Category Archives: Life as a Twenty-Something

Getting Away and Getting Back

Guys, let’s get real. Life’s hard. It can be plain exhausting. And you know what? A few weeks ago I was over it. I was sick of being exhausted, sick of all the pressure I felt to be everything at all times for everybody, and sick of feeling like I was letting everyone down.

It was a slow build up, but as a friend of mine says, the fit hit the shan. Try as I might, I was not shaking the heaviness, and my head and my spirit were wilting.

So I got the heck out. Out of a house that was starting to reek of sadness. Out of a routine that was draining my creativity. Out of engagements that were overwhelming instead of enriching.

Within an hour of online research, I found a resort on the bay that was running a fantastic weekday special. Clayton had commitments Wednesday through Saturday of that week, so Addison and I packed up the car and hit the road. Okay, I packed. Homegirl threw everything out of my duffel at least twice.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and stayed through late Saturday morning. While my intent was to work through a lot of the junk piling up in my head, I wasn’t sure how much actual excavating I could do with Addison in tow. But it ended up being a perfect mix of passions that fed my soul and empty-headed playtime.

We went on a run together Thursday afternoon and finished just before a beautiful sunset. We made a mess of the breakfast buffet. We were up all night because someone practices tai kwon do in her sleep. We scuttled around the beach, plopped down in the water and waved at every single person out Friday morning.

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And when Addison napped or after she fell asleep, I wrote. I prayed. I read. I started and nearly finished Rebekah Lyons’ “Freefall to Fly,” which put to words how imprisoned I felt in the everyday. I dove into 1 Corinthians 13 and realized the futility of the best of my actions when they aren’t motivated from a place of love.

I also made the difficult decision to get a sitter for Addison one morning, in addition to the two days she is with my mom. I wrestled with this for weeks and had been attempting–and failing–to get my work done, the house un-messed, the errands ran, half marathon training completed and volunteer projects managed in the small window I had. Some or all of these things suffered on any given week, but I refused to acknowledge both the impossibility of handling every task on my list within my current schedule or the toll trying to handle it all was taking on me. So I finally pulled the text trigger that Thursday.

In the preceding weeks, a recording played in my head that said:
I have it so good. I can’t possibly complain about my life.

I am stronger than this. Why am I being so weak?

That girl and that girl and that girl have it all together and they do more than I do. I must be able to get it under control. I should wake up earlier.

These were the lies  I told myself for a good two months before even mentioning how I was feeling to another person. WOMEN, ESPECIALLY MOMS: The rest of us get it. We all feel completely inadequate, too. Even if we managed to put on mascara that day or wear the cute jeans instead of the yoga pants, we are simply staying afloat. Talk to someone!

By Friday night, just 36 hours into this little girls getaway, smack dab in the middle of the crowded waterfront patio of the resort’s restaurant, I ached with missing my husband.

Saturday morning I felt cautiously drawn back to the place I’d escaped. I knew that anyone can feel refreshed and awakened with the smell of saltwater in the air and a fiery Florida sunset within view. I had to go back. And while the scenery set the change in motion, the true shift had to be deeper than a camera angle, more personal than a standard double hotel room.

It’s been a few weeks since that mini retreat, and I cannot believe the difference in my perspective. Very little has changed within the confines of our weekly schedule. We still have must-do’s most nights of the week. My work is not slowing down. Addison continues to be very good at being 15 months old. But I can breathe. I can make it through a day (a week!) without tears.

I can face the pace, routine and impossibility of my to-do list with a shrug, with sleeves rolled up and a smile. I don’t believe my value, my daughter’s development, or the strength of my marriage depends on the check marks–or lack thereof–next to those tasks.

And that is freedom. That is the power and inconceivable compassion of God moving in a life you said was too insignificant, in a problem you said was too small, in a hidden darkness you said you could transform on your own.

That is hope. A sun setting and a dawn rising. A life that you didn’t recognize for shame and fear breathing again with the promise of all those things you’d dreamed it could be.

I cannot share this without saying how grateful I am for this life I’ve been given undeservedly. For the health of my beautiful baby girl. The love and devotion of an unwavering man. The unconditional support of family and friends others must covet. I recognize the great luxury and incredible overflow of prosperity that I enjoy in every sense. I know I have it so, so good. But a lesson that I am learning in this season is that I do not want to trade “good” for what may be best. I am after best in this life. I hope that you are, too.

