Day 9: Wonder Moon in January

The moon is brilliant. We are two days from a full moon, and I can tell we are getting close.

Today has been a little stressful. I am moving out of my office at the university because they will be renovating and asbestos will be flying everywhere. I don’t want to be near any of that, but will have to be for classes.

So tonight, I just needed a moment with the moon.

Also, a friend told me she felt a sense of wonder when her cat fell asleep on her feet. What did I say, cats are the best.

Day 8: “Will you always take care of me?”

I thought my “wonder” today was going to be me posting a photo of Takis with a can of La Croix. What a wonder the combo of spice + crunch + fizzle can do to a palette.

But then I overheard something a little more wonderful…

When Nick was putting pajamas on Bennett after his bath, Bennett asked him, “Will you always take care of me?”

I don’t know why but that question got inside of me (and it wasn’t even asked to me!). He has awareness, and impressive and compassionate thoughts.

Will you always take care of me?

I hope so, my love. I hope we all take care of each other with our love forever and ever and ever.

My boy turns three in 10 days. I’ve been reflecting (and crying! gosh…) about my role as “mom.” Tonight I RSVPd to a birthday party. For years I talked to other moms as the “big sister,” but now that my child is walking, talking, makng friends, I’ve entered the new land of talking-with-other-moms as a mama myself.

Life, man. Life. And time.

In 18 years I will be 50. 18 years ago I was 14, just starting out in water polo, about to get clear braces, and about to begin thinking about my driver’s permit.

There is so much of me that still feels like I am that 14 year old girl. So much of me feels like I would stay that girl forever. Now I’m 32. In 18 year I’ll be 50. In 10 days I will have a three-year-old.

Time, man. Time.

Will you always take care of me?

Spice + Bubbles

Day 6: A Canceled Flight, A New Perspective

When our plane touched down in Oklahoma, I was sleeping. Like one of those tilt-your-head-back and catch the flies kind of sleeps. Reader: I never sleep in public places (and half the time I have trouble sleeping in bed). So you can bet I was some kind of exhausted.

Our flight the night before had been canceled due to mechanical errors, so American rebooked us for the next morning. At first I was annoyed (it was so AMERICAN of them….they do this to us a lot). But then I was relieved. One more day at home in California. One more day with family.

That night (the extra one) I went with my mom and dad to my dad’s work party. Since he retired from being a Principal, he became a banquet bartender at a fancy hotel. The hotel was throwing their annual holiday party. Last year I was able to go too — so it felt special to be able to go again.

During the loud ’00s dance music, and while my dad played Blackjack with fake money, my mom and I walked the property. We found a jacuzzi and slipped off our shoes, and shared a few moments together while looking at the stars. It was one of those picturesque scenes out of the movies — a mother and daughter connecting. With three other siblings, a husband, a dad, and a son, it’s rare for my mom and I to be able to just sit uninterrupted. And it was lovely. (It was also fun seeing my dad mingle with his hotel co-workers….he loves a good time.)

(As I write this my mom is FaceTime-ing me. She must know I’m writing about her!)

On our drive home to our little town of Stillwater, OK, from the airport, it felt good to be back. That’s a mini-miracle all on its own. Because to be honest, living here can sometimes feel….different. So the shift in perspective was a welcomed one.

And to really grasp today’s wonder, when I came home, our friends who were watching our cat and plants left us donuts. AND (the best yet) one of my orchids (one that I wasn’t sure about) sprouted a new branch. A teeny branch, which will grow into a full stem, sprouting new buds, to finally BLOOM. Orchids are my soul flowers. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about them this year.

Day 4: My brother Experiencing Wonder at Legoland

It’s Day 4 of the year and I’m already feeling the growing pains of doing something new every day. It’s hard. No wonder I have not done a project like this in ten years!

But to make this project more interesting, and to take it out of my own world, I decided I’d tell others’ experiences of wonder, too. I decided this from the beginning. I think there is wonder and enchantment that comes from listening and being present for others’ stories. Storytelling is a gift.

Well, yesterday my dad, Gavin, Nick, and Bennett came home with one of those stories.

The four of them spent the day at Legoland. Nick had a free ticket that was expiring, and the boys love it, anyhow, so they went.

However, sometimes we don’t know how big places like Legoland will be in accommodating my brother, Gavin. He needs a little extra help. But I’m proud and happy to report that the people who worked at Legoland went above and beyond for him. Because he cannot walk on his own, my dad has to carry him into each ride. I guess my dad was supposed to pick up a special ADA pass at guest services so Gavin could get to the front of each line — a nice gesture — but he didn’t know and did not have one when entering the first ride. Well, while my dad, Nick, Gavin, and Bennett were on their first ride, the ride attendant had called a supervisor and someone hand delivered my brother a pass. No one asked them, they just did that on their own.

At the end of the day, they said they were waiting in line somewhere, and wanted to ask another supervisor a special question. I guess Legoland has a really cool thing where some employees carry special gold coins on them, and you can ask them, “Have you seen Mr. Gold?” and if they have, they give you a free gold coin, which is a free ticket into the park!

