Birthday wishes and grandma kisses

I'm celebrating another year by building a bridge between the past and the future.

It’s my birthday!

I love birthdays, especially my own. Not because of gifts, good wishes or greetings on Facebook, but having a day that feels like mine never gets old.

I didn’t mind sharing “my” day with my birthday buddies (happy birthday, GW, Jeremy, Lindsay and my sweet little neighbor, Emma!), but I love taking extra time to pause and think about how thankful I am for the perfectly imperfect creature I’ve evolved into.

It’s inner child and ancestral work, celebrating myself like this.

I think about my favorite birthdays over the years. That Slip ‘N Slide party in my grandma’s backyard. Riding roller coasters at Kings Dominion on a big road trip vacation a few years later. My first birthday after Julian was born, a happy hour at Matt’s El Rancho, if I remember correctly, felt squishy and special in a totally new way.

Today, I’m in Boise with my mom, my boys, my sister and her family. They are all going to see some movies, and I’m going to head to the Boise Art Museum for a little artist date with myself.

I wanted to share a newsletter post to say thank you for being part of this most special 38th year. I’m launching a new career entirely of my own invention that includes a podcast that is launching next month and a tarot teaching/coaching practice that has opened my eyes to just how many other people are on their own ancestral healing journeys.

Today, my ancestors are celebrating with me.

To celebrate them, I wanted to re-share this post from The Feminist Kitchen that I originally published in 2015 about a quilt made by my great-great-grandmother, whose name I now have tattooed on my forearm.

Longtime readers of my work will know that the year after I wrote this post, my sister and I traveled to Gotland to see where this beloved ancestor was born. A few months later, we met our Swedish relatives on a video call that remains a highlight of my life.

My grandmother and dad both died within the next few years, and it’s amazing to see how the small seeds of ancestry work in this post have grown into trees that now protect me with their shade and their rootedness.

All that juicy family history exploration has helped me see that one of my divine callings is to help build a bridge between the past and the future. Through my writing and tarot readings. Through conversations with friends. In the life I make with my kids and my clients and the folks who continue to keep up with me through this newsletter.

What a gift!

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Thank you, as always, for your support!

Sleeping Under a Quilt That’s Older Than All of Us

Originally published January 4, 2015

When I come home to visit Mom and Dad, I sleep under an old fern and a really old quilt.

Let me tell you about the fern first.

Bigger than a dog, smaller than a car, it’s a fuzzy green orb looking soft from afar, brittle when you’re peering up its skirt while sitting on the couch underneath. The plastic green tray is held to the bottom of the plastic hanging pot with clear tape.

The plant was a bereavement gift to my grandma after my grandpa died 25 years ago.

Under the fern is a humble tan mid-century sofa that sits low to the ground, quietly shaming the overstuffed couch from the 1990s on the other side of the room for its extravagance. (In truth, the older couch is nicer to sleep on.)

On the back of that couch hangs a heavy, scratchy maroon felt blanket the color of the university for which my grandfather played basketball. But it’s not that blanket that keeps me warm when I come here.

Sometimes, when I come home to visit Mom and Dad, I sleep under a moose blanket that my parents splurged on in Jackson Hole during an epic vacation out West in 1994 or 1995. (That blanket turned out to be one of the most useful souvenirs purchased in the history of souvenirs purchased in the greater Yellowstone region.)

Sometimes, when I come home to visit Mom and Dad, I opt for an extravagantly soft red and white crocheted throw that my mom probably got from a school fundraiser targeted to boosters whose bums needed warming on those cold metal bleachers at the football stadium just a block from the house my mom grew up in.

This visit, when ten of us, including kids ages 7, 4, 3 and 7 months came to visit for Christmas, I had a new source of warmth: my great-great-grandmother Lena’s postage stamp quilt.

My nephew, Nash, sleeping on the quilt made by his great-great-great-grandmother, Lena, who immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800s.

Lena and her husband, Gustaf, have given my family more than they ever could have imagined.

Maybe they knew the roots they were planting when they left Sweden’s Gotland island, 10 years apart, in the late 1800s, but I doubt she could have guessed that her granddaughter, my Gaga, would still be making pies with her rolling pin, much less that her granddaughter’s granddaughter would Instagram it.

She could have never guessed that that quilt she made when she got to Springfield (at least we think), would still be in such good condition that the newest member of the family, 7-month-old Nash, would chew on its corners.

Lena passed down a love of cooking and her Scandinavian looks to each of the generation of women that followed her in America, but the quilting gene recessed for more than 100 years until I came along and started quilting after my youngest was born.

I knew that Lena’s rolling pin and bread knife were still in my grandmother’s kitchen, but for some reason, I didn’t remember this quilt. Maybe it had been stashed in a closet or chest — they still have the storage trunk that the Anders family filled with treasures when they crossed the Atlantic in 1892, the year Ellis Island opened.

They arrived in New York on June 9 that year, arriving on a ship called the New York. Three of them — 36-year-old Lena, 12-year-old son Fred and 10-year-old daughter Anna, who had never met her father — were among the 450,000 immigrants who passed through Ellis Island during its first year of operation.

The small family made their way to Missouri, where Gustaf had found work at a wagon wheel company that allowed him to pay for their voyage.

We think that Lena made this quilt once she got to Springfield, where she and Gustaf had four more children, including my grandmother’s mother.

My grandmother has done such a remarkable job of keeping track of both the family relics and stories, it has been a great honor for me to help connect the dots using the digital tools available to us and share the results with anyone in the family will listen.

But offline and in my own time, when I’m far from that fern and that quilt and my grandmother’s soft hands and wealth of knowledge, it has been a transformative experience in the past year to make things with my hands, including that quilt for my nephew, that will hopefully last maybe half as long.

Lord knows I probably couldn’t keep a fern alive that long.

UPDATE: The fern finally died. We still have the quilt. Nash is now 7.