February 12, 2016
by Tricia
4 Comments

Thirty-five

“It’s time to get up now.” he says, giving me a gentle nudge. It’s the third, maybe fourth time he’s woken me this morning. It’s also the same thing every day, as if I’m five or maybe fifteen. Not, as of yesterday, thirty-five.

In between the first nudge and this one, I’ve kept my eyes closed but tip toed into the day, thinking about what it holds. The ups and downs, treats to look forward to and things I don’t really want to do wash over me in this moment every morning. Some days it’s dreadful. Others, though, like today, it’s not bad at all.

He nudges again.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” I ask in morning mumble. Without so much as a beat, he wishes me “Happy Birthday” with a kiss. And then I get out of bed.

There have been times when this small morning moment would have become a much bigger thing. There have been times when I wouldn’t remind him but, rather, would spend my entire shower feeling sorry for myself and angry at him for a blip that is never “I forgot your birthday” but is always a groggy, bleary-eyed “It’s really damn early.” There have been times when I didn’t see it that way at all. Oh there have been times.

But thirty-five is grace. Thirty-five is remembering that the blips don’t have to get me down or bring us down. Thirty-five is shamelessly talking about my birthday, asking for and orchestrating what I want, and being completely ok with that. Because why the hell not? Thirty-five is gutsy. And I like it.

This is my fifth year celebrating my birthday in this increasingly small space. And I like that too. I like that I have a history. Little data points from the moment between years tell a story. I can look back and compare who I was then with who I am now and who I’m becoming. Embarrassing as it was, I went back and read 31 through 34 today just for the journey of it. In these four years, I’ve grown quite a bit as a person and a writer, if I do say so myself. I also like that I’m sharing all of this with an increasingly small number of you, too. Growth isn’t always about getting bigger. Sometimes it really is about focus and intention and sometimes that means getting a little smaller. If you’re reading this, you’ve been part of the journey and I know who you are.

Thirty-five is knowing who my people are, without a doubt, and feeling the warmth that comes from spending my time and energy and love with those people.

birthdayphoto

Thirty-five is a new phase of motherhood. It’s spending my birthday in a quiet house and mostly alone because my babies are no longer babies but kids with school and ballet classes and blossoming little lives. It’s not believing this could be possible but it most definitely is falling in love with my children harder and harder each day as they grow more and more into the people they’re becoming. It’s finding my stride with their hands in mine rather than with their bodies on my hip. It’s finding my groove and knowing much better who I am as a mother. And loving it.

And it’s knowing, much better, who I am as a person, a wife, a friend. And accepting that. And realizing that when I accept who I am, the people in my life begin to know me better too. And that makes the risk of seeing and showing myself, flaws and all, so very worth it.

Thirty-five is making more coffee in the morning because I love the feel of the mug in my hands, the steam as it rises, relishing two first sips that come hours apart and making morning last for as long as I can. It’s coffee for the feeling more than for the caffeine.

Thirty-five is appreciating that our kitchen is literally in the heart of our house because the kitchen is home. It’s baking because I want to, sometimes with the kids but, more and more often, without them. And it’s cooking, with menu plans and new recipes and experiments all the time, because nourishing myself and my family is important to me now in ways it wasn’t before.

Thirty-five is taking care of my body and my soul, unrolling my yoga mat almost every day and intentionally breathing deeply because I know it helps. It’s doing things like eating well an exercising and getting enough sleep not because I necessarily love those acts themselves but because of how good I know I’ll feel afterwards. Thirty-five feels grown up.

Thirty-five is finally learning that adding a little bit of product turns my hair into a part of me I love, despite the growing number of grey strands. That a quick swipe of nail polish changes the way I look at myself in a good way. That wearing clothes that make me feel good is half the battle.

Thirty-five is more honest. Less afraid. Less focused on pleasing people and more focused on knowing people. It’s realizing that you can’t do both well at the same time and, since I have to choose, I’d much rather know you than please you.

Thirty-five is throwing myself a little birthday party because thirty-five is about the people in my life who make this life beautiful. It’s opening my home because I love the balance between the quiet and the loud and I’ve finally accepted that I need both to feel whole.

