and we’re here again.

Current motivation status:

Swan Dive

I managed to complete and submit my last two assignments, spectacularly making the deadline by 44 seconds. Got decent feedback and good marks, and for five complete minutes, indulged in doing a happy dance and high-fiving. Motivation seemed fully restored. I spent the sixth minute searching diligently for my Media Student’s Book: I was back, I was totally going to DO tbis.

At 7 minutes 12 seconds I remembered some sheet music I wanted to get hold of. At 9 minutes and 40 seconds, I’d found a 1940s baby grand for sale in Newtown and was getting piano-moving quotes via email.

Skip forward to yesterday, Sunday, and I was beginning to feel uneasy about the focus I needed to get my next assignment done. Where had I put it? Due this Friday at 11.59pm, I am to write a 1500-word essay discussing how ‘News and Current Affairs are entwined in social media and celebrity culture’. Time to knuckle down. I informed the house that All Bets Were Off, No One Was To Talk To Me, and It’s Everyman For Himself in terms of eating/laundry/household issues and/or upkeep. There were essays to write.

I’m proud to say I achieved the following:

  • Every item of clothing/bedding/incidental linen in the house that required washing (about two weeks’ worth) – not only washed, but line-dried, pressed, folded and put away.
  • Bed linen changed.
  • Grocery shopping done.
  • Meals prepared for the next four days.

And one media article opened and partially read.

I’m so proud of myself right now.

sigh.

 

 

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the devil’s in the detail

‘Santa’s Sweat Shop, Nick speaking.’

‘Nick, it’s Luc.’

‘Luuuc! Wassgoin’ down…’

‘Nick, don’t be a jerk.’

‘…down there in Hades?’

‘Nick, for crying out loud, I’m calling on business.’

‘Luc, I’m in the ‘nice’ business, you’re in the ‘naughty’ business, I’m not sure it’s ‘good’ business to take what you’re selling.’

‘For crying out loud, I’ll hang up, and you won’t know how your ridiculous new app is going to screw everything for you on the 25th!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘And all those piddly little brats will miss out!’

‘Miss out on what?’ demanded Nick.

‘Your app’s stuffed, Nick.’

‘And how does the Lord of the Underworld know about my app?’

The line went dead.

Probably too far, Nick admitted to himself, settling back down in his chair to call Luc back. Thing is, he never could resist winding him up. Patiently he tried to redial but no luck. He put the receiver down and began to flip through the papers on his desk, looking for Luc’s number. ‘Rudy!?’ he called out, moving books, sifting through drawers. ‘Rudy, have you got a minute?’ he called again, a little louder.

Still no answer. He pushed up from his desk and walked to the doorway, and shouted ‘RUDY!!” at the top of his lungs. At almost the same moment, Rudy appeared in the doorway, right under Nick’s nose, holding his hand over the mouthpiece of his mobile. He glared darkly at Nick.

‘If you call me by the name of that stupid red-nosed git of a reindeer  of yours one more time, I’ll–’

‘I’m sorry,’ Nick said, and managed to look contrite and sound sincere at the same time.

The elf handed him the phone and said, ‘it’s Luc. There’s some problem with our code.’

Nick took the mobile. ‘Thanks, Rudy,’ he said innocently, and closed the door on the frustrated tantrum of his 2IC.

Nick sat back own. ‘Ok, Luc, sorry about before.’

‘Are you going to listen to me?’

‘Of course!’

‘Without being a jerk?’

‘I … Luc, you take all the fun out of things.’

‘You know, you treat your staff like shit.’

‘Rudy? He’ll get over it.’

‘Fair warning, Nick. He’d jump ship if I offered him a job.’

‘He–’ sputtered Nick.

‘Warmer climate, better hours–’

‘Luc! Shut up! What’s wrong with the app?’

‘Ah, so now you want to focus.’

‘Just tell me what’s going on.’

‘I’m not done having fun with this.’

‘LUC!’

Luc laughed down the phone.

‘I will hang up on you, now, dammit!’ Nick cried, frustrated.

‘No you won’t. Not until you know what it’s about.’

‘Fine.’

Luc’s tone changed slightly. ‘Just remember – what I tell you, I tell you only on the condition that you keep me out of this.’

‘“Keep you out of this”?’

‘Yeh. My name is not to be mentioned in any connection with this.’

