About Me

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A working professional and Mom,a want-to-be full time writer and modern day Alice in Wonderland who's always "A Little Mad Here"...

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Unintended Love

The love we do not intend is sometimes the love that saves us. This phrase popped into my head as I was clearing out my emails and contemplating writing for one of the many prompts littering my inbox. These days my muse is a bit of a fickle bitch, so the fact that these words suddenly came to me wasn't something I felt I should ignore. A writer who is not actively writing needs to pay extra attention to such divine inspirations after all.

In many ways, as I think about it, this statement is one of my great truths. I might not have intended to fall in love with my future husband, but I did. At that time in my life, I can honestly say that it was the love that saved me. My heart and faith had been mortally wounded, dealt a death blow by back to back relationships that had worn me down and left me feeling desolate.

Then, unexpectedly and when I wasn't even looking, he entered stage left and restored my hope. In many ways I felt "saved" from taking up a permanent residence in     all my familiar dark places.

And lately, there has been another unintended love that has supported that statement.

Recently various cosmic forces, and one determined little sister, combined to result in us getting a horse for our budding equestrian of a daughter. Roo is 12 year old, sorrel and white painted quarter horse cross that stands about 15.2 hands high. He has a sweet disposition and will be able to grow with my daughter, they are about the same "age" experience-wise overall. When the opportunity presented itself, I knew relatively nothing about horsemanship. I was just starting to get the hang of being a horse-mom though, toting her gear and fetching her tack and using all the right jargon. I enjoyed our times at the barn and her weekly riding lesson was something I had grown to love and look forward too with the same enthusiasm as my daughter. Admittedly though, I hadn't considered ever owning a horse of our own despite the lure of empty and available stalls at my sister's recently purchased horse farm.

Yet, the opportunity arrived. I told myself I would be practical. I told myself that while it might be inevitable given my sister's agenda, it didn't need to be now and it didn't need to be this horse.
Then, it happened. My daughter fell in love with Roo. Unexpectedly however, so did I... the very first instant he nuzzled my shoulder with his big head and turned those big brown eyes in my direction. Roo's owner is good people and she was committed to finding him a "soft place to land". I think she knew he would be my daughter's "heart horse", she might have even expected he'd also become mine too.

For the first time in my life, I came to understand my sister's connection to the animals that had always been part of her life. There is something soulful about horses, some primitive connection that resides in human beings, brought to life by soft nickering and their sweet, grass-scented breath. There is something powerful about an animal who can so easily dominate you, but is simultaneously so willing to try to please you. There is a serenity and grace in these animals and something that borders on the almost mystical.

Roo will always be my daughter's horse and she is very blessed and lucky to have him. He will be a good companion, they will make a good team. He is also however, the second unintended love in my life. He has, in many ways, saved me...albeit in a smaller and more humble way than my husband's love did.

Roo has become the balm on an irritating day and the stream of sudden sunshine on a cloudy one. He is the inspiration to spending special, companionable time with my daughter and my sister, doing barn chores or training. These are hours passed simply and without thought of anxiety, stress or strain. Roo inspires me to think outside my rigid boxes and harness bravery when I feel out of my depth. Roo provides the unique opportunity to see my daughter developing confidence and responsibility because he challenges her to believe in herself, to push herself and to aspire to be stronger.

I tried to explain it all recently to my husband, who to be fair, has not fallen in love with Roo or the idea of having this new 900 lb family member to care for. After a long-winded explanation, I simply ended with, "he makes me happy." And, honestly, that is really just it. Whenever we walk up on his paddock and he flicks his ears and turns in our direction, the worries and concerns of the day just disappear. When I watch my daughter plant kisses on his soft white nose, I feel grateful and blessed. My heart is happy for her and also for him, to know the boundless, unconditional love of a child. My heart is joyful to watch him run, moving with such freedom and grace, but also to see him working with Jaden, seeking that shared conversation between horse and rider. Whenever I take a moment out of grooming him to step in close and lay my head against his neck, breathing in the smell of him, I am content and happy in this simple moment of shared affection. I can see my reflection in his quiet, big brown eyes and it brings me a special peace.