Thirty-five is content, with both where I’m standing today and the road I’m on. Realizing that saying “I wouldn’t change a thing about my life.” and “I want so much more.” in the same breath is not insane. It’s a sign of a good life.

Thank you for being my people and celebrating in this space with me again.

xoxo

February 7, 2016
by Tricia
1 Comment

Vignettes of a blizzard

blizzard snow
T-48 hours

“Look, Mommy! It no-ing!”

I smile the smile of a mother who believes she knows better. It can’t actually be snowing. We’ve still got almost 48 hours before the big storm moves into the close up view on the radar.

“Snowing? You sure, bud?” I make my way to him, picking up a matchbox car on the way.

“Yeah! Look!” a dimpled hand with chubby little fingers directs me to the window.

I look outside, half expecting to see a leaf floating gracefully to the ground or a bit of wind dancing in the trees. But he’s right. It is, in fact, no-ing. And sticking. And accumulating. And fast.

Bedtime is a blur. Shuffling kids from room to room, anxiously checking my phone in between pouring the soap and towel-drying little heads. Traffic is snarled. Roads are slick. Plane has landed. Husband is stuck in a cab miles from home. Cars slide down our street, narrowly missing ours parked on the hill, as I watch out the window, waiting for him to arrive. I track his movement (yes, I have GPS tracking on him) and when I see he is on our street, I open the door and stand there in my sweatshirt and pajama pants, shivering until he walks into view.

~~~~~

T-3 hours

“Ayers” I text to him. And then I shove little arms through coat sleeves and feet into shoes as we dash out the door. The hardware store down the road has just gotten a shipment of rock salt and shovels and we need both. By the time we arrive, the line winds through aisle after aisle before stretching out the back door. Silly people who dropped in for an extra puzzle to pass the time abandon purchases on their way out while the rest of us, woefully unprepared, shake our heads at our own silliness. I have  40 minutes until my next conference call starts and I’m worried that I won’t make it. Sister carries the shovel as I balance two containers of salt and shuffle the toddler through the store. The woman in front of us scratches six sleds across the tile.

“Hi.” she smiles to us.

“Hi.” I smile back. She’s already hit up the man in front of her and I know what’s coming. She knows I know.

“I hate to do this to a woman with two kids but will you buy two of these for me? I’ll give you the money for them. They will only let me buy two.”

“No problem.” I keep smiling. Because this is it, right? In a state of emergency you help your fellow mama, even with the non-essentials.

She thanks me profusely and somehow I get two sleds, two kids, two containers of rock salt and a shovel to the cashier. Then I turn over the sleds and wish her luck. If she truly needs six sleds, she’s going to need it.

~~~~~

T+ 18 hours

playing in the blizzard

I’m determined to bake every cookie and make every dessert before we loose power, which I’m fairly convinced that we will. So I’m toasting coconut and melting chocolate and chilling toffee. One neighbor is hosting dinner tonight in the midst of this blizzard and the other is cooking it and I want to bring the sweets. So between excursions to the mountain of snow at the foot of our driveway, I arrange flour and sugar on our counter tops. While the coconut cools, I check on the chocolate that I’m foolishly melting in a plastic bowl over a pot of boiling water.

“Help! I need help!” I shout.

M comes to my side and looks at my mess.

“You don’t need help.” he says, “This is done.” he turns off the burner.

He rinses the lost cause of chocolate down the drain and carries the pot, with the bowl I have melded on top, to the trashcan that he has just dug out.

The snow is still coming down and each inch on the ground makes me giddy. It’s a feeling I’m not entirely used to. This winter scene usually turns me into a sloth, looking for a way to sleep my way until spring. But today I want to bake and make. I want to shovel and catch flakes on my tongue. This is an event.

~~~~~

T+ 26 hours

The result of three families stocking up is spread across the counter, raising steam over the oven, or waiting on plates until it’s time for dessert. There’s guacamole and hummus and vegetables and a big hunk of cheese. There’s chili and chicken and risotto. There’s cookies and toffee. And, of course, wine. The flavors and combinations would probably never meet up on a properly planned dinner party menu but oh my goodness do they work so well somehow. It’s warm and cozy and the whole place glows, as it does when we gather there. And for three hours, we forget about how the storm is still not even close to over. We nurse our aching shoveling muscles and we talk about things other than the mess that nature creates outside. This is most definitely the best way to blizzard.

