9 Years and 1 Day

Dearest Wee Beauty–

“525 thousand 600 minutes…how do you measure, measure a year?”- Rent

9 years and 1 day ago, I woke up, determined to beat this thing called an eating disorder that had a stranglehold on my life.

So now it’s been 525,600 minutes times 9 years (try that as a math problem!), plus 1 day, since I woke up with the thought of “I’m ready to eat, again.”

But looking back, I now know that what I was really saying is:

I’m ready to try this thing called life, again.

Life is funny, you know.  There are these ups and downs; dream-filled days and sleepless nights; flashes of joy and rivers of tears.

More and more and more, I realize that we don’t get to choose what life throws at us.  We can’t say: no thank you, grief, I’d like some more happy, please.  We only get to choose how we want to live.  We only get to choose what we do with that grief, those tears, that bad day,  or even that extra incredibly good day.

And although it’s taken me these nine years plus one day to figure this next bit out, I’m going to whisper it to you so you’ll carry it with you, always:

Wake up each day, and marvel at the miracles.

And when you rest your head, give a big sigh of thanks for that, too.

Regardless of what life happens to toss your way, you can’t go wrong with marveling at the miracles and giving thanks with a little dancing mixed in (because…dancing!).

And to those of you who are reading this and battling against ED (an eating disorder), I say this: when in doubt, choose your life.  It will never let you down.

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A Gift

I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you.  You search for answers.  You wonder what it all means.  You stumble, and you soar.  And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while- Amy Thomas

My dearest girl,

Today is my birthday.  And birthdays always get me thinking about gifts.  And although I love a good present (sparkly -silver -converse -with -pink -laces -meant- for -dancing I’m looking at you!), it is the gifts that we find in the midst of times that are not necessarily so joyful that hold the most meaning, in my humble opinion.  It is the constant tiny flickering stars in the middle of a dark and stormy never ending  night that give us hope that the sun will come again in the morning (*which it always does, no matter how much it feels as though it won’t) that shine most brightly when we most need to see their light.

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.- Mary Oliver

We all carry these boxes full of darkness at some point in our lives. Sometimes, when we’re knee-deep in the muck and murkiness, we forget that others carry their own boxes, too.  It is especially easy in this instant-gratification, filtered to perfection, social media driven world that not everything is as it appears.  It can make you feel as though you are the only one who carries such a box- and while you are the only one responsible for carrying your own meant for you box, it can help to remember that others have their own, too.

And trust me on this, little one, when I say that this box can be your greatest gift.  Maybe this box will push you to make big or small changes in your life that will make all the difference.  Maybe this box will make you appreciate the joyful light of those tiny flickering stars.  Maybe this box will help you turn inward and support yourself, or turn outward, asking for help when you swore you would only travel on, alone.  

And maybe this box will take you on a journey to reclaim your life, in the only way you know how: by going to Paris.

I had such a Year as this– incredible soaring highs and stumbling, crawling on my knees growth as I came face to face with past traumas (which is a post in and of itself for another time) and realized that I had to do what I had to do…embrace this box, take back my life…and reclaim Paris (yes, I do mean that across the pond Paris).

The best things in life are almost always never easy (sidenote: being your mum is incredibly easy though!), but that’s why they become the best things- because you earn them, piece by piece, tear by tear, tooth and nail.  You fight for them and thus learn their worth.

The gift of being able to reclaim my life again is this miraculous thing that keeps on giving.  I find myself dancing while waiting for the subway even when it is late or marveling at the glitter littered all over our carpet from whirlwind craft adventures with you  or gazing up at the darkest sky to stare at a sea of stars with my love, bright eyed and full of wonder and thanksgiving.

Because, you see, the thing about these boxes of darkness is that they make you realize how truly beautiful life is.  Even if sometimes that means traveling all the way to France and back to discover it.