Nick stifled a laugh. ‘Ok,’ he managed.

‘This is not about me doing good.’

‘Sure.’

‘It’ll ruin my reputation!’

‘I’ve got your back.’

‘I need your word!’

‘Okay, Luc, I promise! It will be my official line: the Prince of Darkness had nothing to do with saving Chris–’

‘NICK.’

‘All right, all right, I’ll stop, I’ll stop.’

‘You have to be the most frustrating human being of all time!!’

‘After the Mansons, though, surely.’

‘I want to speak to Rudy again!’ Luc yelled.

‘His name’s not Rudy,’ said Nick, feigning hurt and offense on Rudy’s behalf.

‘I don’t care WHAT his name is, he’s the coder, you need him to fix this!’

‘Fix what??’

‘The code in your ridiculous ‘Xmas Wish’ app, Nick, or whatever the hell you’ve called it. It’s not working.’

‘The app the kids are using? How do you know it’s not working?’

‘Because all the data, all the wishes from the kids are re-routing to my server. I traced it back to the code in your stupid app.’

Your server?’ Nick asked, unbelieving.

‘Yes. My server. The Hades server.’

Nick smiled. ‘And you’re worried about this because…?’ although it had already dawned on him that he knew the answer.

‘Because the kids won’t get their pr–’ Luc started shouting, before abruptly strangling himself into silence.

Nick laughed loudly down the phone line. ‘So!’ he shouted gleefully. The Hedon of Hades has a soft-spot for kids at Christmas!’

‘NICK, you bast- ‘

‘Now, now, Luc, we should keep this PG. We are talking about the kids, after all.’

‘You annoying jerk, you–’

‘“The Devil, making sure kids get their gifts at Christmas”,’ Nick laughed even harder.

‘Just remember you promised you’d keep me out of this!’

‘I – I know,’ Nick wheezed, tears streaming down his face. ‘I can’t believe I did that.’

‘You promised!’

‘I did,’ Nick grinned. ‘I promise I won’t tell anyone that you were involved in this.’

There was a pause, and then Luc said, ‘thanks, Nick.’

‘I’ll keep your ironic beard and topknot out of it, too.’

And somewhere in Hades, a mobile phone smashed against the floor before landing in the eternal embers of damnation.

a day at the spa

It had been some operation, the robb’ry came off rather well

They’d beat the teller to it, she’d no time to sound the bell

The bag had filled with money, wealth like nothing he could dream

And in his eye did Savvy Jacky sense a little gleam

But then all hell had broken loose – the guns! The shouts! The noise!

He spun amidst the wreck and smoke to look for all his boys

He saw them, cowering, on their knees, their hands behind their heads

He saw him then, a hulk and towering: ‘I’ll take that, thanks,’ Nick said.

 

‘Nick!’ He cried, and lion-like, he bellowed out his rage

His mouth a snarling rictus, the lion seething in a cage

For trapped he was, his armless men sat helpless on the floor

Without their guns all they could do was watch Nick out the door

‘With all that lovely money,’ Trev would later on lament

And Ed and Nige and Morris, they all knew just what it meant:

The promised break, the trip away to sunny old Marseilles

Was now a dream in ashes: the Boss was cancelling today.

 

In the other room they heard him speaking on the phone

The details of the refund struck, the holiday all gone.

They heard him say goodbye, they heard him moving to the door

Cast down and in their cups their eyes remained upon the floor.

Savvy Jacky saw his boys had given in to drink

He took in their glum faces, and he paused for time to think.

He had a heart, did Savvy Jack, and it told him what to do:

‘I’ll cheer you up, boys! Yes I will! A spa I’ll take you to!’

 

If skeptical they started out, they all soon changed their tune

They were massaged, hot-rocked, sauna-ed , they all had facials done by noon.

Indulged, relaxed and manicured they were feeling at their best

They all agreed glycolic peels is what they should do next.

‘But first,’ Jack said, ‘a mud bath! That will really do the trick!’

But not another step they took, for there stood their nemesis: Nick.

Nick paled beneath a kiwi mask, a towel trembled on his head

He clasped his robe together, and was clearly filled with dread.

 

Not a word was spoken, all were rooted in their place

Every breath was held and shock was plain in every face

The tableau, still and frozen, might have kept on without end,

Until blithely and oblivious into the scene came Glenn.

