Old Enough to Know

I think the birthdays that end in -5 feel different than the ones that end in -0.

The -0 birthdays seem to mark a new regime, a changing of the guard, a new club you get to join. But the ones that end in -5 seem to feel like the ‘hump’ of a decade. You’ve made it five laps. Five more to go. No grand hoopla here. Just a Dixie cup of water as you run past.

Within the next year, I will turn 35. That feels like a turning point birthday, a big one. Perhaps that’s because I remember when my mom was 35.

Or perhaps it’s because I vaguely remember my middle school girlfriends and I saying to each other, “Does this look good? Or do I look like I’m 35?”

(Dear 13-year-old Tricia, the 35-year-old you is 20,000 leagues more beautiful than you want to be right now. And pegging the pantlegs doesn’t look good.)

I wonder when I will feel old enough to know what I have learned.

* * *

You don’t know what you don’t know when you’re young. How could you?

People who are older nod sagely and say you’ll learn — about love, about marriage, about failing and falling down and getting up and trying to stagger on toward success, about work and children and what really matters, in general and to you. It’s not, they’ll say, what’s on your business card.

I recall hearing this message constantly when I was younger, and thinking that I was getting older as fast as I could. In retrospect, this seems a bit of a shame as well as a vainglorious task.

You’re like a cake when you’re young. You can’t rush it or it will fall, or just turn out wrong. Rising takes patience and heat.

~ Anna Quindlen

I think I am an Affirmation Hoarder

There have been a few times in my life when I’ve finished a project for a teacher, instructor, professor, or whomever I aimed to please, and when they handed it back to me, there was a neatly written note across the top, sometimes in pencil, pen or even a post-it note.

This is excellent! May I keep this?

I mean, is there any great affirmation?

It happened in college, in my intro to education class (which I somehow considered to be a not-real class because it had the word ‘intro’ in front of it and I felt like that meant we would be learning about what we would learn later instead of actually learning how to be a teacher, which was the greatest cry of my heart at that time in my life), when I finished a teaching practicum and needed to write a case study on myself, a student in the class, or the teacher whom I had observed. I wrote about the teacher, an angry woman who clearly didn’t like children. I wrote about the evidence I could see that she didn’t like them, she didn’t like teaching them, and they weren’t learning very much as a result. I wrote about what I had learned not to do.

I received the graded paper with the note on the top. Please, can I keep it?

It happened in fifth grade art class (the same class where I decided red could no longer be my favorite color because a study of colors indicated that such a person is disloyal and unfaithful) when we were learning to draw ‘a vessel’, and I could draw anything I wanted as long as it held a fruit. The idea was to draw a bowl or a vase, but she had said I could draw anything I wanted, and I was inspired by the open crayon box sitting on my art table. So I painted a classic green and yellow Crayola box spilling with pears. I even recall one resting next to it.

I received the painting with the note on top: Tricia, this is lovely! May I keep it?

It happened in my writing class in my senior year, when I wrote a compare and contrast essay about my third and fourth grade teachers.

It happened in fifth grade when I wrote a song that somehow won something on behalf of our elementary school.

It happened in college when I put together a thematic unit on the five senses.

Interestingly, I don’t recall that ever happening with any of my papers or projects in the maths or sciences. But, whatevs. You can’t win ’em all.

You know what’s funny? I never, not once, said, “Yes, sure. Of course, professor. You can have it.”

There was something deeply satisfying about holding the work in my hands, feeling the weight of the project and the time I put into it, reading the affirmation written on the front. Not just a grade, but a request to immortalize my work.

Somehow, that mattered more to me than my work on display for anyone else or modeled as an example. I always said no.  Somewhere, there is a stockpile of my work that someone once wanted, surely they don’t anymore, and yet I didn’t share it because I was hoarding the notes to myself.

I’m not sure what that says about me.

An Apolitical View on ObamaCare

I’m apolitical. I’m not Republican or Democrat, right wing or left wing, dark meat or white. I don’t know what I am. I know it makes some of you justice-fighters angry that my feathers can’t be ruffled, but I’m just not wired that way. It’s just not the lens through which I view the world.

So, with all of this hubbub about ObamaCare and health insurance travesties, I have to admit that I’m just biding my time and waiting for the dust to settle. I’m pretty sure God will still be on his throne no matter who is President, no matter how healthcare comes my way.

But here’s where it’s getting to me. I love people. I collect them, it has long been said. And I have built relationships, longstanding and deep, with the providers for our family.

