Tag Archives: Birthdays

Unfrozen: The Birthday Blog

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Hoosier Hinterland

I promised Z and myself that I would post one blog a month (with a plan to post more, but the one a month was non-negotiable). The only vows I’ve ever kept—other than the Girl Scout promise to try to serve God, my country, and mankind—are my wedding vows, and I am determined that I will increase that list of vow-keeping by one. All this to say, I can’t promise you that this blog will be polished, pretty, or politically palatable to you personally, but I will squeak it in under the wire so 2017 won’t be a total failure.

Our three-year-old friend Pippi has been learning about the good and bad choices a person can make and the negative consequences of said choices, and so periodically will announce to her parents with whom she is annoyed, You made a poor choice. Since hearing about this new mantra of hers, I’ve been thinking in those terms myself. Often, I apply it to other people and the poor choices they’ve made like cutting in line  or playing their music too loud in front of our buildling. But even more regularly, I apply it to myself. For instance, in yesterday’s poor choice category, I decided to put approximately 200 towels in the dryer and was surprised 54 minutes later when they were all still wet.

Z and I spent the holidays in Indiana. It was a better trip than I anticipated, in that I was worried about navigating my liberal self around my extended family and friends who have differing political views. (In case you haven’t looked up from the puppy videos on YouTube lately, this election has been so hard on relationships.) Luckily for me, magic happened on the flight to Indiana. While I was worrying the details of how I would actively attempt to maintain harmony but also not swallow my own voice, I walked through the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport passing strangers and suddenly my heart was full to the brim with love for humanity. Usually, in an airport, I’m navigating people like they are traffic cones, but on this day, it was as if every person I passed had a light shining on them straight from heaven. Sure there might be a serial killer here somewhere, I thought, but on the whole, I love these people, even that guy there in the Patriots jersey.

 

And so the visit home went. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement amongst all concerned that we loved each other, wanted to do our best to maintain that warm regard, and so would avoid heated topics. In my case, I further distracted myself from the impending apocalypse with

  1. a) pain pills because of a inflamed nerve in my jaw
  2. b) grief over Carrie Fisher’s passing
  3. c) desolation at the thought that 12 days after Christmas (a.k.a. Epiphany), I would be having a birthday of a somewhat rather BIG number
  4. d) fudge

Z and I flew back to Seattle on the eve of my birthday. Though I’d been in a good enough mood while in Indiana with my mother and step-father, soaking up as much of my beloved Hoosier landscape and all the comforts of my real home, on the morning of this flight—the morning before my somewhat rather BIG birthday, I made a poor, poor choice.

I’ve got a little anxiety thing. I don’t know if it’s really a condition. It’s more of a little claustrophobia thing. A little incapable-of-calming-the-hell-down-sometimes thing. This is a middle age development that I blame on my overactive amygdala. Sometimes Z will startle me by unexpectedly rattling a potato chip bag, and I’ll let out a shriek. He’ll shake his head and tell me to calm myself and I say, “I can’t. It’s my amygdala.” It’s getting worse with age, and as such, I have to sometimes pull over into an alcove when I’m downtown because the people behind me are talking too loudly or walking on my heels or a seagull flies too close and I get agitated.

It’s a really interesting way to live your life, dodging personable seagulls. I can’t believe I used to ride roller coasters and watch scary movies for fun.

My poor choice on the day before my somewhat rather BIG birthday was when I was at the airport and consciously decided not to take one of the physician-prescribed relaxi pills that I occasionally need to quiet my mind and—since an overcrowded plane on the way home from my St. Thomas honeymoon—that I always want on any flight. (You may not be aware of this, but a plane is really just a tuna can hurtling through the sky.)

There are reasons I made this choice mostly involving a rental car at the end of our journey and a lighthearted debate that Z and I were having about who had to drive when we landed (and my desire not to be under the influence of relaxi pills since I was not the winner of the debate).

Regardless, it was a poor, poor choice.

There was nothing inherently wrong with the flight. It was a new airbus with cathedral-esque ceilings, the illusion of roominess, and fellow passengers who were well-behaved. But there wasn’t an entertainment center on the back of my seat to distract me from the tuna can nature of our travel, and the lavatory had the exact dimensions of a coffin.

And then there was an uncharacteristic set of ugly words between Z and me (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa), which left me for the rest of the flight with my ostrich pillow pulled tightly over my eyes while I cried and listened to a voice in my head on a loop that said, “your life hasn’t amounted to anything someone your age should have accomplished so much more you are a terrible wife you are a bad daughter you are hardly an adult you are an ungrateful person you’ve wasted it all”

It was harsh.