These days, when the crush of daily existence and the pressure of life gets to me, that special peace is what saves me; saves me from rage, from discouragement, from doubt, from the rut of routine. Roo reminds me that my life isn't just about work and bills and responsibilities, but also about things that bring my soul joy. Roo reminds me to take the moment to find happiness and peace in my life - even if I find them in the most unexpected places.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rage, Hope and Horses

The knowledge that I haven't actually written anything all summer long looms like a shadow over me. I suspect my absence from the world of electronic testimony isn't solely due to a lack of free time. I suspect it also may stem from fearing what would come out if I flung open my personal "Pandora's box", releasing words and sentiments that might be too toxic or too dark to process properly in a single blog entry. While I have experienced great moments of joy in the last few months, I have also had my share of doubt, rage, disillusion and disappointments...and given my predication of writing without self-censorship or apology...I thought it best to abstain until I had a better perspective overall. Or, and this is probably the most true reason, the drive to write something became as unbearable to ignore as my worry of offending some people with what I had to say.

This summer has provided many opportunities to discover things about myself and about the people in my life and its given me a lot of unexpected highs and, unfortunately some pretty big fucking lows too. I have felt uncharacteristically isolated and lonely, but have also found incredible joy and comfort in the re-discovery of old friendships. I have felt the support and connection to some family, but also battled with rejection and abandonment from others. It has been a summer of a hard learning curve, one that has often brought me stress and frustration, but also given me brilliant moments of feeling accomplished and refreshed. At times I have felt both like the Phoenix, as well as the smoldering pile of ash.

This morning, as I let the dogs out, I felt the promise of Autumn in the cool predawn air. I felt myself beginning to write in my head, found my mind going through the mental dance of matching phrasing to feeling. I'd held the words at bay too long and now they were coming, rushing forward like the end of summer. So, here I sit, wondering where to I should begin to start catching myself up.

I supposed I should start with what is at the surface, the arsenal I have at the ready. As it frequently tends to be, the top emotion in my mental totem these days is frustration. I am frustrated with my middle-aged body and its inability to do the things I ask it too. I am often too tired, too sweaty, too unmotivated to do even one of those HITT workouts that I so desperately need. I am frustrated by my 22+ year career which seems to be going exactly nowhere very quickly. I am frustrated by my limitations and even more so, the doubts I have about being a good mom, a better wife.

My level of frustration these days is matched only by my anger. I think I give in to rage more than I should. I think some days I get up and put on a "rage coat", and it feels too heavy for my personal climate. I know I should shuck the rage, toss it off and enjoy life more but some days it feels like its in my bloodstream, coursing beneath my skin, leaving me hot and fevered. I find inspiration in anger. I have written so many letters this summer in fits of rage. They are beautifully rabid works, overflowing with toxic righteousness and resilience. I sometimes love the "enraged and wounded" version of me best, as she writes with a firestarter vengeance that both scares and excites me. I haven't sent those letters. As angry as I have been, I haven't decided to torch all my lost cities to the ground yet.

It hasn't been all been about anger and frustration this summer though. I've reached really far outside my comfort zones and felt rewarded for the effort. I shed an old role or two and taken on some new responsibilities. In a decision that some still consider highly controversial, I became a horse owner. I am discovering, rather simultaneously, that I know next to nothing about owning a horse and also that owning a horse has gifted me with such unexpected peace and joy. It is a wonderfully perplexing dichotomy.

It is hard, so hard, to learn the basics about something so foreign to me. I struggle, a lot. I'm terrified more often than I care admit to myself. I sometimes laugh out loud about how clueless I am...but I also have those moments when I do something right on my own for the first time and I feel like a total rock star. Truth is, I love how hard I have to work at it and when I feel like I've learned something, the sense of accomplishment is something my life has been sorely missing for a long time. I am filled with gratitude for the people who give so freely of their time and knowledge to be our patient teachers and guides on our journey of horsemanship. The truth is that while we got Roo for my daughter, our painted pony has captured so much of my own heart too. The time I spend with Roo and my daughter is like balm on all my sad and wounded places. I imagine in many ways, he will become a special kind of muse for me in the years to come.

