Today is my birthday. I’m forty-one.
I know — the title of this reflection is forty, but I couldn’t find the words last year. Forty felt kind of, well, monumental.
Honestly, I didn’t feel super sad or sentimental saying goodbye to my thirties. There was a lot of good and beautiful stuff in there, but some really hard stuff too. A lot of searching and striving. A lot of hiding.
When I was about to turn forty, I made a bunch of promises to myself, and a year later, I can truly say I kept them all.
Okay, okay, there is one I didn’t keep — staying on top of laundry and dishes. Maybe next year? 😉
I’m not writing this reflection to say, “Look at me! Look at my magnificent life.” I’m writing so I can remember who I am right now in this moment in time.
If you’re my friend, you know I have a rotten memory. I’m always steeped in feelings and the details of real life tend to float away on me. Writing is one way I preserve them. So write, I will.
Forty was a year of adventure.
Let’s just start with my hubby and I ziplining off a 50-foot tower.
I hate heights so much, guys. When I was a kid, we were eating in a mall food court on the third floor and our table was close to the railing. I couldn’t even swallow my food because I was close to the edge. So ziplining was NOT high on my priority list (pun intended…). But our 4-H club brought us to an adventure park and all the cool kids were doin’ it, so we did it too. I said my final prayers and screamed and squealed all the way down and somehow maintained control of my bladder. I wish I could say I got to the bottom and said, “Again, again!,” but it was probably more like, “Is there a bench somewhere nearby?”
Still. I did it.
Another huge adventurous highlight of the year was our family’s trip to Disney World in October. Our boys were 9, 11, and 13, which were REALLY FUN ages for a grand adventure. No diapers! No strollers! No meltdowns after fifteen minutes of being hot!
We had an absolute ball. Chad, Gray and Reed did all the big kid rides and Miles and I had a ball riding the carousel and Small World 🙂 We DID stretch our courage and ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Terrifying, but fun.
Also, Flight of Passage. Holy dizzying virtual reality! And also FUN.
The boys also got to experience their first plane ride…
…and first time playing in the ocean at Daytona Beach — an absolute dream come true!
Our family trips are usually local outings to Marquette, Green Bay, campgrounds, etc, so a trip like Disney World was pretty epic. We are forever grateful to Roxanne and Sally for making this trip possible for us. It truly was magical!
Forty was a year of friendship.
So many of my dearest friends also turned forty, so we partied hard. And when I say partied hard, I mean Cabernet and PJs. Kristen, Roxanne and I spent a whole week together in Florida. We did hit Epcot and Blue Springs to see some amazing manatees, but for the most part we just enjoyed being together and reflecting on the decades of friendship we’ve shared.
In the spring, Michelle, my childhood bestie, and I, toured around the Black Hills, dodging Big Papa Bison and trying not to fall off cliffs beneath the chiseled faces of our presidents. It’s a beautiful thing when the friend who knew you better than anyone at ten years old is still your partner in crime and shoulder to cry on at forty.
In June, Jenny and I spent a weekend in Marquette catching up on life, lamenting the state of our country, and enjoying sunshine on our faces and Lake Superior breezes in our hair. We always wish we had more time together, so this weekend was a true gift.
In late summer, we enjoyed one of our favorite weekend traditions of friends camping out on our property. The whole weekend is always wild and free. There was an attempted bicycle ride across the river, hours of floating with cold drinks in hand, campfire games of telephone, and way too many s’mores.
It is such a blast having kids of all ages run as a pack, play hide and seek in the dark, and best of all, beg to do my farm chores!
This year, we added a new rock-painting tradition to our camping weekend. We lined our fire ring with brightly colored creations from this year, and I can’t wait to watch all the nooks and borders of our little campsite along the river fill up with more colorful memory rocks in the years ahead.
Just before Christmas, Michele, Brit and I continued another yearly tradition of hauling gifts to Brit’s workspace and having a big wrapping party. This year, Kristen and Kelsey joined in on the fun. It was like a red and green Christmas explosion. We always stay up waaay too late. We laugh and cry and wish each other a Merry Christmas before driving packed SUVs and minivans back home and wondering how in the heck we’re going to keep it all hidden for the next few days!
I honestly can’t imagine having better friends than the ones I have.
Forty was a year of theatre. So much theatre!
Our entire family participated in a community theatre production of A Christmas Carol in the fall of 2021, and we were hooked so hard! Chad, Miles and I returned to the stage in Check, Please! a few months later. Gray participated in a high school drama club production of Carol vs. Christmas, and I teamed up with Erin, my own high school drama club coach, to co-direct Spoon River Anthology, a play I was in during my junior year of high school under her supervision. This was truly one of the most special experiences of my life. I have to wipe a tear every time I look at these photos!
