather who is finally at rest after a period of struggling, I learned that it truly is important to invest in your family to form loving and lasting connections that withstand distance and time. To not allow one day to pass without your people knowing you truly love them and they are worthy.  We were never meant to live isolated, and the technology of today can be harnessed to keep families connected regardless of distance.

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From a beloved uncle, as you may have read, I learned that the way you live matters and impacts people more than you will ever know. Leaving a legacy of love and faith with your family and friends will help them heal and grow through the pain of the loss of you.

Then there is the tragedy of a young mother sacrificing her life for her child. Last September, Arlene blew into our community like a warm, floral scented, tropical breeze. Everyone who met her says the same thing: she was was full of life. She lived and loved vibrantly and with passion. Her kind heart and her willingness to be vulnerable and open drew people to her and she was able to share her faith and passions with them.

Our paths were weaved through volunteering at school, Bible Study and church. I also had the honor of capturing her family’s love last fall in their first ever family photo session. It was a fun seaside session with laughter, cuddles, and jumping for joy.

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For the second time this year I was reminded that my job goes beyond just a nice picture on a wall, it captures a moment in family’s life to be treasured, especially in loss.

Which leads me to the first thing I learned from Arlene:

1. Capture the moments with you in it: as I worked on the slideshow for her memorial service I was thankful for two things: the accessibility of Facebook and the way Arlene captured her life. Even though the majority of them were iPhone photos and selfies, she had documented her life and the people she loved. It will be a comfort to her family, especially her children as they grow. It has challenged me to pass my camera off a little more and care a little less about how I look in photos for the sake of my boys. We photogs need to be intentional about being in the photos, not just taking them.

2. Let your light shine: Arlene’s light shone brightly through her smile and her positive attitude; and she shared that with those she loved. The legacy she is leaving her children is one of faith, love, kindness, and living life to the fullest. At the memorial service and in the past few days, everyone agrees that Arlene had a special light about her and, I can tell you, it was supernatural. We all need to let our lights shine brightly and spread that love to others.

3. Don’t procrastinate life: In his speech at the memorial service, Arlene’s husband Joseph challenged us with two things: 1) have the tough conversation with your significant other about your final wishes and 2) intentionally schedule and spend quality time with your loved ones. He reminded us that tomorrow is not guaranteed – we can’t push things this important off to later date that may never come.

Now what? 

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your family, friends, and community to say about you? It may sound morbid, but if we are truly meant to fight the good fight, and finish the race well, then the day to day does mean something. Your daily choices make up your life and build the legacy you will leave behind.

My hope is, that at my memorial party (which will be a pub filled with revelry and good beer – just saying), the attendees will say I lived boldy, loved deeply, laughed often, gave good hugs, and was His hands and feet. I want to leave my boys with a legacy of faith and truth, the power of prayer, and importance of a good belly laugh. In the midst of the sadness of loss, there has to be laughter in the memories of what has passed and hope in what is to come.

with love,

kdg

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My Madeira

As summer rolls around and I hear of people’s plans for grand summer vacations, I can’t help but think back to our “best ever family holiday” – Madeira, Portugal – 2016.

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During July/August two years ago our family travelled to Lisbon and Madeira. It felt like a ‘right of passage’ kind of trip. It simply HAD to be done. My children are Portuguese, as is my husband. For me growing up in a little town called Boksburg in South Africa, most of my childhood friends were Portuguese. I have always felt really close to this ‘family first’ community. As a young adult, one of my dearest friends was Portuguese and I was maid-of-honour at her wedding, it was at this wedding that I met John. He was the cousin to the young man who married my friend.

Needless to say I have always had a heart to explore Portugal. I think out of all of us in my little family, I was the most excited. I had just finished a Portuguese language course before this trip as well and I found that to be highly valuable. While most people in Lisbon speak some level of English, most of the family and locals in Madeira do not. While I still feel somewhat clumsy speaking Portuguese, my reading and comprehension, I think, is really pretty good.

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My kids at the time were 5y 10m, 4y, 2y 6m. My gosh looking back at it like this I think they were true travel stars! It is, without a doubt, the most amazing family holiday we have ever had. The weather was spot on. The perfect amount of summer heat! We were out everyday doing new things, exploring, soaking in new traditions and culture, tasting new foods, making memories. So yes, while everyone here is making their plans for this coming summer holiday, my heart goes back fondly to our time there. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please make a plan and get there. It really is one of the worlds greatest treasures! This time of year, my heart truly aches to go back.

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And as an added bonus this photograph below of, the worlds best Poncha, was featured on @ilovemadeira Instagram page.