So on this day-my birthday- my heart and my toes are dancing with thanksgiving and joy: for the gift of you, for the gift of life, and, especially for the gifts of my box of darkness, which brought me home again, back to myself, in Paris.  It truly is my city of light.  And it is always, without fail, a good idea.

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On Love…Part Two

“George, it’s not that it was hard to believe, I wasn’t ready to believe. Nothing I had met in that world had prepared me for your possibility”- Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

Sometimes life surprises you, Zoe. Actually, often life surprises you. Just when you think that it’s spring, you get a doozy of a snowfall in April (here’s looking at you-know-who-you-are who changed his snow tires already!). Just when you think Gilmore Girls will never be back on tv, Netflix announces 4 extra special Stars Hollow-filled movie length episodes. Just when you think your wee girl will love bacon (who doesn’t?!), she passes it over for olives and goat cheese (actually not so surprising at all).
But those surprises are easy to handle: pull out the winter boots (that you don’t ever officially put away until at least June); hunker down on the couch with a cozy blanket and your favourite GG for a Gilmore Girl-fest; and stock up on goat cheese (hold the bacon) at the farmer’s market.

But some surprises? Some surprises throw you for a complete loop, because they’re just so far out of the realm of possibility that not only do you not have the extra goat cheese, but you don’t even know where the closest farmer’s market is located to pick some up.  

And sometimes, life tosses you a curve ball in the form of perfectly imperfect genuine heartfelt love, and it is so outside your own personal realm of possibility that you might not know what to do. It is so far from what you’ve been expecting in your life that you’re left scratching your head as you laugh until your belly aches while dancing all over the crumbs on your kitchen floor with the one who has cracked your heart wide open.

Will it be scary at times? Absolutely, 100% without a doubt. Will it be perfect? Nope. Life isn’t perfect and neither is love. It will be messy, guaranteed. How could it not, because the beauty of life and love is found knee-deep in the muck. Will you be ready? Who knows…but I do know that we’re often more ready than we feel we are, and maybe less ready than we think we are. I also know that “being ready” or “not being ready” do not seem to matter with important things like love…because love creeps in when it is ready for you.

Almost two summers ago, I wrote to you about love. About how you are the star of your own love story. About how supporting players will come (and maybe go); about how there will always be another supporting character who will come along and join in your love, but there is only one You.

What I didn’t write about, Zoe, is how to know if the person who comes dancing along into your life is worthy of a supporting role.

First of all, are they dancing? And do they come equipped with rubber boots for wading through (and hopefully later splashing in) the rain?

Do they listen to what you have to say without judgment, even and especially if your words make you or them feel vulnerable or afraid? Do they trust you to listen to what they have to say, too, holding it close to your heart?

Do they respect the things you cherish, even if they don’t fully understand why (for example, your kitchen chairs that you painted kelly green and the glitter-dipped feathers that you hung on your wall)?

Do they pass the friends/family test: do you want to introduce them to your nearest and dearest and do you want to meet theirs?

Do they give you space to be yourself, loving you simply because you are you, never asking you to change but holding your hand if (when) you do experience growing pains (which inevitably happen when you are in a solid, substantial and loving relationship, be it with yourself or with another)?

Do you laugh, often and lots, until your belly aches and your cheeks hold permanent smile creases, reminders of the last words they said that made you smile?

I could go on and on and on, dearest girl, but I hope you will notice what’s missing from this list: the fancy cars or big houses or classic good looks or impressive profession or stereotypically attractive body or influential friends in high places. Flash is all well and good for Hollywood, but you want substance, through and through.

The long and short of it, my dear girl, is do you trust them with your heart? Do you want to hold their heart, too?

You will know, deep in your bones, when you’ve met your perfect (for you) match, at that moment, in that space and time. And just because it’s completely outside the realm of anything you could have ever imagined–because maybe love hasn’t been in your world ever before or maybe it has appeared already and you thought that you only had one chance at love–doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible, either for the first time or again and again. Nor does it mean that you don’t deserve it. On the contrary: we all do, just because we’re here, on this planet. So believe in it. And be sure to stock up on extra goat cheese and maybe some bacon, just in case (*and they may not like olives…but that just means more for you).