Lastly, for I'm nearly at the end of my blogging time allotment today... joy has also been a consistent feature of this summer. Watching my daughter blossom into a fierce and funny beauty under the blue skies and sunshine, has been my greatest blessing. She is coming into herself in delightful ways from making new friends at camps to discovering her own tastes and styles. She has shunned dresses and headbands in favor of shorts and anything sporty. She loathes anything pink. She frequently hijacks my playlist to blast Queen or Imagine Dragons and spends her free time face-timing her friends and snuggling with her dog. My daughter still holds my hand, still wants to fall asleep between her father and I whenever we allow it, and doesn't pull away when I reach to hug her or mess with her hair. She believes in "armless" hugs for everyone but Gramma Boop and her Dad, but most of the time still manages to remember her manners in most situations. In her long legs and sea green eyes , I get hints of the astoundingly beautiful a woman she will be one day. In her boundless laugh and quirky smile, I see the fun and lively teenager she will soon become. I am, as I have been since her birth, incredibly amazed by all that she is and all I know she will do in this life.

There have been many times this summer that I have wandered out onto the back deck and watched my husband mowing the lush green yard. His legs are wrapped around his tractor and he looks lost in his task and in the music in his headphones. He looks like a man in his element and watching him, I've felt wonderfully blessed with him and with our home. I have sat in the twilight of a July evening and watched the bats flying circuits among the high, swaying trees, and felt humbled and grateful in my soul. I have walked the acres of my sister's farm as the sun was setting, felt its retreating warmth on my back, listened to her donkey braying for his dinner and thought to myself....how life could be so simply and so perfectly beautiful in some moments.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Cracks in the Foundation

Some days I am surprised by the hurt that still resides inside me.  One minute I am going about my life, living it as best I can.  Then I am blindsided by something small that cracks the veneer. I am caught off guard when the most innocuous comment rips off the tiniest corner of my heart and causes me to bleed that toxin of disappointment and resentment again...that ripe, black cocktail I thought I had finally drained.

Days like this I wonder if our wounded places ever really heal?  We tell ourselves that we have overcome, we have risen above the trespasses against us.  We have constructed a life we live in truth and we can no longer be dragged under the pain of our past. Then, you find out its all still inside you, like something insidious crouching in the corners of your soul.  In that moment, you understand that damage can never be undone, only built upon.  It will always be with you, forever weakening your foundation.

I spent a lot of time traveling in Mexico when I was younger. I visited all the typical tourist places and a few that were decidedly more off the beaten path.  It was the churches that made the most impact on me. I learned that many of Mexico's churches, from the extravagant, gold-trimmed cathedrals to the rustic village chapels, were built on top of indigenous temple and ruins. When missionaries moved across Mexico and began to convert the native tribes and nations, it was common for the new churches to be built directly on top of the tribal holy sites.  It was as if these  missionaries felt they could best eradicate the old deities and pagan beliefs by driving them into the ground.  They thought that by burying them under the shiny new promises of their christian churches and their new, benevolent God, they would cease to exist for the people.

It always struck me these missionaries, bent on converting the people to the new faith, failed to see what they were really doing.  Instead of re-writing the narrative, maybe they were instead, forever trapping the past in the foundations of the future.  In one place, far off the typical tour, one old church's foundation had begun to crumble and the earth had begun yield to the corners of the old pyramid lying underneath.  In one section of the church, the ancient bricks had even been driven up through the floorboards. It struck me that those ruins were not gone, those gods and beliefs, not forgotten. It was all still there, residing under the feet of the believers.  The old gods might all just be waiting, bidding their time to be excavated and brought back again.

It is days like these that I think about those old ruins.   I feel like that sometimes, like that church.  I feel like my shiny life with all its promises and personal gains and achievements, might have just been built on an old temple of wounds.  I wonder if it is there still, just waiting, and slowly poisoning my foundation one tiny, black crack at a time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Riding with the Wind...

As a parent, there are a few of those milestone moments you know are coming down the pike. Some of them are terrifying to contemplate, like the onset of puberty and all those awkward talks you just know are waiting in the wings. Then there are those moments you look forward to with sweet contentment, like the day the training wheels come off their bike and they learn to ride.

You think you know how it will go. There will be a few bumps and bruises but they will turn their  little faces to you, ready to sop up all your sage advice and guidance.  You will encourage and empower them and they will be determined and grateful. Then comes the reward, watching them glide away from you, the wind at their backs and their gleeful voices singing your praises for delivering them to this amazing new world. You have been their guide, their teacher, their hero. It will have been an amazing parenting win.

When I pulled my daughter's bike out of the garage, I fully expected the experience to live up to my expectations. I eagerly waited for her to don her helmet and knee pads. I was so sure that this would be the Rockwell-esque version of the milestone I had dreamt about. 

Here is how it actually went down...

As it turns out, my daughter would have been content to operate her bike with training wheels until she was ready to trade it in for a car.  Needless to say, she took to the task of learning with barely contained resentment, barking at me each time she wobbled or got banged on the knee by the pedals. If I tried holding her seat, I was doing it wrong. If I tried giving her advice or encouragement, she frowned and snapped at me.  Several times she broke into frustrated tears and more than once, I had to walk away from her as she bristled with child rage and hit me with a litany of excuses.  The seat was too high, too hard, too crooked. I was holding her wrong. The driveway was to uneven. We finally decided to take a break. She abandoned the bike and her helmet in a heap by the garage and I went inside to nurse my disappointment.

It was several weeks later before we tried again. The day was the perfect harbinger of an early Spring with a cloudless cerulean sky above our heads and a warming sun on our backs. This time I had reinforcements, my husband took a break from the yard work to lend a hand. I warned him she was liable to be difficult, even a little mean as she struggled hard to master something she believed she should just "get right out of the box". Even with my warnings, he was surprised at the level of open hostility she directed toward the lesson, and us, as her repeated attempts to gain her balance met failure again and again.  I could see the collapse of her confidence in her bowed head and welling eyes. My requests for "one more try", were met with deep frowns and groans but we knew we could not let her quit. As everything threatened to collapse, we decided to try another approach.

This time we took it to the street, at least the straight strip of pavement consisting of 100 feet between our neighbor's mailboxes. The roadway was level and the path open wide in front of her, no turns or inclines. We told her to get her feet in position and just get moving forward.  We encouraged her to keep going, even if she had to take her foot off the pedal once or twice along the way.

After a few wobbly attempts, she managed to stay upright and pedal for about seven feet. I saw the first smile break at the corners of her mouth and the glimmer in her sea change eyes that signaled the return of a little of her confidence.  She had done it, just for a few seconds, but it had been enough. I watched her rally then, engaging all her young grit and determination.  She immediately dropped the attitude and began to really listen to our advice and encouragement. After a few moments, she was managing to go almost the full span between mailboxes, pedaling and maintain her balance and at last, she was really smiling.

The last pass she made she cheekily told me to "watch out" in case she ran me down. Then, just like I told her she would, she was doing it, riding a bike on her own.  Just as suddenly, we were those celebrating parents from a Hallmark movie or sappy commercial, bouncing on our toes and clapping in the middle of our street.  Watching her riding away from me, the wind at her back, knowing she was smiling under that helmet and feeling accomplished... I had my milestone moment at last.  It might not have come to me the way I imagined but when it came it was no less sweet.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ordinary, Everday Love

What of the ordinary, everyday love?  Does it have a place in the Hallmark-tainted landscape of Valentine’s Day?

If you are like me, you can spend literally hours pouring over glossy, glitter embossed cards that drip with romantic musings and passionate declarations that seem overdone and impractically over the top. Truth is, this is a holiday that seems to be more for the young and newly minted kind of love, that “first three months of can’t get enough of each other” kind of love.

 I get it though…that kind of love is sexy and passionate, all red and pulsing with promise. That kind of love moves some serious chocolate.  That kind of love fuels lingerie sales and fancy, overpriced plated dinners.

Still…every day, 365 days of the year, all over the world, there are people quiet living in other kinds of love that don’t get the attention worthy of a glitzy holiday. Where are the cards that represent the kind of love that settles in after years spent together, after raising children?  The kind of love that binds partners and knits families together to weather all that life asks us to bear?  I need cards that celebrate the everyday, mundane things that show me I am loved and appreciated.  I need words that express my devotion despite disappointment and my simple joy in sharing life with someone that I love and,  frankly, that I tolerate above any other human being on the planet.  I need a Hallmark card that says, “Yup I would absolutely still choose you, choose this messy beautiful life with you, over and over again.”

Admittedly, that does not sound romantic. It would not make most people swoon. It would not fill even one red and pink stained aisle at Target.  But, that is the truth. It is sincere and it is heartfelt. It is practical and it is sustainable. It is the lifeblood of any solid marriage or long term relationship and the foundation for any family that endures.

I would love to have spontaneity and passion all the time, but I am also blissfully happy to find out someone else has changed the toilet paper roll or done the dishes to surprise me. I would enjoy date nights out under the stars but I also crave those quiet nights by the fire, when we are all tangled together under blankets watching a movie. Sometimes it is the moments when he randomly laces his fingers through mine while we are driving, or takes a few more minutes to cover me with the comforter before he leaves for work that move me so much more deeply than those heated moments of our youth. I love that he loves me when things are good, and loves me harder and more fiercely when they are not.  It may not make for a flashy card but it a blessing I am thankful for each and every day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

All Things Horse-y

30 Day Blogging Challenge
PROMPT January 28th
I had a different prompt in mind for today, but decided as it’s the last Monday of January, we all needed a little pick-me-up.
Write about something happy in your life! What’s happened recently that made you smile? What’s the last thing you laughed at?

In order to fully appreciate this post, I'll have to divulge something about my personal life. I am very close to my sister but and also very different from her. We refer to ourselves as "city mouse" and "country mouse". My sister lives on a 9 acre horse farm with a menagerie that includes goats, horses, cats and dogs - so you can guess which one of us is "city mouse". I frequently joke that I have nightmares of waking up in her life, in some freaky Friday scenario that suddenly finds me running her doggie daycare and boarding business - something I would be ill equipped to do with my wardrobe of heels and pencil skirts. Notably, she says the same exact thing about my life. Until recently, I had no cause to explore my sister's rural and rustic lifestyle. I was content not to ever know the true identity of the substances she ends each day covered with. Then, my sister launched "operation Jaden" and everything changed.

I'm not sure why my sister waited until my daughter was eight to begin her crusade. It might have had something to do with us moving closer, a mere seven minutes from her new horse property. It might have just been that she had bided her time with her only niece long enough. Whatever the reason, last summer she gifted my daughter three weeks of horse camp and subsequently opened her eyes and her heart to the world of horses. My country mouse sister threw the gates to her world of fur and hooves open wide and my daughter marched through, dragging her mom (with her entirely inappropriate barn footwear) with her. Suddenly they were a secret society of two, planning and plotting for a future strewn with horsey things, weekly riding lessons among them. Just as suddenly, I was a barn mom, which meant I was fully engaged in many, many things I had zero experience with. My daughter attacked her learning curve with gusto and passion while I, accepted my fate with as much dignity as I could muster. I bought myself muck boots and dug in, trying to seem anything but completely out of my element.