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Above all though, wherever your summer holidays may take you, please stay safe and make beautiful family memories.

Cheers

la

Black Isle Brewery – Scotland

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It wouldn’t be a DG family adventure without us checking out the local brew scene. We discovered a stellar brewery just outside Inverness, Scotland. The Black Isle Brewery started as a Homebrew operation 20 years ago and now ships all around Europe and as far as Canada and Japan. They haven’t broken into the USA market yet, but I’m certain they will at some point. They are that good!

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In 2011 they moved to their current facility located north of Inverness and 2 years ago opened their first brewpub in the city itself.

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We visited the brewpub first for some delicious pizzas and to sample a few brews before making the 20 minute trek to the brewery the following day. At the pub, the atmosphere is light and funky, combining the classic wood and industrial look of the brew world with pops of tangerine and painted murals of the local landscape (pictured behind our sleepy kid below, ha). In addition to the food and beverages, you can also rent a room and stay for the night as you romp around the highlands or if you’ve just one too many Migrator DIPA’s to continue on.

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Having had a lovely evening the night before, we were happy to visit the brewery itself. Kate, our brew guide, met us at the door and invited us on a tour of the facility to learn about their process and their space. She was so kind to our boys and didn’t mind their silly questions and odd comments like “yum it smells like pasta!” What?! Not like this is their first brewery, ha! Boiling wort does not smell like pasta, I promise!

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We learned that they are committed to a totally organic process and grow most of their malts on the farm next to the facility. Once the mash is finished, they feed the spent grain to the black sheep in their pastures. Since Scotland is too cold to grow their own hops, they source organic hops from California and New Zealand, depending on the recipes.

I really dig their logo as well, design geek that I am. It features the flower of Scotland, the thistle, and each brew has a designated color for the bloom of the thistle. The creative behind the labels and logo is the brewer’s wife. She recently started to develop variations on the their original labels to differentiate between their flagship brews and their special ones like their barrel aged oatmeal stout and collaboration brews. Oh, and we learned that each of the brews is named after a bird in from the area too, pretty cool.

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We had the honor of interacting with the master brewer himself. He overheard us and recognized that the hubs is a true brew lover, so he stopped and chatted for a minute. He demanded that we take home two bottles of the newest brews literally fresh off the label line! He was correct in his suspicion that we love us some hops!

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Another great note about Black Isle Brewery that makes them stand out from other local UK brews are their higher ABVs (alcohol by volume). Although they do have sessions ales at about 3%-4.5%, good for a few rounds at the pub, they also have some heavy hitters at 8-10.4% (specifically of interest to my beer guy!). We found it rather interesting how low the average ABV is here, but it makes sense if you plan to be watching a rugby match for hours. Interestingly, I did recently learn from some British friends that if you go outside the main cities to the small towns, the pubs have taps with higher ABVs. It’s good to be “staggering distance” from your lodgings though!

If you’re visiting Scotland and like a well crafted, organic brew, we highly recommend tasting one of the many Black Isle ales they offer. They even have a tasty Gluten Free brew called the Gold Finch. This brewery truly was a standout for us. Try it and let us know your thoughts!

Cheers!

kdg

Follow along with our brew adventures with #dgbrewphotos on Instagram.

The Last Rose

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What’s in a Rose? Usually, it’s a symbol of love. We give roses to people to show them that we love them, to let them know we are thinking of them, and perhaps that we wish them a speedy recovery. It is also a popular flower come Mother’s Day.

This rose is very special to me. You see, 9 years ago, I had sent my mother flowers for Mother’s Day.  She saw them, smelled them, they made her smile, they sat lovingly in our home. I was in Kuwait and my mom was in and out of hospital at the time, but doing pretty well considering three years of failing health. A few weeks later she was booked in for major surgery, I sent her more flowers. roses. They made it to her, she saw them. And then I received a phone call in the middle of the night that no one wants to get. “Your mom is struggling, they don’t think she’s going to make it” I was on the first available flight home and as I landed, headed straight to the hospital from the airport. I made it in time to hold her hand and rub her feet as she slowly lost her very loose grip on this life. Finally when I made it home to the house in the early hours of the following morning, I saw the big bouquet of roses that I had bought for her only a few days before.

I picked one of these roses, placed it in her sunglass case and kept it safe all these years. The rose we had both laid eyes on. Like a weak substitute since our own eyes never got to meet again.

This Mother’s Day, as I remember the rose that I lost, I also celebrate the rose that I have become to my 3 beautiful children and more so, I celebrate the roses that stepped up to comfort me and lead me from that day on. My mother-in-law, my stepmom, my grandmother, my friends, my great aunts, my close circle. My bouquet of people.

