Flooded By Joy

“The best baby-sitters, of course, are the baby’s grandparents. You feel completely comfortable entrusting your baby to them for long periods, which is why most grandparents flee to Florida.”

Dave Barry

I dream about water when I’m overwhelmed.

This might be why…

Decked out in my favorite blue jeans, black sweater, and swanky new loafers. I admit to feeling rather chic. It’s rare, but it happens. So let’s not ruin the moment by overanalyzing a minor blip in a normally unfashionable life.

Then I score a parking spot less than a mile from the entrance to the grocery store. I know, I should buy a lotto ticket! 

Grabbing an abandoned cart from the parking lot on my way into the store, I pull my list out of my purse and get down to business. My kids keep their grocery lists on their phones, but I’m old school and like putting pen to paper. Moving up and down the aisles I collect the basic provisions needed for our weekend at the lake, then roll my laden cart to the checkout stand, and guess what? There are no lines! 

And that, my friends, is where the good fortune ends.

As the checker scans my last item, he says with practiced innocence, “is there a chance you qualify for any, um, discounts?”

I’m momentarily confused, then smile when I remember it’s senior citizen day, and he’s politely asking if I’m old enough to receive the discount. 

I say, “Yes! I always forget. I definitely qualify.” Okay, truth be told, I have no idea what the age requirement is, but if he was brave enough to ask, I must be close enough.

With fake surprise, he says, “I’ll need to see some ID.” Clearly, he’s trying to act as if I couldn’t possibly be old enough, how adorable.

As I reach for my wallet, I say, “so you really need to check my ID?” I’m totally sweating it out because I could be a decade shy of the age requirement. Who knows? This checker is barely old enough to shave. He probably thinks I’m 70!

He laughs, “No, no, I’m kidding, that’s not necessary.” 

Thank God, “oh, and could I purchase a lottery ticket.”

I saved $3.30 on my grocery bill. So the senior citizen discount is like two percent. Next time I’d rather he not ask! 

When I get back to the lake house, there is a notification on my Instagram account. My sister has sent me a pic of a Christmas tree set up on a dock, reflecting its lights on the surrounding water. It’s a mixture of whimsical and stunning, if you want my opinion. I attached the picture a the top of this post, you decide.

Instantly, I send the picture to the entire family through our slack channel with the caption, “Let’s set this up on our dock by Thanksgiving! Lights reflecting off the water! Damn!”

Larry responds from across the room in a matter of seconds, “don’t even think about it.”

“Too late. A tree is already in my cart.”

“I thought of that and put a hold on our account for the remainder of the year.” I giggle because today is December 30th, what a drag, I won’t be able to shop for two whole days. 

I say, “Wow, getting your scrooge on twelve months early.”

I get the look. 

It’s raining up at the lake. A total downpour, praise God, we need it. The thing is, there are eight of us gathered to bring in the New Year at our cozy cabin in Kono Tayee. Three of whom are full of piss and vinegar, sporting attitudes, and nonstop energy. It’s sort of adorable. The millennials have reverted to their childhood mode and act as if they are somehow no longer parents but people of leisure without any conceivable demands on their time. 

This means they nap indiscriminately, do yoga in the middle of the front room, and slip off to wineries for a quick tasting when there’s a lull in the storm. I sort of admire how they support each other, always making allowances for each other’s needs, so different from my generation, where we were groomed from birth to stay in our lanes.

Tonight we invited a few guests over to enjoy some paella with us. Griffin and MacKenzie show up with a couple of delicious appetizers, which only serve to whet our appetites, and we huddle around the kitchen island sipping wine, staying close to the action. 

While Nic weaves his magic with his new paella pan, Julie is bathing the grandkids in my massive tub in the back of the house. She fills the tub to the brim so they can run the jacuzzi jets, which stir up the water and create vast amounts of bubbles. This is cause for a lot of resounding joy as they pile the soft bubbles on their heads, arms, and chins.

Grammie smiles indulgently as the bubbles spill over the rim of the tub and wisely returns to the kitchen to refill her wine. 

Unbeknownst to all of us, the plumbing has backed up in the entire house, and as we’re engaging in light banter with our guests, Julie drains the tub, and instead of all that water draining peacefully down the sewer, it floods the entire bathroom, and laundry room, with a small river flowing down the hallway. 

Well, that’s one way to spice up a dinner party.

Everyone jumps into action, laying down beach towels like a well-trained Red Cross team, sopping up water, and dumping the wet towels in the laundry room. Twenty towels in, we still have excess moisture that has traveled down the hall and into our bedroom. 