‘I have those oils you asked for, Nick,’ he said, obsequious.

‘I’ll leave them in your room for you, you’re in what? Number 6?’

 

The tableau smashed, and they all broke and dashed away as one

Glenn was rattled to his knees, an oily mess and stunned

He watched them bolt across the spa, he watched them jump the chairs

He watched them pushing through the place, he watched them with despair.

By now the frantic group of men had reached the narrow stairs

Grimly keeping hot pursuit they bolted on in pairs.

Nick and Jack were at the front, Nick’s elbows working hard

A good one got Jack in the ribs; Nick jumped on by a yard.

 

But in his haste he clipped the last step at the very top

He crashed down hard, he hit his head, it brought him to a stop.

Breathing hard came Jack and Ed, they landed several kicks

Nick’s torso only saved by Trev, who yelled out, ‘this is six!’

‘Noo!’ Nick groaned, ‘it’s mine!’ he cried, but no one heard his pleas

Morris held him, Trev bent down and frisked him for his keys.

‘Here, Boss, it’s your due,’ Trev said, handing them to Jack

Jack shook Trevor’s hand: they’d have their treasure back.

 

And when the door swung open on the scene in Nick Bane’s room

He felt a lifting of the pain, a shifting of the gloom.

On Nick’s bed sat Jack’s own bag, the one they’d filled with money

The one they thought would take them to the lands of milk and honey.

The reverie was halted by the moaning of his rival

He thought it prudent not to stall, but focus on survival.

He looked around his team of men, he saw their glowing faces

‘Trev and Morris, Nige and Ed, now we can go places.’

 

And go they did, with one last kick to quiet Nicky Bane

Heading to the airport, for the plane to old Marseilles.

Cooinda Terang and The Little Acorn Cafe

For a great cappuccino, you need to head to The Little Acorn Café.

It is Friday lunch time in the small country town of Terang, Victoria, and I am happily seated at a table by the window in The Little Acorn Cafe. While enjoying a delicious cappuccino, I look around at the fresh white walls, wooden floors and the vintage chairs and dining tables set before a fireplace. I hear happy and relaxed conversations all around me. One of the staff comes over, and with a big smile, introduces herself and asks if there is anything else I need. I smile back: this is a warm and welcoming place to be.

While The Little Acorn offers a tasty and healthy light-lunch menu, spoil-yourself homemade-slice options, and fantastic, friendly service, what sets this cafe apart is the story behind how it came to life.

Now a vibrant part of community life, The Little Acorn was once the long-time dream of carers and staff of Cooinda Terang, a disability services provider for adults and their families in the surrounding communities. In line with the Values and Mission Statement of Cooinda, the café is a social training opportunity for its residents and participants. Cooinda staff work alongside participants, supervising them in a range of hospitality tasks, including preparation, plating up of food, making coffee, operating the till, waiting tables, setting up and cleaning up.

‘The café is all about giving participants the chance of working in and maintaining a place in their own community,’ says dedicated café manager and long-time staff member at Cooinda, Jenny O’Keeffe. ‘This is all about participants feeling valued and respected within their community and having a chance to do the same things other people do.’

Cooinda’s participants were enthusiastic about the café. To ensure opportunities were available to all, a roster was developed, and participants given the flexibility to choose their activities.

As part of their training, all staff and participants have attained a Level 1 certificate in food safety and food handling. Tasks are assigned based on what participants can do, not on what they can’t do. Once a participant is able to do a task, they are given an opportunity to try something new. ‘No greater importance is placed on one role over another,’ says Jenny. ‘The focus is on increasing personal and living skills in the kitchen, as well as their social skills working with customers of the café.’

The Little Acorn café came to life through the efforts of the Cooinda team and the Cooinda Board of Management. The idea for the café had been on the drawing board for some time but when the lease on the Maternity and Child Health Services building came up, they could turn the idea into a reality. With the full backing of the Board, an application was made to council for the lease and upgrade of the premises. ‘The Corangamite Shire have been very supportive of the initiative that provides an opportunity for Cooinda participants to have valued roles within their community,’ says Cooinda CEO, Janice Harris. ‘We have only had positive feedback about the food and hospitality but also the “vibe” of the café as being a positive and welcoming atmosphere to be in.’ In a generous move, the local council agreed to waive the rent for the first year of the lease, helping to offset start-up costs. This has been particularly helpful, as no assisted funding is available for the project.