So today I write this post to honour ALL moms out there, the ones with children who are naturally theirs, the ones with babies still in their bellies, the ones who have lost angels in their wombs, the ones who choose to parent blessed adopted children, the ones who have suffered the unspeakable loss of a child, the ones who become stepmothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, the ones who become mother figures to friends, the ones who mother their communities with love and pride.

Mothers come in all different ways, shapes and forms, but one thing is without doubt, they are to be truly treasured and appreciated every single day.

Happy Mother’s Day.

la

An Outlander’s Adventure in Scotland

“I had been in a number of cold places in my life, but there’s something remarkably penetrating about the Scottish cold.”  – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander 

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I have Irish blood, but it is paired with some tropic and humidity-loving Puerto Rican blood, so I was flipping freezing in Scotland in March! Meanwhile, my beloved husband breathed it in like the cold was refreshing his soul. The cool 40 degree temps went well with all his Scot and Viking blood. Our tiny one was with Dad on this one, he kept pointing to the snow capped mountains of the Highlands saying he wanted to go there! Apparently, his Celt blood is stronger than the few drops of islander blood in this particular case. Meanwhile, our older one was wearing layers like his momma ready to run indoors!

That said, I do love it there too. In addition to my husband’s obvious connection through his heritage (which was so fun to teach the boys about), the landscape is breathtaking and the people are down right lovely and hospitable!

This was our second trip to bonnie old Scotland. The first time was in May 2013 with just one wee laddie in tow and my brother-in-law. That was an awesome adventure and our first travel abroad experience with kids. Needless to say, we have learned a lot since, ha!

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When we arrived in Scotland from our London adventure we made Inverness our home for a few days. We particularly love the city of Inverness, which means mouth of the River Ness in Gaelic. The city is split with the River Ness running through it with multiple bridges connecting it along the way. There are several churches and steeples dotting the skyline, as well as Inverness Castle on the hill overlooking the bustle of the capital of the Highlands.

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Fun fact: Scotland is home to the largest dolphins in the world, they can grow to be as long 4M (12FT)! Inverness is located near the North Sea where these clever giants call home, so you can even take a dolphin cruise to search of them. Sadly we didn’t see any this time, but the boat ride was a fun addition to our trip and our tour guide was super informative.

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We stayed at the Westoburne Guest House overlooking the river. It was fantastic and the owners went over an beyond to take care of us. Kirsteen, one of the owners, even packed this prego a bag of her amazing homemade shortbread for the road! It is seriously the best I have ever tasted! We highly recommend the Westbourne, but wherever you stay, include visit the infamous Culloden battlefield and ancient standing stones at Clava Cairns, both of which are points of interest for fans of Outlander books and Starz series, which we are. Funnily enough, visiting these two sites began our spontaneous Outlander tour.

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Even when we visited Beauly Priory we overheard a kilted guide discussing the real dynamics between the MacKenzie and Fraser clans.

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Then on the way from Stirling (a post all it’s own) to Edinburgh, saw signs for Blackness Castle where they filmed the scenes of Ft. William, so we took the chilly detour. However, the highlight to our little tour was visiting the dilapidated Midhope Castle – the fictional home of James Fraser – Lallybroch.

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Needless to say, it was such a fun adventure finding our way into the imaginary world of Outlander and exploring the areas around the River Ness and Highlands. It was especially special to share it all with our laddies. If you plan your trip to Scotland we hope you will not miss out on these beautiful areas.

Cheers,

kdg

 

Nomadic Friends

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In a way I was born to be a nomad. I’m a second generation military brat and we moved every two to three years. Like other military brats, I never knew how to answer the question, “where are you from?” That is until about 5 few years ago when I moved from Virginia to Kuwait.

After a stint of almost 8 years in Virginia, (literally the longest I have ever lived in one place), where I graduated from college, met my husband, and had my babies; our little family of four left home and moved to Kuwait. I was confident that we would love this adventurous life and that raising citizens of the world would be amazing, but I had forgotten one lesson I had been taught all those years as a military brat: how to “bloom where I was planted.” I convinced myself that it was about this family I was building and that I didn’t need any new friends. I had “my people” back home. I could make it on my own until our next trip home.

Who was I kidding? I’m an extrovert! Within a week of settling in I dropped my proverbial basket and had a complete meltdown about how lonely I was. Life in a foreign country is hard enough. You need people who understand  just how foreign and often times frustrating a place/people can be, to support you and help you laugh your way through it.