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Licensed to Pout

I apologize. Habitually. When people cut me in line even though I’m standing in the right place. For not having correct change. For having to stop for water on a 10-mile run.

Somehow along the path of a private school education and Southern Baptist upbringing, I adopted a generalized attitude of guilt over everything. I’m in the way. I’m making this harder for someone else. They might be inconvenienced.

In many instances, this guilt can manifest as empathy, selflessness and generosity. All uppers. Go me!

But lately, always maneuvering around other people’s needs has prevented me from recognizing that sometimes I need to be maneuvered around. Frankly, I am in an overwhelming mom-worker-wife-life season, and I am just too tired to keep apologizing for it.

I am the spaghetti in this analogy.

I am the spaghetti in this analogy.

The whining is forthcoming. Pretend there’s no Syria or shutdown or Jenner divorce and play along.

On top of a stupid long list of things that will not be accomplished this century, I lost my wallet this weekend. In addition to 10 p.m. Sunday night calls to cancel credit cards, I had to add a trip to the DMV to my to-do’s. Let’s stop here and share that collective joy that abounds with an impending trip to a government office.

I worked through the morning, and by the time I looked up DMV offices and requirements, I realized the license services were only open for another 30 minutes. Foregoing a shower (shock) and full face license photo makeup, I ran out the door hoping to make it.

The closest office is in a somewhat questionable area, but is also one of the busiest. I’ve made the rounds, I know. After I got my number, I found the chair least likely to attract a chatty fellow license seeker. Strangers are weird and I’m about 80% sure I’m allergic to them. I brought my Kindle and mentally braced to camp out for awhile. The first number I heard was G657. I was G670, and the letters went all the way from A to H. Oy.

Before I even scrolled through my Facebook feed, the loudspeaker shouted, “G-six-seven-zero is now being served at window 19.” I waited until the number flashed on the board and I had triple checked my ticket before walking cautiously up to the counter.

I had it formed, already swirling around on my tongue, about to let it fly out like vomit. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry your machine malfunctioned?
I’m sorry I followed every procedure down to the letter?
I’m sorry other people may be unhappy?

There was nothing to be sorry about. So I decided I wasn’t sorry. I gave the woman my ticket and told her honestly how long I’d been waiting when she asked. She knew there was a mix-up. She also knew it wasn’t my fault. So she asked me the string of questions (No, I am not currently addicted to drugs. No, I do not toss Cheerios into the cup holder of my child’s car seat on the interstate.), snapped my picture and handed me a new license. Less than 10 minutes. No apology necessary.

For one time in what’s been feeling like many, many times of unfavorable adjustments, this was a little break in my favor. At just the right moment, for just the right person.

After the laundry overflowed out of the hamper preventing the closet door from shutting,
after a conference call was 30 minutes late,
after I realized I had no cash or cards to go grocery shopping,
after I spilled half of Addison’s still-raw eggs on the floor,
after she pooped THREE times before 9 a.m. and I had to change her while she sobbed desperately because of the most intense diaper rash ever,
after cramps and hormones beat the reason and sanity out of me like baseball bats,
after an email reminded me I completely forgot about a project with a looming deadline,
after all those normally-I-can-muster-some-perspective-but-not-today moments,

I really didn’t want to be sorry that I was G670. Or go sit back down.

So I cashed in that ”lucky” ticket today. And I think I may take some time to hang on to being G670.

Empty-handed but unapologetic.
Simply asking for what I need.

And saying thank you to all those people who smile and say, “That’s ok, honey. It’s not your fault.”

(Or who bake me cookies or let me cry in their gelato. Thanks for that, too.)

Nothing but love for the DMV from now on.

Nothing but love for the DMV from now on.

Catching Up on Catching Up

[Post started last Tuesday...]
What day is it again? With having an Addiesitter on Monday (an extra day this week thanks to lots of workin’) and the Dolphins playing Monday instead of Sunday, my internal calendar is all kinds of topsy turvy.

Also, that’s the last I’ll mention of the Monday Night Football situation. It’s a somber mood in our household today.

