I have long thought of my 36th birthday as some kind of grand hallmark. I knew it would feel big in one way or another. Last Saturday I hiked up to Lake Colchuck. It was a hike that I had been hoping to take for several years. I made all kinds of excuses for not going earlier. It was too long. I couldn't find the trailhead. The hike was too hard. I had no one to go with. I finally I decided that I just needed to go, and so I went. It took all kinds of planning and intention and even saying "no" to other invitations, but I wanted to do something special for this particular birthday, and so I went.

I do not particularly remember my mother's 36th birthday. I never gave much thought to the idea that it would be her last. Yes, she had been ill, but she was overcoming. She was getting better, and then she didn't. Just like that she didn't. We lost her. 

You see this is what I do. I reach different points along the way in my life and I look to my mother. I look to see where she was at the adjacent time in her life.  She is naturally my model (and a wonderful one at that) but her life has also been a means of measuring mine. When did my mother have babies? When did my mother struggle with her weight? When did my mother fight with my father? (never) When did my mother go back to work? This whole time I've been measuring.

I'm not totally sure that I set out to have "an experience" on my 36th birthday other than to simply enjoy a hike and see the beauty of an alpine lake. But as I reached the top of the trail, and just before the short descent into the basin of the lake, I felt the tears coming.

I felt my leg muscles strong, I felt my skin sweating, I felt my lungs burning. I felt my heart so full of love, my mind so full of thought, my spirit so full of wonder, my whole self just so full of gratitude.

I felt my mother.

I felt reaffirmed that I was indeed: more awake, more whole, more understanding, more accepting, more loving, more excited, more intentional, less afraid and more alive, than I'd ever been. I felt a strange sense of freedom to launch into this uncharted territory beyond age 36. I felt a freedom to make my life my very own in a new and different way. 

I stood, however, pacing on the rock hovering over the glacial water. I wanted so much to dive in, but I couldn't see the bottom. I wanted so much to be brave, to care little about the risk, to be bold and adventurous. I couldn't see the parallel lines between my mother and I anymore. Looking forward I could only see me. How would I measure? Who would I look to? I wasn't sure that I could do it. I didn't think I could dive out into the cold deep. But in the gentle way that mothers do, I felt her nudge me. I felt her encourage me to live, because I was alive.

I jumped in. I actually jumped in once, got back out, jumped in again, and then one last time- dove in head first. 

I was surprised by the freedom that I felt wash over me that afternoon as I lay swaying in a hammock nearby. I guess I assumed that it would feel strange and unfair to out-live my mother. I looked over at the mountain, the lake, the beauty around me, the beauty inside of me. I felt peaceful. The rest is going to be so good. 

Thank you for your example all these years mom. I happy that at 36 you were given your freedom, and I'm happy that I was given mine. 

So much love.

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Dinner for One

The kids are gone for a week. This has been the case every other such week this summer. It has been an interesting adjustment to have so much free time on my hands. Well, you know, free time other than the time I sit in front of a computer screen between the hours of 7:30am and 4pm.

The temptation is mostly to spend my time cleaning and organizing and catching up a lot. Laundry, closets, kitchen floors, vacuuming out the car, you know...that stuff. The other temptation is to mope around a little. Sunday night I came home from dropping them off and ate a 1/2 of a bag of bbq sunflower seeds. I sat on my balcony and alternately spit the seeds into a coffee mug and sipped a whisky on the rocks. Maybe two.

Last night I decided to try a little harder.

I came straight home and washed my face. I piled my hair on top of my head and went to work on poached eggs. I'm horrible at poached eggs. I tried no less than 8 of them. Wanna know what the trick is? You have to swirrrrrrrrl the simmering water when you put the egg in!

It's hard to cook for one person. I'm used to cooking for 6. Why bother you know? Just have a sandwich or a bowl of cereal- get over yourself. But I've decided to try hard at least one night while the kids are gone. It can be anything. It can be delicious. I deserve delicious food.

So, my version of "trying hard" last night was the two remaining pieces of cinnamon French bread from Sunday's breakfast- toasted, black forest ham topped with two (finally) perfectly poached eggs, and everything all drowned in hollandaise. Hollandaise is surprisingly easy to make. I've made it a handful of times now. It only has 4 ingredients. Egg yolks, lemon juice, water, and butter. Lots of butter.

Pour a glass of wine. Put your feet up. Enjoy your own company. Hey! I'm kinda fun to hang out with. 

It's not so hard to try hard.


*It was my birthday last Saturday. A big one. I'm trying to find the words to write about that very soon.

Passing it on

My uncle and I shared a brief moment together at a family wedding on Saturday evening. It was the first such event since my divorce. Surrounded by other people and their busy conversations about kids, families, current events, and the weather-- without preface he said to me, "I really believe all people- everyone- is worthy to be loved. We are. I am. You are. We all are. Sometimes words aren't even necessary. I just want to nod my head to you, even strangers, to let you know that I have reverence for your existence."


My eyes welled up with tears and I just smiled and let those words settle deep inside of me. People (even the people that you love the most!) often have such negative things to say. Sometimes it's directed towards you, sometimes it's expressed behind your back. Either way, the thoughts and opinions of others can chip away at you if you let them...  and too often I let them. It was so refreshing to be built up in that unlikely moment and in that unlikely conversation.

Thank you Uncle Den for such a timely gift, I'm passing it on today.