ringing the old year out

Today is a day of contentment. I didn’t know that it would be – New Year’s can often be a rather melancholy time for me – but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised. But then how can a day not be sweet when begun with a trip to a friend’s – the kind of lovely person who greets you with coffee, a warm cobbler and freshly whipped cream? And then to come home to a husband knee deep in bathroom cleaning (with vacuum, 3 cleaners and laundry involved)… this is a dream come true (particularly when that was on the afternoon’s To-Do list). Two lovely friends swung by to pick up keys for housesitting and completely understood that I had a toddler in full (and inexplicable) meltdown mode. And then, just now, I pulled out a piece I had submitted to Shiny Blue You in May. They had extended the deadline to today and I thought I would pull out the piece (which, if you remember, I wrote and submitted on the day it was due – and hadn’t looked at it since) and rework it a bit. I had felt rather let down by it when I sent it in, and given the reprieve I thought I would use fresh eyes to give it a once over and then resubmit it. I pulled out the file, read it…. and loved it. I wouldn’t change a word.

Right now, I am feeling proud of myself. Hopeful that maybe I’m a little better than I give myself credit for. Full of expectation for what the year ahead will hold.

I’ve played it small the last few months… holed up at home, gone silent here, kept life in a little, manageable box. These last few days I’ve begun to play it big. Well, bigger. I’ve gone out on a limb. I’ve trusted myself. I’ve learned that letting someone know I want to be friends is not going to scare them away (how ridiculous does that sound now that I’ve written it?). I’ve begun to embrace that the creative force in me is stronger than I allow it to express, and I can trust it. I’m believing that I can do some of the things that, up until now, have seemed near impossible (like sending out prompt thank you cards, for instance). And it all feels fabulous.

My word for 2009 is create. Create writing, create relationships, create the self and the life I want and need.

Here’s to starting anew!

*** Just this very moment my two year old, who is in the midst of potty training, came over and told me she had to go potty. This is a red letter moment, friends. She’s never initiated going before. Hooray!!

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My darling Olive

Today you are two. And what everyone always says is absolutely true – it’s gone so amazingly fast; I can’t believe it’s been two years since I held you in my arms for the first time. Then again, you’re so grown up that I often forget you’re just barely two. Just the other day you yelled “Cut it out!!” at George when he was getting into your toys and I nearly fell over. Can you really be saying things like that already?

Who you are today: a little peanut with an Uma-Thurman-in-Pulp-Fiction hairdo. A girl who adores playing in mud and thinks fried eggs are about heaven. A child who has recently decided that bread crusts are entirely unacceptable for no known reason, like the cucumbers you’ve always hollowed out instead of eating whole. A singer and dancer who loves Madonna and Raffi and Jack Johnson and thinks “the Wheels on the Bus” is the best song ever. A Curious George junkie. Someone who can’t have food without generously offering it to everyone around. A sprite with springs in her shoes. A bookworm. A munchkin who loves deeply – you go through your photo album every day and tell me how much you love me, Daddy, Nannie, Grandma, Grandpa, Brett, Mindy, Great Nannie and Pa, Kristi, Tara, Jennaya, and so on and so on. A gal who gives kisses with reckless abandon. One who no longer presses her nose to mine to fall asleep, but instead makes me face the other way so you can surrender to sleep in privacy. A lover of cats – Georgie and Phoebe especially. My world and the apple of my eye.

Oh how I adore you, little one. You are my favorite sidekick and helper – whether it’s stirring the cake batter or folding the laundry or having a coffee klatsch, you’re always beside me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that you inspect the garden with me daily, checking each tomato and cucumber. You take it so seriously, like a commission you must fulfill or the whole thing will go to pot. And maybe it would.

There is nothing like coming home to you, when you dance and hop and cheer and come over for great big hugs. Like how you talk on the phone so animatedly, with gestures and breathless sighs and clucks. Like how you would rather do everything with me, or Daddy, or whoever you love that’s nearby – you seem to derive no pleasure from things unless they’re shared. I admire you, my little stinkbug. And I’m so so proud.

Today you didn’t feel very well and the cranky pants were definitely donned… you fell asleep at the unheard of hour of 9 rather than 11 or so. And so I sit here, musing on you and the stroke of luck that gave you to me those two years ago. I swore you’d better be worth those nine miserable months I spent, sick and cranky and on a hormone cocktail bender…

…and the truth is, you’re worth every bit, and then some.

I love you, little stinker. I’m so glad you’re mine.

Love,
Mama

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tell me this isn’t what I think it is

One of the first things you learn when traveling abroad is to eat whatever is given to you. It’s amazing how people’s culture, sense of self and identity, is wrapped up in the food they offer as hospitality. But who am I to talk? I’d be horrified if someone wouldn’t eat what I’d cooked especially for them.

We had been in the village since the prior evening and spent the day with the gorgeous people. They had let us know that goat would be the meal of the day, and one of our group accepted the honor of slaughtering one of them… Anson was elated at the idea. I hid till it was all over. Sensing that these wussy Americans were squeamish about the dead goat, the women of Songa taunted us with the severed goat head as they cooked, giggling as our faces turned unknown shades of green.

As dinner time loomed near, the twenty Americans were served first as an honor. A plate of traditional Malawian nsima and goat meat… with completely identifiable parts. Looking at my plate, there was quite clearly a hoof at the end of one small shin. We huddled in the small cement room that had been our quarters the night before, fleeing the heat and the watching eyes of the entire village. Perhaps here there would be some discreet way to dispose of the offending pieces?

As we laughed and attempted to eat what we could, Kim suddenly pointed to her plate. “Tell me this isn’t what I think it is.”

We looked. And there it was – a goat penis.

I believe a dog ate that.

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