Well, my dad had a good feeling about this guy carrying one, so he pushed Gavin his his wheelchair to the guy and asked him if he’d seen Mr. Gold. “Who is asking?” the supervisor responded.

“He is,” my dad said, placing his hand on my brother’s shoulder. “He would ask you if he could, but he can’t.”

The man then became extra gregarious and playful with Gavin. He engaged with Gavin while he searched in his pockets and found a Mr. Gold! Nick grabbed Gavin’s hand and extended it to be able to take the coin. My dad said the Legoland staff were all over-the-top kind to Gavin, and it was so nice to hear.

Sometimes, it’s difficult because Gavin wants to do normal fun things, but he just needs a little extra help, and I’m happy to report the two boys — Gavin and Bennett — were both able to experience the wonder of Legoland.

I’m grateful for days like this one. There is wonder in the kindness of strangers.

on a coaster at Legoland

Day 3: Wonder while Feeding the Animals

I slide my feet into two over-sized mucking boots. My pajamas are still on. I walk across the grass, still dewy from the early morning. The miniature horse, Skittles, neighs. The chickens cluck and the duck screeches. The sun slices through the trees at an exact angle. There is something peaceful and calming and therapeutic about feeding the animals in my parents’ backyard.

The feeling it left on me is something like wonder — it’s like I left a yoga class. I feel restored.

Even with the mixed smells of manure, clumpy mud, and hay, it all leaves a full body feeling. Perhaps, no wonder people have been up with the sun for centuries beginning their daily work. There is something good that happens to the body, and also the mind.

Day 2: Wonder of Childhood Friendships

Today was a day of friendship. The morning began with a visit from my college friend, Jenna, who brought her four-month-old baby, Bodhi for us to meet. He is everything sweet and snuggly and strong. I forget the built-in joy that enters a room with a happy baby. Later, my childhood friend, Matt, and his wonderful wife, Jeannette, brought their three-year-old daughter, Madison.

It was wonderful to watch my son be awestruck by baby Bodhi this morning. Then it was really cool to watch him and Madison play in my parents’ backyard. They ran up the hill to swing, jumped on the trampoline, played with my old “people house,” and shared goldfish. My mom said she had flashbacks from when Matt and I were three and two, running through the backyard playing, too.

Life presents us with generations of friendships as this unexpected gift. Adulthood can come with its challenges, but there is something magical about watching your friend’s kid and your kid play. It’s almost like they are built for each other, like the friendship of their parents is in their own genes. I wonder if this is true.

Tonight, we are still filling our cups, spending quality time with family and friends before heading back to Oklahoma. We are enjoying every minute.

Bennett (2) and Madison (3)
Baby Bodhi and Bennett

Day 1: Wonders of a New Year…at the Kitchen Table

A group of us gathered at the kitchen table this morning, on the first day of the year (and a new decade all together), eating fruit salad, donuts, quiche and sausage. We made our way around the table to discuss what our plans are for the coming year. My dad led the conversation, asking us to share our goals. There were professional resolutions, health and exercise plans, travel dreams, personal improvement, culinary courses, business ideas, educational goals, and an overall consensus that we needed more self-care.

I’m grateful for these kitchen table moments — time to reflect and share with the people I love most — and it’s empowering to lift each other up for a year ahead.

The kitchen table represents wonder to me because of its place of possibility. There are tears, laughs, hugs, inside jokes, good food to be shared. The kitchen table makes me feel like the world is a safe place, as long as we are sitting around with family. The kitchen table is a place to begin at, and return to. I guess it only makes sense to begin Wonder Year at the kitchen table, telling people why my phrase this year is, “level up.” I plan to level up in all areas of my life. If life is a game, I’m pushing myself to level three.

My dad, who retired a year ago, has since gone back to culinary school. Thirty-something years ago he ran a small catering company with his sister, and now he’s back to doing what he loves. He told me, “Cooks cook. And writers write.”

So here I am, writing about wonder — what it is, why it’s captivating, how to have more of it — in a leap year, 2020.

For the last night of 2019, I watched the sun set in Pacific Beach, in San Diego, CA. It was the last sunset of a wild decade. A decade that I found love, got married, had a kid, moved a bunch, graduated twice, and began a PhD program. I felt a sense of wonder as the sky turned to marbled cream-pink, at the possibilities ahead for all of us.

And today, on the first day of 2020, I spent it at the zoo with my sisters, Danika and Sydney, my mom, Kim, my brother, Gavin, husband, Nick, and son, Bennett. It’s easy to find wonder in a place like the San Diego Zoo, but the moment that stopped me was watching my youngest sister, Sydney, carry my son on her shoulders in awe of the birds in the aviary. There was a flock going buck wild — talking and singing and puffing their bright orange feathers in the bird cage. “It was like walking into a bird orgy,” someone said.

Maybe that’s what wonder is: something that makes you stop. Something that has you laugh and think about how wild and lucky and random this whole experience in life is.

I have a few hypotheses for wonder, but for today, I’ll leave you with the moment that first gave me wonder: the kitchen table.

And the zoo…

Tell me — how did you spend your first day of the new decade?

First sunset of 2020
Found this on a bench, on our last exhibit of the night.