Last month I celebrated my 36th birthday by being stung by a jellyfish and capsizing with my 9 year old daughter in an ocean kayak.
It was a great day.
Hubby and I took the kids for a five-day-long beach vacation in north San Diego, and we had big plans. We packed two surf boards, two kayaks, three boogie boards, four bicycles, my brand new black and hot pink wetsuit, half a bottle of gin and some limes. We chose hotel for it's location on what travelocity.com and Sunset magazine extolled as a great beach for beginner surfers. We called it Anderson Family Surf Safari.
We knew going in that the beach was famous for sting rays, so we taught the girls to do the Sting-ray Shuffle (dragging your feet in the sand thereby gently disturbing the rays rather than surprising them and incurring their wrath). We did not count on jellyfish.
In my first 45 minutes of attempting to surf the foam of what turned out to be slightly rougher waves than we planned on, a purple striped jellyfish drifted between my legs and gave me a sting the size of a human hand on the back of both my delicate little knees. I leaped from the water and did the Jelly-fish Trot up the long beach, past my watching daughters who thought perhaps Mommy had lost her marbles, to the lifeguard tower. Three unconcerned first aide professionals said, "You'll be fine. Get back in the water. Salt is the best thing."
When you've just been stung by an ocean animal you didn't even see, the last thing you want to do is get back in the ocean. But I obeyed, and it did help.
Concealing the sting from my five year old, we took a break for lunch.
Two hours later, we were back at it. My husband spend 30 minutes inflating our kayaks, and then ended up standing on the shore with our wailing five year old, who was not going over the waves in that bendy boat for anything. Smart girl. Meanwhile I pushed my precious eldest out through the surf, losing my cover-up, hat and snorkel mask from the front of the kayak in the third wave. But we made it out past the breakers and paddled around for about five minutes, then decided to rejoin the other half of our family.
Again, third time's the charm: in the third wave back we flipped over, resurfaced, scrambled for the remaining objects of clothing that were floating away from us, and made it back to the sand.
After that, we took a break for gin and tonics with lime.
What a great birthday! Even if I was taking Advil the next day for muscle aches. I may be slipping down the slope toward 40, people, but I am going down kicking. Any woman who tells me they don't see each decade birthday as a kind of watershed is either lying or has yet to turn 30. I know, because I used to say I didn't care about getting older until I turned 30. Maybe ocean kayaking and taking up surfing smacks a little of desperation -- and I did, literally get smacked around on my birthday -- but I'll take desperation over passivity any day.
Truthfully, I am really digging 36. This year, both my kids are going into full-day school, giving me a little more time for self discovery, and possibly even keeping a cleaner house. By the time I'm 46, one will be in college, and the other 16. I could start a whole new career in 10 years, and still have decades to do it. Meanwhile, I have a decade to dream up what that will be. I am so, so blessed. Also, my husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary just before my birthday. I look back and feel grateful to have spent my youth with a man I love so much.
Jeff and I are now dreaming up next year's vacation, this time without the kids, in honor of our 15th anniversary. I told him I don't want to just go sit on a beach somewhere; let's have another adventure. I'm thinking maybe cycling in the wine country. To date I have not proved highly skilled on a bicycle, but what the heck. I'll bring the Advil.