In a mini rant mode, can I just mention that Starbucks has not been work-friendly at all lately? The last three times I’ve loaded up my tote and abandoned my screaming kid, there haven’t been any free seats. It’s like 1 p.m. Who are these yahoos without office jobs? (I know, I know. Guilty.) And why can’t the 70 billionty dollar S’bux corporation build larger stores? There are approximately five and a half chairs in every location. The illusion to make it seem open to loitering and conversing is crap.

So today I took my tote and my $3 elsewhere. And I had the whole store and all the outlets to myself. Could’ve charged 10 laptops if I wanted to! Oh, the power! If you don’t check yourself, Starbucks, I may just drop down to 4 visits a week. We clear?

[Picked up again today...]
There is currently a conference call taking place that I have become beyond unnecessary to be a part of.  So I get to talk to you fine folks about all the vitally important bullet points of my life, like diaper rashes and toys getting lodged in the pool filter. Both true stories from this week.

You called my bluff, S’buxie. Here’s all my money. I’m sorry. I love you.

Since I began this post, there has been another loss on the Fins record books. Sundays are getting dicey, guys. Except for moments like this.

C A fins couch Another W for the Noles (a shut-out slaughtering, might I add). And the Rays won a dramatic game 3 in the ALDS to force a too-late-starting game 4 that kicked their underperforming butts right out of the postseason. We even had our good luck charm ready.

My postseason superstition is to not wear makeup or fix my hair.

My postseason superstition is to not wear makeup or fix my hair.

And that about sums up what we do during all the hours we’re not working or shoving food into our daughter’s face.

That, and running. Glorious, therapeutic running. I did my long run last Saturday morning at a park that’s been on my to-run list for years. It was just about the closest thing to fall weather we’ll have right now, there were enough solo stretches to get some hard core soul-refilling time, and plenty of fellow crazies to make me feel less like I need to be committed for getting antsy and excited about running nine miles.

Slower traffic stay to the right.

Slower traffic stay to the right.

Here’s hoping the motivation train keeps rolling right on through November because this is official:

half registration

Besides the running and sports fanatic-ing, there is a lot of chasing around this 82nd percentile body:

A hyde park gate

And very little laundry folding or floor sweeping.

What have you been doing (or not doing) this fall?

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Dear Gym,
I remember that sunny first day we met. I was a barely legal, eager college freshman fresh out of a years-long relationship with organized sports. I was looking for something else, something new. You were a two-story behemoth, a state-of-the-art glass and cement mecca only costing me the courage to walk through those two sets of front doors.

At first things were grand. Sure, I saw the lines of sorority girls waiting for ellipticals on the second floor, but if I stayed mostly on the ground level I never had to cross their paths. Except waiting for a hand dryer in the bathroom when I was dripping sweat on the linoleum and their eyeliner was still somehow perfectly in tact. But I digress.

I’ll admit we had some sweet, sweet memories. In the tiny corner with the girl-sized free weights, it felt like it was just you and me sometimes. And the birthing/adductor machine positioned right in front of the mirrors made for some extra special supersets. You didn’t even bat an eye when I began bringing my blonde, affectionate buddy. Or followed him into the man weight room and did some chest presses.

You were good to me for a time, gym.

But times change.

The last two times we met up, it was different. The fluorescent lighting was distracting, not enticing. The floor to ceiling mirrors were intrusive, not convenient. The employees were pretentious, not perky.

I’ve always equated you with being healthy: if I just had that gym membership, I would automatically be living healthier. Even if we didn’t see each other for months at a time, the card hanging from my key ring would tell the world that I WORK OUT. Or, at the very least, I have access to a facility that provides fitness equipment on which I could perform exercises for the betterment of my physical appearance. How healthy is that?!

But alas, that card has not been scanned enough to pay for the gas it takes to come see you. And when I have made it there, I don’t feel like I belong any more. I fall into that forgotten age bracket between the majority of gym aficionados–not a spandex-clad 22-year-old and not a water-aerobicising 72-year-old.

From my inconspicuous perch on a second floor treadmill at this newest location, I took a good long look at my fellow Sunday afternoon constituents. I was disheartened. And entertained. Most work outs could be completed in half the time if gym goers would replace subtly flexing in the mirror with actually lifting heavy things. I guess they need to be absolutely sure those curls are working? Like, immediately. Someone also needs to kindly drop a map in the bags of all the men so that they learn to locate the leg machines.

