A birthday post

05 muriwaiTomorrow, August 24, is my second daughter’s birthday. She’ll be ten. So I’m posting something for her. Ten things (out of at least a hundred) I love about this girl.

1) She is wily and wild.

2) She can swear like a sailor — but knows not to, mostly.

3) She has my mother’s sense of humor (and sense of shoes).

4) She is unafraid in general — but sensible about things like jellyfish and sharks.


5) She jumps for joy at every dolphin or whale encounter (see a close-up with orca here), and takes on a serious tone when talking about films like Blackfish. But she also appreciates the nutritional value of a tasty mahi-mahi dinner (and the hands-on opportunity to talk about the food chain).

6) She loves, equally, Jo March and Valkyrie Cain.

7) Her favorite song is Laurie Anderson’s Only an Expert.

Photo by Jana

Photo by Jana

8) She is inspired by the colors of sunset more than anyone I know and calls us out almost every day to admire them with her.

9) She writes about fantails.

10) She still pinches me on my neck, just there, every evening when we kiss goodnight.



* * *


With fan, and fantails in background.

Here’s a short creative nonfiction piece I wrote in 2010, as part of the 52|250 project and posted at Fictionautabout the night of Jana’s birth. It was the longest night of my life — when my daughter and I existed for twelve hours, worlds apart.




They say you are OK, but how am I to know, really? You were taken —taken — so fast, I had no say, and I’m left with nothing but your sudden silence, not the hot cry I expected. We had been one — breathing, feeding, living in unison — and then you were gone, lifted from me swiftly, rushed to a safe sterile place.  And now you lie there in your own world of plastic and tubing and disinfected air, and I lie here in my world of pain, helpless to help you. They say you are OK but I know what I saw: a purple lifeless thing, sticky and wet and tiny in the surgeon’s hands, taken from me to keep alive. I want to take you back, but you’re an impossible fifty meters down the hall, a world away. So I wait, with my belly split by expert incision, my breasts landmines waiting to explode at the slightest touch, my heart throbbing because it cannot feel yours any more. I lie here alone with my searing scar, raw with fear and not knowing.  I lie here sleepless and wait for the moment when I will touch your new skin, smell your new smell, see your tiny fluttering chest, and feel your perfect fingers wrap round my thumb with their miraculous might. I already know the hard suck of your hunger, and my breasts weep with nourishment that you may or may not ever know.


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12 Responses to A birthday post

  1. TU says:

    Beautiful. Happy birthday to both of you!

  2. makaropress says:

    Powerful writing about your daughter’s birth. Wow. Happy Birthday to your girl. Ten is special. Dappled Annie in my children’s book turns ten at the end….

  3. kassiedoggie says:

    Oh my gosh, Michelle. I am moved beyond belief. Sorry I missed wishing Jana a happy birthday. I will do it now on FB. Love all of you.

    So interesting about Cecelia and Jana with regard to humor and shoes…

    xoxo Krista

  4. kassiedoggie says:

    OH WAIT….I DIDN’T MISS IT AFTER ALL AND MAYBE I WILL EVEN GET THE DATELINE BUSINESS RIGHT THIS TIME. YAHOO!!! My fond memory is having her like my earrings so much when we met you guys in Puerto Vallarta. Hug and kiss her for Auntie Krista, please…!!!

    • Yes, Krista – you are in plenty of time. As I write, it’s a little past midnight and J. is sleeping now… so we’ll celebrate when she wakes up, too early for the rest of us no doubt. Funny, yes, about Cecelia and Jana and shoes. Those two are two peas in a pod, I tell you… They are dangerous together! 🙂

  5. Sam Rasnake says:

    Wonderful to read this. Happy birthday, Jana.

  6. Andrew Stancek says:

    Beautiful writing, touching emotion. Jana is a great gift and she is gifted with an amazing mother.

  7. Thank you, Andrew! So lovely to see you stopping by. I trust you had a wonderful birthday, too? Was thinking of you… 🙂

  8. dnjames2013 says:

    What a lovely birthday recognition of your pretty daughter in pictures and in prose. She has to be smart, too, she’s your child.

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