Weekly Update

Thirty One

I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I like birthdays almost as much as I did when I was five. Maybe more, now that they can include margaritas.

There is a certain delight that surrounds getting cards and packages in the mail. My mom always feels compelled to write on the packages she sends, “Do NOT open until your birthday.” It’s as if she knows I still lack self control at the young age of 31.

This year she forgot to write it on the package, so she called me to tell me not to open it until my birthday. And it’s a good thing, because I would have opened it otherwise.

I like how the day feels special from start to finish; with even the mundane feeling extraordinary. Flossing my teeth is a lot more fun on my birthday, maybe because of the sense of gratitude I have for another year of eating without dentures.

When I visited the dentist last month, they had a section on the sheet asking what my dental goals were. Unsure of what they were looking for, I wrote, “Avoid dentures and root canals.”

My dental goals were just like my birth plan, simple and to the point: “Give me an epidural ASAP, and keep the baby alive.” The nurses liked that one. Also, I wanted Chad to play “Push it” by Salt N Peppa while I was pushing, but he refused.

I like the sound of thirty-one. It doesn’t end in the deeeeeee sound that thirty ends in. It sounds more concise. Knowledgeable. Wise?

This year’s birthday was full of my favorite things: A run in the morning, a chai tea latte, browsing a book store, opening packages and cards, chik-fil-a, writing, kayaking with the manatees, dinner with Chad & the girls, my in-laws and some friends, margaritas, better than sex cake made by my amazing mother in law, and yes, that is the honest name, despite the number of eyebrows it raises.

I’m not saying that the name of the cake is accurate, but I will vouch for it being super delicious.

If you haven’t had the chance to kayak with manatees, I’d highly recommend it. Manatees are simultaneously one of the ugliest and cutest creatures. (Please, manatees, teach me your ways.) They are HUGE, with small little heads and creepy/adorable black eyes, and whiskers covering their bodies.

It is terrifying and awe inspiring when they swim under your kayak. It makes me think about Moby Dick, because I fear my kayak will capsize. I imagine I am in the ocean, kayaking over a blue whale; but alas, it is just me in a river with a manatee. Just the right amount of adventure for this boring thirty one year old.

Also, I’ve never read Moby Dick so please excuse me if nothing about Moby Dick relates to capsizing kayaks. The picture on the cover just makes me think it might.

Did you know that manatees are related to elephants? And that they aren’t actually fat, they just have super huge intestines? Neither did I. Now you’ve learned something from my blog, after almost 2 years of reading it. Thanks for hanging in there.

It’s the 31 year old wisdom I’m channeling.

Two of my friends came for the weekend. One, I’ve known since babyhood, and for the other, since high school. They are the kind of friends that know so much of your history that conversations can quickly go deep since little explanation is required of past events.

As we watched the sunset together, on a chilly by FL standards night, we huddled close, wrapped tightly in beach towels. We had spent the past 3 hours discussing the bad and good that had made up our last year.

We all experienced different forms of loss. COVID changed a lot. Life changed a lot. We are not the same people who we were when we ran together in high school. Quite contrary, we all changed significantly through the different routes we chose to take through life.

On the beach, it seemed for a moment, that we had made it to the other side off the loss, the change. For a moment, we were suspended in the beauty of orange hues that lit our existence as the sun slipped down in the sky. We had made it through the past, we were sitting firmly grounded in the present, toes rooted in the sand, and for a minute, there wasn’t the future to worry about.

It was a beautiful moment. And then we smelled pot.

We looked around, trying to figure out who the guilty party was… but realized everyone was looking at US.

Now maybe I look like a pot smoker. To be honest, I don’t really know what a pot smoker looks like, but I envision baggy pants. That’s it, just baggy pants. I wasn’t wearing baggy pants.

*Steps on soapbox.

I’ve never smoked pot in my life. I’ve never done it, period. Because, you know… there are many ways to do it. If I were to DO IT, I would eat the gummies. Because I like gummies. But I think I like control too much to do pot.

I’m sure no one is shocked by this confession.


The funny thing is, that of all people on the beach, we were the least likely to be the pot smokers. In high school, we were the goodie goods. We left a party once because someone was smoking a cigar.

We were very risk adverse. Our parents had nothing to worry about and they knew it.

When we returned home from the party, I told my mom what had happened, wide eyed. (Again, let me reiterate, someone was smoking out of a cigar, so basically nothing happened). I’m pretty sure my mom had to suppress laughter.

So back to the beach. It smelled like pot and everyone was staring at us. The sun had set, so we packed up our things to leave.

As we walked to the parking lot, a guy yelled, “Hey, smelled like you were having fun over there!” We shook our heads and shrugged, “Wasn’t us!” He continued, “I was about to send Grandma over!” And then a Grandma looking lady waved her hands and cheered.