Local businesses such as the Terang Op shop, Terang Co-Op and Western District Employment Access have also made significant donations toward establishment costs, giving the café its initial boost. Since opening in mid-December 2016, The Little Acorn is run as any other café business is run, relying on trade and sales and a strong customer base. Being situated in the main street next to the local playground, and with an abundance of passing trade, business has been picking up, and things are looking good. ‘This wouldn’t have happened without the support of the Terang locals,’ Jenny says, adding that the generous spirit of the community has made all the difference.

The strong links with the community extend into the retail space set aside for craft work and locally-made produce, and the works of local artists hang on the walls, all for sale. Students from the local high schools studying hospitality also have an opportunity to work at the café, gaining valuable social and operations experience in a café environment.

‘It is wonderful to see the sense of community here at the café,’ says Jenny. ‘The customers have come to know the participants personally, there is a real community connection. I’m so proud to be a part of this café and this community, and the opportunities given to our participants.

‘They have got their wings and they are flying.’

it’s not you, it’s me…me and my amygdala.

img_0038

So I rock up to my barista and order my large cap, and toast with a tiny bit of vegemite. The coffee here is perfect, the service outstanding, and as I glance at my watch, I don’t know whether to sigh or smirk about being on time for my meeting. I choose to sigh happily and move out of everyone’s way.

At about the 8-minute mark, hipster-suity-groover guy rocks up and orders his coffee and same toast as me. Yes, that’s right. You can see where this is going. My happy barista man calls my name – ‘Someone’s toast is ready!’ I turn to grab my things, move back toward the counter – and before Hipster-Suity Guy’s coffee is even ready, he casually reaches over AND GRABS MY TOAST. Seconds later – wait, I’m not finished shouting: SECONDS LATER, HE HAS HIS COFFEE, THEN HE’S GONE!!!!

To know me is to concede that on a good day, parts of my nature are loveable, but today you’re pretty sure how shit is going to go down. But what if I surprise you? That’s right: things have changed and we are now familiar with the Amygdala Impact.

No matter our individual, or even collective thoughts on how we’ve evolved, we can count on the amygdala to keep us in touch with our Inner Primitive. Or as I affectionately think of him: my Inner Cyberdyne Systems series T-800 Model 101 Amygdala Terminator. The T-800 Amygdala controls the fight or flight instinct, scanning the environment for risk and danger five times a second – that’s right, FIVE TIMES A SECOND – and [analysing it through the super-high tech, military-grade, optical-screen of death] generates cortisol and adrenalin as required. Saving our lives since the Dawn of Man, the amygdala is a compact yet superior survival system, responsible for getting us out of the way of woolly mammoths, errant (or malicious) spear throwers and alerting us to problems that might affect our remaining with the clan. (Because that used to be a Thing.)

Crucial to the continuation of the species, it is one of the strongest drivers in our physical makeup. It is instinct. It’s why we’re here today. And it has this habit of overriding everything.

Now, back to today. It’s February 2017, and waiting for hipster-suity-groover guy’s toast, I have to tell you I don’t see many woolly mammoths about. Unless I’m particularly careless or stupid, or (thanks Pauline) consume too much sugar, there is no immediate threat to my survival past morning tea. I live in a modern family and haven’t sufficiently upset them or any members of my extended family to the point where my position in the clan is at stake. Overall my chances of continuation are pretty good. So. Why? Why the tightness in the chest? What the rush of heat? Why am I ready to go White Crane on hipster-suite-groover guy?

While our pre-frontal cortex is taking all this in, taking it’s time at a rate of 300 million Thinking Bits per second (hmm. What just happened?), our T-800 Amygdala has sorted shit out in a mere 20 million Outraged Symbol Bits (&%$@#**!@#$ etc), and stands up and shouts,

  • THAT WAS MY BREAKFAST!
  • I AM STARVING!
  • AND LYN WILL BEAT ME TO THE MEETING!

