My Thirty-Second Year

this-lady-is-32-todayToday is my thirty-second birthday, quite honestly, throughout most of the week, I forgot. Birthdays have never been a big deal in my family, we celebrate with dinner and a couple of gifts, but otherwise it’s a typical day with some flair thrown in.

This year, I am happy to spend time at home, and with my family. Having a birthday so close to the holiday season has been a balancing act between wonderful and crappy my entire life. As a kid, it’s not great – you’re usually going back to school, it’s cold outside, family smashes your birthday and the holidays together into one celebration, and people just forget. As an adult, you are usually heading back into the real world after some time off, but the proximity to the new year is very beneficial. As I’ve been reflecting on what 2016 has been, and who I was in it, I get to start over in the new year and also in my thirty-second year. The symmetry is not lost on me.

When I was younger one of my favorite things to do was put in old home movies and watch the smaller version of myself, and my cousins running around during holiday celebrations. One video in particular is my favorite: I was one, and it was the celebration for all of the early birthdays of the year – myself, my mom, aunt, and uncle. I am in a classic 80’s peasant top strapped in my highchair with some cake in front of me. The chaos of my older cousins running around me as the adults share stories, laugh, play with the kids, and eat some cake. Seeing my family from this angle was always so entertaining to me. This is the first piece of footage on this tape, it progresses through the years – the kids get bigger, the adults get older, new children are added [HELLO, Laura!], sometimes the adults change, but the dynamic is still the same. Family celebrating each other.

It’s no surprise that I prefer to spend my birthday relaxed and with family, it’s been the standard for my entire life, and probably well before I was born. No need for a big party, or anything fancy. Gimme some good food, laughs, maybe some cake, and time to hang out with the people I love!

Happy Emily’s Birthday to you!

A Letter to the Person Saving My Best Friend

letter

I’ve thought a lot about you in the last four days, which is interesting considering I’ve never met you and chances are that I never will. There are laws that keep us a part. To be honest, I still struggle to understand those laws, but I know they are there to protect us both.

I wonder where you’re from, what your life is like, and your motivation to do such a selfless thing. Are you spending time with family this weekend? Do you celebrate Christmas? Is there snow on the ground where you are? Are you anxious about what all of this means for you? I wish I knew more about what this means for you.

All I know is what it means for me. It means that I have the potential to live out the rest of my life with my best friend, that my husband might be able to think beyond the next 18 months, and that we could, once again, push play on our lives. You see, for the last year, almost exactly a year, our lives have been on hold. We have been living week to week, treatment day to treatment day waiting for the appointment where they say we are ready for the next step. Two months of hoping it was just the flu or bronchitis, another month to find the right treatment plan, and six months of treatment. The time has come, you’ve entered our lives and yet, I know no more about you than any stranger I see walking down the street.

But here I sit, on Christmas Eve, thinking about you and hoping you realize the gift you’ve given my little family. We are able to spend the next few days enjoying time with our families and with each other. We are starting 2017 knowing there is a plan, and what the next step is. It’s comforting. You’ve offered us comfort for the holiday season, and come the day when our lives collide, you will give us hope. Hope that, finally, there is a treatment that will give us more time. It will be the biggest fight of our lives, there will be days where we will be terrified, tired, hopeless, and desperate for relief. There will be days where I forget to be grateful, for you, your family, your selflessness, and the gift you gave us. Please know, that even on those days, deep down, I will be thinking of you.

I hope that someday I will be able to express my gratitude so that you will be able to feel it. I hope that on this holiday weekend that you are happy, that you find time to laugh, and spend time with the people you love. Please know that we will be able to do that because of you.

Saturday Traditions & Lazy Sundays

EJFP ChaptersIt’s a rainy Sunday here in Metro-Detroit. A gray, calm, quiet Sunday. This weather makes me feel cozy and happy. It’s a time to just sit back and relax, to not worry about a growing to-do list, to enjoy and recharge.

Yesterday was a more productive day, a little more active than usual. After spending the morning watching Netflix with Justin on the couch, I decided to make a menu for dinner with my parents. Usually, we make the quarter-mile trek to their house, for whatever meal my mother has chosen that weekend, but when she texted to see if we were coming over I decided to instead extend the invite for them to come our way. She seemed excited to not have to think about dinner for the day, and I was excited to get creative myself.

I spent some time on Pinterest, thinking of things to make. While brewing my second cup of coffee, I looked at the Detroit Red Wings game schedule on our fridge and suddenly I felt inspired. Hockey Snacks! A tradition in our family that occurs several times each winter, a variety of appetizer type of foods sprawled out on the coffee table in the living room while we watch a hockey game together. It’s one of my favorite family traditions. I had never been behind the scenes for a hockey snack dinner, so I was pumped to take it on. I searched for over an hour to assemble my menu and grocery list.

