Turn (45) for what?

Let's talk about birthdays. They just keep coming and I just keep turning whatever number I'm given. In previous years I've never been too hung up on the actual number I'm turning--and I actually really love this decade that starts with 4. Still, when I turned 45 a couple of weeks ago I was surprised that I did stutter over it a bit! 

The birthday itself was really great. I got to have two days' worth of birthday wishes--my Australian birthday and my American one. G had conducted sneaky reconnaissance on my Pinterest boards and had thoughtfully chosen some things that I had been secretly (but not so secretly, after all) pining for, like:  

  • three lovely thin silver stacking rings ("one for each child!" I happily exclaimed when I unwrapped them. "....Um, yeah!" Greg almost successfully improvised),
  • a luscious fountain pen,
  • a wooden pineapple-shaped chalkboard (because I sometimes text my signature celebratory pineapple emoji to my kids).

That guy is pretty fluent in my love languages by now, one of which is thoughtful (not expensive, not outrageous, just lovingly selected) gift giving. And maybe I have finally internalized that you have to actually articulate your expectations rather than expecting miracles of mind reading and other such sorcery. (Remember last year's birthday lesson?

And yet 45 was unexpectedly hard! I had planted it in my head that it's pretty much smack dab middle age. And it kind of is, you know? (If I'm lucky, that is.)  It feels like a time for re-evaluation and recalibration and reorientation. Lots of re.  It's a time to wash the metaphorical laundry midway through this mortal journey before repacking it all up again and figuring out the path ahead. Dante nailed it:

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost 


G and I went to lunch that day and I confessed and warned him that that precise, particular moment--the noontime on my 45th birthday--marked the apex of my life. All downhill from here, buddy. Undaunted, he seems convinced that the next 45 can be pretty terrific and is willing to continue to blaze the trail ahead a couple of years.

It's just a day, this birthday, another in the long string of days I'm blessed to have. Still, it has me a bit more tender than usual. Passages in books have me weepy with love for the beauty of words and the accompanying twinge to string together a few of my own--almost an anticipatory regret if I don't find my voice and just do it. And my dissertation is ripening on the shelf. And I want to walk places, see things, deepen my compassion and cultivate my corner of the garden. I'm reading Wendell Berry's book Hannah Coulter (so good!); midway through Hannah says "I began to know my story then."

45 sounds as good a time as any, yes?

What's your approach to birthdays and turning another year older? Do you celebrate or mourn? And, perhaps more importantly, what's your signature emoji?

p.s. Parts of this post appeared first in a birthday post on my personal blog last week so if it sounded familiar to some of you, that's why. Yup, I stole liberally from myself. 

Nest & Launch turns one! A favorite things giveaway . . .

Nest & Launch is officially one year old! She's not quite a toddler, but she's fiercely working her way towards climbing some big obstacles . . . like the coffee table and perhaps even that really high bookshelf that sits in the corner of the living room. Last week when we met in Austin for our first ever face-to-face Nest & Launch meeting, Annie and I felt the need to celebrate our one year milestone -- and by celebrate I mean go shopping. In a tireless effort to honor our faithful readers, Annie and I racked our brains for twelve of our favorite things -- one for each month of Nest & Launch posts. Once in the stores, we found that we have lots of favorite things -- some we'd never even seen before. But we restrained ourselves and compiled a collection of objects and words that bring us a sense of satisfaction and happiness. And we are giving them to you!! Well, technically just one of you. But symbolically? ALL OF YOU!