~~~~~

The morning after

blizzard out my front door

The sky is always brightest right after the storm. The snow glitters as if mother nature saw fit to display just how brilliant she is and what beauty she’s created. It’s cold but warming. In houses up and down our street, gloves and mittens and snow pants are pulled up over pajamas. Sleds are dragged out of basements or attics. The street becomes a sledding hill. Kids climb up enormous white craggy mountains and throw snow as adults dig out. A snow-fort pops up enough rooms for every kid on the street. The kids work hard at it while adults stand in the street and chat lightly about the experience. We didn’t loose power! We made it through just fine! The sun is shining and it is warm and we’re still in the blizzard bubble.

~~~~~

The week after

blizzard walk

Snow day 6. Then 7. Then 8. 9 becomes official as I stand outside her ballet class, waiting for the teacher to arrive. The eyes of my fellow mothers that were soft and glowy just days ago stare around wild and frantic. We talk in high pitches, voices dripping with exasperation. We love our children. We want to spend time with them. But nobody thrives with this kind of routine-less madness. Nobody thrives with this kind of forced, long-term togetherness. After more than a week, the snow has lost its sparkle and the crafts have all been used up and there is paint on the floor, we just know it, but we haven’t screwed up the courage to look.

~~~~~

The melting

We take bets on how long the snow will stick around. Some say March. I’m going with May. There is just so much. Mountains we built with our own two hands have been compacted by plows and frozen in place during the night. They have that look about them that says they’ll be sticking around. We walk to school, when it finally starts up again, in a circuitous route to avoid scaling frozen mountains on our way.

I get excited when I see grass. It sticks out wildly out at the edge of a yard or peeks up in the spots where the sun rests the most. I get so excited that the kids play along. “Mommy! Grass!” they squeal  whenever they spot so much as a blade and I squeal back.

And then the rain comes. It rains all through the day and over an entire night and when we wake up, I can see my backyard again. The grass, the plants, the branches of bushes that might just make it after all. The mountains still remain (and I still think they’ll stick around) but everywhere there is grass. And with that, I call it. The blizzard is over. For now.

snow free

January 9, 2016
by Tricia
1 Comment

It’s still the new year

I’ve been feeling a bit behind with my start into the new year.

tree and sky

My resolutions sit half-finished in the new journal I got for Christmas. I haven’t come here to write about the freshness of the new year or my plans for it. The feeling of a brand new start that usually takes over my heart on January 1, slowing my every movement into something I regard as precious and auspicious, well that feeling hasn’t come yet. I suspect it simply may not come. I didn’t unroll my yoga mat again until four days into the year. I haven’t picked up a book this week, despite the resolution I know I will make to read more. I didn’t stay up until midnight or even wake for long enough to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t choose a word for the year or, as Lindsey so perfectly notes, no word chose me.

Besides cutting my hair, I’ve put no great divider between last year and this year.

I’ve sort of just rolled into 2016.

For twelve years, the ritual of sitting for hours in the soft spot between years to reflect and resolve was so important to me that I’d nearly breakdown without it. I was a resolute resolution maker. I believed that without that time and that reflection and those carefully written plans and goals and thoughts, the new year would surely dissolve into a formless mass of missed opportunities and I’d never truly grow or move forward. I believed it was those pages upon pages and hours upon hours spent writing until my hand ached that paved the way for me to live my best life.

That’s all been changing lately. Maybe it’s a phase. Maybe it’s just that the new year fell awkwardly in the cycle and craziness of life for me this year. Maybe I’m just getting older.

I ended last year with goals not achieved. With plans unfinished. The things I had written down at the start of the year never realized. The word that chose me at the start of last year? I think it walked away mid-way through.

For those same twelve years, that whole mess of unfinished business would have driven me mad. How do I start a new year when the remnants of last year are still tumbling at my feet? I’d have devoted serious time over the holiday break to gather that mess up, put things back together and polish the whole thing so that I could dive into the new year shiny and bright.