I came home from my pilgrimage to Kroger to a clean house. Justin had spent the hour making sure the house was clean and presentable for my parents to arrive in a few hours. All I had to worry about was the menu. I started with dessert and worked my way backwards through the list of appetizers. Making up my own rules as I went. Three hours later I was 3 episodes of One Tree Hill deep, out of counter space, and my parents were walking through the front door. I went non-stop for over three hours and was baffled by how much organization it took to pull it off, but it was all done: Taco Pie Rolls, Meatball Bombs, Baked Potato Slices, Mini Italian Subs, Banana Bread Muffins, and Mini Apple Pies. I was impressed with myself. I still am, quite frankly. I gave my mom props for pulling this off several times during the hockey season, it’s quite a feat!

We spent our evening snacking, watching hockey, chatting, playing with Bruno, and relaxing. I was very grateful to have the ability to host my parents so my mom could have a day off. I even sent them home with leftovers so Dad had Sunday dinner. I went to bed shortly after they left, exhausted but happy.

So, for today, I am grateful for this gray Sunday. I spent my morning tracking my friend who was running the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon, watching Sunday Today and Meet the Press, sipping on coffee, and snuggling with my puppy. I have my laundry going, a clean kitchen, and full fridge as I continue along my lazy Sunday path. Go ahead and rain, Mother Nature, I’m loving it!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

chinese

It’s no secret that I’ve always considered myself lucky for the family I was born into. Early
in their marriage, my parents made the selfless decision to split their shifts so that someone was always home to take care of their children. My dad went to work in the afternoons, sacrificing his family dinners, after school activities, and week nights at home. For many years, the only time we had together as a family were Saturdays, or family vacations. Saturday night dinners became an important aspect of our weekly routine, even now, we try to eat together on as many Saturday nights as possible. At the age of 31, I still find myself grateful for every time my entire family can get together, I’ve learned over the years to appreciate those moments. There’s only four of us, five with Justin, but getting five grown adults together on a regular basis can be challenging. Somehow we manage to do it, as often as possible.

Last week Justin, Bruno, and I spent the week with my parents on vacation in the Upper Peninsula. This is the third time that we have joined my parents on their annual trek up north, it’s funny how different a vacation with your family is when you’re an adult. Vacation is more relaxing as an adult, thinking back on vacations we took as a kid, I can’t imagine my parents got much relaxing done at all. I suppose that’s part of being a parent.

surprise
From his surprise 6oth birthday party!

Today is my father’s sixty-second birthday. Just like my mother, he is not one for celebrations, gifts, or attention on his birthday. So here I go again, throwing my unsuspecting parent into the center of my world for the day – Sorry, Dad! It’s your birthday and we’re going to celebrate, dammit!

On a daily basis, I catch myself saying, doing, or responding to something that automatically reminds me of my father. It usually is followed with a chuckle and a roll of the eyes. My mom and sister have even started calling me Doug when the occasion calls for it. I take it as a compliment. Easily, the funniest person I know, my dad has always found a way to find the laughter in any situation. He has this crazy, dry, sense of humor that just whips out of nowhere. As a kid, and let’s face it, as an adult, I always take pride in making my dad laugh. If the funny man laughs at your jokes you must be pretty darn funny yourself.

I was a daddy’s girl growing up, looking up to my father and seeking his approval in everything I did, that hasn’t changed much. When I have a problem, need advice, or someone to tell me how to do something, he is always my first call. I, without a doubt, got my logistical nature from him. I want to know how things work, why it work that way, and want to explain to you why it’s important that you understand it. Those traits have been imperative to my success in my career, they are strengths that other people point out to me. My first reaction is to tell them that I get it from my Dad.

Surrounded by girls for most of his adult life, my dad embraced his role as the father of daughters. He taught us to be strong, knowledgeable, careful, and independent. He strapped us with hockey gear and shot hockey pucks at us. I had to read the entire manual of my car before leaving the driveway for the first time and had to show him how to change a tire. By the age of three, my favorite smell was that of the garage. It smelled like oil, cars, tools, and the lawn mower – it reminded me of hanging out with my Dad. When I came home from Kindergarten every day, he made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me and my friend, then watched David the Gnome with us before getting ready for work. He taught me how to fish, how to appreciate a quiet moment, and how to use a computer. He also sat through endless dance recitals, dressed up with princess crowns, played Barbies, has sat through Dirty Dancing a million times, watched his house get taken over by teenage girls, let me paint stars on the roof of my first car, and decorated the front yard after I came home from my last undergraduate class.

weddingdadIn what was one of the more emotional moments of my life, he walked me down the aisle at my wedding, and handed me to Justin. I took his arm at the back of the church, shaking from nerves and heels on carpet. He calmed my down, made a few jokes, and held me up. When we got to the end of the aisle, he hugged and kissed me and it was one of two moments during the ceremony where I had to struggle to keep it together. Him letting me go was like a symbolic transition into adulthood, I was excited but terrified. What I didn’t really realize at the time is that your parents never really stop being your parents. They will always be the people that I turn to when I need advice or to be pointed in the right direction. My dad is always the first person to check on me when he knows I might be having a rough day, sometimes, even through tears I’ll laugh when I see his name on my caller ID because I know he’s calling just to say hi and make sure I’m alright. Always ending the call with “Love you”.

