Category Archives: celebrating

Birthday Wrap-Up ’18

This morning was the final birthday celebration, breakfast with Dad. When the celebrating is over, it’s time to write the wrap-up post.

I was at a birthday lunch with a friend on Monday. When she asked how my actual birthday was I had to stop and think. I could not remember well, which is why I am trying to remember now. Even as I try to write, lethargy engulfs me. I am trying to push through.

I wrote a birthday list on the marker board in the kitchen at the beginning of the month. Little Mae printed hers in red pen and posted it to the refrigerator much earlier. Hers contained everything from Lego Ninjago to Black and Whilte Guinea Pig named Cookies and Cream.

Because we share the day, Little Mae and I planned a schedule of how to spend it, beginning with me attending a sixth grade awards assembly at school while she did morning screen time at home. This hanging basket greeted me upon return.

We took our birthday checks to the drive-thru window of the bank to cash them.

Then it was McDonald’s for lunch and Barnes and Noble for books and a birthday treat.

 

Rainbow came along.

While we were at Barnes and Noble a text came through that an adult sister was in town. She wanted to pick up the newly double-digit little and spend time with her. That meant I got free time!

It was such a surprise I almost cried.

A free afternoon offered a chance to grab the shower I had missed that morning, getting everyone to school solo. It was Steve’s first week at the new job, and we were all adjusting. I had to adjust my attitude with a phone call to a sister when my birthday morning was not going according to plan!

First on my free time list was a plant rescue at Lowes. A cart filled with clearance flowers cost $18 of birthday money. Coming home alone to plant and hang them, priceless.

I showered and rested and picked up the girls from middle school. We did our afternoon routine, and I worked on the birthday dinner planned in advance when planning the cake. It was a simple meal of ham, herb dinner rolls, and vegetables. I put ingredients in the bread machine and a ham in the oven.

Then it was time to make a side dish for my son’s band picnic. Since ham is not his favorite it was a good night for him to have an alternate plan. My adult daughter rode with me to the park to drop the food off and then to Starbucks for my birthday drink, another thing I had missed along with my shower that morning.

Birthday dinner was relaxing and fun with adult daughter and significant other, adult son, and phone calls from those adults not in attendance. Everyone wanted me to know that they had helped with the gift that would be delivered the next day.

Those around the table presented me with gifts of a new tea kettle and journal. We watched Little Mae open her gifts and ate cake. It was an enjoyable ending to a kind day.

On Friday a package arrived. I messaged my daughter to tell her that she had a delivery. She said it was my gift and that she would come over and open it and give it to me. I had some errands to run. When I returned she handed me a slim wrapped box, telling me it was from all of the adults and their significant others.

I was speechless after opening it. I am still learning to use it. Best feature so far is the voice text, though I have had some faux pas with the text still recording when I thought I was finished. Oops! My younger generation thinks technology is being wasted on an old person.

I am so grateful for another year, thankful for life, humbled by lavishly generous gifts and by the love so freely given by all in my family. I look forward to 47 with anticipation.

And yes, I got the Lora Kelley download that was on my list. You can get it here.

Week’s End

Dewey captures perfectly the way I feel at the close of this week. As I write he sprawls on the floor, moving only to change lounging positions.

This week has been full of beginning and ending and celebrating which all adds up to exhaustion. If I were a dog, I would have the answers to life’s complexities. Just sprawl out and sleep.

Steve began his new job and the kids entered their last week of school. We adjusted the routine that had served us well all year. I am grateful it was only one week of adjusting. That was disruptive enough!

In the fall when we begin again, things will look different. I keep reminding myself that it will not always be this way. It will not always be my husband’s first week at a new job and my kids last week at school.

There will not always be the transition of an adult moving out while the youngest excitedly anticipates her double digit birthday. I will probably always dread my birthday, somewhat, though. And life will always be full.

Much fullness converged this week in the form of awards assemblies and final projects for my school-age kids. The youngest was home with me as we tried to find some sort of a groove while preparing for our shared birthday.

My husband began a new work schedule which left me in the role of solo home front manager getting kids to and from school. We were reminded of the need to communicate better, as the old morning routine we had settled into no longer served us well.

I was reminded of how I always think I will find the magic solution to make all of life feel wonderful when in reality I have to learn to live in the tension. That is a constant process.

I need to learn to bask in the patch of sunlight even if everything around me is a mess. Dewey illustrates this so well on the floor of my room moving from place to place and hunkering down.

This is the last morning before summer break officially begins when I pick up the kids from school at noon. It finds me in the aftermath of a birthday celebration and a day full of goodness and surprises.

It also finds me in a bit of chaos. My temptation is to try to do everything to fix it all immediately which is unrealistic. So instead of doing all of the things, I am sitting and writing, inspired by a small dog who is now curled into a ball close to his grandpa’s flip-flops.

Week’s end reminds me of all of the grace that gone before and behind and surrounded me during this transition. There is much more to write, but for now I will say, Happy Weekend! Enjoy the start of Summer Break!

