“I’ve been through the desert…”

I turned 43 a little bit after midnight, and woke to a muggy, hot sun coming through the window, a little hung over on tequila sunrises from yesterday’s birthday party, uneager to get up and rush Jed off to camp.

My party tired boy came stumbling in for a morning snuggle, crawled under the covers and looked at me with sweet eyes and said, “Happy Birthday mom. I love you.”

And there was no dad here to remind him to say that, but he, on his very own, made sure they were the first words I heard this morning. We should all be lucky enough for those perfect 3 seconds on our birthday.

And we rushed around making breakfast and getting ready for camp, then I came home and ate a red velvet cupcake and a piece of bacon and a handful of blueberries off the bush on the patio. I made a perfect cup of Earl Grey, and spent 45 minutes getting my speakers to work again.

I shuffled Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Jackson Browne, The Eagles and America and started to write.

Horse with No Name” was released in 1971, the year I was born. I was five, the same age as Jed now, when “Hotel California” came out.

Then I went out to the back yard to pick up those wonderful remnants of a party much-enjoyed, the melted ice in the cooler and unopened beer starting to warm in the morning, the tablecloths covered in frosting and potato chip crumbs, sprinklers and slip ‘n slides and chairs tipped over. Starfish fairy wands and pirate hats abandoned on the patio table.

My friend Kristin threw me a gorgeous party, and so many good, good, good, essential friends celebrated with us. The kids jumped on the trampoline, then filled the inflatable hamster wheel with water and held court in their own private grotto. The friends talked and laughed between tending over-sugared kids.

When I was a kid, parties were for everyone. Nobody had a babysitter, and no adult stayed home because of a child’s bedtime. I’m sure that was the era, coupled with the circumstances of our wild, free, hippie childhoods on Maui. But we were part of our parent’s celebrations, and I like doing it that way too.

My first sunflower opened today. It’s growing in the little side garden off the patio, with green beans vining up its stalk. I still need to figure out some sort of permanent landscaping there, but this summer has been about doing what is beautiful and easy. I am giving myself a break.

My birthday wish is that we all give ourselves a break more often.

On Saturday Jed and his dad floated down a stretch of river that used to be my birthday trip. The first summer Eben and I were dating we spent the afternoon on that float, and did it many times in the years after. It hurt, having my ex-husband ask me to help with the car shuttle so that he could take Jed (just them) on “my” birthday float.

But I don’t get to have that trip, that way, anymore. That made me sad, still does. None of this is easy, breaking patterns and families and expectations. It is harder to give myself that break, the break from having to be happy about it all and the break from the positive spin. Divorce is hard.

But Jed came home excitedly planning for the next trip with even bigger rapids. I invited his dad up to my birthday party yesterday, and he came, because my friends are still his friends. And these kids, they all love their dads.

I am spending time with a new someone, a sort of casual, sort of not, really good person who makes me happy, but he couldn’t make it to the party. That was ok, because one of the blessings of growing older is allowing things to move slowly. Even when it seems like I was just yesterday 15 and celebrating my birthday with a sleepover, Bon Jovi and INXS on the stereo, calling boys and applying eyeliner and believing that I would one day be walking down the streets of NYC being an executive or a supermodel in that exact outfit I just tore out of Seventeen magazine.

I picked Jed up from camp, and took him to his favorite burrito spot for lunch. He was tired and still a bit sick from last week, so we cancelled swim lessons and sat around watching TV all afternoon.

Jed went to his dad’s tonight, and I went to play tennis. I got hit in the cheek with a tennis ball, hard. But it’s ok. I like playing with the guys, trying to stay present and in it for the hard returns. This wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine – I read it wrong, stepped into the ball. It hurt, I almost cried. But there’s no crying on your birthday.

The day isn’t quite over. Listening to Grateful Dead, “Ripple,” as I finish writing. So odd, my choice of music today. I’d have thought a birthday would bring some Wu Tang or something more, I don’t know, big and thumping.

I learned to sing “Ripple” when Jed was born; it was one of his bedtime songs. That, and “Amazing Grace” (every verse), and “You Are My Sunshine.” I still sing him “Sunshine” nightly.

I have vowed to finally learn to play guitar this year. My birthday resolution. But I vow that every year. Jed and I will learn together, him on his tiny red electric guitar, me on my mom’s old 40 year old hand me down acoustic.

Happy Birthday. Cheers and candle blow outs to giving ourselves more breaks.

 

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Status: Happy

Finally writing, on a sunny Sunday morning.

I love to read the anniversaries in the Sunday paper. My favorites today celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary with a family gathering. He is a Master Gardener; she worked as a school librarian and is in a poetry study group. They are members of the NAACP, have two grandchildren and two great grandchildren. They look alike as many couples tend to do when they’ve been each other’s other for so long. They look happy.