A few weeks later, at pickup from Montessori school, I saw this mom and thought, “I’m going to be her friend.” It took a few more chit chats at pickup to find my way in, and I pretty much forced a coffee/play date on her. Love you Liz!

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Although she was my first real friend in Kuwait, she was just the beginning of our crew that we now call the ABCDGs. Five families (including Lindy-Ann’s) that became each other’s village. Our kids grew up together for a time, our husbands teased each other endlessly (still do), and we kept each other sane living the desert life. Even though a couple of us have moved away, we’re still connected and share our lives with each other thanks to technology. However, the best thing is when we get the chance to travel together or to visit each other. It’s in those times that we continue making memories, laughing, and bonding.

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Over this past spring break, the ABCDGs ladies met up in London, prompting my family’s latest adventure to the UK. Sadly, Lindy-Ann couldn’t join us, but she was definitely there in spirit! It was such a fab time to be with 3 of my 4 buddies and I will cherish those moments until we are together again!

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No matter where you are in your journey, whether an expat or in the same town for decades, don’t close your heart to new people. You never know how they may change you forever. Thank you, Kate, Lindy-Ann, Liz, and Michelle for being a part of my life – you and your families mean so much to us! Until the next ABCDG adventure…

With Love,

kdg

It’s a…

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Thank you to everyone who commented on last weeks update video, we definitely felt all the love! It’s so fun to share this journey with you!

Without further ado it’s a BOY! A third Boy!

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Yes, to answer the obvious question, we were trying for a girl. It was a little sad for me, at first, to know I will not be braiding the hair of a daughter of my own, but that’s ok, I have plenty of wee girlfriends to borrow!

I’ve also been having lots of revelations about being a #boymomforlife over the past few days and I realized it suits me. As my husband reminded me, I do actually like superheroes, Star Wars, and “boy” things.

I was also reminded that as a boy mom I have the honor of raising my boys to be good men. Men who are respectful, supportive, gentle, strong, loving, compassionate, and faithful. Men that could be humble leaders with integrity, wisdom, and discernment. Future husbands who would love and cherish their wives and encourage them to pursue their dreams too. To be fathers that would be present, involved, and willing to model THE Father’s grace-filled love for their own children. Simply put, to be men like their daddy (full disclosure: he would say to be better than him).

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These are my prayers for my boys and I’m humbled at the task of raising these three arrows.

That said, we’re not perfect, I mess up daily, but that’s where the grace and loads of prayers come in. That’s why we have mommy mentors, grandparents, and teacher friends to lean on for help and to give advice. “It takes a village to do life well,” as Emily Ley says. What a relief right?!

Whelp, it’s going to be a wild, noisy, dirty, sweaty adventure filled with sweet moments and I look forward to sharing it with you, in addition to the usual creativity, inspiration, tutorials, and fun here on the blog!

cheers,

kdg

We’ve moved!

We’re in. My middle child doesn’t do change very well at all. In short, she struggles to place herself in her environment and this can cause a fair bit of anxiety, especially when facing big environmental changes, like travelling, or in this case, moving house. Because of this, I made the decision to make the big house move here in Kuwait while she and her dad were in South Africa for check ups. This meant that I had to move house alone with two little kids, and a dog. But in reality I was never ever alone.

I had the most amazing help from dear friends, family, a remarkable moving company(Pack ‘N’ Move), and my very dear home assistant Rita. My Rita was nothing short of a God send over the last two weeks. And this move would have been impossible without her.

The morning of the move, my youngest woke up with a fever – of course he did!

So I had to cancel his playdate and drag him along with me most of the morning. No problem, I loaded the car up with stuff, him up with snacks and a few little toys. My amazing neighbour took Max for the day and we dropped my eldest off at her playdate, thus the day began. By midday I was feeling the pressure. Not of the move, but of having an unsettled little 4 yr old pulling on my legs. And as if just on cue, my friends (without children) offered to take him out for lunch and an afternoon at Trampo. Did I mention I have amazing friends?!

The move took two days in total and we are slowly but surly making our way through the boxes and getting artwork, mirrors, shelves and photos up on the walls. It is starting to look and feel like home.

My kids were so excited with the move that every now and again I would catch them taking photographs of the place with their iPads. I thought this would be a great way to share the move with you too.  These images are from their perspective. Except the one of Max.

And now that the office is set up, the internet is working and life is starting to settle down a bit, I’m truly so happy to get back to my writing and my blogging. Thank you all very much for being so patient with me and giving me grace during this down time. Mostly, thank you for your support through it all.