It suddenly hit me that what I once saw as a communal space to honor and improve your body now felt like a temple designed to worship it. That’s not a religious service I’d like to attend, no matter how sculpted those deltoids look in your DIY cut off t-shirt.

And how is no one else sweating in here?!?!

Since it was already hella difficult for me to maintain a rational body image after having a baby, it no longer seems like an encouraging space to put myself in regularly. You make me feel uncomfortable, okay? I can’t wear mismatched clothes without feeling self conscious, make eye contact with anyone, or eat in front of you. That’s not very judgment-less, now is it?

 

I call B.S.

I call B.S.

I mean, I don’t like to cut and run, so of course we’ll see each other during the two month cancellation processing period. Just don’t get all desperate and try to change my mind with your smooth treadmills, ice cold water fountains and childcare. Oh, the childcare. That bright spot in the dark, toddlerhood-encroaching night. Must stay focused.

As you may have suspected, yes, there is someone else. I call it the garage. And a craigslisted weights set and pull up bar I’ve been cozying up to. The bells and whistles have lost their luster, and I’ve decided to downgrade from sprawling to simple. I hope that you’ll understand.

But even if you don’t, I’m going to need that $40 a month back.

Sweaty Hugs for Life,
N. Noa

Sick, Slow & Smelly

This weekend was unexpectedly and pleasantly low key. A cold crept up on all three of us, so we enacted a voluntary quarantine Saturday and Sunday.

Around here that meant bailing from any scheduled activities with the intent of recouping at home, but getting stir crazy after about 15 minutes and finding something else to do. We made  a quick trip to a nearby park Saturday afternoon and the wildlife showed up to greet us.

Little Bambi.

deer cross deer

And Little Eat Your Face Off.

gator arrow

Because of the long run looming over my head, I actually brought my garmin in hopes we’d walk so briskly I could subtract that mileage from my run. When I looked down and it had been 17 minutes and we’d done a 0.07 mile zig zag, I decided to just go ahead and power that beast down.

We had to rush home to make kickoff of the FSU game. And then settle in to watch them score 62 points. Not one point got old to watch, by the way.

Sidenote: we’re officially booked for a game in Tallahassee with my brother and sister in law! We’re staying with one of my most awesome friends from college and his will-be-like-seven-months-pregnant wife. Could we be any more inconvenient house guests?

That night, Clayton represented the whole Noa clan at our friend’s baptism and I played hooky with Addison. Her idea of tailgating wore us both out.

This position. That face. All morning long.

This position. That face. All morning long.

Sunday we kept all of our germs away from church. Instead, I shared them with a lonely treadmill at the gym for 6 miles and what felt like two days of running. I was late getting home for the Dolphins game, but Clayton forgave me after they finally got the W. And only after they got the W.

fins C A

After the game we popped into Barnes & Noble for a quick coffee and bumped into my bestie Leah and her little stud, Max. Addison and Max did some laps around the train table and through the children’s section before we parted ways–somewhat prompted by the smell wafting up from Max’s jersey shorts–and spent a mellow night at home.

I feel like I need to clarify here that Max is Leah’s child. And he is less than two years old. She does not routinely sniff any other male’s jersey shorts, that I know of.

On that note.

If I am plugging away next to you at Barnes & Noble, don’t do these things:

1. Talk loudly to yourself. I always feel like it’s rude to not respond to you, especially when you speak in rhetorical questions–Where did I put that dictionary? Can you believe some people?–but you’re clearly having that conversation with no one in particular.

2. Breathe like you are snoring. I am tempted to jostle you awake, but it turns out you’re just way too zoned into that video game on your phone to notice everyone thought you were experiencing severe sleep apnea.

3. Make a weird phone call, forcing me to eavesdrop every single syllable. Anything medical applies here.

4. Dress cuter than me. I’ll be in sweats. Plan accordingly. Yeah, white skinny jeans and summer scarf, I’m looking at you.

5. Stare at me. I’ll take care of the staring around here, thankyouverymuch.

6. Be a high school couple. It takes every ounce of self control for me to not go buy you Bibles, condoms and Invisalign.

7. Play Gloria Estefan on the loudspeakers. Just…no. No, no, no, no, no.

8. Read something with an awesome cover. I just want to creepily make my way behind you to read a paragraph or two.

9. Read something I’ve been wanting to read. See #8.

10. Bring your child. I’ll feel guilty for ever leaving mine and get lost watching your 2-year old play with the trains. Major stranger danger alarm.

