Posts Tagged ‘birthday’

I’m 38 today. And as I have said several times in the last week – to a friend who was joking about being “forever 29,” to another friend’s daughter who started to ask me how old I was and then hesitated, to my partner on the phone one night – I am proud to be 38. If you ask me how old I am, I will tell you. No dissembling, no hesitating. It may not always be that way, but it is that way today.

I have earned every one of these years: every gray hair, every smile line, every scar both visible and invisible. I have especially earned the last three years, which have included (among other things) my divorce, some serious church trauma, a move, two job changes, a new (wonderful) relationship, and a pandemic.

Since my this is thirty-five post, I have navigated challenges I could never have imagined. I have spent most of a year in my apartment by myself (or running through my beloved East Boston neighborhood). I have dealt with furloughs and layoffs and career/identity angst. I have chosen to blow up my life (read: leaving my marriage) and start again, and I have also dealt with changes I did not choose, repeatedly. I have held so much loss, and also so much love. I have not solved nearly everything, and I am still trying to let go of the idea that “solving” anything (except the New York Times crossword) is the goal.

Thirty-eight might be middle-aged, or close to it – but as Nora McInerny pointed out recently, middle age is the goal. Growing old is the goal. I want many more delicious years on this beautiful earth, and I want to live them as fully and bravely as possible. I want to care less (much less) about what people think, and more about creating joy and loving my people fiercely, and becoming a stronger writer, runner and human. (And I’d like to do some more international travel, too, once that feels like a good idea again.)

Thirty-eight looks like morning tea in one of my several favorite mugs, scribbling in my journal before heading out on a run. Thirty-eight is still adjusting to life at ZUMIX, dealing with the constant questions and uncertainty that come with any work (but especially youth-centered work) during a pandemic. Thirty-eight is yoga classes on some evenings and walks with my guy on others, regular text exchanges with a few close girlfriends and weekly phone calls with my parents. Thirty-eight has made New England her home for more than a decade, but is still and always a Texan.

Thirty-eight is still grieving the end of a marriage and an imagined future, and also reveling in the deep love I have found with a man I never expected. Thirty-eight is on a serious nineties country music kick and mixes in some Broadway tunes and folk music on the regular. Thirty-eight is learning to hold so many tensions, to accept and acknowledge that life is often both-and, to name the fear and worry and other hard emotions and then keep going through them. Thirty-eight snaps pictures of flowers every day, reads five or six books at once, eats a ton of granola and Greek yogurt and occasionally cooks real meals for one.

The upheavals of the last few years have made it challenging to plan, or even dream; so many of my former ideas about my life have been completely wiped away. But thirty-eight is starting to dream again.

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This is thirty-three

katie mirror larchmont

I turned thirty-three a couple of weeks ago. It was, in many respects, a completely ordinary Thursday: I brewed a cup of tea and ate a scone for breakfast, spent my commute reading, walked across Harvard Yard to Morning Prayers before heading to the office.

From there, the day unfolded as so many of them do: full of emails, tasks, small triumphs and frustrations, along with the two standing meetings I have on Thursdays. I walked many of my favorite, familiar paths through Harvard Square, from the Yard to the office to Darwin’s and back again, going about my day under a vivid, arching, bold blue sky.

The day also felt special in some ways: my husband and several sweet friends made sure I felt celebrated, and my colleagues fêted me (between meetings) with croissants and a card they had all signed. One of the joys of social media is receiving birthday wishes from friends near and far, and I checked in a few times during the day to savor those. My parents were visiting from Texas, so they treated J and me to dinner at Pomodoro in the North End.

Last year on my birthday, I was in my fourth month of job hunting: frustrated, lonely, tired, deeply sad. I hadn’t yet landed the temp gig that would lead to the job I have now, and I was struggling mightily with my sense of identity and self-worth. So this year, when a friend asked why I was at work on my birthday, I was able to tell her: coming to work that day was exactly what I wanted.