Here is the thing...and the real meat of the prompt...I've discovered that I like it. I've learned enough to know my way around the barn now. Her Tuesday evening lesson is time I actually look forward to spending with my daughter. I love watching her, acknowledging that she does seem to have the natural ability as a rider that my little sister always had. She is developing confidence and a real appreciation for the mental and physical challenges of riding. She adores my sister too, and I love the connection they share. I love that in so many ways, my sister has become my daughter's hero. It makes my heart happy to watch them together.

It isn't just about my daughter though.

Over the last year, I've grown to love this part of my sister's life, this part we share with her. I love the horses, their dark eyes reflecting something back about us all. I have an appreciation for the ones that work hard, take care of their riders despite having their own limitations. There is a special kind of grace about being with them, these massive animals who outweigh our fragile human bodies yet trust us to guide them and to care for them. There is an exchange of trust that is connected to something in our souls and it moves and fascinates me.

It brings me a kind of peace...the smell of the barn, the wide open sky above the paddocks, the pounding of my daughter's mount in a rolling canter. I enjoy the moments of tacking Sonny up before the lesson with her, sneaking him peppermints to keep him cooperative in the colder weather when he feels his years more. I love visiting my sister's own horses, and the trio of Friesian babies that currently reside with her - each of them mini black beauties that are all spunk and fire.

We had the task of feeding her horses while she was away on her honeymoon and I grew to love the walk out to their pasture to drop their hay and grain in those late October afternoons. They would see us coming, their beautiful heads raised, expectant and welcoming of the meal and the petting session we were about to bestow on them. Again, there is a peace it brings me - similar in the way I used to feel slipping beneath the waves in my dive gear. Similar but different, because I am more then an observer in this world. This world demands my tactile engagement in a way scuba diving did not. Horses want that emotional and physical connection, those touches and words whispered in their soft, flicking ears. I can see why people have horses, there is a quiet magic to them that brings a certain kind of solace in its wake. Being with a horse is like a balm on those ragged parts of our soul.

Recently we were bringing Sonny out of the lesson ring and paused to clean the dirt from his shoes. Since she was stepped on early in the year, this task is one my daughter continues to be leery of. It usually falls to me to "show" her again how to get it done without getting her feet crunched. I've gotten pretty confident about it now, I've come to know how best to get Sonny to bend his leg up so I can clear out the clumps quickly. I was demonstrating for my daughter again...how you have to lean close against him, keeping your feet parallel to his. You have to reach down and grab his foot, easing him with your body weight, to life the leg and keep his body in balance. I must have been demonstrating it with an air of authority because I heard her trainer exclaiming, "wow Mom, look at you!", as she walked up behind us.

I honestly-to-God swelled with pride in that moment. I felt myself smiling. Because, here is the truth, straight from a city mouse's mouth...I like the way I've managed to learn this stuff. I like the fact that I now own muck boots and can rock a head lamp with pride. I like that I know how to tack up a horse and that I go home smelling like them. I love that I can slip in mud or horse poop and not care which one it actually is. I love that I know how to help my daughter zip up her half chaps or that I even know what half chaps are! I love this little bit of country mouse I found in me now. I love it...a lot. It makes me happy in a way I never would have expected.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Age 9 - A Whirling Dervish Delight

This month my daughter turns nine. In keeping with tradition, and in my ongoing effort to temper the bittersweet forward march of time, I like to author at least one blog wholly devoted to marking the milestone of her birthday. If I am to leave her anything of real value when I am gone, it will be this ongoing testimony of an immensely proud mamma who was fully invested in her journey and loved her in every second and with every fiber of my being.

This past year has been filled with trials..from the sheer physicality of moving twice this summer, to our ever increasing battles over her hair and clothes, to combating her near obsession with online games and YouTube. We have started most of the mornings in this fresh New Year with an argument about one thing or another. I have lost my mind over her stomping feet, exaggerated eye rolls and disgruntled faces. It seems we endlessly debate why leggings are not appropriate winter attire. We battle. Sometimes it gets loud and the dogs, sensing an epic throw down is looming, take off to hide upstairs until the storm passes.

