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Posts Tagged ‘birthdays’

celebrating Pop

live love Texas sign

My grandfather turned 85 last month. If you asked him about it, he’d likely shrug it off as no big deal – but the rest of us disagree. So we’d been secretly planning a surprise party, spearheaded by my Aunt Cat, for months. (The hardest part was letting my grandmother, whom we all call Neno, in on the secret. She said it was stressful to keep it quiet!)

I flew down to San Antonio (my grandparents live about an hour away), and various family members came in from across Texas and Arizona. I hadn’t seen many of these folks in years, nor been to my grandparents’ spacious house, with its saltillo-tiled floors and stuccoed walls hung with Pop’s original paintings. (He worked in tool design for many years, and is a talented artist and woodworker.) They built this house themselves when they retired to Texas, twenty years ago, and stepping inside felt like coming home.

My parents and I surprised Pop at lunchtime on Friday (thereby pre-empting the surprise party, but Aunt Cat swore it was okay). I was grateful for that extra time around their kitchen table, just the five of us. Neno pulled out a box of beautiful handmade baby clothes (some hers, some Pop’s, some that her kids – my mom and her siblings – had worn). We exclaimed over the embroidery and tiny, meticulous stitches.

neno baby clothes

Later, we ate burgers and watched the birds out the back windows, trading stories and laughing. My sister and her family arrived that night, and it was a gift to hug her and play Uno with my nephews, and trade running tips with my brother-in-law (he’s training for a half marathon).

ryder harrison uno

The party on Saturday was total happy chaos – all of us weaving around one another in the kitchen, making corn casserole and pouring drinks and finding space for the pork ribs, chopped brisket and three huge cheese/fruit/veggie platters. There were two layer cakes, and tiny cups of Blue Bell ice cream, and lots of hugging, and even a surprise guest…

Pop is a huge John Wayne fan (so is Neno), and my aunt and uncle had schemed to have him show up for the party. None of the rest of us knew that was coming, and we were all highly entertained.

I may live in New England now, but I am a Texas girl to my core, and I needed that brief, nourishing time with four generations of my family. I was so happy to chat with my aunts and catch up with my cousins and especially to hug my sweet Neno.

Until next time, Texas. It was good to be back.

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Katie polka dots porch selfie

I turned thirty-five this past weekend. And I have to admit: this one freaked me out a little.

I don’t often worry about birthdays: turning another year older beats the alternative, as my mom says. My (fairly healthy) reaction to turning thirty, a few years ago, was to take my first trip to Canada. But this birthday – falling squarely in the middle of ordinary life and a job change – felt big, somehow, in a way I didn’t quite feel able to process.

I’d debated about having a party, but in the end we celebrated with friends, pulling together a brunch in our top-floor apartment: mimosas and fruit, jazz on my old stereo, scrambled eggs and stacks of French toast made by my husband. Sierra walked in and handed me a bouquet of sunflowers; Aaron brought a bread pudding made with honey cake; 14-month-old Colette toddled around in a pink plaid dress with cupcakes on the smocked yoke. Everyone greeted me with bear hugs and best wishes. They pulled open the cabinets for coffee mugs and Fiestaware plates, and made themselves at home on the living room couches and around the kitchen table, talking, laughing, enjoying one another. It was exactly what I wanted.

sunflowers books mimosas birthday

I’m only a few days into thirty-five, of course, but wanted to capture a few snapshots, literal and figurative, of what it looks like so far.

Thirty-five is about a dozen gray hairs (I stopped counting after three). So far I’m happy to let them coexist with the brown and the pink streaks; you can see some of all three above. I am even a little bit proud: I’ve earned every single one.

Thirty-five is adjusting to the rhythms of a new job, in a new neighborhood across the river from my Cambridge home. Thirty-five is struggling with this change, and also trying to turn toward gratitude.

Thirty-five is still learning to own the broken pieces and wonky seams of this life, to step into both strength and vulnerability, to let herself be seen.

Thirty-five is stepping into my identity as a runner, getting out on the river trail several days a week. Thirty-five loves both the measured pace of yoga class and the change-it-up high intensity of a boot camp workout in Erin’s backyard.

Thirty-five is always reading a handful of books at once: something for review, brain-challenging nonfiction, something with heft and depth (fiction or nonfiction), a damn good story, something just for fun. (These categories often overlap.)

Thirty-five repeats a few good phrases to herself over and over again: everyone is learning. You are loved. The only thing to do is to keep moving. Summon all the courage you require

Thirty-five eats a lot of granola and peanut butter crackers, drinks copious amounts of black tea, tries to stay away from sugar and eat more vegetables (she has no trouble eating lots of fruit). Thirty-five tries to stay off the computer in the evenings, and winds down with a book before bed.