Larry drags out his industrial snake and proceeds to clear the main line on the sideyard in the pouring rain. Years ago, someone with limited foresight planted cypress trees along the sewer line, and the roots periodically made their way into the pipe, clogging the plumbing at least twice a year. Larry is able to clear the roots in thirty minutes, and we’re back in business. 

Poor guy, he’s as wet as our carpet, but the water is now flowing out of the house, and we can use the facilities again. Our guests are amused by all the shenanigans. 

I, not so much. 

Being a grandparent is a complicated relationship because it hinges on a series of other relationships, as Anna Quindlen notes. Whatever the status might be of your current relationship with your own children, it will grow exponentially in whatever direction it was already going with the appearance of grandchildren. The truth is I am no longer in charge. I’m in a relationship with children (my grandchildren) for the first time in my life, but I’m not responsible for managing everyone, responding to every need, or voicing my unwanted opinion when it is clearly not needed. Negotiating this space requires not only patience but prudence and the ability to filter your reaction to just about every given situation.

Including flooding the house. 

The one thing I know is we’ve raised extraordinary children (I use the term extraordinary loosely, they all survived childhood, and that’s extraordinary enough), and our grandchildren have incredible parents who get to decide what they will eat, how they’ll behave, what they’re allowed to watch, and when it’s time for bed. As a grandparent, I have to learn how to roll with their rules or risk challenging my relationship with my own kids. It’s actually much easier than it sounds once you get the hang of it. I’m successful half the time but always improving. 

I have to remember that we did the best we could when we were raising our children, and we bristled when our parents tried to interfere with what we considered antiquated advice. I’m sure our kids feel much the same. It’s time for them to do their thing without unwarranted judgment. Interfering with a parent’s sacred calling is not wise, prudent, or desirable. This is my advice, if they don’t ask for your opinion, don’t you dare give it. 

My job is to enjoy the ride and consider myself worthy of every ounce of sweetness and sloppy kisses I can get.

I must add the paella was marvelous, the company divine, and the flood has been downsized to a memorable but romanticized incident.

Larry makes waffles and bacon for the early risers every morning. Cora and Sienna scamper up on the bar stools while Nono presents them with fluffy bavarian waffles, smothered in butter and syrup, with a side of bacon. It’s always a hit. Audrey and I stay snuggled in bed, watching the Gilmore Girls and sharing bits of waffle and bacon delivered to us by the twins.

They even bring me my coffee, walking with such focus and care down the soggy hallway, placing the half-filled mug into my outreached hands. It doesn’t get better than this.

Did I mention it’s raining? With winds gusting ranging from 30 to 40 miles an hour. So basically, we’re all stuck inside a giant snow globe. I bought a bunch of new coloring books and crayons, but in a quarter of an hour, they were absolutely bored and flinging the crayons at each other as if they were in a snowball fight. I scurry around, gathering the unbroken ones and salvaging the coloring books. Time to move on…

So I pull out the gingerbread houses I bought for them to decorate. It took four sober adults with various college degrees to put the houses together. Julie broke a number of important parts. Just sayin. The frosting took much longer to set up than recommended, and the natives were restless, slipping a number of the decorations into their mouths as they watched the adults clumsily constructing small brown houses. At the prescribed time, we let them loose with the frosting and an array of bright candies. I believe more of the decorations ended up on the floor than on the houses, but that’s part of the fun. I displayed the finished products on a cakestand, but they looked like a dilapidated neighborhood of cottages with sagging roofs. I took pictures anyway.

Now what?

At some point, a rather aggressive game of bean bag war took place in the lanai involving three children and one Uncle Dante, which resulted in a bag exploding and dusting the entire floor with white powder. 

I get out the mop while Julie and Nono take the restless trio on a walk in the rain to collect the mail. Uncle Dante disappeared? 

When the soggy group returns to the house, Julie runs a bath to warm them up. I check the plumbing by flushing several of the toilets. All is running smoothly. The adults settle down for a glass of wine and start dinner preparations. It’s New Year’s Eve. Everything seems rather poetic until two wet, screaming, naked twins come running down the hall, yelling undistinguishable words to the frantic adults, trying to assess the situation. 

I’m talking loud, distraught, wailing.

When the four of us squeeze into the bathroom, we find Audrey frantically trying to squelch the water, shooting straight up from no less than eight jets, showering the bathroom with water. It reminds me of the water fountain displays on the Las Vegas strip. I’d laugh if I wasn’t crying.  

Here’s what happens when Mom decides not to overfill the tub because of the previous flood. She warns the children not to turn on the jets because the water is too low. And, of course, the minute she leaves the room, they turn on the jets. 

That would have been messy but fine, except the on/off switch broke, and now the jacuzzi will not turn off.

