Friday, June 08, 2018

Who made up the rules for acting like a girl?

I came across a class picture from my nursery school yesterday. Held within the frame, I found all the answers. The more I stared at that grainy photograph, the more I learned about life, about mothers, about children, and about me.
In that picture I saw myself exactly as I still am today. I have always been this person I am, even when I was a 4-year-old posing reluctantly for a photograph in an attic classroom of our church parish house.
There I am, the only girl not in a dress, no bow in my hair, the botched DIY haircut. There I am, not remotely inclined to smile for the camera man who, no doubt, had instructed me on how proper girls sit and what proper girls should do with their hands while they are sitting properly.
There I am, much like today, slightly awkward and completely rebellious in the role of female. There I am, wishing I could put my foot up on my knee like the little boy–I can’t remember his name– sitting next to me, or slouch casually in the back row, like all the little boys behind me.

It’s interesting to see that I was that person at such a young age. My rejection of conventional femininity, and conformity, was not something that happened along the way, because there were so many boys in my neighborhood, or maybe because I was the last of five– four girls and one boy– and my brother had wanted a little brother so badly he, and my dad, as legend has it, cried upon learning I was born. Just another girl. No it’s always been a part of my nature.
When I look at this photo, it’s like looking into the very heart of me. It’s like reading a letter from myself. “Help,” I’m saying, “I don’t fit in this mold, and I don’t particularly want to fit in here, and I don’t understand why I’m being made to.”
And it’s even more interesting to consider just how extraordinary it was that my mother let me be me, despite the pressure she must have felt when faced with all those other, more conventional, little girls, dainty and ladylike in their dresses. Thank God for my saint of a mother who knew, and still knows, instinctively, how to honor and accept the diverse personalities and temperaments of all her children.
And, as my children move through this life I hope I can continue to nurture those individual temperaments, including my own, with the same kind of grace that my mother does. It’s so clear to me, now,  that we are who we are from the moment we come down and out of the chute: Esther with her wise independence and wanderlust, and Isla with her easy sociability and insatiable need to move to whichever beat is drumming in her heart.
And the sooner we accept who our children are, the easier it is to get on with the good stuff. The important stuff: the living, and loving, and working, and playing. And just the being who we are. Without anyone telling us what to wear, or how to sit ,where to put our hands, or, above all, what to do with our bodies.

A version of this post was originally published @ BabyCenter

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Home but not home

 I'm transferring some of my favorite blog posts I wrote for BabyCenter over here, for safekeeping.

This one was posted in 2010, when we lived in France. Isla was almost 5 and Esther was 8. It's interesting for me to read between the lines and realize I was a wee bit homesick for Vermont, despite how romantic if felt to be "living the dream" in France.

Home is a tricky, sticky concept and I am still grappling with what it means to be home, to this day.

Poop is wicked fun to say

Betsy Shaw

posted: July 22, 2010, 7:15 pm
On the drive back to France from England, Esther and Isla fought for what felt like 1000 kilometers but was probably only 100. The four year old wanted music. The eight year old wanted an audiobook.
The fight was resolved by the crazy, shouting lady in the front passenger seat, who wanted to leap from the moving car. Was that me?

Then things took a schizophrenic left turn towards comedy. Isla was the main act. Every word she uttered was deemed, by Isla, to be profoundly funny. Poop was on her mind. It didn’t matter who was doing the pooping– we all were– or where we did it–everywhere but in the toilet. What mattered most was the word poop, with its P to the O to the O to the P, is wicked fun to say.

At times, I have to wonder if someone with a sense of humor as immature as mine, has any business raising children. What started as a snicker turned into an aching belly from all that laughing. It’s impossible to hear Isla’s laugh, which is as perfect as laughs come,  without imagining you can actually see the shape of joy.