Their anniversary party smiles undoubtedly hide 65 years of the arguments, illness, misplaced dreams and ambitions that make up any shared life. But today they smile from the page, married since 1949.

I got divorced this spring.

But it’s ok. I am happy, too. Our son is happy.

I’ve had a hard time writing since the divorce became final in March.

Except for the first month after moving out, when the release of the sad years and the shock of it being done left me feeling like I’d simultaneously murdered the love of my life and watched him murder me while our beautiful child listened from the other room, I’ve been so happy.

And it is hard to write of how happiness can come so soon after such sorrow and disappointment. I think that, simply – while I would never choose divorce, unless to find joy that was otherwise unachievable – my end is also my beginning, and beginnings are happy.

The reasons to break up our marriage and give up on the dream of 65 years are so simultaneously vast and minute that they can’t really be explained.

What we told Jed was that we used to love each other so much, enough to make a baby exist, but we don’t anymore, and we are not able to live in the same house without arguing and disagreeing all the time, and that people should never be that unhappy, so we are going to live in separate houses, but will be a family forever.

So far this is true.

We owned a second property 5 houses up the street, which I chose as my and Jed’s new home. It is smaller, simpler, and more modern. However this proximity to my ex challenges me, it is perfect for our son, who likes to bike down to find a piece of wood from dad’s then bike back home to me so that we can play sword fight.

Children, when you explain how something will be, they believe you and don’t ask many questions. I am just believing how it will be, as well, and not asking too many questions of this new life.

And happiness abounds.

That Just Happened

I am not bragging. I promise. This isn’t one of those “I’m awesome and you should totally be in awe of my mom prowess” kind of posts. On the contrary, this is one of those “holy shit that was awesome, maybe I’m not the worst mom in the world” kind of posts.

I actually got my kid to eat kale. No, not the middlest, who will try anything, nor the baby, who hasn’t yet learned that she can dislike foods, but the biggest. The one who exists on carbs, meat, and sugar. She is a stubborn, strong-willed, hardheaded, spit-fire of a child. Too many synonyms for stubborn in that sentence for you? You should be glad the rest of this post wasn’t just other words that mean stubborn.

Last night we were having burgers for dinner. As a side I made some kale chips for Joe and me. They’re super simple (clean/dry kale, toss with olive oil and salt, roast for 10ish minutes at 400 degrees), crunchy, and healthy. I put a small peice on each girls’ plate. I assumed they wouldn’t eat them, but always hope they’ll try. Valerie ate hers (of course), and through a grimace told me she liked it. Not convincing. Elizabeth put hers in her mouth and then spit in on the tray. Until she saw Val, then she ate the rest, but shook her head at more. Reagan wasn’t convinced and turned it down for most of dinner. Finally she tried one, and liked it. She ended up eating almost all of Joe’s serving and half of mine. I was shocked. I thought through the night’s events. What had caused this? Peer pressure from her sister and dad (she doesn’t fall for it with me)? The fact that we’d grown the kale ourselves (it and strawberries are all I’m harvesting thus far this year)? Who knows…but I wasn’t particularly optimistic that it’d ever happen again.

Fast forward to tonight. After dinner she asked for “some more of those fruit chips”. It was 6:40 (bedtime is usually 7), and I didn’t have any kale in the house, let alone baked. I did what any sane person would do when her least healthy eater asks for something like kale….put on shoes and headed for the garden. The girls practiced scissor skills cutting some kale, we washed it and tossed it, and put it in the oven. Then Rea scarfed down her portion (half a cookie sheet full) and half of Valerie’s.

It was glorious.

It felt amazing that she was eating something so healthy. It felt amazing that it came from my own garden. The girls helped me plant those seeds*, water them, cut the product, clean it (we found a slug and some lady bug eggs…even more opportunities for new knowledge), and prep it. I loved everything about it. I couldn’t have planned a better experience.

And isn’t that how it goes? The best laid plans for educational or enriching activities end with tantrums and tears and a screaming mama, but the moments that you least expect turn out to be so beautiful and perfect and full of all the lessons you’d want.

kale

*For anyone who thinks gardening isn’t for them…I’m firmly of the belief that if I can do it anyone can. Kale grows easily from seed and is very cold tolerant. It make a good container plant too for those that prefer container gardens to ones in the yard. It’s also (like herbs) a plant that is harvestable over a long time, so you don’t end up with an abundance and then nothing. Kale chips are my FAVE, but it also is awesome in smoothies/juices, stews, stir fries, etc.

What Makes You Happy?

Today was one of those days.

The type where you check the clock just to be shocked that it’s only been 6 minutes since you last checked it. The type where bedtime can’t come soon enough.

I had a tantrum while cleaning up my middlest’s second accident of the day. A tantrum. I’m not proud, y’all, but it’s the truth. It happens sometimes when you’re living in the trenches. When you’re taking care of others and you have so much to do and you’re frustrated and tired and angry at yourself for not being the best mom every moment of the day. Sometimes you just jump up and down and growl a deep animal growl of frustration because cleaning up another person’s pee is just. Not. Fun.

