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What have I learned in a year away from home? Here are the top ten things:

1) Life can change drastically in a heartbeat. I guess I knew that, but I’d never watched someone so close to me so suddenly close to death. Tom’s episode was a life-changer.

2) It is possible to live without a home address and phone service, but it’s really hard.

3) Wherever we went, we saw multi-generational families together every Sunday, brunching and strolling in tribes everywhere. With my kids so far away, I was in tears on Thanksgiving, and a recovering motherholic all through December. I’m okay now. Especially with this new plan to pester them incessantly from now on. Maybe invite them over every weekend. Be the mother-in-law from hell.

4) Mexicans are really, truly, lovely people.

5) Wearing sandals for a whole year is even better than you think.

6) Our theory that Europeans seem, culturally, more generous and familiar with strangers truly held up. And we needed that a lot when Tom was ill. Our friends in Spain did all they could to translate medical Catalan, keep Tom entertained, keep me sane, and celebrate his birthday right after the hospital. I come home with more emotional and hospitable generosity.

7) I really missed the old friends who know our stories. The people you don’t have to keep introducing yourself to. The people you can trust. The people who invite themselves to our Oscar party. I missed our Oscar party.

8) I don’t need a lot of stuff. I don’t even need a lot of clothes. I hope that statement does not come back to haunt me.

9) One of our many miracles was that that Tom and I spent a year pretty much alone together without brickbats or even boredom. But it made me treasure my girlfriends now more than ever. I miss the girlfriends who tell you to go ahead and spend the money. And you look like you’ve lost weight. And let’s go to a movie in which there is Pierce Brosnan and also nothing explodes.

10) It is possible to live by the sea for six months in a row, hearing it roll and roar 24/7, and never once take it for granted. Who cares if there was no phone service or movies on demand? I am one of the luckiest people on earth. And I will always treasure the memories this year.

In a little over forty-eight hours we will begin a new chapter in life, as we return to Portland to search for a new apartment. I am sad. I am happy. But above all I am so glad we did this.