Home but not home


Back in our quiet French village, which still doesn’t feel as much like home as it does a way station, Esther is at a tennis camp and Isla and I are looking for something to laugh about.
151essieandianIan came home last night with a sandbox he made, complete with a top to keep the feral cats out. So there we were, Isla and I, this morning, at 10 a.m. in the back yard.
“Why aren’t you playing with me? ” Isla asked as I sat on the edge of the patio, reading a book.
“I did play,” I argued. “I built two castles. I’m done now.”
We’d already been “playing” in the river this morning. After buying bread at the market, we stopped to put our feet in the water. As Isla played around a makeshift dam, I thought about how many childhood hours I spent making dams with my friends in the winding river that flowed through my hometown in Vermont.
I wondered how it was that this river seemed so different. What made this water feel so foreign and that water feel as if it was the same stuff that ran through my veins?
I squatted by the river’s edge, hugging my loaf of bread, and watched the moving water. I felt fixed, bored, and vaguely lonely. I used to get this exact same listless, detached feeling at our local playground in Vermont. We were so often the only ones there, like survivors of an apocalypse. There’s something numbing about playgrounds. I just want to ruminate, while my kids ignore me.
My mind went to lying in bed next to Ian. I could have stayed there, his hand resting warm and heavy on my hip, forever this morning. It was like being plugged into an oxygen source. I was being restored to my former shape after a long, slow leak.
C’mon Mom
151bucket
Isla, immune to my flatness, kept right on chattering.
“Can I go over to that Island?” she asked, pointing to a tiny clump of grass poking up out of the shallows.
“Yes,” I said. “But you can’t go any further.”
“She stepped cautiously, looking back at me after every step.
“I’m not going to drown, Mommy,” she said.
I stood up. She came back.
“You want to come in the river with me?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because,” I said. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to.”
“Sure you do, Mommy,” she said, just like the bossy friend you need to push you when you are being pathetic.
She bent down to roll up my pants for me as I slipped off my shoes.
“It will be fun.” she assured me. “We can go to my island.”
She slid her warm hand in mine, a motion that, for me, encompasses the experience of motherhood completely. The feeling of my child’s hand in mine, especially when she has initiated it, the contrast between the full-grown largeness of me and the still-growing smallness of she, and all the heavy symbolism it carries–I’m here, I’m coming with you–I hope I never forget that feeling.
We stepped carefully through the water, over the slimy green rocks. We made it to Isla’s island.  She stepped up onto it, still holding my hand, and said, “Do you want to step on my island, Mommy?”
151island
“It looks a bit small,” I said, thinking of The LIttle Prince story, we just listened to, twice, on our travels.
“Why don’t you keep it all for yourself, like your very own planet.”
“I have pretty flowers on my island,” she said.
“You do,” I said, noticing her island was covered with beautiful little cornflower blue flowers.
“They’re called forget-me-nots.”

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Graduating, reluctantly, from the shallow end of motherhood to the deep end


This kid is so far gone it's not even possible to pretend I can successfully prevent her from growing up anymore. Her head practically touches the clouds now. Her legs are long, made longer by the everpresent toe shoes she insists on wearing around the house.

 She measures her words before saying them and the things she says sound as if they have been put through a mature filter, examined by someone with far more years and far more experience than a newly turned 12-year-old could possibly have.

Where does a mother begin to capture the change, the growth, the transformation? The going from a squishy thing someone placed on my chest one November evening after the second longest day of my life (the first longest was the birth of my first child) to a long, quick-witted, self possessed human who determines her own future minute by minute. It's outrageous ,yet, so standard no one seems to step back and say, what the fuck?

Where did this woman child come from and how did she get in my house? And how many missteps on my part will it take to recognize the arrogance of my belief that I am somehow shaping her and her big sister, pouring them into some mold I created for them in order to fulfill some unrecognized dreams of my own regarding who I'd be or what I'd do or how the world perceived me--if only I had a second go at it?

I know in my bones I don't control these little people nor do I want to. But it's a letting go that doesn't come natural to me. It's nostalgia. It's a longing for the days when something as simple as a walk through the meadow, across the stone wall and down the long hill to the public library to fill our bag with magical picture books--books I was sure would inspire and enlighten-- and carry them back up the hill to read in front of the fire on a November day. And we had nowhere to go, nowhere to be, but there. And no one to be but ourselves. Mother and children. It was all enough.

Now each day is measured by how productive we are, how prepared for the future, how striving, moving forward, how not in the moment we are. What about school, what about ballet, what about soccer, what about skiing, what about that friend you once had, where is she now, what about that honors class you dropped, and your homework. What about, what next, what's more, better, harder, more?

Humans doing were once humans being. Thankfully my kids push back. They know better than I that life is the here and now. They know who they are and call me out when I pressure them to be someone else. I can learn so much from these children.