There was the added proof that I was a horrible person in that when we’d gotten on the plane, we were joined by a large tribe of people who were mentally handicapped and were on their way to Hawaii, and my first thought was not, “Oh, I’m so glad these people are having an adventure!” but instead “Oh, God. Why?” I was imagining all sorts of problems and noise and chaos during the flight. Instead, the fellow sitting across from me who had Down’s syndrome helped me find my seat belt and was chatting quietly with his seatmate, and it heightened my sense of what a shitty human being I can be.

We landed, climbed into our rental car with me behind the wheel, and within five minutes a woman had honked at me, shaken her fist, and ultimately flipped me off as she drove away in a huff, all because I had the audacity to go the speed limit and stay in my lane. As we drove up I-5 with Seattle looming on the horizon like Oz, all I could think was, I hate this place. I don’t want to live here. I hate everything about it. But then instantly I had competing thoughts of You don’t belong in Indiana anymore. You’re too liberal to fit in there. You’d have to constantly stifle your voice.

Also, You are almost quite literally a woman without a country.

There was some other inner ugliness that I will spare you, but suffice it to say, it all culminated with me trying to park a very small car in a very big parking space and failing. Z tried to give me directions, and instead, I threw up my hands, started sobbing, and said, “I can’t do this.”

I think by “this” I meant “park,” but I might have meant “live in this crowded, crowded city” or “live in Trump’s America” or “be a woman who is about to have a somewhat rather BIG birthday.” (Despite my earlier bad behavior, Z patted me and sent me indoors to crunch ice while he parked the car. And because he is fabulous, he waited until my mood lifted to point out that the rental car had a back-up camera I could have used while I was trying to get the small car in the big space.)

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Z travels with a birthday sign at the ready.

I fully expected to wake up the next day on my birthday in a similar or worse state. Now officially old. There is no way to pretend this somewhat rather BIG age is anything akin to youthful or that you have your finger on the pulse of anything (except maybe your own if it’s racing because of a seagull dive bombing you). So I anticipated waking up on January 6 with “this is the beginning of the end of my life” in my head.

Instead, there was more magic. I felt this incredible lightness. The sadist on the loop in my head had exhausted himself. (It was definitely a “he” saying all those horrible things to me the day before, fyi. It’s always a he.) It was as if the clock had ticked past the moment of my birth lo those many decades ago, and I was liberated. When you turn my somewhat rather BIG age, the truth is no one is watching you. No one really cares what you have to say. No one is trying to market anything to you except maybe term life insurance or some pharmaceuticals. No one notices that you’ve gotten rosacea and look as acne-stricken as you did at 13 mainly because no one is looking at you, full stop. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, how you look, what you think, and how you behave is of very little consequence.

This is not a bad thing. This is, maybe, one of the top ten most glorious things to ever happen to me. If no one is watching you or listening to you (or reading your blog), then my goodness, you can live your life by your own moral compass. You can say and do whatever you want . We celebrated my achievement of advanced age by spending two nights at our favorite place on Whidbey Island.

I ate pizza and we played Banana Grams and I got a cold, and it was all fine and lovely, even, in some ways, the cold.

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Almost two weeks later, Pippi’s mother had a new baby sister for Pippi: Elsa. Z and I were the first people to meet Pippi, and so we were invited to be on the first-day-of-Elsa’s-life welcoming committee. She was tiny and lovely and so completely calm in her daddy’s arms while her mother recounted the unpleasant experience of bringing her into the world. I was in awe of Elsa and how unfazed she seemed to be to have been born into this insane world at a time of uncertainty and rage. I was in more awe of her mother. I thought to myself, this is why the nations rage to control women: because women can do this thing that is more amazing than anything a man can ever do.

 

Sorry guys. It’s true. Z can open all the jars of jam in the world that I can’t unscrew myself and that is its own kind of amazing, but Pippi and Elsa’s mother? Z’s mother? My mother? That thing they do where they decide to bring life into the world and then they do it? You can’t top that.

Z and I left the hospital with big smiles on our faces at having been invited to share in the beginnings of a whole new person. A few days later, I scribbled Pippi’s and Elsa’s names—alongside the names of all the little girls and young women I love—on the back of my Princess Leia inspired sign and I took to the streets with Z beside me, waving his own sign promoting my rights. We did it for them. We did it for me. We did it for the women who came before us who should have had all of the best things and none of the worst. No matter what the critics say, we did not make a poor choice. We know this in our hearts and minds.

Happy Birthday to Elsa. Happy Birthday to me.

A Little Birthday Luck

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A Reluctant Girl Scout Turns Five.

A Reluctant Girl Scout Turns Five.