Thirty-five tears up often and laughs every single day. Thirty-five wears the same few pieces of jewelry that have become talismans: a necklace stamped with brave, a Wonder Woman bracelet, a matching set of wedding and engagement rings.

Thirty-five thought she’d have more answers to a few big questions by now. Instead, she is facing the reality that we are always becoming. That few things are set in stone. That even the most foundational relationships will change. Thirty-five would refute the sunny-side optimists who insist that change is always good, but is trying to agree with the friend who often says, “Change is how we grow.”

Thirty-five has learned that love and life are bigger and harder and more complicated than she ever thought possible. Thirty-five is in the middle of a messy, rich story. Thirty-five is doing her best to be honest about, and grateful for, the all of it.

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papaw-grandkids

Last week, my dad sent a group text to my mom, my sister and me, reminding us that it was my grandfather’s birthday. “He loved the three of you very much,” Dad wrote. “I do too.”

I read it and thought about Papaw, a quiet man with kind eyes (pictured above with some of his grandkids in the late ’80s). It seems unbelievable, but he has been gone 16 years now. He died of cancer in the summertime, when I was a high school student, and we drove up to the family farm in southwest Missouri as we did every summer – but this time it was for the funeral.

We gathered with family on a June day at the old farmhouse outside of town where my grandparents raised their three boys. My dad spoke at the funeral and made everyone laugh, telling stories about his childhood and honoring the man who taught his boys to work hard, respect their elders and love one another.

Afterward, we all went back to the farmhouse and I helped my Aunt Carmen, my grandmother’s best friend, clean out the crowded kitchen fridge so we could find room for a dozen deli trays. (I remember us laughing helplessly at outdated jars of mayonnaise and so much sliced cheese, grateful for a moment of lightness amid our grief.)

Even without that text, I would have remembered Papaw this month: he was born on June 2 and later died on June 19, and so this month always reminds me of him.

There are dates that loom large in every life: birthdays, anniversaries, deaths. The births or the funerals of those we love; the days we receive the news that will change our lives, for a moment or forever. As I recently passed the one-year anniversary of my layoff, I’ve been thinking about the smaller anniversaries that also mark us.

I got laid off on the day before my husband’s birthday, which also happens to be the same day he proposed, nine years ago now (we’ve been married for nearly eight). There are other dates I don’t have to mark on a calendar to remember: the August night I got the phone call about my friend Cheryl’s death; the long-ago spring evening I got baptized in the little Baptist church in Coppell. And the night we arrived in Boston, grubby and tired from four days of driving cross-country but still eager to begin a new adventure.

I’ve written before about how my body also seems to remember certain places at certain times of year: the mountains of New Mexico in mid-May, windswept Whitby in February, Oxford at many times and seasons. Time and calendars may be relatively recent human inventions, but I believe our bodies and souls hold these memories, nudge us to remember these anniversaries. It is part of being human, this bittersweet ribbon of memory, the way we are marked by both grief and joy.

I miss Papaw even though he’s been gone a long time: I wish he could have met my husband and my sister’s husband, attended our weddings and our graduations, gotten down on the floor to play with his great-grandsons. He would have loved it, all of it. But I am grateful for him and his memory, and for the quiet reminder in my soul (and, okay, from my dad) every June: a nudge to remember.

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This is thirty-one

katie-sd

I’m thirty-one today. Which means I’m officially settling into my early thirties, trying the phrase on for size.

I have loved being thirty, and I’ve been spending a little time thinking about where I am right now and what I’d like thirty-one to look like. (This post was partly inspired by Lindsey’s gorgeous musings on turning forty.)

Thirty-one is thinking hard, all the time, about the big questions: marriage, money, career, children, where to live, how to live. Thirty-one is realizing that some doors are closed to me, or at least swinging shut – while others are perhaps more open than I think they are.

Thirty-one is buying clothes for the body I have, not the body I used to have, the body I wish I had, or the body that appears in most of today’s fashion catalogs.

Thirty-one is learning to listen to my body and my soul when they cry out (or even whisper) that they need rest.

Thirty-one is learning not to apologize for what I like and the way I am, while remembering to be gracious, polite and adaptable.

Thirty-one is taking a hard look at my budget with my husband, stepping up our student loan payments and our retirement contributions, and also continuing to make travel a priority.

Thirty-one is realizing, in a thousand small ways, that my generation and I are the grown-ups now.

Thirty-one is wearing many different hats: writer, wife, sister, daughter, editor, friend, aunt, resident bookworm. Thirty-one is slowly realizing the impossibility of being all things to all people.

Thirty-one is learning, again and again, to pay attention and soak in the present moment, in all its messy loveliness.

Thirty-one is learning to live with life’s spaciousness and its uncertainty, its jagged edges and its breathtaking beauty.

Thirty-one (as seen in many of the sentences above) is still learning. And loving every minute of it.