The other day I had a tantrum trying to get the house, a guest room, ready for guests. A ball of resentment and helplessness, I was the child. Isla was the mother. She calmly asked how she could help, told me to relax, fetched me pillow cases and blankets and fresh sheets. I hated myself in that moment, but could not calm the child in me. So the child who lives with me took over.  As wrong as that felt, as ashamed as it made me feel, I was proud of that kid. My kid.

The after-school hot chocolate is coming, I promise.




Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Walking in the woods today, I lost my bearings


* As has become habit, I wrote this ages ago and left it to languish in my drafts folder. The onset of a new year inspired me to set it free. 

Walking in the woods today, I lost my bearings as I sometimes do when the wood floor is littered with a carpet of dry leaves. Nothing looked familiar. Was I too far North or too far South to find the main trail that led back down the ridge to my parents' cabin?

I momentarily recognized nothing. I had no sense of direction other than down.

Just when I started to feel irritated with myself-- I grew up in these woods, so how could I be lost, not to mention I don't much like bushwhacking because it triggers my claustrophobia-- I spotted a large rock propped up against a tree. It had to have been put there by a human--most likely, surely, my father.

Marking his way through the woods, stopping to pile up stones in a crude sculpture, a cairn, as well as pick up sticks off the trail, was one of my father's favorite ways to occupy his time. The trees were his friends. The woods were his home. If he could have, he would have tidied up the entire 80 acres, to the point of there being no stray branch or twig out of place. A meticulously kept domicile.




A few yards later, I spotted another cairn. This one was carefully stacked, a flat gray rock on the bottom, another less symmetrical rock on top of that, then another. My irritation subsided. "He's still guiding me," I thought. "Even though he's not here, my father is telling me which way to go and it will always be so."



My father is always in the woods for me. Vermont was his home, his dwelling place, his birthplace, his resting place. He felt the trees around him. He appreciated their permanence, perhaps in contrast with the tragic impermanence of his father, who died when Dad was only 5. He grew up with the trees, whose roots went just as deep into Vermont soil as his own. He learned community from the trees who never shun their neighbors, each swaying to the same breeze, each standing at the ready to hold the other up for as long as possible should one grow weary of standing up straight and simply let go.

"I've got you," the trees say without speaking.

"I've got you," my dad's many stone piles say to me


Wednesday, May 04, 2016

One year later, remembering how it all went down

My father died on May 4th, one year ago today. It only took me a year to write this.


"Dad's not breathing," my sister Nancy's voice, splintered with fear, came through the phone.

"What do you mean?" I asked, scurrying down the stairs and hopefully out of ear shot of both my daughters, one of whom was long since asleep, the other just starting her turn at hosting the merciless stomach bug that had been plaguing our home, like a serial sadist, for weeks.

"Cindy just called me. He's not breathing. The ambulance is on the way."

Nancy, my dad's primary care giver, at this moment hours away from where this was all going down, was crying. Now I was crying too. No matter how much you are expecting to get a call like this one day, which, considering the circumstances, I was... it still blindsides you when it comes.

"What should I do? Should I go there now?"

"I don't know."

"I'll hang up and call the house."

"Okay."

I heard the sound of Esther, 13, throwing up into a basin, upstairs. Oh my poor child. Knowing Ian, my husband, was taking care of her, I stayed downstairs and called my parents' house. My brother answered the phone.

"What's happening?" I asked.

"I don't know. I just got here."

"Is the ambulance there?"

"Yes."

"I better let you go, then. Please call me when you know something."

I paced the living room manically. Back and forth. "What do I do? What can I do?"

It was nearly 11 o'clock. We would have normally all been sound asleep if it weren't for this stomach bug. I was aching, every fiber, to go to my family, my first family. But I didn't have the heart to explain to Esther why I was disappearing. My child needed her mother. I needed mine. 

***
The phone rang.

“Daddy’s gone,” my brother’s voice over the phone floated into my ear.
“Daddy’s gone,” he said again.

“What do we do now. What do we do?” I asked, not sure, entirely unrehearsed in the act, the art, the language of letting go of a loved one.

"What do we do?"