My friend Lindsey wrote a couple of years ago that her fortieth birthday was all about real life: simple tasks and routines, family dinner, daily joys. Her words resonated in my head this year as I answered email, wrote and rewrote to-do lists, talked with colleagues about work projects and politics, and slipped away to Darwin’s at lunchtime for black bean soup and chitchat with my people there. I sat on a bench outside later that afternoon, sipping an iced tea and taking deep breaths to clear my head. And I thought, again, of Lindsey’s words: more of this.

Thirty-three is a place both rich and demanding: I have responsibilities at work, church and home, which often means trying to juggle a lot of balls. Thirty-three is gradually learning to ask for help with the juggling. Thirty-three is grateful that my husband and others are willing to step up and help me – but I still have to ask, and keep asking.

Thirty-three is speaking up more often, stretching out to take up a bit more space in this world. Thirty-three is leaning into my daily routines, my trusted relationships, my work neighborhood, and treasuring them all while leaving room for surprises.

Thirty-three is reading a lot of books and blogs (always) but also learning to step away from the constant information barrage: to take a long walk with my thoughts for company, or sit outside watching the sky.

Thirty-three is more aware of this world’s heartache than I’ve ever been, and also asking what I can do to make a small daily difference where I am.

Thirty-three is doing a lot of listening, and also a lot of talking, about the big questions: vocation and adulthood, politics and faith, marriage and friendship. Thirty-three also knows that the small things can save our lives every single day.

Thirty-three is growing more confident in my own skin, more accepting of my flaws (and other people’s), more and more grateful for this rich, messy, heartbreaking, quietly miraculous life.

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Because I’d flown down to Texas for work earlier that week.

Because it was still chilly in Boston and gloriously warm in my home state.

Because, if I end up anywhere close to my hometown, I can’t not go see my family. (In Texas, 300 miles counts as close.)

Because I needed to laugh with my dad and hug my mom and joke around with my sister.

Because this little guy was turning two.


Because there was a tractor cake. (And tractor decorations and tablecloths.)


Because I couldn’t pass up the chance to play with trucks and read Sandra Boynton board books and hear him call me “Kiki.”

Because weekends with family are rare and precious and so much fun.


Happy birthday, Ryder B. I’ll be back soon.

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Last September, I made a list of things to do before my next birthday. I turn 29 in just over a month, so here’s a final progress report.

tea books balcony garden

Tea, books and balcony gardens: always on my list.

Finished items are crossed off; items begun are starred*.

1. Try the Project Life system to document either my time in Oxford or our first year in Boston (No scrapbooking, but I did make a photobook of Oxford colleges.)
2. Go to New York to see Ben in The Lion King and visit friends (Fabulous weekend – and the show rocked!)
3. Plan a trip to Europe/Oxford
4. Hang out with my family in Texas (So. Much. Fun.)
5. Dig into some classics I’ve never read (so far, Murder on the Orient Express, Essays of E.B. White, Letters to a Young Poet, A Christmas Carol, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Great Gatsby, Northanger Abbey, The Writing Life, And Then There Were None)
6. Visit a place I’ve never been (Portland, ME; Marblehead, Amherst, Hingham, Newton, Newburyport, Northampton and South Hadley, MA; Bar Harbor, ME; Alexandria, VA)
7. Clean out my desk at home*
8. Visit my loves in Abilene (pure joy)
9. Go apple picking again (it was delectable)
10. Knit some swoon-worthy autumn accessories (Done.)
11. Buy a new pair of black high-heeled boots (Bought riding boots instead.)
12. Keep in better touch with far-away friends (stolen from Bethany’s list)*
13. Explore more of New England (see #6)
14. Try at least 2 new recipes a month (I’ve tried so many that I’m calling it done.)
15. Visit half a dozen area bookstores I haven’t been to yet (Done! Longfellow Books, Porter Square Books, Artists & Authors, Spirit of ’76 Bookstore, Amherst Books, the New England Mobile Book Fair, Newtonville Books…)
16. Go see The Civil Wars in concert with my Jeremiah (a lovely evening)
17. Take another writing course (I took Alchemy Daily with Jenna)
18. Take a financial management course with J (we learned a lot)
19. Put together new outfits from pieces I already own
20. Schedule a checkup (it’s been far too long)
21. Start or join a book club (Five meetings so far.)
22. Buy a sassy red handbag
23. Drive up to New Hampshire or Vermont to see the fall foliage (We drove to western Mass.)
24. Fill a new notebook with a super-secret writing project* (Lots of new files on my new computer.)
25. Get a Massachusetts driver’s license
26. Learn to pay attention to one thing at a time*
27. Send 28 handwritten letters* (Not keeping an exact count, but I’m nearly there.)
28. Go to a literary festival/conference/event (Boston Book Fest, many author readings, Newburyport Literary Festival, Glen Workshop East)