1. Moleskine notebook (with lines). Because we (mostly) love to write and Moleskine's the way to go. And you've got to have lines. Well, I do anyway.
2. Cute latte bowls from Anthropologie. Annie and I both have these. I have lots of different colors, and I amuse myself when unloading the dishwasher by stacking them in different color combinations. This is a list of my favorite things AND weird obsessions. Bonus!
3. A collection of Billy Collin's poetry. If you've been here all year, you've noticed we have kind of a thing for Billy. Please, if you win this, turn to The Lanyard and read it to yourself. It's Annie's favorite. And we dedicate it to you.
4. Theo dark chocolate with salted almonds. Because sweet + salty + nutty prompts a happy dance from the both of us.
5. Smith's Rosebud Salve. Annie swears by this one. It satisfies on multiple levels: the tin design is classic and cool, the stuff really works, and it smells like roses. All that goodness in one little tin.
6. Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride. It's difficult to choose a favorite novel. So I went at it this way: Margaret Atwood is my favorite contemporary writer. And my favorite Atwood novel is The Robber Bride. It's good. I promise.
7. The Family Flavor. Both Annie and I cook from this one. Lots of family favorites for sure.
8. Meyer's Clean Day dish soap. This really makes my kitchen sink more happy. You know you are an old lady when are obsessed with dish soap. So Yay! Yay?
9. Awesome wood camera tape dispenser. Both photography and washi tape are our favorites, so we couldn't resist the combo. 
10. Weekly list pad from Rifle Paper Co. We both love lists and nice paper, so this was a natural choice.
11. Anthro candle that smells like Anthro. (It's the Capri Blue Volcano.) I used to hoard this candle -- only lighting it occasionally. Then one day I decided to live free and light up that candle whenever and wherever. It was liberating.
12. The Union Jack frame. We'll happily admit it. We are anglophiles.  

Here's how to enter: Comment here and tell us either your favorite N&L post OR one of your favorite things. We'll leave the comments open until Thursday at 8:00 pm [comments now closed], and we'll post the winner on Friday. 

Mostly we just wanted a good excuse to pause and say THANK YOU for showing up here and being part of our first year.  (Cue the confetti!) So nice to know that we're all in this crazy, wonderful, nesty and launchy phase together. 

Great expectations, birthday edition

A few months ago G. realized he'd be on a business trip over my birthday, accompanied by Maddy who was going along as an early birthday gift of her own to tour some universities and visit friends. He offered to try to juggle it around better to be home but I shrugged it off. "Nah, we'll just do it another day instead," I said. "No big deal." And I really meant it at the time, too. After all, I'm a big girl, a grown woman, right?  

You'd think.

Sadly I forgot to inform my inner 10-year-old about my mature response. That Annie was raised in a celebrating household, conditioned to anticipate birthdays and expect kind of a big deal. She had great expectations, that birthday girl.

My 10th birthday party

My 10th birthday party

October 15 rolled around. Poor Sam. Suffice it to say that 15-year-old sons (no matter how kind and great they really are--and he is)  are not really equipped to carry the burden of their mothers' unspoken birthday expectations on their shoulders. To his credit, he remembered it was my birthday a couple of blocks before we got to his school drop off and gave me a chagrined/apologetic/cheerful "happy birthday" when we were almost at school. 

[As a side note, birthdays for Americans living in Australia are kind of out of sync, where our calendar is a day ahead of the US. On the bright side, having most of my family and many of my friends in the States means a two-day birthday-wishing fest. On the Aussie day, a few kind local souls left lovely, much-appreciated Facebook birthday messages. G, knowing me well, sent flowers.]

But it was a tough day, you guys. The mature Annie was willing but the inner youngster was weak. When it came down to it, no presents, no cake, no calls, and no birthday dinner meant that my inner birthday child felt kind of mopey and prone to pity partying instead.

Here's the rub: this was entirely avoidable! It's a lesson I keep learning, to either lower my expectations (and not expect mind reading) or speak up about them. Otherwise I'm just left with a cranky heart and bewildered loved ones. The naughty, told-you-so gremlin who lives in a little tarnished corner of our hearts is fed by the disappointment when people forget/fall short of our inner hopes. He makes us feel strangely virtuous and puritanical to have our wishes denied or withheld, as though it feels better to have our fears confirmed than our dreams fulfilled.

At our house we call this unnecessary martyrdom chicken-neck mom syndrome, our tendency to say--even when there's plenty to go around--"oh, no. Don't worry about me. You guys go ahead and take all the good meat. I'll gnaw on this chicken neck instead" with an air of ascetic self-righteousness. I could have spoken up when G offered to postpone. I could have told new local friends it was my birthday and scheduled a lunch out. I could have reminded and spelled it out for Sam and he surely would have risen to the challenge. But I settled for the chicken neck and a pity party instead. That's on me.

. . . 

p.s. We ended up having a lovely birthday do-over the next week when everyone was home. My inner birthday gal did a happy dance. All's well that ends well.