jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

The Birthday Shoes

It’s been a big week. I volunteered to coach U9 girls lacrosse for our town, and I’ve been helping out with the class art projects for the kids’ school auction.

Also, I turned 45.


Happy birthday to me
February 2015

I probably should have avoided the first two, but the third really seemed like the only option.

My husband celebrated by reminding me that I am older than him. And he brought me with him to San Francisco where he went on a work trip. Also, he signed me up for a day at the spa that they call Day of Indulgence.

Day of Indulgence consisted of a one-on-one yoga class, a massage from “Scott” (totally his real name), and a 90 minute facial that included décolleté, whatever that means. The yoga class reminded me how inflexible I truly am,  and the massage from Scott was one of the best body experiences ever (apologies to my husband, but the man was a professional.)

The facial though was a bit of an eye-opener. And I mean that literally although not in the sense you might think. When you get a facial, they blow steam on your face and wrap it in towels, cover it in creams and massage it to within an inch of its life. But your eyes are closed the entire time, with teabags or cucumbers or some kind of wet, eye-shaped thing covering them.

And shortly after I asked my aesthetician if I was going to leave with my face red and puffy, but shortly before she exclaimed, “You do have some of the most sensitive skin I’ve ever seen,” I experienced a burning sensation on my forehead. She’d been strenuously massaging the enormous cracks that rise up on either side of my nose into my forehead, which is also covered by enormous cracks.

Some call these newly developed cracks wrinkles, but I think that may have been her problem. Because with a wrinkle in fabric, you assume that if you rub your hands gently across the “wrinkle” enough, the wrinkle will disappear. Whereas if you rub your fingers across a crack in something from the natural world, eventually you will just dig a deeper hole where there once was only a crack.

When I left the spa day, she had begun affectionately calling the crater on my forehead my third eye. Which was sort of appropriate for a 45th birthday, that one would develop a third eye, a way of seeing more deeply the meaning of what lies beneath.

Later on the afternoon of my birthday I was walking down the San Francisco street holding my husband’s hand. My husband pointed out the gorgeous shoes displayed in a high end shoe shop and declared those exactly the sort of shoes I should have. My third eye immediately spotted a pair of delicious red Mary Jane platforms with a black-and-white polka dot heel and strap.


The red shoes February 2016

And so that night as we walked down the street in San Francisco holding hands, me in my new red, black, and white Mary Janes, I said to my husband that the shoes were like a combination of every great shoe I’d ever worn. They reminded me of the red Mary Janes I wore on the first day of kindergarten when I was five years old. We sat around the circle and said something important about ourselves. I remember that I told everyone that I had red Mary Jane shoes on. It’s one of my very first memories.

But this new pair makes me taller, so that I can see further with my third eye. Also, they are as comfortable as the pair of clogs I had in middle school with the heel strap. I used to run down the street in those clogs, and I assure you I can do the same in my new red Mary Janes. And they are of course polka dotted like the red and white pinup girl shoes that my husband bought me a few years ago for Valentine’s Day.

At the beginning of the one-on-one yoga class the teacher suggested that I could dedicate my practice to someone. And I immediately thought about my children, because as much as I loved running around the streets of San Francisco untethered in my new red shoes, I missed the weight of them, the warmth of them.

Then my yogi had asked me to focus on my intentions for my practice. I wasn’t quite prepared for this as I’d been too busy trying to work out taxi cabs and where to put the key to the very spa-ish locker they’d provided me and I hadn’t yet acquired my third eye. But as I sat, two words came to mind, accept and aspire.

I want to be better at accepting the things I cannot change, and yet strong enough to change the things I can. It’s something I’ve been working on for about forty years, ever since I first read the Serenity Prayer my mother had tacked up in our upstairs hallway throughout my childhood. I’m not sure I’m getting any closer to either, but I hope in my heart that I am slowly gaining the wisdom to know the difference.

So the celebration of my birthday was a lovely day, but one that was neither here nor there, present but not really accounted for, if you know what I mean. I am not young now, or quite old. I am beginning to know what I don’t know, but I’m not exactly sure quite what to do with it. My children don’t depend on me as much these days, and so I can go away. And yet each of my days is dedicated to them. It is a bit of a muddle.

But the shoes, the shoes. Somehow, I found a perfect melding of what was and what can be, of strength and comfort and style and memory.

May we all approach our birthdays, with good intentions and loving dedications, and patience with ourselves for wherever we are in our journey, with our third eye focused on the future, standing tall in a pair of the most kickass red polka dot platform Mary Janes ever invented.


Oysters in San Francisco with the one I love
February 2016

P.S. If you are looking for my yearly birthday song gris-gris, I have to tell you that Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters came on in the hotel lobby as I headed out for spa day. And I’m not sure how it fits into turning 45 except to say, I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you. xo

23 comments on “The Birthday Shoes

  1. Jennifer Berney
    March 8, 2016

    I love that you got a pair of John Fleuvogs (if I read the buckle right) for your 45th! That inspires me! I bought consecutive pairs of black Fleuvogs from the ages of 17 – 23. Maybe I will have to reinstate that practice in time for my 40th.