 

 

An Evening with Al & Bill

Hey party people! Talking to myself there because the hubs and I lived it up until a rockin’ 11 p.m. last night. We were out and about for the nuptials of my cousin-by-marriage, Ryan, and his gorgeous bride, Lisa. (My aunt married Ryan’s dad, are you following?)

The ceremony was at 4:30, which in my world meant I needed to start getting public-acceptable around 11 a.m. when Addison was napping. Kids require you to plan your entire day’s productivity during two hour-long stretches while they are snoozing. Good luck trying to accomplish anything while they are coherent, especially wielding a flat iron.

Believe it or not, strong opinions or not, this was the very first time we left Addison with an actual “sitter” not related to us for an evening out. It’s just been way too convenient having family watch her because that costs us $0. Luckily this sitting superstar was available last minute when our original plans fell through, and she’s watched Addie a couple of times while I worked during the day. It definitely wasn’t $0, but we felt totally comfortable and I only sent one check-in text. Full disclosure: both my and Clayton’s phones were on their last leg of battery life all night, so that limited our obsessive, paranoid behavior.

It did not limit my brother’s photo bombing.

murphy wedding bomb

We all started to get a little loopy from hunger. Everything was beautiful, but we left for the ceremony around 3:30 and didn’t eat dinner until 8. I’m in training, guys. I need those carbs to fully commit to blogging instead of doing my long runs. Which is why I raided the chocolate bar once and sent my husband back to raid it a second time for me. Rolo’s make me a happier person. Just ask Clayton.

Debating if the centerpieces were edible.

Debating if the centerpieces were edible.

While we waited for the newlyweds, we sat back and let our tablemates, Al and Bill, entertain us. They took their jobs seriously. Al and Bill were friends of Ryan’s dad, and oh my gosh I wish my phone had more battery so I could have just recorded them and posted it here. Bill had never met Pedro and Brittany, the other couple rounding out our table, but unfortunately for Pedro, Bill has also never met the concept of personal space. I think his arm stayed permanently on the back of poor Pedro’s chair as he shared all of his reception commentary. And there was A LOT of reception commentary.

Bill lamented about not having the love of a good woman. Al comforted him by saying that he did have that kind of love…with his cat. And suggested Bill’s woes could be cured if he simply got a dog. They were quite a little peanut gallery during the toasts and Al had to physically muzzle Bill at one point. Let’s be honest–we all had an Al and Bill on our wedding guest lists. I’m just thankful I got to share a table and some uncomfortable giggles with this couple’s.

I was fairly certain this would be a rare non-dancing wedding for the Noa’s. But then the lights went low, Bublé turned to Usher, and this lady’s elbows started flailing.

Both of these dresses came from her closet.

Photo and dress credit: Allison.

Before I knew it, my butt was out of my chair and my fist was pumping furiously. Our husbands were slow dancing with their iPhones back at the table and couldn’t be interrupted for the likes of the two hotties gyrating spasmodically in their corner of the dance floor. Chumps.

nat clayton murphy wedding

We hung around long enough for cake, which I feel the need to mention was delicious despite my worry that it was fondant-heavy. As someone who has stressed about the look/taste bud appeal of this monumentally important piece of wedding history, it just feels right to say that I enjoyed every bite. Plus another handful of Rolo’s.

When my mother started gettin’ low, that was our cue to wrap it up.

family murphy wedding

The rest of the weekend will hopefully be spent pounding out 5 deliriously hot and slow miles, upgrading my phone and praying last night’s eyeliner hangs on until church Sunday.

Before 30 Wish List

I originally wanted to list 30 things to do before I was 30. Either because I am so prematurely accomplished or because I am detestably uncreative, I could only think of 10.