What an odd question and one that most often comes to people's lips in times like these. What do we do? The real question is, how do we be? And the answer is not what anyone wants to hear. There is nothing we can do, but be, and feel the crush of it. Face the loss, the dark hole, the sucking vacuum, that now appears each time you try to conjure up your father.

I’m a grown woman. A mother of two. And my father is the first person who was close to me, so close as to be a part of me, me a part of him, to die.

I am lucky. Blessed. Spoiled. Inexperienced. Lost.

With Esther so sick upstairs, I was paralyzed with maternal ambivalence. What do I do? I cannot tell this poor retching teen that her favorite Papa, the only Papa she got to meet, died just minutes ago.

Ian came downstairs and I told him, with my blubbering face pushed into his neck, my father was dead, that he had stopped breathing, then his heart had just stopped. Just like that, he was gone. We heard sounds of Esther throwing up again. Ian went upstairs.

I paced some more, then went upstairs and sneaked into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed, my bed, where Esther lay. I put my hand on her back as she moaned. This particular stomach bug doesn't quit until it's turned you inside out and wrung your guts dry.  I looked at Ian, my eyes searching for a clue how to handle this, how to be the consoling mom at the same time I was being the heartbroken daughter, the baby.

"She knows," Ian mouthed to me. Esther had guessed what happened, not one to miss any nuance, and he confirmed it.

Freed from the confines of pretense and normalcy, I gathered a few things -- a sleeping bag, some extra clothes-- how long would I be gone?--and drove off into the balmy spring night.

It was 11 o'clock. The night was black, warm and breezy. Rain spattered on the windshield and I thought about something Esther had said just recently, about the way it's always raining in movies when something bad happens. We both love the rain and don't like to see it get a bad rap. The rain that fell on my windshield and blackened the road before me wasn’t ominous. It was gentle and soothing.

The road stretched, relentless and dark, before my headlights. I drove slowly. Fragile. Insecure in my new world. I was shaking. Adrenalin galloped through my veins. My heart was rushing, but my mind was not. I was wary, unsure of what I would find on the other side of my journey. I was not convinced the physical reality of my lifeless father was something I wanted or needed to rush to.

I played the radio loud. Every song seemed good and cathartic, fitting. I tried to cry, but my eyes stayed dry.

I arrived on Cottage Street, my childhood home, to find two police cars in front of the house. I parked across the street, grabbed my things, and walked slowly past one of the policemen--why was he there? up the front walk. Light spilled out of every window. The front screen door was ajar. Even though it was early May, it felt like summer. Finally. The winter my dad had cursed for the past six months, had officially ended.

The window shade in my parents' new downstairs bedroom was pulled two thirds of the way down. The window was open. I could see his bed and the shape of his body lying in it, through the screen.

I walked into the front hall, put my things down on the floor and turned the corner into the bedroom hall. I saw my oldest sister standing over my father at the edge of the bed. Another sister standing beside her, and my brother in a chair at the foot of the bed. My mother was in a chair next to the far side of the bed.

Averting my eyes from the sight of my father, lying, mouth open and so still, I went straight to my mother, leaned over, buried my head into her neck, and cried. I felt self conscious doing this, as if I was asking my mother for comfort and sympathy, when it was she who was suffering one of the biggest losses of her life. Father. Husband of almost 60 years. Can we quantify?

I don't remember what I or anyone said. I remember my oldest sister crying and kissing my father's forehead. I remember my sisters working together to put my father's pajama pants on. The atmosphere in that room was surreal. Like being encased in a fish bowl filled with water.

And we stayed in that tiny fish bowl for most of the night. We laughed, we cried, we talked, we planned, we waited for my sister Nancy, my father's loyal companion for the past three years, to arrive. She was three hours away. She had left my father's side to go back to work, at our urging, for the first time in over a year.

In hindsight, it makes sense that Dad had to wait for Nancy to go away before he went.

My brother went outside to tell the police and the funeral director to stop hovering and go home. No one was taking our father's body anywhere until all of us had said our goodbyes.

We made Mom go lie down on the couch. 

Nancy finally came screeching in around 2 a.m., playing Chuck Mangione's Feel So Good, one of dad's favorite songs, on her iPhone. We could hear her talking to mom in the living room before she came into the bedroom.

"Did you drive too fast?" my mother asked her. "Like a fucking rocket," she responded.