Julie and I jump in the tub and try to fill it as quickly as possible while simultaneously holding our hands over the jet streams. As you can imagine, we are wildly unsuccessful. Larry and Nic run to the fuse box and proceed to turn off all the fuses until they finally find the one connected to the jacuzzi. Aside from the fact that every clock is blinking the wrong time, all the televisions have to be rebooted, and the heater reprogrammed, at least the water is not shooting all over the place as if one of those new-fangled showers with twenty spouts.

Julie and I look at each other, standing in a full tub, water dripping from our noses. What can you do but laugh?

I’m not sure you can appreciate the amount of water that ended up on the floor of the bathroom, not to mention the walls and ceiling. All the while, the kids are clearly traumatized and continue to whimper. Julie and I return to the pile of freshly washed beach towels and proceed to clean up the new flood. Noah has nothing on us!

Julie and Nic put all the children in time-out to consider their errant behavior. And this is when I fail to hold my tongue, it takes on a mind of its own, and I start complaining, “it’s not their fault the switch broke.”

Julie says, “I told them not to turn the jets on.”

“They’re kids, they couldn’t have known it would break.”

“They break everything.”

“No, they don’t. And they’re still scared.”

“They need a consequence.”

“Can I PLEASE go check on them.”

“Go ahead.”

I find them huddled in a tight circle on the floor of their room, each of them cuddling their favorite stuffed animals. The twins are still whimpering, but only slightly, as Audrey tries to calm their fears. 

The first thing they say when they see me is, “we’re sorry, Grammie,” obviously, Audrey has been coaching them.

I say, “all is forgiven, group hug.”

As we snuggle together on the floor, I tell them the story of a time when their mother enticed all of her siblings into painting themselves with mud during a rain storm, and then they came into the house to show off their mud attire! They thought that was hysterical. When we decide their parents have had enough time to cool down, the four of us venture into the family room, where the rest of the family is relaxing by the fire and sipping a nice tempranillo from Six Sigma. I race into the kitchen for a glass before it is all gone. 

Audrey found a bottle of sparkling apple juice in the back of the refrigerator, which the grandkids enjoyed in adult glasses. After dinner we lit some sparklers in the front courtyard to ring in the east coast New Year.

As we settle the children down to bed, all I can think about is how much I love these little people, including the spills, the floods, the laughter, and the tears. They are an unimaginable blessing and the exclusive source of my pure white hair. 

Sometimes I hardly recognize myself. Who is this woman? How is it possible that I’m suddenly a 62-year-old woman in the winter of my life with grandchildren and age spots on my hands? Someone who dreams about water when she’s overwhelmed.

And just like that, another year has come and gone. There are no new diets in my future, no pledges to join a gym, no dry promises to renege on. I say we spend January like Ellen Goodman advises, walking around our lives, room by room, making a list of the work to be done, the cracks to be patched, the floors to be mopped, if you will. But maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms…not looking for flaws or floods, but the potential for a life not yet imagined. 

Cheers everyone! Here’s to 2023.

I’m Living in the Gap, flooded by joy, scanning my life for potential. Care to join me?

Audrey and me writing our stories after the flood!

40 Comments

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    1. Hi Dorothy! It seems as if I’m perpetually surrounded by water lately. I live in California and we are being visited by storm after storm. I’m not complaining, we need the water. And then of course there are my granddaughters who naturally bring about floods. I’m wondering if there’s a deeper message imbedded in all this wetness? Right now, it alludes me, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Ironically, when Larry told me this morning he was looking at river cruises, I almost peed my pants! Oh my, life is rich! I hope you enjoyed a belated Christmas dinner with your family! And let’s hope 2023 is one filled with untold joy for us both. Hugs my friend, C

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  1. I have this quote stuck on my wall,“Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends — and hardly ever our own grown children.” Ruth GoodI love spending time with mine, whatever happens! Glad you had a fun time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Fraggle, that is absolutely the best quote I’ve ever read, and it could not be truer! Thank you for sharing. I might have to copy you and hang that one in a prominent place. The refrigerator comes to mind? And her name is Ruth Good, that’s perfect! Grandkids are the best and I can’t get enough of mine even though they live across the street! Here’s to the new year, new opportunities, a few floods, and time spent with the ones we love! Hugs, C

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  2. An incredibly beautiful and hilarious post, Cheryl! I love, “As we settle the children down to bed, all I can think about is how much I love these little people, including the spills, the floods, the laughter, and the tears. They are an unimaginable blessing and the exclusive source of my pure white hair. ”

    Yes – including all that. Not in spite of it but including it. Because life is messy and maybe kids help us remember how well we can roll with that!!