But despite the mess and the word abandonment, 2015 was good. Around the mess of the unfinished, I achieved some seriously big goals and painted large sections of the life I want to live. By the end, I felt the weariness of all of that work in my bones. So over the holiday break, I worked a little and slept a little. I played with some legos and watched my children sing and wandered through an art gallery. There was an buzzing inside. I couldn’t sit still and rather than fighting that fluttering feeling, I went with it, and refused to sit long enough to write more than a few sentences. And I simply decided to be ok with that. I’m changing and growing. This new mindset is just part of it.

So here we are, more than a week into 2016, and so far, so good. The year is not a formless mass of mess, at least not yet anyway. I have plans and goals and even some pretty great accomplishments so far.

I’m not swearing off of resolutions all together. I may go back and finish what I started in that journal. I may, as the year settles in and the buzzing energy fades, quietly commit a few goals to paper. By the end of this year I may find myself twitching until I can sit with my journal for a solid afternoon of reflection. But, for now, I’m going to just roll with this moment.

If you, too, haven’t really formalized your resolutions just yet in this new year, take my hand. Let’s roll together.

Happy 2016!

December 31, 2015
by Tricia
6 Comments

Let a little go, keep a little too

This morning, I went to get a haircut and I asked my stylist to chop it all off.

All year, actually for several years, my hair has mostly hung halfway down my back. I’ve kept it that way out of love for long hair, out of attachment to the me who looks like that, and out of fear of what may happen if I let it all go (a note to the fear: it always grows back). I’ve talked a big game about making a big change but I always chicken out once I’m in the chair. I’ll show the stylist all of the photos I’ve pinned of celebrities and the like but when she asks things like, “Do you want it short here like she has it or do you want to be able to pull it into a ponytail?” I go with, “Oh I still want to pull it into a ponytail.” Every single time.

But this time I wanted it gone. The ponytail, the length, all of it.

It was more than new year, new hair. Although how can you not love the symbolism of that, starting a new year with a new look? How perfect to be able to see and feel the difference when you wake up on the first of January? It’s far more effective, I think, to have a touchstone for the real difference between one year and the next, than to simply turn another calendar page or feel the struggle of remembering to change the number at the end on the rare occasion that you write out the year. Hair, actual strands growing from your head that go with you everywhere, feel like a pretty good touchstone. When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, you’ll know something is different.

But, also, I wanted to build up a fresh start. I wanted to cut loose a lot of the past year and move into the new a little lighter. With cleaner lines and less weighing me down.

Some years I cling to with white knuckles, even beyond the moment when the last numbers on the clock finally turn. Some years, I’d shudder at the idea of a New Year’s Eve haircut, reluctant to let anything that traveled the year with me go free. But 2015, for all its beauty and loveliness and big beautiful moments, was also overwhelming in a way I can only describe now as constricting. And I’m ready to break out of that.

It used to be that, at the end of a year like this, a year I don’t feel particularly compelled to cling to, I’d be frantically writing resolutions and reflecting like a madwoman, trying to grasp what went wrong so that I could save the new year from such blemishes. But I’m starting to learn that this is simply just life. There are years that feel magical and shine all rosy and sparkly at the end and there are years that feel like a wild train driven by a maniac and I simply can’t wait to hop off. I’m also starting to learn that the moment to hop off doesn’t always have to come at the end. There is no rule that says that a year set into a whirlwind of motion must remain in a whirlwind of motion until the last second. It’s mostly my inertia that keeps me spinning until December is over.

So today, I’m feeling a bit frantic but I don’t have that crazy look in my eye as I try to hole up with my journal and put words to the year so I can fix everything by tomorrow morning. Instead, I’m trying to settle. To sit and breathe for a bit. To hug my people closer and give myself the space to just be for a bit in an effort to prevent tomorrow morning from whipping up a new frenzy. As soon as I type the last word here, the laptop will close, and we’re gonna turn up the music and bake a cake and I think if any year has ever called for a pajama new years eve, this one is singing for it.

I plan to take a bit more control of the frenzy next year so it’s time to rest up and get ready for it. It’s also time to curl up in my blessings because no matter what the year has brought, it ends with me and my people and that means so much good.

Oh, and as for my hair? My stylist wisely advised me to not let it all go. Apparently I have too much hair to go above my shoulders. But we cut it shorter, letting a little go and keeping a little too. As one should.

