anything but ordinary

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Sending her off into the unknown.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

My oldest started kindergarten earlier this month. The anticipation for this momentous day had been building all summer. And by building, I mean me excitedly and confidently telling my daughter, everyday prior to THE day,  just how much of a big deal the first day would be.

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My first day of kindergarten or first grade. c.1982 hence the grainy photo.

I don’t know how it is for most, but I’ve definitely been the type to get excited for summer’s end with a fresh start to a new school year.  The weather starts changing to pleasant temperatures. If you are lucky like me, your mother takes you back-to-school shopping for supplies and more importantly, some fun new clothes to wear. You look forward to seeing all those school friends you haven’t seen all summer.  New teachers, new classes and new books to crack open.

After high school, my back-to-school season excitement continued in college with the anticipation of moving into a new dormitory, receiving the fall semester paper course catalogue (I know I’m dating myself) and me happily choosing classes according to their course descriptions. Football games, homecoming, and more new textbooks to dive into. Even after university, once I entered the art world workforce, the fall season was always filled with anticipatory emotions. Refreshed from summer holiday, my coworkers and I were back at it installing the fall exhibition and gallery hopping from opening to opening those first weeks in September. The city was abuzz and bubbling with art talk and I couldn’t help getting caught up in it all.

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Outfit, check. Backpack, check. Lunch bag, check. Ready for the big day!

Although grade school, university and gallery life is in my past, this time of year never fails to lift my spirits. And, I can happily say this level of enthusiasm has been passed down to my daughter. We have poured over catalogues and clicked through pages of online stores to find the perfect backpack and lunch box. We spent a good hour putting together the perfect first-day-of-school outfit. We had dozens and dozens of conversations about the school bus ride, her new teacher, lunch in the cafeteria, and meeting new classmates.

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After hours in her kindergarten classroom—bright, inviting and full of stuff!

I would ask her from time to time, are you nervous? excited? scared??? The answer was always excited, excited, excited.  And right there it is. My daughter has an assuredness I never had. All of five-years-old, and she embraces the unknown. Yes, I loved the start of a new school year, but at five-years-old I remember how awkward, shy and nervous I felt to be doing something on my own without my mother’s confident hand.  I can’t say I saw or felt a moment where my daughter wasn’t ready. She hopped on that bus to a new school with a quick good-bye. She sat down to class ready even though she knew not what to expect or what her teacher and classmates would be like. She left beaming with a smile on her face and came home with an even bigger smile full of enthusiasm of what will be her new routine.  She gives me courage.

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Which brings me to a new book my daughter and I have read over and over again these last few weeks, Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.

My daughter’s interest of late has been magic after watching some YouTube videos on the subject. This book was a perfect find at our town library.

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It tells of the true story of Adelaide Herrmann one of the first female magicians.  Its beautiful illustrations brilliantly depict the ambitions of a young girl who was “anything but ordinary” and wanted to do and be something great. She aspired to “astonish, shock and dazzle” her audiences. She did just that becoming a master magician and entertainer.

My daughter truly loves flipping through the book for the pictures. She told me the illustrations remind her of paper doll cutouts. I love how vibrant each illustration is providing a unique format to tell the story of Ms. Herrmann.

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This is an empowering story for young girls. It celebrates a brave, determined girl who becomes an accomplished woman in a male-dominated profession. Ms. Herrmann never let anyone tell her she couldn’t because of her gender. She conquered her anxieties at a moment when she knew it was important for her to push through the fear for a greater good. Ms. Herrmann reminds me a lot of someone I know.

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My brave, beautiful one.

 

a defining moment, a look back

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My summer baby.

I return to writing after an August hiatus. I’ve relished in these final days of summer with both of my daughters. And as September brings new beginnings (my oldest daughter starting kindergarten this past week!!!) and a new season (autumn, my favorite!), I’d like to reflect on the journey that led to life with my youngest daughter.  My summer baby who turned one last month.

At the end of 2014, my husband and I found out we were pregnant again. My excitement and anticipation soon gave way to first trimester exhaustion and a serious case of morning sickness.  My growing little one was a force to be reckoned with right from in utero.

For me, the second time around was not the—you’re glowing!—experience I felt with my first pregnancy. To be honest, it was hard, very hard. I was throughly exhausted, I mean bone tired, those first six weeks. With the exhaustion came a seasick type of nausea. A constant stomach churning sensation that never left me from the moment I woke to the moment I made my way to bed; sleep providing my only relief. This feeling, so physical and inescapable, is enough to steel yourself into bed until it is over, but of course that is not practical or feasible for most.  Our lives must be lived and for me, a daughter to parent. I soldiered on knowing the baby I was growing was indeed thriving because of it all.

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A trip to Italy with my husband during the spring of 2015 in my second trimester.

Just as they tell you in all the pregnancy books, I woke up one morning right around the twelve week mark free and clear of nausea and exhaustion.  The second trimester was treating me well and my husband, oldest daughter and I enjoyed life together as a family of three; traveling and excitedly preparing our house for our newest addition.

Third trimester brought more discomfort as it does for many. I had back pain and even back spasms from my baby pressing down on my hips and sciatic nerve. It was the height of summer and I was hot—All. The. Time. My daughter was growing and my belly was growing out-and-out by the week so I was never comfortable in one position for long.  If you have been pregnant or had a partner who has been pregnant, none of this is news to you.

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On beach holiday just about a month before I went into labor. Smiling but hot and uncomfortable.

By August 2015, I had enough.  Maybe it is my age (nearing forty) or maybe it was just the timing of it all but I just wasn’t loving this whole pregnancy, maker-of-life-thing. That said, I have no regrets. Growing a child, makes you realize how resilient and awesome (in the truest sense of the word) your body can be.

And then came the real test of resiliency and awesomeness; the birth. Nearing the end of summer, my body was ready for my daughter to enter this world. Contractions came on rather quickly the day I gave birth to her. Arrangements had been made beforehand and my oldest daughter was happily in the company of my neighbor who watched over her until my mother arrived (what would I do without them!). My husband raced home from work and when we reached the hospital, we were only three hours away from meeting our newest addition.

Giving birth was in no way easier for me this time around and at times, a lot harder. I could have done it on my own (would I have had a choice?) but I am so, so grateful I didn’t have to. I had a dream team giving me the will to birth my child. The midwife and nurse were right there with me—encouraging me to continue, cheering me on when progress was made, holding my hand and dabbing the sweat from my forehead. My biggest cheerleader, my husband, never left my side. Never did he let go of my hand. I kept my eyes closed for most of the final stages of birthing (it helped me work through the pain) and every time I did open my eyes he was there–all in with me, present. I will never forget those most intimate moments with him and how he never wavered.  And then, our little girl was there, sticky, sweet and in my arms. It was the most remarkable feeling of relief and jubilation all at once.

My newest daughter was finally here. All the not-so-nice bits of pregnancy slowly faded from memory and the life-with-a-newborn exhaustion began but that is another story for another time.  Just like my first she arrived to us in all her unique perfection.

At each summer’s end, I will look back on the day she was born. The day where I let go of all my anxieties and worries and labored. The day where neighbors, my mother, my midwife and nurses, and my husband,  provided the support and help I needed so all my energies could focus solely on my mind, body and baby. This birth was the single most physical and mentally difficult moment of my life. A defining moment where I truly amazed myself and received a gift of a lifetime.