40 Things At 40

40

One month ago, I turned 40. As the day approached, I had a lot of people saying things to me like, “Don’t worry, it’s just a number” and “At least you don’t look 40!” and “Well, don’t go telling people how old you are!” and a host of other things that made it seem like I should either try to forget my age or pretend I’m younger than I am, because who wants to be 40?

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Kindness. 1.

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Amira has always been an early riser, and when she was first born and the weather was still nice, I used to take her out early so Stu could get a couple more hours of sleep, and I could get the hell out of the house. One of the places Amira and I used to hang out in was our local Wal-Mart.

I know. Wal-Mart. I KNOW. But these were desperate times. And they knew what they were doing when they set that place up. It’s huge, you can walk up and down a hundred aisles, stopping to look at a million things, and spend hours in there just reading the magazines. They open early. And they have a McDonald’s. So once in a while, Amira and I would head to Wal-Mart early in the morning, just to go somewhere. She’d gurgle in her car seat, I’d have a coffee, people would ooooh and aaaahh over her while I smiled my proud-mother smile (because no one wants to hear the tired-mom sigh), and drink more coffee.

So anyway, this one morning in early September, we were at Wal-Mart. It was early. Like, I was sitting in McDonald’s with a cup of coffee in my hands by 7:00am early. It was cool and crisp, and just the kind of weather I loved to dress for. But on this day, like on so many other days during this time, it was ill-fitting jeans, boots that needed a good polish and some oversized sweater that hid my breastfeeding bra stuffed with those “Why are my boobs leaking?” pads. My hair was tied back. I wasn’t wearing makeup. I loved my baby, but the truth is, I didn’t recognize my myself, or my life.

As usual, a couple of the senior citizens who also troll Wal-Mart early in the morning stopped by our table, cooed over Amira, and went on their way. Then one of the older ladies who worked at McDonalds came over.

I’d seen her there a few times. She was probably in her early sixties, she was super-quick on her feet, and she always gave me my coffee with a smile.

She came over and said, “Good morning! She looks happy today!”

I replied with my usual stock response, “She’s really good.”

And then the lady said to me, “And how are you?”

My eyes welled up with tears. I just looked at her, not really believing that she had seriously asked how I was doing. And it wasn’t just that she asked, it was the way she asked. It was both the concern and sincerity in her voice. It was her vulnerability in asking me, with as much love as she had, how was doing – a question I had been asked in passing a hundred times over the past few months, but mostly by people who just asked for the sake of politeness, even by most of my family and friends. This lady meant it.

“I’m okay,” I replied. But she had already seen my tears.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked.

“No, really. I’m okay. But thank you so much for asking.” I meant it. And she knew it.

The weather got colder, and Amira and I hung out at Wal-Mart less. I saw that lady a couple of times again, but we didn’t really speak, until two years later.

The week before Stu, Amira and I moved to Costa Rica, I went back to that Wal-Mart. I stood in line at McDonalds until this lady was standing in front of me asking, “What can I get for your, Dear?”

I told her that I didn’t want to buy anything. I reminded her of our conversation that morning, two years before. She didn’t remember, but I’ll never forget it. I told her what her sincerity had meant to me, and that I hadn’t forgotten it. I told her we were moving next week, and I probably wouldn’t ever see her again, but I wanted her to know that I so appreciated her generosity and concern for me on that day two years before.

I haven’t seen her since we moved. But I still remember her kindness.

She Brings Me Wildflowers

http://www.dennisflood.com/photos/get/2777/irish_wildflowers

About a month ago, Amira started doing the most curious – and beautiful – thing.  She started bringing me flowers.

Often, she and Stu will go out for a quick jaunt around the neighbourhood in the morning.  One morning, I took a call while they were gone.  I was up in the office with the door closed, and I heard them come in, and Amira saying over and over again, “Mummy!  Mummy!”

Stu told me later that this is what happened:

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I’m worth it

A couple of days ago, our little family was on our way out for a walk when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and had to stop to take in what I was seeing.  I was wearing a sweater, jeans, and running shoes.  That’s right, running shoes.  And not the cool, Skechers kind of running shoes, but actual, white, running shoes. Like, for running.

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Her word is Feisty.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend over for lunch.  She came with her beautiful baby girl, Lucy.  Though Lucy and Amira are exactly the same age, they couldn’t be more different.

Lucy’s mom said to me, “Her word is ‘Placid’.  As long as she is fed, she is perfectly content to just sit there and be happy.”  And it was true.  Lucy wasn’t up for crawling or rolling around or getting to things.  She was beautiful and happy, just sitting in one spot, laughing and playing with whatever was rolled her way.

We pondered over a word for Amira.  We threw around spunky, spirited and vivacious, but none of those really felt right to me.

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We still have a million amazing moments every day.

