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Milestones

It's funny the things that stay with us as markers of time passing. It is not always the milestones, although those are significant. For me, the milestones this year include celebrating 15 years at KPBS, turning 40, watching my oldest child enter double digits and my youngest complete her first year of life. It includes mourning the passing of my first "baby," my beloved dog Beso, who died at the age of 12 (a respectable 84 in dog years).

When my husband wanted a child, Beso was the compromise. I agreed if we could successfully raise a puppy, we could try for a family. He taught us well but was so much easier than a child, as we would discover two years later. He taught us to worry desperately, about someone other than ourselves. We learned to wake in the wee hours of the night to comfort a whimpering pup, those first few days after he came to our home. This was a stepping stone to the weeks of interrupted sleep we would endure as parents of a newborn. We spent our lunch hours visiting him in our backyard; good preparation for when my daughter was born and I would make the same trek home every day to nurse and her. He made us a family, before we even knew we wanted to be one.

Twelve years have passed since his first day with us and now we are a family of five. But losing Beso is a constant reminder to me of not only how quickly time passes but how much we take for granted while that time is slipping away. Beso's passing was not something I planned for while I pursued my career, cared for three children and engaged in enough volunteer and social activities to keep my Blackberry full. But for several months this year, as his cancer grew, I was forced to realize he wouldn't be with us for too much longer. By saying goodbye to him, I knew I would also be letting go of my first experience as a mother.

Before he died, Beso taught me one last thing: Cherish the non-milestone moments, for they are often the most meaningful markers of time.

So, I have been doing that and I'm not as alarmed about the passing of time as we enter December and 2005 hurtles to a finish. I notice little things; and as Beso taught, they stay with me.

When I'm bathing my baby, I note that the hourglass shaped bottle of baby wash is almost empty. I think about how many baths in a year that represents, how she's progressed from a baby bath to the regular tub, how she now stands up in the tub, resplendent in her nakedness and shrieks, giddy that she can stand. I make a mental note when her gibberish begins the transition to words and then to knowledge. I all but give her a high-five when I'm pouring myself a glass of water and she stops babbling for a moment to clearly say "agua." Now, when I look into her eyes, I see something that wasn't there before the power of knowledge.

I marvel as my kindergartner realizes that he can read. I pay attention when he tries to say the words on signs as we drive down the highway. And I'm awed when I spell a word aloud to my husband, so my son won't understand, and he sounds out the word and triumphantly shouts it back at us.

I carefully consider the significance of taking my 10-year-old to her first funeral. I am taken aback when she maturely explains that she wants to be there for her friend. I am proud at how she handles herself when emotion overtakes me and am so thankful that she is learning compassion.

At work, I'm more aware of how quickly people's abilities expand when needed and how lucky I am to have so many people up to their tasks. This year has brought personal challenges to many people in my area, but no department has faltered. Over time, each employee has learned to stretch his or her skills and they were all ready to face new tasks this year as the situation required.

There are so many obvious signs of time passing -- from the holidays that are upon us, when it seems summer has just passed, to the aging that we see every time we look in a mirror. But these are not the ones that stay with us, the ones that create memories. It's the non-milestone moments that fill our hearts, lift our spirits and make us thankful for the time we have right now.