This is 3!

 

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This is 3! We hung the birthday sign and the paper chain and blew up balloons. I made blueberry pancakes and lit a candle and we sang, all before sun up. I was a full and present parent who didn’t try to juggle other tasks into the day. She chose the Peabody museum, so we went to New Haven and, as luck would have it, they were feeding the bearded dragons and frogs and Vietnamese walking sticks, so we got to hold and touch and marvel up close. In the afternoon it was warm enough to go to the beach and build sandcastles. I’m still off food from the stomach flu, so when my mom offered dinner and a birthday muffin, I said, oh yes please! (I’m getting a lot better now at saying, yes, thank you for your offer to help, I’ll take it!)

I would like to write another ode to age 2, but I’ve been catching up on my course, and must save it for the weekend.

Thank you, dear readers, for hanging in there and leaving so many kind comments during this stretch of thin posts and two bouts of illness. It was a beautiful day celebrating my sweet girl and I’m feeling so grateful.

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Horseback Riding

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I’ve spent too many posts relying on subtext to tell the truth of each day, so here’s one where I’ll state it plain.

I rode horses for a few years as a kid. Western style, not English. I remember the excitement of picking out real cowgirl boots. I know how to saddle, bridle, brush, and clean the caked mud from hooves. My body knows the rhythm of walk, trot, cantor, gallop. I love trail rides, but the ring is best for galloping. During a competition when I was ten, the saddle wasn’t tightened, and on the return loop, it slid from my horse taking me with it. I don’t remember the fall; I want to say I might’ve even landed on my feet. I know I managed not to get trampled. Once during a lesson, another horse bit mine and he reared up, front legs reaching into the air, chucking me backwards, but I held on. Those were the only memorable events, those and the time a horse stepped on my foot. I loved driving to the stable, the routine of readying the horse, just being close to those majestic creatures, and of course I loved to ride.

At some point during my pregnancy, I told my brother I missed riding horses. I don’t know what prompted it, I just wanted to be out in the woods horseback riding. A fleeting notion. Many months later, when my daughter was just 5 months old, my brother stopped by with a birthday present that he and my siblings had arranged. I’ll never forget, it was the middle of the day and he was dressed in his suit looking so polished and handsome. The baby had just dozed off and I was lying in bed with her, delirious from long-term sleep-deprivation. The place was surely a mess. By then my brother had a 2-year-old and understood, but I still felt embarrassed. He smiled, handed me an envelop, and whispered, “Open it.” Inside were two gift certificates to a stable a few towns away. Apparently the stable did not routinely offer gift certificates, but were happy to accommodate the request and created two by hand (see above picture). The font on the backside is mismatched and each certificate contains different information. He had to wait a bit while they made them up. We laughed and laughed, silent-don’t-wake-the-baby laughter bubbling into tears streaming down my cheeks, which turned into real tears after he’d left–I was so moved by the thoughtful nature of the gift, that he remembered after all that time, a whim from a passing conversation.

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Cathedral Maple

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On Saturday night at the barbecue, everyone gathered around the picnic table eating, drinking, toasting, laughing. We were serenaded by a live band playing at another party a few houses away. The air was breezy and mild. And upstairs the little toddler slept soundly.

As the night went on, people gravitated toward our old maple tree, the heart of our backyard. At one point, I found my brother-in-law and a friend gazing up into the branches, remarking on the maple’s tremendous height, the careful pruning, its possible age. I told them the story about the open house last year when we first saw the property. I loved the house, but I felt drawn to the backyard. I went out to wander more than once, placed my hand on the old maple’s trunk and promised I would return.

We all sat around the fire sharing conversation beneath the cathedral branches. We hadn’t thought about where to set up the fire, we just ended up there, drawn to the maple’s presence.

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Celebration

Tonight, a party. A small barbecue with old friends who don’t mind that I dragged my feet toward 40 and planned everything at the last minute. Friends happy to make a cheese plate and bake me a cake. Friends ready to celebrate, just say when. The weather is perfect cloudless blue sky breezy warm summertime. Sunflowers on the picnic table and an outdoor fire. The first party we’ve hosted since we moved in almost a year ago. Time to celebrate, blow out candles, make a wish.

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This is 40

img_6563-2Everyone asked me, how will you celebrate your 40th? A teenage version of me scowled, I don’t know. A toddler version of me stomped my foot. Today, on my birthday, I’m laughing at these other me’s who’ve been so resistant to the inevitable. (Graceful transitions have never been my thing.) But I woke up this morning so happy. Look at how far I’ve made it! Look at how beautiful this time in my life is, this exact moment. So much emerging, growing, flourishing. Four decades flew by and landed me here, inside heaps of happiness.

 

40 is new motherhood at midlife. It’s waking up to my two-year old announcing, “Happy birthday, Mommy! I love you!”

40 is being married to a good man, a true heart. It’s watching my husband with my daughter and seeing a dream realized.

40 is a house with a front porch and a rambling backyard. It’s rooted and grounded.

40 is learning to live with uncertainty. It’s believing that ultimately, it will all work out. And even if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

40 is the gift of parents and stepparents, happy and in good health. It’s the joy  of seeing them with their granddaughter. My toddler on her Papa’s shoulders or snuggled with her Grammie reading a book. It’s a new and profound appreciation for my parents’ dedication, hard work, and unconditional love raising my sisters and brother and me.

40 is the difference between dreaming and doing.

40 is believing in myself. It is brave.

40 is having traveled so far. From the Grand Canyon to Uluru. The blue stained glass of Chagall’s chapel to the music of the ocean dragging across the rocky shore in Nice, and far more beautiful, the laughter of my daughter beneath a cathedral of maple branches.

40 is having sisters who are also my best friends.

40 is knowing who I am and who I’m not. It’s writing my own narrative.

40 is reliving the highlights of my early childhood through the experiences of my daughter.

40 is running for fitness, not weight loss. Strength of body, strength of mind.

40 is knowing I look good in dresses, not skirts, and never buying a skirt again.

40 is writing. Every single day.

40 is published.

40 is listening to a lot of Raffi and singing nursery rhymes.

40 is a new and stronger feminism.

40 is accepting that, though I may never kill the voice of self-doubt, that ruthless second-guesser, I don’t have to listen to it or let it decide.

40 is observing wildlife, naming the birds, paying attention.

40 is sometimes still falling into the habit of spinning my wheels, frantic to get traction, then remembering that’s not how traction is achieved.

40 is being the same hippy I was in the ’70s at age 3 and in the early ’90s as a teenager.

40 is valuing kindness and connection. It’s choosing words carefully. It’s mindful of the feelings of others.

40 is looking back on more highlights than regrets.

40 is deep gratitude for the endurance of old friendships and the people who lift me up.

40 is the fulfillment of my heart’s desires. It’s the most beautiful my life has ever been.

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Birthday Vibes

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It keeps coming up: what do you want to do for your 40th birthday? 

Nothing, I said.

Eh, maybe kayaking, I said. Maybe lobsters.

Something quiet, I said.

I have not been able to muster any enthusiasm for the big 4-0. Until yesterday when this birthday card arrived in the mail for Chris. I stared at the cartoon for a while, smiling. Yes, I thought, this is what I want my birthday to feel like.

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