Happy New Year to you and yours. May you hug your blessings close tonight and embrace the new in the morning.

December 10, 2015
by Tricia
1 Comment

Desperately seeking holiday magic

Monday evening. Oh Monday evening. I planned for you to be oh so magical.

advent calendar

The plan began with me dropping homemade cookies into sandwich bags just before 4pm. Because the holidays call for a sweet twist on the traditional after school snack, yes? Especially on a Monday. Especially when I’m finally over the jet lag and feeling ready to do this. This, of course, is creating a magical holiday season and doing it right.

In my grand plans, the sweet snack would delight my little angels in the car all the way home. They’d sail through homework and after school chores. They’d open the ‘7’ box of our Advent calendar. They’d see hot cocoa and cuddling with books on the couch in their near future. They’d be excited, not so excited that they’d start bouncing off walls, but definitely happy. We’d move peacefully through dinner to eventually find ourselves all under the same blanket on the couch, sipping cocoa and reading about sugar plum fairies and the first gift of Christmas. Oh, and in the middle of it all, I’d bake and decorate a batch of sugar cookies, with the children’s help. The cookies would turn out delightful and beautiful and I’d post photos of them everywhere before we enjoyed them with our cocoa.

Oh my, was it magical. Beautiful. It was the stuff Christmas memories are made of.

In reality, of course, one small cookie does not an after school snack make. In reality, all people, but little people especially, struggle to make their way through chores at the end of the day. In reality, the promise of hot cocoa makes it nearly impossible for a three-year-old and a six-year-old to calmly make it through a meal with a healthy dose of vegetables. In reality, I fail at sugar cookies every year.

The afternoon quickly devolved into a clatter of chaos and loud, of big messes and lots of cleaning, of some tears and lots of complaining, and of hideous sugar cookies that tasted more like cake (not altogether a bad thing but not exactly the thing I was going for).

As I scraped unusable cookie dough off of my hands and transferred the remainder from the refrigerator to the trashcan, I felt like I was making a mess of our holiday season. That in one wild and ridiculous afternoon I had basically trashed the entire season right there with the dough, dashing any hopes of holiday magic or love or wonder.

Because of our Thanksgiving travel, we entered the holiday season a bit late this year. It was really just a handful of days but I’ve been feeling the absence of those days in the box-checking rush I’ve been on since we returned. Spending a week in the hot and humid, I was eager to slip into the warm and cozy winter holiday season. Spending a week so far from my comfort zone, I was desperate to curl up in the familiar magic of the holidays. I craved long, lazy mornings by the fire with our lights twinkling all around. I dreamed of slow, easy evenings with the smell of baking cookies wafting from room to room and the smooth voices of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby dancing through the house. So I started a mission to catch up on all of the holiday goodness I felt like I had missed. And I ran about trying to do all of the things that equal Christmas magic in my mind.

But sweet holiday memories aren’t things that you can make in a rush from one place to another. They aren’t a thing you can engineer or cram into existence by sheer force of will. You cannot have a magical Monday evening simply because you decided that it is time to make some holiday memories and the clock is ticking so everyone get your aprons on and let’s do this thing. The kinds of holiday memories that you’ll look back on from year to year, it turns out, are not things that can be planned and scheduled and ordered to fit just right.

It turns out, in fact, that you can’t bustle holiday memories into existence. Rather, you have to stop. You have to pause for a minute, make a little space and sit in the quiet that results. You have to settle and let your shoulders drop and your breathing slow so that you can actually hear the music and smell the cookies. And once you’ve made this space, you have to watch the memory start as the tiniest spark. And then you have to not rush that little spark because it has work to do but it is slow, intentional, and ever so important work. You have to just sit back and let it grow. And it will be worth the wait, I promise. It is for me every time.

This time of year it is incredibly hard to sit back and make space. I know. I haven’t done it yet this year, myself. But I know from experience that the memorable holiday that I craved all the way from Bombay back home is possible if I slow down. And I’m working on settling long enough to see it through.

Monday night did end with all of us curled under the same blanket on the couch. We read four books together by candle light and the kids sipped hot chocolate and nibbled cookies we’d made the day before. They were delighted. In their memories, they will probably separate the chaos of the afternoon from that one, singular moment. I’m going to try to do the same.

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