Cheers,

la

 

Loss & Legacy

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This week my family suffered the loss of a beloved uncle in a tragic accident. The grief and feelings come in waves. Powerful and crushing and at the same time cathartic and cleansing. The hardest thing is not being able to be there with our family. To tell stories, hear the memories, give hugs, so this is how I will share my heart. This is to honor a man that loved fiercely and did everything with passion.

Uncle John was a bear of a man that would stomp into Grandma and Grandpa’s house with the screen door slamming behind him and a smile that said he was happy to see us come get your hug! He gave bone cracking hugs and good advice. He had the heart of a Scottish highlander in fields of Virginia. He was a great story teller, a hard worker, an inspiring teacher, at talented musician, a soldier, a proud father of four miracles, loving husband to an amazing woman, a believer, and rock to lean on. He was not perfect we all know that, but even those moments were redeemed by the way he loved his family, all of us.

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He was one of the first members of the family to welcome me into the clan and even wore a kilt at our wedding. He loved my husband like more than a nephew, he cuddled his great nephews tenderly as babies and played with them as little men, and always encouraged us to keep adventuring and to grow in faith.

A couple years ago we had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my mother-in-law, grandma and grandpa, and Uncle John and his family at Cove Point Lighthouse. It was a memorable weekend of bonding and being together as a family. That weekend is even more cherished now as one of our last adventures with him.

While we were there Aunt Laura and I had schemes to take their family photos, since they hadn’t had never had them done. I was honored of course and the session worked out perfectly, the colors the lighthouse, the beach, the love captured…all of it.

Those photos were my gift to their family and now they will help our cousins remember their father.

When my MIL called to check on me (I know she is the one that lost her brother!) she told me that my gift of photography was special and meaningful. She shared that one of the girls has been carrying my photos of her family in her hand all week, and that even though I can’t be with them my spirit will be there at the memorial through those images. That was a comfort and an overwhelming revelation.

What you do matters. The legacy you leave behind matters. How you love others matters.

Uncle John loved his family fiercely, this is the legacy he leaves behind, love. I’m so thankful to have felt that love and to have been there to capture it forever for his family.

With Love,

kdg

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.”  –Dwight L. Moody

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Squash and ME!

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I was 11 years old when I started playing squash. As kids, my brother and I would sit and watch my mom and dad play and one day we picked up rackets and started to fool around on the courts ourselves. At first I was completely and utterly useless. I would literally swing at the ball and miss every time. I got it in my head, however, that this was something I really wanted to learn how to do. My brother refused to play me because I was so bad. But I slowly learnt to hit the ball, and eventually that ball made it to the front wall, and back again. My mom signed us up for the kids academy and over time I went from strength to strength. My brother still didn’t want to play against me, but this time it was because I started beating him!

As a child and teenager, I went on to play in provincial tournaments representing my region and at my very best, 17 years of age, I reached a ranking of 14th in South Africa for the under 19 girls age group. It was such a big part of my youth and weaved itself into the very fibre of who I am today.

Setting aside the trophies and the titles, my favourite memories of the game were playing my mom. Her and I played in the same women’s team together, myself as player 1 and her as player 3. It became our thing, once a week, without fail, we would head off to our games together. I loved playing against her too. I wore my teenage ego with pride. It really brought us together and as much as we would have our arguments, we always knew that we could hash it out on the court! Looking back, I think it was most likely the stand out element in our relationship that bound us together.

I finished school. Started working. Moved countries. She passed away. I had children. I got sick. Squash became a distant memory, a distant joy. I needed to get my head around this new version of myself. Slowly but surly I am doing that. And with the pockets of relief that my medication brings me, I am starting to get back into this beautiful, feisty game. And it brings me so much joy!

I feel so close to my mom every time I walk towards those courts. And now with my 7yr old and 5.5 yr old daughters, I feel I am coming full circle. I will be taking them to their first squash lesson on Saturday. I’m desperately hoping they like it but don’t want to force them into it either. If it’s not this it will be something else. What matters to me, is finding something that I can do with my kids one day.

I have come full circle on the court too. I used to be the young, energy-filled kid playing against the adults, giving them a decent run for their money and now I find myself playing kids like this, playing their hearts out. I am so envious of their energy yet I’m thankful for the skills I have held on to. I feel old for sure. But I feel so much joy for the multifaceted role Squash has played in my life.

I simply can’t imagine a Lindy-Ann without Squash. I hope this post encourages you to let your kids be free to explore whatever sport, interest or extra curricular activity your child shows an interest in. And find a way to get involved with them. You never know, it may end up being one of those character defining elements in their lives too. All because of the extra support of a parent.

Cheers

la