Today 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!
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.
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.
In 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!
It’s been a cold, dreary week in southeast Michigan. It’s made the last five days drag on like being shackled to a brick wall while trying to run a marathon. Today, it seems, that even though it’s a chilly 36 degrees outside, the sun is shining and the birds are flying around my front window. It’s a welcome dose of Vitamin D.
I opted to work from home today as I had no meetings on my agenda but a mountain of reporting due by the end of the day. I’ve been sluggish on my progress on these reports all week, we’ve moved to a new database for our program and I feel like an idiot trying to figure out how to run reports on this new platform. I’m gaining my ground and have actually found some awesome reports that will help me as I move forward as well. It’s shaping up to be a productive day.
Even though it’s been a quicksand filled week, here’s the top five!
Monday was my monthly dinner with my mom, sister, and aunt. We went BBQ this week and I enjoyed a delicious steak, some potatoes, and some banana cream pie! It was just a few days before my mom’s 60th birthday so we celebrated too. Even though the way this restaurant celebrates is rather odd, we had fun! Mom was forced to walk into the middle of the restaurant, by herself, while a waitress yelled throughout the room for everyone to stop and say “Happy Birthday” to mom. She was mortified. We thought it was hilarious.
Tuesday was thirteen years since Justin and I started dating. We tend not to celebrate that anniversary anymore, I’m not sure he even realized it was April 5th or that it had any significance. We “celebrated” by getting smoothies and wraps for dinner and going grocery shopping. It was a wild and crazy night.
My mom’s actual birthday was Wednesday, Justin and I joined her and my dad for dinner at Chili’s. Dad and I both had the prime rib tacos and they were absolutely delicious! Apparently there was a lot of steak in my week! I wrote about my mom on Wednesday.
We’ve been snacking on some Germack trail mix this week. It’s so delicious! Ours came from QVC, at Justin’s request, but I know you can get Germack products online and in some speciality stores. Get some.
I don’t think I’d be doing this afternoon justice without making today’s sunshine part of my H54F. I’ve got two assistants helping me work through my reports and to-do lists, both of which are not holding up their end of the bargain. One is sleeping and the other is bird watching. Not a bad way to end a sluggish week!
I consider myself exceptionally lucky. I have a bond with my family that has shaped my entire life. From an early age I knew that both my sister and I had a special couple of adults looking out for us. Before I was born, my parents made the selfless decision to split their shifts so that someone would always be home to be with me, and later, my sister. After eight years of marriage they decided that they would sacrifice their time together to provide the best possible life for their children. That same thought process has not faltered in the last thirty years, they both continually chose the option to benefit the whole rather than their individual selves.
Today my mother celebrates her sixtieth birthday. She doesn’t expect much in terms of celebration, birthdays were never a big ordeal in our household. Quite frankly, I think she would rather not be the center of attention but I suppose if there is ever a day to force someone into the spotlight, it’s probably their birthday.
So, for better or for worse, I’m forcing you into the spotlight today, Mom! You should be celebrated!
Usually, my mom is the first person that I think to call when I have a story, a joke, need to cry, or want someone to tell me what to do. I’ve spent many drives home from work yelling into her answering machine telling her to wake up and talk to me, she always picks up, tells me that I’m crazy, but listens and does her mothering through the telephone wires. She’s gives me advice, she pulls me back from the ledge, she yells with me, and always laughs with me.
Our relationship, just like any other, has gone through some transformations throughout the years, but the basic premise is always the same. Laura and I give her a lot of grief for her personality traits that we adore. We tease her for her jokes that “nobody gets” and her sarcasm that is not understood by the public, for ordering extra ice in every Diet Coke she’s ever consumed and always asking if restaurants have Pepsi or Coke, just to order the same drink every time. It never fails, that when she comes home from shopping there is at least one item for Laura, Justin, or myself, rarely anything for her. She never has anything she wants when it comes to gifts, we’re lucky she enjoys Pandora beads and three-wick candles or she’d still be getting gift certificates for hugs and kisses!
My mom is the type of person that even my friends gravitate toward, growing up, they would chat with her while hanging out at my house, visit her at work when they were in the neighborhood, and come to her with their own need for advice. Once I saw the love that my mom has for Justin, I knew that she would forever have three children. She welcomed him into our family with open arms and sometimes it feels like he’s been there all along, their bond is special. When we were struggling through Justin’s first treatment process she invited us over one Saturday for dinner, just to get us out of the house. That one night turned into a four year tradition of Saturday night dinners. We don’t always end up having dinner each week, but more often than not, we are sitting together laughing, eating, and relaxing as a big crazy family.
Most recently, she has spent all of her free time helping my grandmother transition to her new living space. I’ve tried to be as helpful as possible, meeting with her on Saturdays to spend the day cleaning and organizing, but it’s nothing compared to the time and energy she has had to put in over the last five weeks. All of the time we have spent sifting through years of memorabilia have given us ample time to support each other, she has listened as I walk her through our day-to-day from that week, she shares her excitement and frustration with me, and we make our way through each individual step of the moving process. I find myself stopping every once and a while to just watch her find a piece of her life in a box, wrapped in newspaper, to remember a funny story, to take a deep breath and pick up the next load to be packed, or to make a funny face at me. I know that if I am half of the woman my mother is by my sixtieth birthday that I will be proud. Now, if I could only get Facebook to stop suggesting I tag her in my photos of myself, that would be great.
Happy birthday Mom! I love you and hope that you got to do something for yourself today. I’m sure you didn’t, because that’s not in your nature, but at the very least I hope you got some love sent your way.