on my 35th birthday ..

today was my birthday. well, was or is, there’s still a little time left.
I stumbled on this Carson Ellis illustration and said to myself, “yes. that about sums it up for me.”

In perfect form, this day held an abundance of the bittersweet jumbled up bag of things that make my life rich and full.

I felt beautiful, but I have my period.

I wept and mourned and found myself surprised by joy and hope, leading to wild laughter a good portion of the day.

I looked stylish, but the only shopping I did was at the plant store, the farm store for chicken feed, and the local hardware store.

In lieu of no more social media, I didn’t hear from the usual masses of strangers, but it must have still told some people it was my birthday because there were some very dear friends and acquaintances who happened to have my number and they sent me personal texts and lovely messages.

I celebrated in luxury by drinking two glasses of sangria before five o’clock, but spent the rest of my evening at the 4th – 8th grade “Variety Show” watching kids tap dance, nay nay, sing adele and play piano.. clearly, the sixth grader who played the “Star Wars” theme took the cake.. ahem. he’s mine.

I had moments of forgetting that one of my kids is chronically ill, immediately followed by crippling moments of remembering that, even tonight, we could end up in the hospital again.. not to self: must stop googling about seizures.

I did no real work and yet came up with a brand new creative hair-brained venture, purchasing a .com and everything.. all on a whim. some people buy too many shoes. I buy too many .com’s in hopes of new creative expressions and outlets. it might be a problem?

I planned on starting the day with a fresh green juice and ending it with wine. Instead, I started the day with french toast and end it now with a pie homemade by a dear love.. chocolate cream with a salty pretzel crust.

I am thirty-five years old tonight. When I go to sleep, I will be completely done with the first thirty four years of my life. No more second chances for those years. And I’m glad. I don’t want to be seventeen or twenty seven again. Thirty five is a brave new territory. I’m halfway to seventy and twice the age of a high school senior. I’m a parent of one middle schooler, almost two!

As a good, wise, old thirty five year old, I am reflecting. I look back on the past year, I look forward to this one and I see a jumbled mix of darkness and beauty. I’m the woman riding the eagle. The landscape below is formidable and unknown, but also pink and lovely and filled with images of family and nourishment and life and home.

My demons are still chasing me down, some days more than ever. My fears of loss, pain, and death hover around street corners and hide in our dirty laundry piles. And yet, here I am.. eating pie, listening to a Gregory Alan Isakov song that happened to come on my pandora station.. and I think, “oh yeah.. I got to go on part of his tour the past couple years in a row and make photographs of it..” what? what is my life? My husband is next to me on the couch in our 129 year old living room sketching out changes he will make to the chicken coop he’s building with his own two loving hands. I love him deeply and he keeps choosing me. Our kids lay upstairs breathing deep and rhythmic and slow, and today I made all of them laugh and heard them all say the words, “I love you, mom.” I can hear the chicks pecking in their little pail in the dining room. The email inbox is full, but they are all good emails, the kind with opportunities and thank you’s tied to the ends.

I am the girl riding the eagle. The days will be good and they will be bad, and because it’s me, most days will have an almost crippling abundance of both. But I’m riding a fricken eagle, people .. and eating pie. I now know what it feels like to see my middle school son sit at a piano and perform the song that he practiced – until he made me lose my mind for a full auditorium – and shine. I now know high school and the people I knew back then don’t know me anymore.. but the people who know me have my number and leave me voicemails making up original birthday songs and text with way too many gifs. I feel loved and beloved by my family, my friends, and by Jesus. Oh yeah.. Jesus is the eagle. So for now, I smile a comforted smile and hold on tight to the feathers.

where are we going this year, Eagle?

*disclosure: SFD
that means this piece was, to use the phrase taught to me and many by anne lammot, a “shitty first draft”. unedited, not spell checked or anything. forgive all embarrassing grammatical errors or overzealous comma usage.

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