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Remember back in September when all I had all that breastfeeding drama?  Well, it didn’t end there.  I took the herbal supplements, I took the prescription drugs, I pumped, I gave Amira my stockpile till it was gone, and I never made enough breast milk to keep up with her demands.  The drama went on and on, and I persisted in giving her breast milk any way I could for as long as I could, but I couldn’t do it as long as I wanted.  So after 8 months of martyring myself to give her all that I could, it’s done.

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My Wandering Heart

As this year comes to a close, my heart is so full.  Full of love for Stu and Amira and the little family we’re growing.  Full of love for our extended family and friends, who have come together in a beautiful village where Amira will be raised with love and laughter and celebration.  And full of sorrow for those 20 families in Connecticut – 20 families – whose lives were changed forever a few weeks ago.

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Oh, the places you’ll go

Being on maternity leave is great.  Being home with the baby, having all this time with her, bonding with her, blah blah.  All good.

You know what’s not good?  The four walls of my house suffocating me all day.

Stu works from home, and he talks often about how he needs to just get out of the house because he he needs to just get out of the house.  And while Stu works alone at home, he’s often on the phone or online with other people, having adult conversations, and making stuff happen.

I’m just doing everything I can to get her to sit up.  I need to get out.

And so, Amira and I don’t stay home.  We go out. We go anywhere.  And over the months, I’ve compiled a list of the 6 best places to go with babe in stroller.  Since I’ve done the legwork, allow me to share.

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Mummies need Daddies

There are two women in my life right now who are single by chance, but mothers by choice.  Both of them decided it was time to stop waiting for the right guy, took matters into their own hands, and are now wonderful mothers to two beautiful baby girls.

They both have support around them from family and friends, but by and large, they’re riding this wave alone.  And I have to say, I’m so in awe so of them.  Because I have no idea how they are doing this alone.

It’s one of the biggest cliches in the world, and nothing has ever been more true: Parenting is the hardest thing in the world.  I know there are single parents all over the place who do it alone, and do it well.  And I have to say, hats off to you.  Because doing it with two people, and only one baby, already makes me feel like I’m in over my head.

A friend recently told me about a parenting book she was reading, and it included a section called something like  “Babies need Mummies and Mummies need Daddies.”

I totally get this concept.

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Only love can win

http://www.catholicteacherresources.com/2012/02/peace-prayer-service/

I’m going to say some stuff here that some people may not like.  And that’s okay.  We’re allowed to have a difference of opinion and still love each other around here.  If you can’t do that, allow me to tip my hat to you as you make your way over to another, less offensive blog for now.  Hope to see you back here real soon.

So here’s the deal:

There’s some shit going down on the other side of the world.  It’s all over the news on tv and on the radio and in the paper and in social media.

A lot of people have been all up in my Facebook these days with their opinions on the recent flareup of violence in the Middle East.  I’ve got people filling up my newsfeed with pro-Israeli reports and other people filling up my newsfeed with pro-Palestinian reports.  And other people filling up my newsfeed with cat videos, which is the most offensive of all.  But I digress.

I’m not an expert in politics in general, and I’m certainly not the most knowledgeable about Mideast politics.  It seems that the issues run so deep and so far back and are so tangled up in culture and religion and economics that to truly understand the heart of the matter would take years of study and conversation and to be quite honest with you, my heart just can’t take it.  Just scratching the surface of it right now is almost too much to bear.

Because I have a daughter who is both Jewish and Muslim.  She has blood coursing through her veins that carries the history of slavery and oppression, of conquerors and pharohs, and of people who just can’t freaking get along.  And truly, I worry sometimes about the weight she will carry in her life because of it.

The day will come when she will ask me what side I’m on.  My opinion will matter not only because I’m her mother, but because I’m a Muslim woman who chose a Jewish man.  And I still choose him, happily and wholeheartedly, every single day.

And also I know, in her heart, she will be asking me what side she should be on.  But how can she pick a side?  How can she turn her face to her left, trying to deny her right?  How can she pretend that choosing in favour of one side isn’t also choosing against another, and that would mean choosing against herself?  How can she choose between her mother and her father?

In our house, in our family, she will never have to.  I am committed to this with all my heart, and I will shoot down and knock out anyone in our extended families who try to sway her to one side.

We are not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong.  Both sides have arguments that are valid, and both sides have arguments that hold no water with me.  So they can have their reasons, and they are welcome to them.  And that’s what we will teach our daughter.

And when she asks how she is to choose a side, we will tell her she doesn’t have to.  All she has to choose is love.  Each side feels they are right.  Each sides feels they’ve been wronged.  Love them both.  Honour them both.  Fight for them both.  Not for one side to win, but for both sides to win.  Not for one side to conquer,overcome, and defeat, but for love to conquer, overcome and defeat.

We will not pick sides.  We will simply hold up love as our standard.  That’s all she needs to know.