New Bron is now equipped with means to have a go at muffling the T-800 Amygdala. She clamps a hand over the speaker system. Smiles for the lookers-on. ‘Nothing to see here’, her smile says. She hisses at the T-800 Amygdala to go into standby mode for a minute, and proceeds to consult the pre-frontal cortex, posing the T-800 Amygdala’s responses as questions, and looking for positive directions in which to re-think things:

  1. Yes. That was my breakfast. But perhaps hipster-suity-groover works for Medicins-Sans-Frontiers and he had to rush to the airport. You could have just saved lives!
  2. Your survival is not contingent on the turkish toast. You’ll probably make it to morning tea. Except you’ll end up with hipster-suity-groover’s toast, so…
  3. Look, I really don’t have an answer to this one, you’re incredibly childish, so…you’re on your own. (Ok, I deserve that one.)

The trick is to remember that you have to work pretty hard to overcome your amygdala’s response. With practise you can. Try it this way:

Identify and label your physical response. (Tightness in the chest, nausea; the name of any karate poses you assume.)

Trace these physical responses back to what you are thinking. (Injustice, starvation, going one-up at work.)

Now: involve your pre-frontal thinking man/woman by asking questions. And think in terms of the positive.

 

With thanks to Sandra Wood for making a difference.

surviving work after two months leave

Two months leave. Do you know how hard it is to go back to the office after two months leave? Especially in this heat? After hanging out by the pool, hanging with my family, hanging with my dogs, cafe sprees, writing sprees, studying lots, being carefree lots, happy and…chill? Lots?

It sucks, frankly. It sucks.

The Train crowds – they’re sticky in February. And sometimes…well, let’s just say Rexona is the god you’d like everyone to worship. Then arrive at the office, for back-to-back meetings. Forming coherent sentences on an hourly basis. Saying stuff out loud. Remembering your name. The names of your staff. The names of people you need to network with. The floor you work on. Discovering all the to-dos you left that didn’t get to-done. Rekindling your affair with the MFD. And all the while hearing the siren-song of the 15 pubs in walking distance of your desk.

Your desk!

All a bit much, really. Obviously, a survival list is what’s in order. I’ve decided that the best way forward is:

Step 1

Stay away from your staff. Yes, they’re lovely and wonderful and I missed them and truly I only wrote about to-dos not getting to-done for hyperbolic effect – they did a sterling job and I’m doing one long happy dance on the inside. But they want to update you and ask how Broken Hill was and brief you and give you things you need to carry on with, and start to-doing things yourself and pick up where you left off. That’s rubbish. I mean it, stay away from them.

Step 2

Avoid your managers. They appear, sage-like, mage-like, kings of the orient, there at your desk, making you drink from poisoned chalices disguised as career incentives and super-project involvement and exciting opportunities and BLAH bl-BLAH bl-BLAH. Don’t be fooled. It’s bloody work, is all it is, and not the bloody work you bloody want to be bloody doing. And the work means you have to talk to people. And network. And negotiate. And put stuff down in black and white. You have to remember how to write in public service-speak. How to commit to things.

Don’t be lured by the offer of coffee! Avoid your managers! Avoid them like the plague!

Step 3

Ok, sure, I’ll talk about that all-staff forum. With the new guy. Bringing us together. Getting collaboration out of 268 people. That was inspired. Don’t roll your eyes, because you know it was. He reminded you about the ‘why’; the why you’re doing all these things. Not just your day-job – although he reminded you that it is a worthwhile thing, and you’re there for a reason, and you REALLY LIKE THE REASON. And not only do you like The Reason, but he reminded you that The Reason is linked to all your personal goals, too, and essentially makes them all possible. So…sigh. Maybe, grudgingly, you could roll your eyes a little and quietly and incoherently mumble that ‘It might be ok being back at work.’

Sigh.

Step 4

Stay AWAY from the pubs. Stay. Awa-

What the hell…maybe just one.

Building Good Momentum For Doing Important Stuff

How dogs meditate

I don’t like routine. I’ve sometimes liked the sound of it, but generally: ew. Not for me. I reluctantly admit that routines are valuable. And looking at my 2017 calendar, I’ve reluctantly decided I should research what they’re all about. And reluctantly I accept that maybe if I’d had a routine a lot earlier, or even yesterday, I might reluctantly concede that yes, ‘they’re great’ and when I concede this, I will try and do it without rolling my eyes or using a mocking falsetto when I say it.