Ice Cream Birthday Cake

Today is my and Little Mae’s birthday. I am sharing our cake creation with you here as we spend the day celebrating another year of life together with our family.

We agreed upon an ice cream cake. The recipe we use is one that I remember Aunt Caryl introducing to the family when I was a girl. It has ice cream sandwiches as the base layer in a 9×13 pan followed by a layer of softened ice cream. Finally Cool Whip is spread on top.

That’s it!

Our week began on Monday with Steve’s new job and Mae and I home together. We went to Sharp Shopper, the local grocery outlet, for some items. While we were there, I found the ingredients for our cake, only slightly varied.

That is the way it is with Sharp Shopper. You have to hold expectations loosely and be willing to improvise. Things are usually slightly varied.

Here are the ingredients purchased for our cake.

Instead of ice cream sandwiches which they didn’t have, I bought chocolate ice cream sandwich making wafers, which they did. I bought two cartons of Moose Tracks frozen yogurt and two cartons of Cool Whip light topping.

For you locals, the only reason I didn’t use the Pumpkin Pie ice cream is because it is a shared cake. 😉

In the bottom of a glass 9×13 baking dish I placed a layer of chocolate wafers.

A carton of softened frozen yogurt was spread over the chocolate wafers. If these were ice cream sandwiches they would have ice cream in them already, but this is the Sharp Shopper version.

A second layer of wafers went on the softened frozen yogurt.

Another carton of frozen yogurt was spread over it all.

The final layer was Cool Whip, two 8oz cartons. I sprinkled everything with rainbow sprinkles and wrote with chocolate icing.

The finished cake went in the freezer, uncovered, to set the writing before covering it with foil to save for today. We will enjoy it after our birthday dinner!

Goodbye, 25 Years

This is it. Today is the day. When my husband leaves work, it will be his final time leaving as administrator of Good Shepherd School and Daycare.

So much has led up to this moment. Twenty-five years worth of events have occurred, each setting another bit of infrastructure in place. Life. School. Family.

You should have done this years ago.

Statements like this have been made and are not helpful. It’s easy to look and tell others what they should have done without knowing the full extent of their story. In our case, there is much complexity surrounding that 21 and 23 year old who moved to Virginia with their 10 month old daughter while expecting their second child in August of ’93 to begin working with family in a newly-opened daycare.

His first project was building bookshelves that still stand. It is the kind of man he is. He can go from solid construction to solid leadership while remembering faces and names along the way. It is the faces he will miss the most, I know that. The names he will remember mostly and boldly risk using them, even if he is wrong. Be forewarned.

25 years is a long time. Our firstborn turns 26 this fall. Our youngest will soon be 10. This has been their life. This career path is what has raised them and provided for them. It brought insurance for medical bills and care when I took trips to Ohio, California, the Bahamas, Michigan, Boston, Seattle, and Chicago.

It has provided an education and music instruction. It was a space where we could all be together until the pond grew too small and the needs too great. It’s where we wrestled through how to best serve our own children while serving other people’s.

The school brought dear teachers and friends into our life. 25 years worth. It brought goodness and grief, both given and received by us. There were years of our own small children with their overwhelmed parents trying to figure out how to make it all work. There were sacrifices, not always in the best interest of our family. Sometimes we got it right. Sometimes we did not.

We tell parents that this program isn’t for everyone. I think we have one of those kids.

When I stopped working to stay home with child 4, was one of the right times. That I did not realize I had the power to make that choice with children 1, 2, and 3 still grieves my heart. That we can talk honestly about that with each other now is a gift beyond words.

25 years was the right amount of time to complete the work we were given to do here. To have left sooner would have been to miss the gifts of friendships and growth that the past few years have brought. To stay longer would be to prolong the status quo and stand in the way of others who are ready to step up to the plate.

As for this man, he is on to new things, and I could not be more proud.

 

 

My Real Valentine

From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
Acquaintances
I wanted you to see

That I found you special
Uniquely designed
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind

You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one

That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold

But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know

That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong

We’re standing now
Together here
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play

 It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.

Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.

This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.

***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***

Postscript

So you must share with your loyal readers what the gift was that you gave Steve. . .

Loyal readers? I have loyal readers!

I love that I have curious loyal readers, so when the text came through I had to respond. While my turnaround time is not always this swift, in this case, well, here you go . . .

For all of the pictures he loves to take and share on Instagram as well as for future creative endeavors, I got him a mobile photography kit to use with his phone.

And this book to, well, hopefully do its thing. He even offered to share with me,

Thank you, Loyal Reader for reaching out. Oh how you are loved and missed!

So, what do you think? Were these good choices?

Celebrate

Today the love of my life celebrates another birthday. I have shared 30 of his special days with him. This feels momentous. He might say I feel that way about everything.

Thirty years ago my boyfriend turned 18. It was a year to the month that I first met him and six months after we began dating. My baby sister had been born two days before, and I was packing my things in preparation for a major move that would take place three weeks later.

Here we are together with the first newborn we shared. There is a lot going on behind the eyes of that sixteen-year-old girl.