Overall, I’m pleased with my progress. Lots of travel, lots of reading and writing, some fashion triumphs, a new book club, some lovely experiences. That driver’s license needs to happen soon, and I am determined to get back to Oxford before I turn 30. And #26 – well, I’m always working on it.

Do you make lists like this? What’s on your life to-do list right now?

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happy birthday mom

She’s awfully far away today, too far for me to take her out for a birthday lunch at Rosa’s or Taco Villa or Graham’s Pharmacy. She came, with my dad, for four days in mid-November, to see my new house, my new church, my new city, my new life. (And to walk around some of the old graveyards and historical sites she’s long wanted to see.) She’s coming back this summer, and I am determined to spend next Christmas with her.

When I look in the mirror, I see her green eyes, her facial expressions, her spirit looking back at me. When I speak, I hear her inflections in my voice, her phrases, her worldview, mingling with mine. She gave me so many important things, including a sense of fashion, a love of reading, the courage to speak my mind (even when she didn’t agree with me). She cried when I left home – for college, for Oxford, for graduate school, for Boston – but she let me go, over and over, with a hug and a prayer.

We clash sometimes, more because of how similar we are than how different. But we love each other too, with a fierce, deep, often unspoken kind of love.

Happy birthday, Mom. Hope it’s wonderful.

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As you may remember, I turned 27 a couple of weeks ago. J and I celebrated with a dinner date in the North End – pasta and some yummy pastries – but I wanted to have a party too, a chance to gather with friends and play games and laugh. It’s what our House 9 crew did in college, what our Abilene crew did every time it was someone’s birthday. And I miss having people over to our house – it’s been a rare thing so far in Boston, since we’re still getting settled and our friends are scattered all over the city.

So we threw a party. A Tex-Mex festival, actually. With chicken burritos and my guacamole, Nate’s homemade salsa and lots of tortilla chips. Daniel brought seven-layer dip, Shanna brought queso and everyone brought chips. And Abi made decadent chocolate cupcakes, frosted with cream cheese icing, each one topped with a single raspberry. (She knows me so, so well.)

It was a curious but wonderful mix of old friends and new ones, friends from Abilene and friends from Boston. It felt, as Abi said, like old times in Abilene – and yet it felt new too.

We missed the rest of our party group from Abilene – Kelsey and Jake and Sarah, Bailey and Luke and Bethany, Lawson and Morgan and Drew, and others. But it was such fun to have Daniel and Isaac and Shanna, and Beth and Scott, with us.

Everyone hung around the table, dipping chips into the four dip bowls and talking and laughing. We devoured burritos and chips and cupcakes and Beth’s chili-powder-laced brownies. We played Encore (always a gamble with a new group of people) and sang crazy song lyrics and hooted with laughter. And when it was over, I had that warm glow that comes from spending time with good friends.

We’re still adjusting to life here in Boston, still finding our rhythm and settling in. But I am so glad we’re already finding our people. We brought some of them with us, of course – but it’s great to be living the Boston life together, and making new friends along the way.