I turned to google in my hour of reluctant searching for routine answers (ha! see what I did there) and it turns out there are a lot of people out there who want me to help myself when it comes to following a routine because, they say, routines are crazy-super. And with slightly less reluctance than when I set out, I begin to realise, hey, some of these tips are really good ideas, and wait, I could probably do that one and before I knew it – !

Here is my new routine. I have selected what I think are the best parts from a number of well-thought out lists of routine things you can do each day. I identified the area of my day where I need the most help: getting out of bed in the morning. Then I picked what is realistic for me. I have ended up structuring my new routine around building good momentum for doing important stuff during the rest of my day. Wait, that sounds really good and caps-worthy, so let’s try it again:

Building Good Momentum For Doing Important Stuff During The Rest Of My Day.

  1. Sleep well.
    Yeh, sure! Right. Add Ironic Tick to that one. Recent heat, recent late nights of tennis, recent interest in Black Mirror, had a coffee too close to bedtime? A good night’s sleep is a myth in my house. I have so many bad habits that I have to change, according to the experts. These experts say that without a solid refreshing seven hours sleep and giving yourself every opportunity to wake up a happy person (wtf, there are happy morning people?), don’t worry about anything else on your list. (They were serious!) So stop right here if you didn’t sleep well and try again tomorrow.
  2. Meditate.
    Spend a couple of minutes, or 10, or 15 on calming your mind. Meditate as your yogi would have you meditate. Meditate on all you are grateful for. Meditate on the quietness around you. (I’ll give you a tip. Don’t slide down the side of your bed (because you’re not yet ready to stand up and walk anywhere) and lean with your back to it, positioning yourself where your dog (who yes, sleeps on our bed) can lean over your shoulder to see what you are doing up so early in the morning and then sneezes all over your neck. 5.30am-inspired invective is not good for his karma.) Dry, and relocated in a peaceful, quiet position, clear your mind, regulate your breathing and focus on calmness. Comes back to you in spades later in the day when you are trying to digest things like current world ‘politics’, or the person next to you on the train keeps sniffing. Calm.
  3. Do something physical.
    Walk the dogs, do some gardening, turn on the vacuum (5.30am, why not? This is not a popularity contest). If, in the early days of establishing your routine, you are only able to manage the making of sandwiches (gourmet, of course), hanging out a load of washing, or filling up the dogs’ water bowls in the morning, then so be it. It’s good to be moving around and forming the habit of being conscious and upright so early in the morning is more important.
  4. Drink a bottle (500mL) of water before you leave the house.
    If you can. That’s one down for the day and you will keep reaching for it.
  5. Jump in the pool or take a cold shower.
    This one will be interesting come Winter, but the thing with a cold shower is that your heart rate jumps and the brain cells switch into high gear: it is now highly motivated into crystallising ideas for making it stop. Stay in there and harness that idea power surge. Also good for increasing willpower and self-discipline. (You’re welcome. I had to look these up, too.)
  6. Read something inspiring or uplifting.
    Take 5 or 10 minutes to read something inspiring or uplifting. If it’s a quote, write in in your diary, write it on your phone, write it on your arm. But take it with you everywhere and re-visit it whenever you can. At the moment my go-to is Marcus Aurelius. A quote that has worked really well for me my first week back at work, where I have been bombarded, ambushed and mauled (of course I never exaggerate) was visualising being the sailor that finds a calm harbour after letting go of people’s necks all judgements. Book Twelve, check it out.
  7. Review your goals.
    Review your goals daily. Why do you want to get out of bed? Oh yeh! My goals! That’s right. Write your goals down. After you’ve cleaned off the dog sneeze, found a way to thank the universe for your dog, hung out the washing, frozen the nucleus of all your cells and read some Marcus-like stuff – have a drink of water while you re-connect every day with your list of goals. Stay on track.

Be calm. Be the sailor. Stay connected. Build your momentum.

Through the glass.

SDave and Mikehe leaned her face against the glass and felt the tears smudge between her cheek and the clear cold surface. Her face hurt from the long effort of trying to pin the smile in place so that he wouldn’t be made too sad by her sadness as he boarded the plane. This was The Day, after all, and it turned out he’d done a fabulous job of getting all this together, while she hadn’t prepared herself properly for it at all. She thought of the day Dave had started kindy, but then decided he would move out and start a family. What prepares you for this moment when you’re staring through the glass? Continue reading