We all laughed. Dad would have laughed too. He appreciated a well-timed F-bomb. 

She came to Dad's bedside and put the iPhone, still playing his song, up to his ear.

"You won, Dad," she said. "You beat the Alzheimer's and you beat the cancer. You won."

No one's eyes were dry.

He's gone.
My father.
Gone.

We kept him all night. We put mom to bed. Andy went home. Sally and Cindy slept on the couch, and Nancy and I slept on the floor of the bedroom where he died and still lay. As weird as it felt to spend the night in that room with my dead father, I couldn't leave him. Not yet.

The next morning, I watched the men slide him from the bed where he died onto a gurney.
I watched the men carry the gurney out of the house, carefully zipping the forest-green bag all the way closed only just before they slid him into the back of the long black car. Then they closed the door and drove away with him.

But I know it wasn't really my father. It was only a shell. An old tree trunk which had been hollowed out from the inside, its bark thin, no longer being renewed from within.

The sapwood and heartwood, what had been inside, the part of my father I could touch and feel and know, had already left in the night. I swear I felt it pass over my head as I lay in a sleeping bag on the floor of his room.



The windows were open and it had been calm all night. Except for that moment when I was snapped awake by a banging sound. A whoosh of air came through the room, strong enough to send the notebook--open and resting on the radiator in front of the east-facing window-- fluttering open like birds wings.

Then it was calm again. (The next morning Nancy confirmed she saw, felt, heard it too.)

Having heard, felt and witnessed what seemed like a departure, I felt kind of numb seeing my father's body taken away in a bag. "He's not really in there," I thought to myself. "That's not really my father."

But having him gone, spirit and body, means a hole has been left behind. A hole big enough and deep enough I can hear my own voice, and often his, echoing inside it.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The extraordinary will take care of itself: Confessions of a competing-sheep mom

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself."
William Martin,  The Parent's Tao te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents 




I started my 2016 journal with this quote from a Tao of Parenting book because it speaks to me. It speaks to me because I'm guilty of striving for the extraordinary. I am guilty of even thinking you can strive for the extraordinary.

And I am an idiot. Because everything about my experience of life so far has proven that this is not true--that embracing the ordinary and giving yourself space to discover what it is you want and need to do, is the only honest and meaningful way to live your life. And any moment of my life that may be labeled extraordinary was only stumbled upon.

I planned to write a letter to my children in at the start of  2016. I never did. But maybe that is what this is. I want to tell them that sometimes I get lost and scared in raising them, and that fear leads me to say stupid, even mean, things. That fear blinds me to what is really important in life.

I want to tell them how proud I am and how pleased I am and how lucky I am to be their mother. I want to tell them that sometimes I look into their eyes and am bowled over by the beauty and openness and kindness and wisdom I see there. I want to tell them that sometimes I cannot believe I am their mother. I cannot believe I grew them inside me and brought them into this world without really knowing, without truly grasping, what on earth I was doing. (Hello, stumbling upon the extraordinary.)

Anyone can imagine the concept of raising a child. But you can’t imagine the reality until you are living it.

And this is why I feel the need to explain to them,  that no matter how proud and filled with gratitude I am for this chance to be their mother, sometimes the extras, the unimportant stuff, the extraneous, gets in and clouds my vision and I become a competing-sheep mom. And I turn my focus on what isn’t, rather than what is. The violin in the corner isn’t being played. The math problems aren’t being practiced enough. The soccer ball isn’t seeing enough touches. The art supplies are gathering dust, why don’t you use them anymore? What happened to my little artists? I fill their lives up with noise and busyness, then ask them why they are never still...?

I turn the "what isn't" goggles on myself frequently. Our house isn’t stylish or tidy enough. I’m not being a good enough friend. I’m not being a good enough mother. I’m not being a good enough daughter. I’m not being a good enough employee. There’s not enough money in our savings accounts. Why didn’t I bring Isla to that play audition? Why won’t Esther join the math club. And why did she opt out of that exclusive invitation to be one of the few 8th graders in her school to attend the Model UN? Doesn’t she realize, the way I realize, what an opportunity that is? I thought she loved ski racing. How could she so casually give it up now at such a crucial point in her life?