The doctor who has laughed with me in her determination to figure out why I was peeing my pants for no reason and without warning.
The ones who have tweaked this cocktail of medications so I can be a mom who makes dinner and takes her kids to school.
The doctor who gave me his private cell when I was seven weeks pregnant and bleeding, bleeding, bleeding.
The nurse who held my hand and explained that miscarriages can happen for so many reasons and this wasn’t my fault.
The pediatrician who sewed up Tyler’s cheek when the picture fell on his face.
The team who set and reset and reset Tucker’s arm when he was 18 months old and kept taking off his cast.  The nurse who helped me lie down when I fainted twice over my son’s stitches and pain.
The doctor who delivered my sons, who knew my husband and let him watch over his shoulder as the C-section was underway. (Which could creep you out if you didn’t know my husband, the scientist he was, and how he fell more in love with me having direct sight of my uterus.)
The nurses who answered the call when I said, “Call my pediatrician. I want them to know my husband died this morning.” And my friends looked at me oddly, wondering why, but I knew it would matter to these people.
The pediatric doctor and nurse who came to the calling hours with hugs for my children and tears for me, and promises that they would help us, help us, help us.
Those who offered healthcare when my insurance relapsed because the carrier had died and I couldn’t get insurance because of grief-induced depression.
The ones who have celebrated when I didn’t need Ambien every night anymore.
The one who says, “Text me, Trish. I’ll get you in.”
The ones who have treats behind the counter and stickers in their drawers for boys who are brave and loved.

These are my friends. This is my support network. And now I have to decide if I can afford to keep my ongoing history with them.

It’s hard on a girl’s heart.

Rule #32

I’m sitting in a round booth that’s designed for a double date or for 9 girls on ladies’ night. It’s a big circle. With great lighting.

I’m on a personal retreat, one of these that is prescribed by my counselor. (She writes the **best** prescriptions.) I walked into the hotel room, and of course within 7 minutes I had scattered my things on every flat surface in the room.

Note to Tricia: Nobody else will gather these things for you when you’re ready to check out. I know ‘checkout’ isn’t on your radar right now, but it will come. And you won’t be ready for the scavenger hunt for earrings and a cell phone charger.

The hostess and I chatted a bit while she waited for my (giant) table to be cleared and prepared. She has two tattoos on her forearm, and I love to ask about such things. When a person has a tattoo that’s visible, they always have an answer ready.

(Although I don’t always have my answer ready. I hem and haw around the book of Hosea and this verse and this word and that night and a holy moment with sacred writing, and my husband died three days later. By then, I’ve said so much in Christianese that the person has lost interest all but entirely. So then I say, “It’s my own handwriting, and they’re back in the game.

My ready-explanation, from this point forward, will be this: “My tattoo? It says ‘betrothed.’ It’s a reminder that even though I am a widow, I am still a bride.” And we’ll see where it goes from there.)

On one side of her arm, she had a long, flowery key. She called it a skeleton key, and I don’t really know what that means and I didn’t feel liek I could google very inconspicuously. (Google, my ever go-to for hot topics and words everyone else seems to understand.)

(Urban dictionary can also provide this service, although I always, always end up with more information than I intended to get and thereby a startled expression on my face.)

(I’m using a lot of parentheses. My editor would have a heyday. Hay day. Heigh dey. I hate when I don’t know how to spell a word.)

I complimented her on the skeleton key, which is indeed lovely and looks not skeletal at all. Then I noticed the ink on the other side: Rule Number 32.

As we walked through the dining room, navigating around chairs in a dimly lit room, she talked over her shoulder to tell me about a movie called Zombie Land – perhaps you’ve seen it, but I live in a land of Ninja Turtles and Phineas and Pherb, so zombies have an entirely different connotation for me. Green and animated.

In the movie, there are rules for living in a zombie land. And rule #32 is: Enjoy the small things. And just then, she seated me at this great big, round table that is nearly a private room.

Here I sit, practicing the fine art of dining alone, at a table set for a party. And I’m not sad.

I’m thinking of days when it will be filled again.

And I’m enjoying the small things. (Or in this case, the great big one.)

Sometimes, it can’t happen this side of Heaven.

There’s a knot in my stomach because I’d rather keep these words hidden in my journal, but I think I need to post them.  God, I send these words out in your name, that they may land where you will have these seeds planted.

Here goes.


Some relationships cannot and should not be restored this side of heaven.

When David cried out to God for mercy, God forgave him.  But he did not erase the consequences. Grace runs freely; consequences remain.

Sometimes a broken relationship remains a safeguard for everyone involved: if it is fixed, then the people involved could overlook, forget, or minimize the shrapnel of a battle scene.

There is a reason we remember.  Grace abounds.  Consequences remain.

Forgiveness is not restoration. And some relationships cannot be restored this side of heaven.