She looked like fun. Maybe someday, I will be fun like her.

But not for awhile. Today Avery told me that she wants to move to a different state because, “I don’t like living with grumpy people.”

Shots fired, Avery.

I bet you’re wondering how I’m going to conclude a blog post that covered the topics of birthdays, dentures, better than sex cake, “Push it” by Salt n Peppa, manatees, best friends, sunsets, and pot.

I also, am wondering the same thing.

Sometimes, life gives us a beautiful narrative, a storyline that is easy to follow. More often, it’s a mod podge collage of events that somehow make it onto the same poster board.

This past year of life has been a beautiful mess. It produced quite a few finished puzzles, melt downs, half marathons, quarantines, sunsets, zoom meet ups, clorox wipes (or lack thereof), and moments of quiet.

Here’s to another one,


PS- The blog posts might be fewer and farther between. I’m currently taking a creative writing class, which I am absolutely loving, but it does cut into my free time to write for the blog. The class ends at the end of April and things should pick back up around then.

Weekly Update

Beautiful Mess

Avery has reached the age of listening and actually paying attention to song lyrics. It is disappointing that I can no longer listen to “Slim Shady” with her, and if a song ever contains the word “stupid”, I’m sure to hear about it from the lyrics police.

“Mom,” she says seriously, “we aren’t supposed to say the word stupid.” I sigh, switching stations, “You’re absolutely right. That was not good at all. I can’t believe they said that!”

Being married to an Iowa boy, I listen to a lot of country music. Clarification: not by choice; but, simply by proxy. As we were road tripping to Georgia, Chad had his country music station blaring.

As we drove up and down the endless hills, the song, “Beautiful Mess”, by Diamond Rio came on. It’s one of my favorite country songs, mostly because it is catchy. The girls were being quiet in the back of the car; I assumed they were either asleep or on the edge of it.

As the song drew to an end, Avery piped up from the back of the car, “Mom, what’s so beautiful about a mess?”

The question caught me off guard. I fumbled through my answer, the same way I fumbled the first time she asked me how babies get out of tummies.

“Well you know how some things are beautiful but can be messy at the same time?” She nodded, unconvinced, still confused. “It’s like that”, I said, popping my 100th handful of Peanut Butter M&M’s. The most non-answer of non-answers, a great skill I’ve honed as a parent.

Whether she realized it or not, she asked a profound question. One that I wish I could have answered more eloquently. But, such is life, and heck, she probably wouldn’t have appreciated an eloquent answer.

If I could rewind back to her question, here is what I’d say:

The mess is the crayons strewn across the floor, the beauty is the adorable family portrait you made, meticulously labeling each family member in your endearing, shaky, 5-year-old hand writing.

The mess is the toys and goldfish crumbs inhabiting every room of our house, including bathrooms. It’s the yelling and tantrums, it’s “The Chipmunks” playing on repeat, it’s the sticky handprints covering our windows. The beauty? That our house holds you, my sweet girls.

The mess is the flour covering seemingly every surface of our kitchen, the sink full of dishes, my achy feet. The beauty is the fresh baked caramel pecan rolls.

It’s the baby you get to hold in your arms after a hell of a labor.

It’s the tears you cry after you lose someone you love. The inseparable marriage of love and pain.

You see doll, beauty and mess travel together. If you avoid the mess, you’re also going to lose some of the beauty.

Although the word “mess” has negative connotations and “beauty” has positive ones, don’t let that trick you.

It’s not black and white. The world isn’t all mess or all beauty. They exist as a pair. Sometimes it seems like one significantly overpowers the other: the beauty of a waterfall; the mess of a destructive storm. But if you look closer, you might see how they balance each other out.

Sure, the waterfall is stunningly beautiful. But for it to form, it had to erode the rocks to create the perfect ledge for water to cascade over. This took time, lots of time. And for the rocks, maybe pain. Trees had to fall to clear way for this majestic force. Nature had to submit to the powerful flow of the water. It’s beautiful, yes, absolutely, but there was definitely some mess involved with creation of the final product.

Storms can cause a lot of damage. They can rip apart seemingly intact structures within seconds. They can be terrifying, earth changing, massive forces of nature. And yet. And yet. And yet.

As the sky begins to lighten, there is an almost eerily peaceful calm. It’s as if the earth takes a collective breath, pausing before resuming life. Storms clear space for new growth and provide necessary nutrients for life. With the destruction comes new life, beauty.

Sweet girl, I’m telling you this because I want to be absolutely sure that you know not to be frightened by messes.

At multiple points in your life, you will have to make scary decisions that involve both mess and beauty. Don’t let the beauty blindside you; but of equal and almost greater importance, don’t let the mess scare you.

Make the mess. Slog through. Find your beauty.