Yesterday was my birthday. The thing about an Epiphany birthday like mine is that it signifies the real end of the holiday season, so as a kid, I was always torn between joy and feelings of melancholy because I couldn’t reasonably expect to have another wrapped package in my hands for eleven and half months. Last year, my nephew was born on Christmas night, and while it seemed like a great score for the family, I instantly felt a connection with the little guy in terms of future birthday disillusionment.

As an adult, what I’ve discovered is that in my head, I get a buffer week on New Year’s Resolutions. While the rest of you were slaving away on the gym treadmill and learning Portuguese, I was still planning my new year and eating Christmas cookies. I don’t count the first week of January as time I should be doing “X”.  Instead, I wait until my age changes and then it’s a complete clean slate and time to get down to business.

On the birthday downside this year, I did not turn five, Raggedy Ann was not accompanying me throughout the day, and I did not have a jazzy pink pantsuit to wear. And it will be eleven and half months before I get another proper present.

On the birthday up side, Z and I went to Tulalip Casino Resort  the night before, so I awoke in luxurious splendor to a “Happy Birthday” banner, presents and cards, and the promise of an excellent breakfast at Cedars Café in the resort before we drove back to Seattle so Z could teach his first class of the new quarter. Later that night we had dinner with Hudge and I was slightly mortified that the waiters sang Happy Birthday to me. But back to Tulalip.

We aren’t high rollers, and though Z would laugh at me, I would argue we aren’t really casino people.  We spend $20 each on penny slots, and after an hour, we get overwhelmed by the smoke, pinging machines, and flashing lights.

I always sheepishly tell people we went to a casino, and I am also uncharitable in the way I present the information, as if we only go because Z likes it and I am only humoring him.  I’ve apparently got just enough Puritan or Quaker genes in me to feel a little guilty every time we go. I can’t specifically name the guilt because it’s different every time and ranges from “wasting money” to “wasting time” to “wasting paper cups at the complimentary soda fountain.” But there is also a thrill that comes from it and an engagement of imagination that is good for us. That is, I like the period of time right before we go when anything is possible, and we imagine both how we might win it big on Lucky Lemmings and what we will do with our new wealth. It’s not unlike buying a lottery ticket and imagining all the stuff you’ll buy and the people you’ll help out as soon as the check clears. We’ve taken ourselves and family members on so many trips around the world in our minds, I can’t even count them.

Like most things in life, I’m learning that it is all a matter of perspective (and moderation). I could go to the casino with my lips pursed and an eye on everyone else, imagining all the ways I’m not as desperate as they are with their frequent player cards on lanyards, or I can loosen my grip on that twenty dollar bill and enjoy myself the way Z does. We rarely play serious slots with fruit and numbers, but instead tend towards the one with “bonus features” that involve small woodland creatures. Oh, I wish you could see the glee on Z’s face when he gets a bonus feature. It really is like Christmas morning. That’s the real reason I like to go, and why I often find a machine right next to him, even if he’s playing a boring machine that I don’t really approve of. It’s worth $20 any day.

But I’m getting off track. My point here is that we aren’t high rollers and we’re never going to get a room comped. Lucky Lemmings players are never in the high roller suite to the best of my knowledge.  Fortunately for me, in January, the resort offers a “pay the date” deal to fill the otherwise empty hotel, so around my birthday, we can stay for less than we’d pay for a Holiday Inn.

I’m a sucker for a good hotel room—in fact, we’re planning a trip to Vancouver right now, and I’m way more excited about sitting in a hotel room with a view, peering out at the world, than I am in actually taking a trolley tour. Tulalip rooms are so lovely if we never went down to the casino, I’d be fine with that. They are rich with reds and golds and fabrics that kind of envelop you, with shout outs to the Tulalip tribe in native art work. If I could figure out how to steal the suspended bedside lights—blown glass—I’d tuck them into my over-sized hand luggage, though probably we’d have to book next year under a pseudonym.

Tulalip King Room

Tulalip King Room

I have two favorite spots in the room. The first is the sumptuous three-headed shower in a bathroom that demands you take about three showers a day simply because showering never felt so good (or clean). My second favorite spot is the chaise lounge next to the window. It’s the kind of piece of furniture I’d never have in my own house because it isn’t my style and seems so purposeless, but when I have access to it I realize the error of my thinking. It’s the perfect spot to read. And nap.

Tulalip Casino Resort

Tulalip Casino Resort

On this stay, an extra birthday treat rarely granted by the Pacific Northwest in January: a clear day that offers a Mt. Rainier view. Delicious.

Mt. Rainier from Tulalip Casino Resort

Mt. Rainier from Tulalip Casino Resort

So this is my post-birthday post.  This is me officially beginning my year of “showing up.” This is me, one year older, not particularly wiser, and $20 poorer than I was before we went to Tulalip. But it was a good time, and I’m hoping for more of the same in the next 365 days.