And all these things my daughter is opting out of, are the very things that have the potential to make our lives absolutely crazy overscheduled, to the point of insanity. And to what end? To prove my children are extraordinary? To prove my life is perfect?

And all those negative thoughts are driven by some pervasive source of fear. Something that is trying to eat my confidence and tell me I’m doing motherhood all wrong. Something that makes me forget to honor the children I have, rather than trying to shape those children into what I want, what I think they are supposed to be, maybe even the child I was? 

And if ever I notice another mother doing this same thing with their own child, I see so clearly that she is missing the point. That she is so caught up in the trees she can’t see the beauty of the forest. Setting herself and that child up for a fall. Why isn’t she seeing all the good and unique in that child? Why is she only focusing on what that child is doing or not doing, rather than on who that child is, how that child is "being" in this world.



How can she forget the enormous empathy that child shows for every living creature on this planet. How can she not see how happy that child is when we are doing something so simple as taking a family walk. How can she ignore the bravery of that child sitting in front of the policy committee at her middle school and telling them how uncomfortable she is seeing students with confederate flags on their notebooks, iPhones and t-shirts. How can she not take pride in how well big sister takes care of little sister.

So much good. So much learned. So much progress towards becoming happy, kind, loving little humans. Is there anything more extraordinary than that? 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gone are the days when...




It’s our 19th anniversary. I’m sitting at the dinner table with my husband and two daughters. I’m on my second glass of Prosecco, a dainty, champagne flute if you have to know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a pleasant, giggly buzz thing happening.

 We are listening to Pandora. Isla is trying to do her homework. Esther is sitting at the table being irreverent and teenagerish, but in a pleasant way that makes me laugh. At least when I’m drinking champagne laced with creme de cassis. Pretty much everything is pleasant, unexpectedly so, about this scene.

Isla’s homework involves looking up the definition of her spelling words in the dictionary and writing them down.

I get her our giant Oxford dictionary and thesaurus, a book that Ian determined with his handy dandy kitchen weight-- yes, my Brit husband uses a kitchen weight because he only cooks with British cookbooks, finding ours inferior, apparently-- weighs 4 pounds minimum and is bigger than Isla’s head by far.

Since we had just finished a candlelight supper and I really do like the way I look in candlelight, as well as the sparkly ambience candlelight creates, I didn’t want to spoil things by turning on the light.

No one could read the dictionary in that light, so I told her I would look up the words for her on my laptop as I sit here fiddling with Pandora.

Kick: To extend your leg away from the body.

Take: To get into one’s hands.

“What was that one,” Ian asked, in that way that said, 'I am the expert in the English language around here, what is that rubbish.'

So, I repeated myself. “Take: 'To get into one’s hands,'” I said, as I simultaneously took another sip of my Kir Royale and, catching Ian catching me enjoying my anniversary champagne he had bought without my even asking, raised an eyebrow up and down at him.

Big mistake.

“Mom,” Esther said.

“What?” I said. Thinking she was going to call me out on enjoying my champagne a bit too much, which is exactly what I was doing.

“You have no idea how wrong that just looked.”

“What?” I said, feigning innocence in the most inept way.

“I saw that,” she said. “Did you hear what you just said?

“What?” I said.

You said, “'To get into one’s hands', then you made that weird face at Daddy. That’s just creepy and wrong.”

Man. Gone are the days of surreptitious flirting right under your oblivious and naive children’s nose.

Gone are the days.


Esther is taking selfies. and sending them via Snapchat. Her iPod died so she has snatched my iPhone. Ian is acting disapproving at the way Essie is acting, and using my phone, and giggling wildly at some video her friend just sent her. He doesn’t have a clue what she is doing.

Disapproving is kind of his job around here. I think he's jealous of her youth. I know I am.

He's now helping, teaching, Isla how to use the dictionary. And I am here typing, and Esther is raucously "communicating" with her childhood friend, the girl who lives just two minutes away as a crow flies.

And I'm sitting here recording it all, and not feeling remotely put out by the minor detail that Ian and I are not on a romantic adult date. Because what better way to celebrate 19 years together than to be sitting right here in the middle of this imperfect, unfinished kitchen, giggling with my entire family and making fun of Ian in his reading glasses, which look always askew since one of his ears is lower than the other.


How is it I've never noticed that before?