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happy Boston birthday to me

I’m 27 today. And the day – with a good-morning kiss from my husband, two cups of tea, dozens of Facebook birthday wishes, phone calls and birthday mail from the parents and the in-laws – has definitely started off right.

I’ve been doing a little housework and a little freelance work, and this afternoon, I’m going to do a little browsing and shopping and wandering and cafe-sitting. And maybe a little of this:

Yes, those are my feet on Boston Common, this past Saturday. I still find it hard to believe that Boston is my city now – but it is. And since Boston Common belongs to the people, it also belongs to me.

Happy Wednesday, everyone. I’m off to enjoy a birthday lunch, and then to wander and browse to my heart’s content.

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1. A job.
2. A trip to Oxford. (Always.)
3. Some friends in my neighborhood.
4. Motivation to go back to yoga.
5. Phone calls (and visits!) from far-away friends.
6. A chicken fajita with queso and a large chips & queso from Rosa’s Cafe.
7. A way to scrapbook/organize/sort through all the random memorabilia and photos in the guest room.
8. An iPod nano.
9. The Swell Season’s self-titled album (I have Strict Joy, and oh, how I love it).
10. Pies & Prejudice, the newest Mother-Daughter Book Club title. Yes, I am addicted to young adult fiction and I don’t care who knows it.
11. A dinner date with my husband.
12. Nichole’s red Paris color story.
13. My Oxford map, framed.
14. A small red teapot.
15. Dark chocolate (the good stuff).
16. Natalie Goldberg’s book about writing memoir.
17. A license to go shopping, just a little bit.

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happy birthday Dad

(photo by Tammy Marcelain)

He’s 54 today, though he’s about 12 inside. He’s funny and sweet, caring and sentimental, a zero-handicap golfer and a skilled griller and pancake maker. He loves his three girls more than anything else in the world. He’s one of the two most important men in my life.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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Some of you may remember my previous list, made in March halfway between my 25th and 26th birthdays. I’m happy to report that I made it through 18 of those items, and started two others. Not bad, in a little less than six months.

I’m more on the ball this year, and here is the brand-new shiny list of 26 things to do before I turn 27 (in semi-order):

1. Go to BlogHer ’10 in New York City
2. Write part 2 of last year’s NaNoNovel and revise what I’ve got so far
3. Take Ali Edwards’ Yesterday and Today online class through Big Picture Scrapbooking
4. Go see U2 with Jeremiah in Dallas (Oct. 12!)
5. Take the Mondo Beyondo e-course with Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen
6. Pay off at least 10% of the principal on my student loans
7. Take Jeremiah to Neosho to visit my dad’s extended family, and see the house where Dad grew up
8. Teach at ACU this spring (if we stay in Abilene)
9. Have my office painted (if we stay in Abilene) – it’s currently orange and yellow, not my choice
10. Make plans to travel to Europe again
11. Visit a local yarn shop, somewhere (they are sadly lacking in West Texas)
12. Go to Kerrville at least a couple times to hang out with my mom’s parents
13. Start my Oxford memoir
14. Complete at least one volume of the Oxford 2007-08 scrapbook
15. Learn 15 new main-course recipes (I’ve already learned one!)
16. Buy a new pair of high heels
17. Go dancing
18. Plan and take another field trip with the coffee-night ladies
19. Take on the lingering boxes/clutter in our home office
20. Start exercising regularly
21. Frame and hang more photos of Jeremiah & me, and of Europe
22. Organize my scrapbooking supplies
23. Read a literary classic (or classics) I’ve never read
24. Save up for a digital SLR camera
25. Visit the Pacific Northwest, or somewhere equally new and exciting
26. Wear red lipstick (or gloss) and rock it

Some of these are big, I know; some are small, but all of them are things I want to do, and many are things I’ve been putting off, for whatever reason. So – here’s to a year of dreaming big!

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