I’m proud to catch myself saying and doing things that remind me of my father, he is one of the best people I know, willing to do anything for his family and the people he loves. He has been endlessly supportive of both my sister and I as we figure out life and I know I’ll never stop needing his advice and stamp of approval.

Happy birthday, Dad! I love you and hope you were able to do something fun today!

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Alert the Authorities!

You'realwayswith meToday, as I sit here, half awake, sipping my coffee and watching my usual morning news I am filled with anticipation for what has become one of my favorite events of the year.

It’s Girls Weekend!

One weekend, every year, women with suitcases full of crazy supplies, travel toward northern Michigan to spend four days laughing, catching up, being crazy, and relaxing. It is usually the only time of the year that we are all together. We plan for months to celebrate our relationships with each other, it is an import part of our lives.

For this year, in particular, I am in desperate need of this weekend, to spend time with some of my absolute favorite people and let them build me up again. In about four hours I will be getting in the car, driving the four blocks to pick up my mother and we will be hitting the road for our restorative four days in the woods.

So, in honor of my morning of anticipation and packing, let’s throw it back today to TWO posts on previous Girls Weekends. Last year’s post The Parade and 2014’s Hazy, Crazy, Lazy Days of Summer.

Alert the authorities, the ladies are on their way!

EJFP Chapters: Real World Meets Fictional World

EJFP ChaptersTraveling has never been a huge part of my life, especially if it included leaving the state of Michigan. As a kid, I remember taking two trips outside of Michigan as a family, once to Disney World and once to Missouri for my dad’s dream vacation: a week on a houseboat. It seems that I have traveled more as an adult outside of my little Michigan comfort zone, one trip was a little more out of the ordinary than the others.

(May 2011) Shortly after I got married and my sister moved back home my mom decided that she wanted to take the two of us on a trip, considering we didn’t travel much and mom hadn’t been on an airplane in almost 18 years, I was surprised when she said she was taking us to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mom and Laura did most of the planning, I helped with the more logistical stuff, and before we knew it, May had arrived and it was time for us to fly south!

Having not been on an airplane in so long, my mom did not have an exceptionally great time on our flights. By the time we landed we were all ready to kiss the ground below us. The feeling of walking out of the doors of the airport was so strange to me, the exhaustion from a day of traveling, the blast of humidity and heat, and the anticipation of getting to your destination. It’s a odd thing to be dropped off hundreds of miles away from where you started, completely vulnerable and relying on those around you for directions.

myrtle beach

Our hotel was very nice, the view was pretty amazing, the boardwalk kept going as far as the eye could see on either side of our balcony. The streets were filled with motorcycles for Black Biker Week, all night long you could hear the revving of bikes making their way along the main drag. We settled in, and got ready for five days of relaxing by the ocean.

Our first morning arrived and all I could think about was waking up and heading downstairs to the Starbucks on the main floor of the hotel. Coffee by the ocean just seems like the perfect wake up call. Probably one of the best views I’ve had while sitting at a coffee shop, the air was still cool, the boardwalk was empty and I sat there sipping my delicious coffee just taking in the breeze.

I spent the majority of my time lounging and reading on my new Kindle. It’s amazing how many books you can read when you’ve got an endless internet connection. We packed our days with visiting shops, trying new restaurants, laying on beach chairs, and just enjoying some time to pause. Laura and Mom are much more into the tourist aspect of traveling than I am, they undoubtedly saw much more of the city than I had. By the time our last couple of days came, we were just about spent with everything within a mile radius of our hotel. On the eve of our last full day, we decided to create some spontaneity in our vacation.

Wilmington, North Carolina was only a couple of hours away and the home of our favorite TV show, One Tree Hill. We headed back toward the airport to rent a car and hit the road! I had done research the night before and had a list of filming locations we were going to search for. My favorite, by far, was the Rivercourt on the Cape Fear River. Home to many scenes and characters that we had grown to love. We enjoyed a guided tour of the sound stage they filmed on and even got to walk through some of the sets for the show, I felt like I was in another universe. If only I had photographic evidence of that experience!

The next day we packed up and headed back to the real world, literally after spending a day in our favorite fictional world. We stepped off of our fourth plane in six days and we were back home, that feeling is a little different than when you land somewhere new, but it never fails, everything always feels a little different after returning from a trip away. The world just keeps on spinning while you’re off experiencing a new landscape.

This trip was one that sparked a series of trips that we take together, sometimes including other people, sometimes it’s just the three of us exploring new territory. I look forward to these little breaks from reality that we get, they are opportunities to just exist in a new space, away from the stress that life can bring with people you know will build you up.

I may not be one that likes to travel, the lack of control is a problem for me, but I do like to relax, explore, and soak in all of the time I can with the people that I care about. This summer will bring three breaks from reality and I’m already jonesing to get in the car and drive.