Theatre adds so much value to our family life, and Chad and I are excited to participate in another community theatre production, 12 Angry Jurors, NEXT WEEKEND!
Along with being in several plays, we traveled all over the place to attend productions. Art has always been an important part of my life, and getting to share it with so many of my loves filled my heart right up. We saw A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Neverland, Moana, Frozen, Hairspray, Hamilton, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Every show was delightful, from the community theatre level on up to Broadway.
Forty was a year of learning new things.
Along with ZIPLINING and directing AN ACTUAL PLAY, I learned how to:
…deliver a stuck lamb.
…embroider with my sister and my niece, the creative queens of the family.
…help the boys enter lambs and goats in the fair, which included learning to shear squirrely ruminants. THAT was an adventure!
…truck all over God’s green earth building a herd of dairy goats for future farm pursuits.
…successfully grow peppers — finally! Turns out a greenhouse is the golden ticket on that. We’re turning up the heat! 🌶
Forty was a year of laughter.
I know I sometimes take life too seriously, but forty was a TON of fun.
I’m still giggling about approaching these two boys wearing “I ❤️ HOT MOMS” shirts at the county fair and asking them if they wanted a photo with a real live hot mom. Maybe they didn’t find it humorous, but my friends and I sure did.
Im still looking back and smiling on a weather situation in Florida that had us all giggling. Kristen, Roxanne, Rox’s son and I were out on a big walk and got caught in a steady rain. We were absolutely drenched by the time we turned back onto Roxanne’s street. A friendly neighbor pulled over and gave an umbrella to Rox’s little boy. He looked at the three of us drowned rats and said, “You girls are on your own!”
Another favorite memory that was sort of horrible at the time, but is now quite humorous, is Kristen and I only having seven minutes of layover time in the Detroit airport and having to run, with luggage, through a concourse, the trippy DTW light show tunnel, and to our gate. We still can’t believe we made it. And we’re still trying to catch our breath.
On a more serious note, forty was a year of loss.
In February, one of our ewes gave birth to twin lambs. The ewe lamb, Maude, was separated from her mama and became chilled. I went to YouTube University and learned how to tube feed lambs, then tried all day to save her. At the end of the day, we lost her. It was a hard day on the farm.
One of the most significant losses of my life happened last May when my grandmother, “Nana” passed away at the age of 98 years old. Being at her bedside during her final days and final minutes was the most cherished part of my entire year. I will never stop being grateful that I had my grandmother for forty years of my life. She hugged and loved and cheered me on for my first four decades, and God granted me the privilege of holding her hand while she moved from our arms into His.
Forty was a year of remembering how to love my very own self.
I went through a lot physically and emotionally from 2009-2020, and it took a toll on my body. I had three c-sections in less than four years, and nursed three monstrous boys. In 2015, I lost a dear friend shockingly and unexpectedly while vacationing together in New York City. In 2016, I injured my hip and, after a year of pain and decreased mobility, underwent surgery to repair tears in my labrum. Just about the time I was feeling ready to start getting back in shape, the pandemic hit and debilitated the whole of us. I grew up with a mom who was VERY concerned about germs (refraining from specifics — you’re welcome, Mom!), so let’s just say there was a lot of hiding and stress-eating in 2020. By the end of the year, my anxiety was awful, my body hurt, and my weight was the highest it had ever been.
Physical fitness has always been important to me, so one of the promises I made to myself when I turned forty was to lose weight and build strength. I’ve been back to the gym regularly for over a year, setting my alarm for 4:30 so I can get my workouts in and get home in time for homeschooling and farm chores. I’m now teaching five classes a week at the YMCA, and with a mix of yoga, Pilates, circuit training, and a low-carb diet, I’m fifty pounds lighter in my body and exponentially lighter in my spirit. Every time I lift a fifty pound bag of chicken feed, I marvel at how heavy it is — I was carrying around that much extra? No wonder I hurt!
Reclaiming my physical health is one of the most important things I have ever done — and it hasn’t been easy. Road trips were hard. Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard. Eating tuna out of a can at Disney World while my kids ate Dole Whips was hard.
But the thousands of small decisions have paid off. Along with promising myself to lose the last twenty pounds in the year ahead, I’m committing to loving and caring for myself as I age.
I love life SO much — and there is so much I still want to do for my family, my community, and myself. I’m going to need a strong body, strong mind, and a whole lotta prayer to keep having fun for forty more! 🎉
So that’s that. Forty. It was a good year. Maybe my best year. At forty years old, the girl in this photo is more herself than she’s ever been. She’s more alive than ever before. Best of all, she has more to give than she ever has.
3 thoughts on “Forty”
I guess you really can do it all! Great summary, Stacy. Sail on.
I still can’t golf, bake, or keep up on the dishes 😉
Love you, Mama.
Well, not many can deliver lambs or extract honey from hives!
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