    Wishing you all the best in 2023!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy New Year Wynne, and I admit, I’m beyond thrilled you enjoyed the post. And I love how you zoom in on the deeper message, “not in spite of it but including it.” I think your observation about how children help us learn how to roll with the punches is spot on. And I would hate having a life that wasn’t messy! I am so excited about 2023 and the opportunities she will present. Let’s hope we can roll with that! Hugs my friend, C

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  3. Cheryl, how much do I enjoy your posts, your stories, your writing? So much so that I’ve collected a growing pile of them, and so looking forward to your book. Happy floodless new year! Your fan, Stacey

    >

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    1. Hi Stacey! OMG, this is my Stacey, the author, the first person to ever to take my writing seriously, and then encourage me to go forward with my passion. I’m sort of floating on cloud 9 right now. Thank you. And yes, happy dry new year, but lets not confuse that with dry January. That’s not happening! Hugs, C

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  4. Just wow! Your life will keep you writing books forever LOL. Two words – Mercury Retrograde, which equals crazy time – just like the crazy Snowmaggeden that went on Christmas weekend. Thankfully, it’s over, third week January. And I learned, while wintering in Arizona, and me and Hub went to the Barrett Jackson Car Show, that senior rates begin at 55 in much of the U.S. 🙂 Hang tight girl. Hugs ❤

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    1. My life will either drown me or keep me writing! You have that right Debby! I had to look up Snowmaggenden! That’s an incredible amount of snow, you’ll be ever so grateful to enjoy the warmth of Mexico! And thanks for the senior rates tip, I won’t have to go to confession for misrepresenting myself, and now I can enjoy the discount even if they do ask for ID! Your book was delivered to the lake house yesterday. We head up tonight so I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend! Hugs, C

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      1. Lol Cheryl, you are so funny. And yes, people like me who typically have mostly cold climates, have a deep appreciation for sunshine and warmth. 🙂 And, I’m so excited for you to read my book! I look forward to your thoughts. Btw, I’ll be sharing my review for YOUR book the Sunday after this coming one as my Sunday book review feature. I know my readers will thoroughly enjoy. Hugs my lovely friend. ❤ xx

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  5. You couldn’t make this shit up….even with your imagination!! Hilarious….I can picture every clip of that scene!!! Too funny!!
    Cheers to 2023!!!

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    1. Life is always more exceptional than we could ever imagine! I mean, side by side lake houses! What the hell? And those grandkids, they are nonstop, and a constant source of material for writing. They definitely gave Griffin and Mackenzie a good laugh. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend! Hugs, C

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    1. Okay LA, I didn’t know there were pre-made gingerbread houses! Next year! And I’m thrilled you enjoyed the sentiment but were gracious enough not to mention the rest! I’m still doing laundry! Hugs my friend, C

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  6. I still use a paper shopping list, and it is actually written in the order of the supermarket aisles from front to back. Borderline obsessive! We don’t get any senior citizen days for discounts though.
    You did better than me with the flooding. I would have retreated to a comfy chair and finished the bottle of wine.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

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    1. So good to know I’m not the last one to put pen to paper, but Pete, written in the order of the supermarket aisles? That’s amazing because I can never remember where the popcorn is. And let me just say a 2% discount will not have me racing to the store on Thursdays! I do like the way you think, “retreat to a comfy chair and finish the bottle of wine.” Why didn’t I think of that? It was certainly a memorable way to start the new year. Hugs, C

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  7. Your opening quote had me laughing out loud. This was a very entertaining post. You have a wonderful knack of laughing at inconvenience. I need to work on that. My 5 kids, significant others, their kids, and my husband and I were all together for 4 days over Christmas. While we didn’t have any floods, we did have melt downs of other sorts, and I was tracking with your entire story. You encouraged me to lighten up and chill out a bit. I appreciate your humorous teaching style. Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Mama, I don’t know where I stumbled on that quote, but it made me laugh out loud too! Wow, you had a full house for Christmas. Despite the melt downs and crazy moments I bet you are looking back and smiling at all the wonderful memories. I am overjoyed when all my kids are together, but it’s rare, as one lives in Portugal, and another in New York. The other two are local. When we do all come together, regardless of the chaos, I’m as happy as a lark! I love that you get this! Big families have big fun! I manage those crazy moment on occasion, but just as often I flip out, and make it all the worse. We’re evolving, hopefully improving, a work in progress for sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me! Hugs my friend, C

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  8. We had a giant ficus tree outside our Palm Springs house. The only time all the drains would back up was 15 minutes before a party we were hosting — whether for kids or adults. I’m in Berkeley and so far we’ve survived the storm.