  1. Run a 5k in less than 30 minutes. (So close.)
  2. See college friends. If you think I’m talking about you, I probably am. Football season usually makes this easier since we take advantage of anyone we know still living in Tallahassee willing to put us up for FSU games.
  3. Make a few new friends. Gals of Tampa, get ready for a stammering, inaudible, likely inappropriate greeting comin’ at ya.
  4. Get out of my comfort zone. By accomplishing #3, I will most certainly take care of this one.
  5. Find a recipe to master. My husband should say, “Natalie makes the best [corn dogs, café con leche, pea soup or something equally as awesome and surprising].”
  6. Participate in at least one service project face to face. Writing a check is important, but getting my hands dirty is a must sometimes.
  7. Think of an idea for a novel. Write a chapter or two, solely to say casually, “I’m working on my book” for the next 10 years.
  8. Run another half marathon.
  9. Visit somewhere for the first time. California. Greece. Omaha. I don’t really care where.
  10. Read (or re-read) a couple of classics. Don’t persecute me for this, but I have not read one book by Jane Austen.

29

Happy birthday to me, suckas.

In pre-baby birthday fashion, I would have been prancing around here for weeks with a fancy countdown plug-in and a detailed wish list with pictures, size/color specifications and links for your shopping convenience. But since my little thunder stealer came along, half the time I forget that it’s even August.

Luckily, my boo didn’t forget. He’d asked what I wanted to do a couple of weeks ago, and the first and only request I made was to sleep in. Like, a sinfully indulgent 10 a.m. I suggested having my parents watch Addison, and I guess the next logical step if we had an Addiesitter was to jet over to the beach for a 36-hour getaway. If that’s where the boy’s mind goes, I’m certainly not going to talk him out of it. Off to the beach we went!

We actually hadn’t been on a proper beach outing this entire summer. We were due for some Vitamin D and subsequent aloe baths.

A little heavy handed hinting with the receptionist scored us two free drinks at the hotel’s restaurant. So, naturally, we started our adventure there. The hotel was right on the Gulf, and our room had a decent view.

hotel view

After a couple of hours out on the restaurant patio looking at the water, we did a quick change for dinner. We’d pushed back our initial reservations a half hour to catch the sunset, but it was really overcast and the show wasn’t all that spectacular. I know, you’re feeling so sorry for us right now. Do you know what is spectacular? Photo editing apps.

Photo attempt by stranger with vampire aesthetics:

C N bday dinner original

Voila:
C N bday dinner

My brain doesn’t even comprehend that technology.

Dinner restaurant blah blah blah adult food mumble mumble. ICE CREAM!

nat ice cream2

We rented a forklift to get my three scoops back to the hotel while Clayton dripped his mint chocolate chip the entire length of our quarter mile walk. “At least we’ll find our way back if we get lost,” was his positive spin on losing half his dessert. Ice cream on the balcony listening to the waves break did not suck.

At 9:45 this morning, Clayton opened the curtains to a bright, sunny Florida summer day while I was still warm and cozy in a huge hotel bed. Total birthday success, even if I didn’t quite make it to 10 a.m. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel and spent the day on the beach. Despite the warnings inherent in the very concept of “Shark Week,” I did join my husband in the water for awhile. Cautiously. Intensely sensitive to every ripple and nearby squeal. Mostly floating on his lap so that he would be the one to get the gnarly scar on his calf while I could still boast nonchalantly, “I totally survived a shark attack.” It’s my birthday, I can reduce my chances of hemorrhaging in the ocean if I want to.

Can we just collectively freak out here for a second about how the guy on the Shark Week finale died during the filming of that show? Anyone?

Clayton can only lay out in the sun comfortably for 18 seconds before he starts whining like a toddler. Since it was my birthday, he made it to 30 seconds before letting out a guttural disgusted grunt that made it clear I would not be reading the entirety of “Bossypants” while working on my tan for the duration of the afternoon. We went for a leisurely walk that ended up being 2.2 miles. For serious. We logged it on a running app.

rocks beach IG

I had very high Instagrammable hopes of running into a big flock of seagulls, causing them to artistically scatter in the perfect photogenic angles. My first mistake was that the birds were about 200 yards away from us when I started my run. So people had a very long time to watch me and wonder why I up and started sprinting away from my husband. The second mistake was my assumption that seagulls would even care my post-baby hips were coming at them at a daunting 23-minute mile pace. They didn’t. So I finally reached them, anticipating some big spectacle, and they hopped their annoying little feet over six inches. I think maybe one flew away.

nat run beach

Not birthday success.

After our marathon walk, it was time to head out. We grabbed lunch at Gators, adorned from top to bottom in University of Florida garb, and tried not to vomit at the life size cut-out of Tim Tebow at the entrance. The gator wasn’t even that good. And the food wasn’t that great, either. Zing!