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katie-jer-harvard-yard

Ten years together has only made me love him more.

k & j san diego bay

Happy 30th birthday, love. You’re my favorite.

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katie fur hat

For the past few years, I’ve made a list of things I want to do, try, accomplish and/or enjoy before my next birthday. Here’s an update on the (short) list I made this year:

1. Try a new-to-me author every month. I’ve hit this one several times over. My reviewing gig for Shelf Awareness definitely helps.
2. Knit myself a pair of cozy slippers (probably from this book).* I’ve knitted two pairs for friends. Now to make myself some!
3. Visit Nantucket. (We’ll wait until it’s warmer.)
4. Buy a go-to neutral handbag (black or brown). Scored a great black bag in December.
5. Fly to San Diego to visit our friends who live there. (Photos and stories to come soon…)
6. Go to the dentist (carried over from last year). Finally scheduled an appointment and had to go back THREE TIMES. That’ll teach me to put it off.
7. Visit Prince Edward Island.
8. Attend a carol service at Harvard. Inclement weather meant I gave this one a miss. Maybe next year.
9. Spend at least one lovely long weekend in NYC.
10. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Three of the above items qualify for this one.)
11. Get a massage with that gift certificate I got for my birthday. It was lovely. Ahhh.
12. Develop a regular exercise routine. I’m going to yoga twice a week, but I’d like to add in some walking when the weather warms.
13. Write something I can be proud of.* Always working on it.

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Katie Gibson-6

I’m turning 30 (!) in just a few days, so here’s my last update on the list I made last September of things to do/accomplish/try/enjoy before then.

Items completed (or jettisoned) are crossed off; items begun are starred.*

1. Go back to Europe. Specifically Oxford (where I used to live). Not happening this year, between my newish job and various financial commitments.
2. Read or donate at least half the books I own that I’ve not yet read.* I’ve cleared out a lot of books. Done.
3. Go back to the Glen Workshop. Couldn’t swing it this year. See #1.
4. Visit my loved ones in Abilene. (Loved being there over Christmas.)
5. Finish a draft of my memoir. On hold for now.
6. Pay off my student loans. DONE!
7. Go apple picking for the third time. (It was glorious.)
8. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Newport, RI; the Berkshires in MA; Portsmouth, NH; Upper Cape Cod; Camden, ME; Lower Cape Cod)
9. Read 10 new-to-me classics of any genre. I’ve read 18, including Les Mis.
10. Participate in a cooking challenge with fellow Shelf Awareness reviewers. (Read all about it!)
11. Visit New York in the fall. (A weekend full of wonder.)
12. Cuddle my sweet nephew a lot. (Yes – at Christmas and in March. Planning more cuddles this fall.)
13. Conquer the snooze button.* (Still working on it.)
14. Knit a few beautiful things. (See my late winter knits.)
15. Go to the dentist.
16. Visit Canada.* (Birthday trip in the works!)
17. Reach out to two friends every week. (Social media makes this easier.)
18. Reread the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. Done.
19. Take a vacation with friends.* (Planning on this soon.)
20. Try 2 or more new recipes a month. Delicious.
21. Develop a steady, focused routine for my workdays.* (Still working on it.)
22. Re-imagine our cluttered guest room.* (Major progress.)
23. Invest in sturdy, chic black flats. Finally.
24. Eat at the food truck on the Common. Yum.
25. Get a pedicure. Ahhhh.
26. Invite friends over at least once a month.
27. Write half a dozen more essays. (I’ve written for Art House America about laundry, mending, and prayer. Now working on a series of three essays for TRIAD.)
28. Order myself a new “brave” necklace.
29. Savor the last year of my twenties. (Absolutely.)

What lists are you working on lately?

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Lindsey recently wrote a breathtaking post about what thirty-eight looks like for her. I am just a few months away from turning thirty (which alternately seems totally normal and a bit overwhelming), so I thought I’d do my own take.

This is twenty-nine.

chocolate room spiced hot cocoa

Twenty-nine is on the cusp of her third decade, seven years out of college and five years married. Twenty-nine is content so far to play the cool aunt, though she’s starting to wonder about having kids of her own.

Twenty-nine has successfully held down a series of real, full-time jobs with benefits and retirement plans, but still sometimes struggles to feel like a grown-up inside.

Twenty-nine looks in the mirror and sees her mother: the big green eyes, the shy smile, the long eyelashes. Twenty-nine hears both her mother’s advice and her dad’s punny jokes come out of her mouth all the time.

Twenty-nine always packs an extra book (or two) in her bag, makes sure to carry cash (but not too much), pays her bills on time, plans out meals for the week on a dry-erase board in the kitchen. Twenty-nine believes in being prepared.

Twenty-nine is slowly realizing that some friendships will fade with time, in spite of (sometimes because of) the relentless onslaught of social media minutiae. And that some friendships will endure in surprising ways.