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    1. It’s amazing how trees can cause such a ruckus with our plumbing especially when guests are about to arrive! We can actually count on it backing up when 6 or more people are staying in the house and we can be preemptive by snaking it out before it back up and remembering to put the root dissolving chemicals in the clean out. But we both forgot. Speaking of storms, is this one crazy? How’s your son? I’ll have to pop over and read your blog. I’m way behind on reading. Hang in there, I hope your patient is recovering well. Hugs, C

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  9. This is a wonderful post, and you’re a terrific grandmother. I’m learning out how to be a mother to a grown daughter and figure out my place in her life. It’s wonderful to hear stories like these because I know this is our future. I can’t wait for that point.

    And now I’m craving waffles with butter and syrup.❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good morning! Thank you for the sweet comment. And I’m doing much the same with my four grown kids, “figuring out my place in their lives.” It can be tricky. When the grand kids come along, I’ve seen it as a deepening of our relationship, as they acknowledge the need for support and guidance (when asked) as they learn how to be effective parents. To this day I think my kids (and grand kids) are the most interesting people I know and I enjoy their company over and above anyone else. It’s amazing how life just keeps getting better and better! Maybe aging isn’t such a bad thing after all! Hugs, C

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  10. Never a dull moment at your house, Cheryl. That flood sounds awful, but you all managed and somehow the holidays happened and were still filled with love, laughter, and happiness. Being a grandparent is a huge shift for us, but what a journey of joy. I love the way you ended this post. That’s a beautiful way to walk/wander into the new year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diana, let me just say I am totally good with a proper dull holiday! When they all piled in their minivan and headed home, Larry, and I collapsed on the couch for a much-needed long winter’s nap! I totally agree, being a grandparent is a huge shift, and it makes me grateful that I had my kids when I was young! My energy drains much easier at 60 than it did at 25! Here’s to another new year, hope the patching is minimal, and the potential boundlessHugs,C

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  11. Cheryl you are such a fun host, you’re kids and grandkids must love going to your house! I still make a grocery list for my husband on paper. Then I highlight each section of the food items in different colors. That way he doesn’t have to go back because he missed something. I actually won a contest from Good Housekeeping with this idea, it was a Roomba sweeper.

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    1. Sorry for the delayed response Diane, I just found three comments on this post that I somehow missed! How did that happen? Can I just say you are brilliant! You highlight each section so he doesn’t have to go back. And Good Housekeeping sent you a Roomba! Damn, that’s incredible. I think your husband must adore you! To do this you have to know the grocery store like the back of your hand. I can never find peanut butter or popcorn. I think they move them around just to confuse me! Thanks for sharing your exceptional idea! I’m ridiculously impressed. Hugs, C

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  12. Once again, you’re my role model, Cheryl. The way you’ve described your grandparenting goals are what I have in mind for when that becomes my role, too, someday. Given how the roles of my now adult daughters and myself have changed recently, I was surprisingly gratified when my eldest shared with me, as one of the few she’s told, that she’s decided to (1) enter therapy and (2) move ahead with trying to create one child only. Our relationship has really been in flux and kind of rocky since I moved to be closer to them, so you can imagine how relieved I was to know she still thinks it’s special and worth sustaining amidst all the family drama, a lot of which I feel I’ve created myself. So happy new year to us all!

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    1. Hi Sue, I’m so sorry for the delayed response, I just found all these comments that I somehow missed. I blame the power outage. It threw me for a loop. Wow, what an enormous disclosure your daughter shared you with and as you say “amidst all the family drama,” that says a lot about her trust in you, and her ability to be vulnerable with you. AND IT ALSO MEANS YOU’LL BE A GRANDMA SOMETIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE! Whoot Hoot! It’s the best. You’ll be fabulous! I’m thrilled for you. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful revelation and I commend your insight into your most intimate relationships! Hugs, C

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  13. This sounds like a chaotic wonderful time. I look forward to being this blessed.
    I love how your kids were out and about and at times they forgot they were adults. LOL
    Ummm the grocery store can keep their 2%, it should at least be 15.

    Grandma saves the day with an awesome story about their parents. I LOVE THAT!! You are blessed!

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    1. Hi Bella, I’m so sorry for the delayed response. I somehow missed several comments that landed here. Could have been the blasted power outage! And I agree with you, if they’re going to call out my age on the loud speaker, I definitely want 15 %. It’s such a strange experience to watch your children bring more children into the world. I had no idea what these children would do to my life, to my heart, to my sense of purpose in the world. Thank you so much for your comment, engagement, and the beautiful energy you put out in the world. Hugs, C

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