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The Cheese Grater Injuries…

We can do hard things–Glennon Doyle Melton

Dearest Wee Girl–

Read this quote again and again and again:

We can do hard things

Commit it to memory.  Repeat it under your breath.  Yell it out loud.  These five words are beyond important.  They are instructions for how to live the life you are born to live.

Let me back up here to a few weeks ago when you, my “potentially would only eat cheese if I could” girl all of a sudden started requesting no cheese, specifically no grated cheese.

“No cheese on my pasta”

“Can we make nachos without cheese?”

At first, I wondered if you were having some kind of hate-on for cheese, which occasionally happens when you eat one food too frequently…but this felt different.  And so I asked why you didn’t want grated cheese, and you replied:

“Because you keep grating your finger”(which is too true- I am nothing if not a distractable multitasking klutz who grates her finger about eight out of every ten times…and I’d been on a roll with injuring at least one finger per grated cheese meal for a while).

And so we talked.  About how when we injure ourselves or take a risk our bodies can always heal again, after.  About how we can’t live our lives without grated cheese simply because I may (okay, will) grate my finger, and look! It’s already healed!

Some injuries take longer to heal from than others.  But we always always heal, in fits and spurts and spirals and cha-cha-chas.  

And in the meantime, I’m using the box grater instead of the micro plane grater because, well…if there are simple things we can do to minimize the smaller injuries, then we can focus on doing the bigger, harder things.

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The Bottle

If you don’t have your heart, you won’t be yourself- Zoe Bee

Dearest Girl of Mine–

The other day, we read the book The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers.  (Sidenote: as a teacher-librarian I am shamelessly in love with most any and all children’s books and hold them in incredibly high esteem as the shining examples of brilliant literature that they are…yet even I have a difficult time explaining the magic of this book and so all I can do is insist that everyone ought to read it, whether you have wee folks in your everyday lives or not)

We read this book, poignant to the point that I wasn’t sure I would get through it without crying (which, wonder of wonders, I did).  And then something you said made me cry.

In your infinite wisdom, darling girl, as you were trying to make sense of this story and why someone would put her heart into a bottle to avoid getting hurt, to avoid the pain and grief that come from being a part of the world, you said:

If you don’t have your heart, you won’t be yourself.

And all I can do is nod through my tears as I say, “yes, that’s it, exactly.”  Because you, at the very unripe age of four, know already what it has taken me thirty-seven years on this planet to learn.

I put my heart away because some folks inside of our world hurt me, badly.  And I am fairly certain that this is quite a common reaction when one is hurt in this way…

Except, sweet bee, when you put your heart away, not only do you not really stop the pain but you can’t feel others’ love, either.  You miss the magic in the world.  The wonder.  The joy.  And yes, even the heartache.

And so someone or something or some bit of wonder will come along and you won’t really feel any of what you’d like to feel because your heart is encased in this bottle.  And just like the girl in the story, you may have to ask someone small, with nimble hands and brilliant thoughts for assistance and direction and guidance in getting that heart out again, because you’re worthy of feeling all the feels in the world around you.

And at times it might feel scary.  Downright terrifying.  

But those other times?  Pure joy and wonder and delight at the love around you. 

I guess what I’m saying, darling girl of mine, is that even if you have to put that heart away for a tiny while, there is always always always a way to get it out, again.  And you will always feel like yourself, again.  Because, dearest Zoe Bee, when you’ve got your heart, you’re yourself💗

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May You Learn

Dearest Wee Bee–

As you embark upon brand new, sparkling adventures tomorrow (and for every September to come for a long while), I can’t help but think about all of the incredibly important lessons that you are about to learn.