These days happen. And, sure, the whole day wasn’t a shitty frustration-fest of annoyance, but it kind of feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it? It’s hard to remember all those moments that happened throughout the day that weren’t just wonderful, they were full of wonder. Those moments where you stare and think “Please, please, please let me remember this moment.” I had some of those moments today. Right? I think? Probably?

Cue my friend’s recent photos showing up on Facebook with the tag “100happydays”. Some were particularly artistic, posed, or framed. Some were not. So I googled it, and I knew I would take this “challenge”.

Sure, I have plenty (more than enough, more than anyone could ever hope or ask for) to make me happy. Whenever I bitch about stuff, which I do, there’s this small voice in my head that screams “SHUT UP! ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?!” It’s not just about “first world problems”, please. I am a lucky SOB. I am loved and healthy and provided for. I have kids I love, a best friend of a husband, hell, I even like myself. I don’t have jack to complain about. That being said, life isn’t all roses and glasses of good wine. Sometimes things are annoying, or frustrating, or hard to do. Sometimes things are sad, or infuriating, or not what I’d hoped. At the end of the day, I am absolutely thrilled with the hand I’ve been dealt, but I’m also not always focused on those positives. So, an exercise in gratitude, in recognizing the little (or big) things that are there everyday? Sign me up.

Here are some of the things that have (and haven’t) made my list since I started a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday is the best dog ever, and Elizabeth is the only kid who's shown this much interest in her.

Sunday is the best dog ever, and Elizabeth is the only kid who’s shown this much interest in her.

Is there anything cuter than short kids in ballet outfits?

Is there anything cuter than short kids in ballet outfits?

This piece was a special order from A.S.H. Collective (on Etsy and FB) and I LOVE it.

This piece was a special order from A.S.H. Collective (on Etsy and FB) and I LOVE it.

Doodle has move up to her very own bedroom and out of the office/nursery attached to the master. FREEDOM!

Doodle has moved up to her very own bedroom and out of the office/nursery attached to the master. FREEDOM!

My Father-In-Law made me these AWESOME grow boxes in which I've started this year's garden. Which is NOT pot, FYI.

My Father-In-Law made me these AWESOME grow boxes in which I’ve started this year’s garden. Which is NOT pot, FYI.

Val is making real progress potty training. Today was an accident free day at school. Totally warrants a donut and the digital version of Frozen right?

Val is making real progress potty training. Today was an accident free day at school. Totally warrants a donut and the digital version of Frozen right?

If you've never tried Eastern NC style BBQ, you're missing out. It's tangy and spicy. I actually sub Sriracha for the hot sauce, I like the depth of flavor better.

If you’ve never tried Eastern NC style BBQ, you’re missing out. It’s tangy and spicy. I actually sub Sriracha for the hot sauce, I like the depth of flavor better.

friends

If these last few months of unemployment have taught me anything, it’s that I am not at all cut out for stay-at-home motherhood. I’m bored. Quinn is bored. Lucas has school all day, so he’s not as bored… but I think he can feel my boredom. It’d probably be easier if this had happened over the six months of good weather here in CT, but the weather is absolute crap, so our options are limited. It sucks being stuck inside all day everyday. Totally and completely sucks.

It’s hard not to throw a self-pity party while unemployed. I feel like I could handle just about any job given just a small bit of guidance (you know, except, like, brain surgeon or some shit.) But I’m stuck in the death spiral of “no experience so no job so no experience” while trying to obtain an actual librarian job and also being over-qualified for other “lesser” jobs. So ultimately, I’m getting nowhere fast and that is a major blow to my self-esteem. Add that to the fact that financially things have been really difficult and you can see why I am having a hard time right now.

But you know why things are not all bad? Because I honestly have the greatest friends EVER. Seriously. EVER. I am an incredibly lucky girl. I have friends who are always there to lend a sympathetic ear or virtual shoulder to lean on (as many of my friends live too far away to lend an actual shoulder to lean on). Friends who make me laugh and friends who listen when I cry. Friends from high school. Friends from college. New friends and old friends. Friends related by blood and friends who are not. Friends who provide support and love and advice and love and love and love.

In just the last week, I’ve had two friends in particular reach out with generous, surprise gifts just because they know I’m going through a rough patch and need some help. I cried both times when opening the gifts. Tears of joy and relief. Tears because I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am to have such a spectacular support system. Tears because I don’t feel like I deserve such love and generosity. And then there were more tears when I was assured that yes, I do deserve it.

I’ve often heard that it’s during the difficult times in life when you realize who your true friends are. I have been lucky enough to find out that most of the people I consider friends are, in fact, those true friends. I may not have made great decisions when it comes to some relationships, but when it comes to my friends? I’ve chosen wisely.

Thank you to my friends. Thank you. I love you.