Twenty-nine still keeps a handwritten journal as she has done since she was six, and has carted several boxes of old journals to half a dozen houses and apartments.

Twenty-nine still loves the boy she fell in love with at nineteen, and can hardly believe they will celebrate a decade of being together in November.

Twenty-nine is learning to resist the allure of cheap clothes in favor of well-made pieces. Twenty-nine is embracing her signature style rather than chasing trends, though her favorite pieces of clothing still tend to come from her sister’s closet.

Twenty-nine knows what it is to grieve, to question, to struggle with faith and come out on the other side with a faith that acknowledges all kinds of doubts. Twenty-nine believes, increasingly, that community and grace are far more important than doctrines or creeds.

Twenty-nine is learning to loosen up, to laugh more, to plan spontaneous adventures, to be silly sometimes rather than so serious all the time.

Twenty-nine is learning how to balance nice and honest, learning not to apologize for who she is.

Twenty-nine dreams of many more adventures, but is deeply grateful for her life as it is right now.

k & j fenway

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More than that, actually. My mom’s birthday is today, my sister’s is next week, and nearly every day I get a birthday notification or two on Facebook. But on Friday night, we gathered to celebrate these four ladies:

Jan bdays 005

Jan bdays 008

Gerilyn, Abigail, Katie and Kelsey (from left to right above) all have birthdays this month. When we discovered this fact at our New Year’s party, we decided to have one big birthday bash. And it was a hit, if I do say so myself. (Birthday crowns courtesy of Abi’s class of preschoolers.)

There were two kinds of enchiladas, spicy tortilla soup, pulled pork, a big bowl of guacamole, three different birthday desserts, a pot of mulled cider, and plenty of tea. There were hilariously awful first-date stories and flickering candles (birthday and otherwise). Later, there was a truly incredible game of charades. And all night long, there was so much laughter.

Since moving up here two and a half years ago, J and I have often felt isolated, lonely and far from home. We miss our families, and the community of friends we built in West Texas. (We are ever more thankful that Abi and her husband Nate, old and dear friends, ended up here with us.) We are working to build new friendships, but it is often a slow process. Forging community takes time and effort, and it’s difficult in a city where many people don’t stay long.

But on Friday night, our apartment rang with voices and footsteps and shouted guesses during our charades game. We hugged and snapped photos and sang “Happy Birthday” and told stories and laughed and laughed some more. And when we fell into bed after midnight, exhausted but happy, J and I agreed: it’s wonderful to have friends in our home. It’s wonderful to have community here. Our circle is small, but precious. And we are grateful.

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brave necklace pendant stripes

Every year I make a list of things to do before my next birthday, from the fun to the profound. Items completed are crossed off; items begun are starred.*

1. Go back to Europe. Specifically, Oxford (where I used to live).
2. Read or donate at least half the books I own that I’ve not yet read.* (I’ve donated at least a dozen and read about 15.)
3. Go back to the Glen Workshop.* (Signed up and making plans.)
4. Visit my loved ones in Abilene.* (Making plans.)
5. Finish a draft of that memoir I keep talking about.
6. Pay off my student loans.* (Chipping away at ’em.)
7. Go apple picking for the third time. (It was glorious.)
8. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Newport, RI)
9. Read 10 new-to-me classics of any genre.* So far: O Pioneers, You Come Too (poetry by Robert Frost), Emma, The Hound of the Baskervilles
10. Participate in my first cooking challenge with fellow Shelf Awareness reviewers. (Read all about it!)
11. Visit New York in the fall. It makes me want to buy school supplies… (A weekend full of wonder.)
12. Cuddle that sweet nephew of mine a lot.
13. Conquer the snooze button.
14. Knit a few beautiful things.*
15. Go to the dentist.
16. Visit Canada (we’re only a few hours away).
17. Reach out to two friends every week.* (I’ve made a good beginning.)
18. Reread the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. See my post about these lovely books.
19. Take a vacation with friends.
20. Try 2 or more new recipes a month. *So far: a new ravioli recipe, Peruvian roasted chicken, butternut squash quesadillas, black bean-jalapeno soup, cranberry-walnut cake, roasted honey-glazed carrots, mustard-garlic chicken…
21. Develop a steady, focused routine for my workdays: less frantic multitasking.
22. Reimagine our cluttered guest room.
23. Invest in sturdy, chic black flats.
24. Eat at the food truck on the Common. Love their breakfast granola, apple cider and rosemary fries.
25. Get a pedicure. (I hardly ever do this.)
26. Invite friends over at least once a month.*
27. Write half a dozen more essays, a la my recent Art House America piece.* (Working on it. Look for another one soon.)
28. Order myself a new “brave” necklace. (See above.)
29. Savor the last year of my twenties.*

What lists are you working on lately?

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