And it’s not mathematics or reading or science or social studies or visual art or music or physical education (but shhh…you didn’t hear that from me).  Don’t get me wrong- all of those subjects have their place, and will serve you well in years to come.  But there are oh-so-many things that are oh-so-much more important.

You will learn about yourself.

You’ll learn how to climb mountains while conquering monkey bars.

You’ll learn how to be flexible when you have to miss your favourite class to go to an assembly (and then you’ll learn to listen and pay attention at the assembly, even as those around you may squirm a bit).

You’ll learn how to stick up for yourself if someone tries to get you to play a “princess” game when you want to play “ninja turtles” (and believe me, there will always be folks who will try to get you to play their game; to say yes when you really want to say no so that you can say yes to what your heart really wants to do).

You’ll learn if you like painting or music or co-operative games in physical education…or if you don’t.

You’ll learn if you like quiet time or outdoor play or making really loud noises with the big blocks.

You’ll learn the importance of cleaning up after yourself and putting things back where they belong (as much as I try to teach you this, it will never be more clear than when you lose your left mitten because it didn’t go back in your cubby and ended up in the lost and found with twenty seven million other left mittens).

You’ll learn about you.  You’ll learn about who you are and who you want to be and who you don’t want to be.

And you’ll also learn this lesson, which is, I think, the most important one of all:

“When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together”- Robert Fulghum

Life is just better when we hold each other’s hands, my sweet girl.  So do it, often, and proudly.

I can’t wait to hear all about your very first day tomorrow at dinner.  (Hopefully we both won’t fall asleep into our dinner plates after our first days at school!).  

Big big love always from your mama

(who will always share the first day of school with you, just at different schools!)

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My Gilmore Girl Turns Four

And I would go/ To the ends of the earth/ ‘Cause darling/ To me that’s what you’re worth/ Where you lead, I will follow/ Anywhere that you tell me to/ If you need, you need me to be with you/ I will follow where you lead– Carole King

My dearest girl,

Now you are four.  Or rather, as I write this, it is 53 hours before you turn four (yes, your mama remembers the exact minute you whooshed out into this world), and as you lie curled up beside me, hair all filled with mousies or kitty cats or puppies (or whatever other imaginary animal that you decide made an imaginary nest in your tangled bed head curls), eye lashes resting peacefully on your flushed cheeks, I am typing away on my phone, as fast as I can with one hand, trying to write your birthday blog post before you wake up.

I am struck by how some things never change, even as others spin faster or even out of orbit, falling by the wayside.  Yes, some things do change, and yet I am still sneaking in blog posts during stolen early morning moments, typing on one hand, with you curled up beside me.

I think back to other birthday posts, where I offered up sage advice (or what I hope is still sage advice by the time you read it), and while I know all of those things still to be true, there is something I want you to know:

On the day you were born, my world shifted.  Tilted.  Really, since we’re talking about you, I think we could even say it twirled.

And I have never been the same.

Becoming a mum to you, my wee bee, has been the most amazing thing that has ever happened in my life.  And it’s not just because you’re my wee girl, and I’m your mum.  It’s because you are You.  You are this incredible little bee-ing with wings on your heart and a rhythm in your can’t-stay-still toes.

And so when we spin, around and around and around, dancing to the Gilmore Girls theme song (on repeat), I am reminded of all the amazing-ness that you have brought into my life.

I didn’t really know who I was, until you came along.  I didn’t know how strong I could be; how much courage I had deep inside; how much joy and love and laughter were waiting in my heart; how much I love the colour pink; and how much I love waffles for dinner (oh I love them an awful lot!).

I thought I knew, but I didn’t.  I didn’t know me, until you.

And so, on your birthday, I just want you to know how grateful I am to be going through this life with you, my wee Gilmore Girl.  I could not imagine a better dance partner if I tried.  Happy Birthday to the girl I love more than anything in the whole. wide. world.

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