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      I love that you read my buckle! And that you had Fluevogs back in the day… that tells me oh, so much about you. Of course you had black Fluevogs.
      As much as they seemed a ridiculous investment, I do have to say, I think they may last or a very long time. Although perhaps not to my 90th?

  2. lafriday
    March 8, 2016

    Jen, belated happy birthday! You are such a funny girl (who can send me weeping with a turn of phrase). Those shoes FIT you–just like your lovely life filled with love, grace, wisdom (made even greater by that third eye), triumph, and soul. FORTY-FIVE is just the beginning!

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      Ah, thank you! And it has to be the beginning. Or at least, no further than the middle. Right? (I can’t even tell you people’s reactions to these shoes. And I plan to wear them as Every Day shoes. To school, to the playground, to wherever. A girl’s gotta be true to herself after all.)

  3. Ann St. Vincent
    March 8, 2016

    Happy Birthday!! I love Fleuvogs – those are beautiful 🙂

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      How did all you cool people know about Fluevogs, but not me? Lusted over a pair about a year or two ago. But they didn’t seem quite right. But these? Totally worth the wait!

      • Ann St. Vincent
        March 13, 2016

        I knew about them for a long time but it wasn’t until a colleague sported a pair that I started to like them. My only challenge with them is that the sizing isn’t consistent from style to style… There have been a few times that I’ve fallen for a pair and they just don’t fit right. At that price, I can’t buy something that isn’t perfect 🙂

  4. Amy Reese
    March 9, 2016

    Happy Birthday, Jen! What a great birthday you had. I love San Francisco and love your shoes. Good choice. You brought in your special day with style and a little relaxation, too. You can’t beat that. Hugs!

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      Oh, thank you! It was a lovely birthday, although such a strange time, this midlife we’re in. But yes to relaxation And yes to red shoes!!

  5. Samara
    March 9, 2016

    I love those shoes so much. I almost google searched them, so I could order a pair. How creepy would that be?

    Happy birthday!

    Oh – those cracks you allegedly have on your face? They completely go away if you look up at them from a lying down position, like, at a mirror on the ceiling, for example.

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      Google search those shoes, Samara. You do YOU! Not creepy at all. Although picturing you and Jennifer Berney (both such honest, powerful writers and mothers of boys… but totally different people) potentially in the same Fluevog shoes made me smile so hard, my face cracks almost broke.

      And there’s a Golden Girls episode that you are clearly FAR too young to remember (ahem) but I remember that Blanche talked about lying down when she was ‘entertaining”, which I totally didn’t get at the time, but now? Totally get it. Ha!

  6. Crazy on the Farm
    March 9, 2016

    Awe. I love this on so many levels. It’s sweet. It’s romantic. It’s a great birthday celebration. And I love those shoes! Bravo to you for being brave enough to wear those. I would totally wear them, and my friends would give me a hard time. Happy birthday.

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      I do have to say, they are dead comfortable to wear. Better than clogs. But woodchips on the playground? Not so much. Thankfully the moms on the playground valued form over function, and for that, I thank them.
      Thanks for dropping by and for the birthday wishes. (P.S. Your blog domain just expired. See? I do my homework!)

      • Crazy on the Farm
        March 12, 2016

        I moved my site over to a site vs .com so I have a weird thing going on. Lol

  7. Burns the Fire
    March 9, 2016

    Happy birthday, beauty!! You sure know how to celebrate and it inspires, almost as much as you do.

    Cracks? They let in more light.

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      How much did your comment make me smile? Yes. The cracks do let in more light.

  8. Stacy di Anna
    March 9, 2016

    Gorgeous and lovely — the shoes, the post, the birthday girl. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful celebration with us and wishing you a very very happy birthday, and a fantastic year. Blessings!

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      Thank you so much! You always bring such gracious good energy. I bet you’d bake the best birthday cupcake. Jes sayin’. 😉

  9. Dawn Quyle Landau
    March 11, 2016

    I was stuck on the fact that you were practically in my back yard… practically here…I could practically have touched you… but then you got those shoes! Oh, those shoes! Happy, happy birthday dear Jen! ❤ So glad you got to have such a special treat with your boyfriend! xox

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      Sort of in your backyard. But so very busy… getting my body rubbed by “Scott” and buying shoes. Ha! Thank you for the dear birthday wishes, my friend!!

  10. Stacey
    March 11, 2016

    Happy 45th Birthday! I turned 45 in February, too, and I understand what you mean about not being old, but not being young. I guess that’s why it’s called middle age. Kind of like that limbo between 18 and 21, but a lot more fun! I hope your birthday was great, you and your oysters look amazing!

    • jgroeber
      March 12, 2016

      But it doesn’t feel quite middle aged either, you know? I mean, I pictured more elastic waistbands and osteoporosis. Not skinny jeans and osteopenia. Sigh.
      Happy 45th to you, too! Hope you did something fabulous and slightly decadent. Or at least delightful? Because we should celebrate us and any face cracks. Because our 45-year-old selves rock !

What? I'm totally listening. Tell me. No, really, tell me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,316 other subscribers
Follow jen groeber: mama art on
%d bloggers like this: