So much for family togetherness tonight.
I worked on some major house projects today then headed out to the yard. I thought about boiling up a couple of roosters from the farm, turning them into homemade chicken Kamut noodle soup for the kids.
But the kids didn't feel nearly as enthusiastic about our outdoor chores as me.
It took me a bit longer than I planned, but my soul definitely needed to be outside raking leaves and putting them on top of our compost and future garden beds. One child, who will remain unnamed, came out to help for 2 minutes. This child asked why we have to cart the leaves over to the compost and the future site instead of just bag them up "like all those other normal people."
My answer was brief, believe it or not. We are a different normal than those other normal people. And we need dirt. And leaves and compost layered on hard, desert soil equal rich black dirt, eventually. And I take joy in gathering leaves and putting them onto our garden.
So said child went back into the house and I pouted, but raked anyway. And ran out of time to make supper, and so ordered Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza for the kids' dinner.
Life is full of contradictions, isn't it? Another child, one who is probably most like me, came out and helped gather. And another one came out and picked up dog poop. And another one took out piles of trash and old boxes. They all took care of their tasks, normal or not!
Tomorrow is my birthday.
Eight years ago or so I had an epiphany.
Seemed like every year I would sabotage my birthday. Nobody could do enough to satisfy me.
I hate to admit it, because admitting frailties is a scary thing and I hate to be judged. Or to be thought self-centered and silly. But it is true.
That pivotal year I decided to ask God to help me know what I wanted for my birthday.
Isn't that silly?
I asked, and then when random silly ideas came into my head, I told Philip and the kids. Who loved me and were more than eager to please me, and had been trying all along, but with no direction from me. I had carried this silly notion that people who love me should read my mind.
That was one of the best birthdays ever. And from then on, instead of being depressed and morose, I actually had fun! And I gave my family room to bless me, which they had wanted to do all along.
Some years, all I wanted was a hike with the fam. I think I posted about that a three or four years ago on this blog. Another year I wanted a KitKat clock. And dinner in a restaurant. And a visit with the family to the family cemetery in Boonton, NJ. One year, Philip, Ned, Kathryn and Peter met up with me in NYC and we ate at my favorite restaurant, La Bonne Soup, Kathryn and I went to the Frick Museum and saw beautiful things, and then we went to a Blues bar and stayed out way too late.
Another year, on the farm, Philip and the kids bought Strawberry Shortcake decorations, strung streamers, hung balloons, made a cake, invited friends, and Philip bought me lipstick (still one of my favorite colors). Not too long ago they decorated with Hello Kitty, and even sent me an invitation, and went wild with fun decorations, and Philip even took an old newspaper article from the Wall St. Journal, about influential women, and cut out and glued my picture all over it, and hung it on the wall.
I came across that newspaper the other day as I was cleaning out the secret drawer in the buffet.
It made me sob.
And remember how much better it was to have birthdays after I started to pray to God to help me know what I want.
Tomorrow I plan on baking, so early in the week, I prayed to know what would be the best to help me feel a bit celebrated, and to rejoice that I got to be born and be alive this year, surrounded by friends and family.
Since I love to hike so much, and since I am within sight of my favorite national park, I decided to wrap up my tasks early yesterday, and drive to Big Bend National Park, meet up with my dear friend, have a lunch of curried pumpkin soup, then take a hike up into a beautiful canyon. I sat on a hill, above a big pour of slick rock, with sun on my face and thanked God for my life and asked him to satisfy me and help me to be grateful.
Even though life is so very good, and I am right where I want to be, sometimes the pain is rather intense, and all I can say is that it hurts. Especially around holiday times or birthdays, when so many memories come in an avalanche.
So today I took care of a sick Nora and worked on helping girls organize their tiny bedroom, shared by three girls. Emptied out boxes, found winter clothes. Put stuff away. Washed piles of laundry. Raked and carted and ordered pizza. Felt a bit of self pity because I had wanted to go to the Highland Home and Garden party this evening, with a bunch of other like-minded ladies in the community, but I was dirty, grumpy, and too busy working on my home and garden to go...
Deep in my heart I knew that going would be a good gift to myself.
But for a few minutes I took a bit of sick joy in enjoying the self-pity as I threw another load of laundry in the washer.
Then the phone rang.
One of my new friends called. I was so surprised to hear her voice. She was wondering why I wasn't at the gathering, and suggested I come anyway.
So I did.
Because you know something I wanted for my birthday? To go for a quick bike ride in the evening, under the brilliant, full moon. And to be in a BEYOND beautiful setting in a round the corner new neighbor friend's home, with amazing food, and wine, and music and a fire, with other gals who are real, and funny and made me happy and relaxed and okay to be myself.
What a gift.
And when I got home, the kids were so thankful for the things I had done for them, they made me feel loved.
I don't feel the slightest bit alone. Or pitiful.
Actually, I feel happy to be alive, and grateful to my mom that she went to all the trouble to birth me, and to her and Daddy for all they did to bring me up, loving me, telling me stories, teaching me things, showing me that they have rich lives as well, always coming to the rescue when the car would blow out, back in college days, cheering me on through thick or thin. They gave me opportunities to see that I live in an amazing and beautiful world, full of art and music and books and a great big outdoors. They willingly allowed me to travel far, perhaps they were afraid, but they didn't show it to me. They let me buy lots of Scholastic book fair books. They let me go get a job. They let me go on mission trips to Mexico. They blessed me every single major decision I made. And prayed to cover over all the weak spots.
And somehow, Mom, through all those times I saw you pray, it must have stricken me deeply, and as silly as it seems, praying to be satisfied and content on my birthday has helped me in so many ways, all through the year.
How thankful I am to have been born that day, 45 years ago tomorrow, November 11, 1966, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to my parents, John and Fran Rowe. And even more thankful, beyond words, that my life includes Thomas, and Patrick, and Maggie, and Rose and Nora. And the old friends. And the new. I hope someday my children will remember to be thankful that they were born, and to ask God to remind them what it is that they most deeply want, and I hope that they will be content and satisfied in their life.
But now, I had better say goodnight and evening prayer and get myself to bed. The bakery awaits. I think I will make my favorite cake tomorrow sometime in the middle. Remind me to share the recipe.
PS I told the kids that what I wanted for my birthday, besides a clean house and a picked up yard, was a pair of slippers. We have tile floors which are pretty cold in the fall and winter. Can't wait to see what they pick out!!! I think that next year I will ask for a replacement KitKat clock...