Our last stop was my parents’ house to pick up the little lady we’d been missing.

A shadow giraffe

In case you were wondering, no I don’t feel older.

Larger and less attractive, but not older.

 

Special thanks to my husband for a perfectly unexpected birthday treat. 

Dear Addison: Twelve Months

My sweet Addison,
Happy, happy first birthday to YOU!

To have spent this year with you, baby girl, has rewritten my life. All the things that
shone or sparkled or
hinted of excitement
paled on that dreamy day I met you twelve long
and too, too short months ago.

In all the ways I wrestled with questions of inadequacy–
“What have I done that matters?”
What will I create of remembrance?”
You are the resounding answer that, if all I’ve given to this world rests in your ten fingers,

it is quite enough.

The world shines a little bit brighter beneath that gap-toothed grin, the people who catch that crinkle-nose smile breathe easy, even if just for a moment.

You are walking with greater and greater ease, spanning whole rooms and navigating obstacles like the dog bed with less effort. Picking up treasures along your journeys sometimes throws you off balance: a shoe, a sock, a bone. Always invaluable items worthy of a tumble.

Endlessly, tirelessly, you plop, reposition, stand and take off. Again and again and again. No one can believe how well you are moving for just one year old.

Tenacious and determined, these traits have woven their way into your will after only 365 days. Smiley with strangers. Stubborn. Seeker of attention.

What a dizzying medley of personality you have become—a sprinkle of me, a dash of your Daddy—but a clever, compact, perfectly swirled unique you. The original Addison Brooke.

Hair with whispers of red, maintaining its wave as it grows by the day. Eight front teeth, four stacked on four, with a glorious gap in between. An appetite for table food that appeared overnight, scarfing chicken and fish, sweet potatoes and squash, plantains, kiwi, strawberries and, in a lapse in Mama’s judgment, banana pudding.

Refusing to keep even one of your 39 bows on your head.

Lover of dogs, which is most definitely in your genes. You play fetch with Maya, but she’s confused by your 3-inch throws.

Music grabs your attention and inspires the world’s cutest clapping. I’ll entertain you in the car with my best alphabet song to see that full-face grin that appears around “D.”

You are confident and brave in new situations, not clinging but eager to explore. The emptiness in my ever-ready embrace stings every time you squirm away. I imagine your first day of school, a flash of curls darting into the future before I can steal a forehead kiss. (Please don’t do that unless you want to have the hysterical mother sobbing outside the playground.)

I try to dream of what this puzzle will become, but it doesn’t feel right creating my own shape.
A doctor,
a dancer,
a teacher,
a poet.
Your dream is my dream.
My wish is that you become
you.

With ears that keep an elfish point, eyes that keep their twilight gray, hands that find their rhythm, and feet that make their own way.

I pray for your heart to be filled,
poured into in gushes, 
spilling over and out, 
in the way that you have overwhelmed the boundaries of my heart’s beat.

A Mama’s job is so complex, beautiful girl. To endure the aches of growing and letting go while resonating with pride and awe at the person I once knew only as flutters behind a belly.

I have, more than I ever would have anticipated, relished this year with you. My constant companion, my audience, my entertainment, my reminder of what matters the very most. In 365 days, there were two that I didn’t see you. Only two mornings I didn’t greet your puffy eyes, scoop you in my arms and carry you through our day.

How silly to say that you have been my best friend, but I certainly can’t imagine spending that many hours with anyone else and somehow waking up missing them.

I tell you of this year, and how inseparable we are, because one day—God help us—you will turn 15 years old. And I know from experience that I will be the very last person you’d choose to take on a road trip, to look for a new pair of jeans, or to the Starbucks where “he” works. You will look at me with unsolicited resentment, and my words will evaporate into the air before ever hitting your ears. I cringe remembering that very perfect picture of unfounded teenage angst I was.

But I just wanted you to know that we had this year, you, your Daddy and I. When your sparkling eyes hung on every move I made. When sitting on the floor giggling over a green ring was the best 15 minutes of our day. When you told me every little thing that crossed your mind, even if I couldn’t understand any of it. When you studied my words and sounds as if they were magic.

Not a year that will stick in your memory, but
the very best year of my life.

I said it when you turned one month old, and even though I don’t know how, I still promise:

it will only get better from here.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

a bday