Still, before our turn comes up in the drop-off line, we manage to sort it out. Regardless of how angry she may be, she still shoulders her backpack and leans in for a kiss before throwing open the door. These days I find it is more about finding victories in the delightful surprises then consistently winning arguments with her. Eventually she listens to me…and besides, there are so many delightful surprises…

She is becoming her own person and that person is most definitely not a mini version of me. She is entirely something new and improved, a hybrid of both her parents with a balance of our features and various traits blending together in this beautiful new way – along with things that seem unique to her.

She is athletic and competitive in a way neither one of us ever were. She is drawn to things that challenge both her body and her mind at once, like obstacle courses and horse-back riding. I can see her mind working as she puts her body through the physical paces, concentration is as evident on her face as enjoyment is. She has become more fearless in this environment, trepidation giving way to a growing confidence. I can see pride blooming there as well, in that telling Mona Lisa smile when her instructor cries out, “Yes, Good Girl!”, the moment she achieves the perfect posture or executes the perfect transition or canter.

Music continues to be something she is drawn too. She pushes back on practicing piano but once she sits down and begins to coach the notes from her instrument, I can see her lose herself. She started ukulele lessons in school recently, and she has really taken to it. She talks a blue streak about chords and likes to play me the YouTube tutorials they use in class. She has asked for her own ukulele for her birthday this year and I look forward to hearing her strumming away on those chords.

Like mine, her taste in music is highly varied. She has a wide scope of what she likes. For now, she gets by on my playlist but makes the occasional request for me supplement it with a new song she has discovered. For the most part, I enjoy her selections. They reflect someone who listens with a critical ear and harbors a true appreciation for musical composition, regardless of the genre. The other day on one of our drives, “Under Pressure” came on the radio. I immediately turned it up and began singing along, as one simply has to do in appreciation for genius collaboration of David Bowie and Freddy Mercury. I glanced at my daughter in the rear view and was simultaneously shocked and elated to find she was also singing along in the back of the car. She caught my eyes, and smiled back at me. It was a moment of kindred connection, one of those delightful surprises.

At her core, she is still that child that loves to snuggle. She still prefers to fall asleep between us. Even when she goes to bed in her own room, we find her wrapped about us come morning, one leg or arm draped over us and her hair falling in sheets across our faces. The “I love you’s” still come unsolicited, though not as frequently as they once did. She will still take my hand in a parking lot or store. Randomly, during a movie or in the throngs of deep sleep, I will sometimes suddenly feel the slip of her hand – her long fingers lacing up with mine. These are the moments I treasure most.

She is magical in so many ways these days. Even in her stubborn fury, her green eyes flash and pierce with a mysterious loveliness. Her heart-shaped face has changed so much, it is hard to find a trace of my own features there anymore. I see a version of her teenage father in her lanky silhouette but she has a grace to her movements and a flavor to her beauty that must hail from more distant ancestors.

As she turns nine, our girl is still more reserved and quiet than most girls her age. She still holds herself back, but less so. Her confidence is growing and she engages more freely with those people she feels most comfortable with. She readily chimes in on phone calls with my sister or responds with unchecked giggles at her new uncle’s antics and teasing. She tells stories and jokes. She asks for things she wants and responds to questions from adults without my prompting her to answer. She will occasionally surprise me by breaking into nutty dancing in the aisle of home depot or quoting “Napoleon Dynamite” with a deadpan accuracy. She still likes slime, unfortunately, but has showed a renewed interest in things like painting and her pottery wheel. She is creative but draws more pleasure from exploring the mediums than by finishing the final pieces. Our daughter has an explorer’s heart.

At nine, she is our whirling dervish, our musical student, our budding equestrian. She is warm and loving. She is intelligent and she is kind. She will not back down from an argument but she won’t hold a grudge. You may wait half a lifetime for an apology but when one finally comes it will arrive accompanied by a fierce hug and kiss and a throaty, heart-melting, “I’m sorry Mamma.” And it is absolutely no surprise that life with her is simply delightful.