There was excitement in celebrating that first birthday together, the last we would celebrate in person before marrying four years later. His birthday became a conundrum for me as I tried to choose the right gifts. I remember mailing packages those years before we married, feeling close to my boyfriend while shopping and selecting things I thought he would enjoy.

It was difficult not being together in person, because much is missed in the day to day sharing of life. Much was built up in my mind and the future was idealized. I thought it would be easier after we married. Please do not laugh. I am having a hard enough time being kind to that young woman inside. It was not easier.

Last night, Steve lovingly reminded me of the delicious coconut cream pie I tried to make for his 22nd birthday when we were newlyweds. It was more like coconut soup, but he ate it like a champ. I have not always had the stellar cooking and baking skills of today.

His contentment made it difficult for me to find “just the right” gift, because I could not tell what he would really enjoy, I don’t know if he knew, either, indicated by vague or practical responses when asked. I groped along, hoping to hit the mark.

I think I hit it this year. Number 30 just might be a charm. I don’t want to say more in the rare event that he has an opportunity to read this before tonight when he opens his gifts, but I am excited, and that is a good feeling.

This week began with a dream, one of those vivid ones that you remember upon waking and that stays with you all day. In it I was leading a story group. My husband was a participant. I thought it odd that the leaders would put us together but figured, Oh well, they know what they are doing.

One theme of the dream was distraction. As Steve began to share his story a rushing river roared noisily past, other group members were taking facetime calls, and a tiny elephant went walking by. I was trying hard to hear what he was saying, but even leaning in with great focus, I couldn’t.

I finally stopped everything and addressed the situation, naming the great distractions and the need to focus on Steve and his story.

Awww. Thank you for speaking up for me was his response when I shared my dream yesterday morning.

As I celebrate the amazing man I saw in those eighteen year old eyes, that is my desire for him this year, to focus on his story and on that tiny elephant walking by, inviting him to more laughter, creativity, and growth.

I hope to stop everything with him, and listen.

Happy Birthday, Love!

Year of Adjustment

The 26th wedding anniversary is frequently a year of adjustment being the picture anniversary.

I stumbled across these words on this site while exploring anniversary gift options and thought to myself, Seriously? That has been every year! Then I began reading the descriptions of years and laughed out loud at the introduction to 27.

Anniversary celebrations have felt as hap-hazard as everything else in our life and are often a yearly struggle for me. There is the tension between what is expected to be felt and what is real. Hallmark does not help matters and neither does the idea that the more years you check off together the better it gets.

A thriving marriage is about more than checking off the years and winning with the highest number of them.

Our 25th anniversary, the one that is silver, the one I remember throwing a party for my parents for while wrangling two small children of my own, two and a half years into my newly-minted marriage, brought the realization that we needed help. It was a sad disappointment of a day steeped in years of hurt with a side of genuine illness.

We have GOT to do something, because we cannot go on like this.

We will forever remember our silver anniversary as the one where we chose to invest in counseling to gain skills that were lacking in order to move forward together in more hopefulness. Seriously. There is no shame in admitting need. It was one of the best decisions we have made.

Fast forward to this year’s celebration. I decided to create a gift for Steve. It took thought, time, energy, and trust to sit with myself and my art supplies and create from the heart a representation of where we are in this season.

It is a better, more hopeful, place.

While a lake house getaway was booked, logistics did not work out. In the past this would have completely derailed my heart, sending it into a place of hopelessness and defeat. Instead, I was able to reimagine our celebration.

Steve took the day off of work, and we spent it together while the kids were in school. A two-hour weather delay for them meant time to sleep in without rushing, and while it cut into two hours of morning alone time, we were still able to enjoy the quiet house before heading out on an afternoon adventure.

We went to lunch at Valley Pike Farm Market before visiting Zeus Digital Theaters to see The Greatest Showman together. It was the perfect use for tickets I had won in a radio contest over a year ago!

Family members graciously picked up kids from school for us. We arrived home at 4 and took a nap before heading out to dinner at Chick Fil A with the family. The day ended with a parent meeting for school musical and an episode of Stranger Things.

It was a sweet beginning to year 27 and imagining more of our future together.

Christmas Cards

It is Christmas Eve, 2017, and Christmas cards have not been sent. There are no Christmas cards in the mail this year. No New Year’s cards. None. If you have not received a card and you sent one, thank you for the joy that you brought to us. Thank you for extending grace and understanding this year.

It does not mean we will never send out cards again. The tradition may resume next year. It is just that this year Christmas cards were a thing we could say no to, and it is nobody’s fault, in spite of any rumors you may hear.

If there is any fault, I am the one to blame. The decision was made for sure after Thanksgiving, though the thought had been rolling around in my head a bit before then. Thanksgiving brought confirmation that I was trying to hold onto something that is not here right now, and the tighter I tried to grasp, the faster and messier it slipped from my hand.

Last Thanksgiving, all eight children sat around the table. It was a rare moment, and I thought, This could be the last time this happens in this way ~ no spouses or significant others ~ just the siblings. After our 4:00 meal, we dashed outside so that the grandparents could snap a picture of us, which became our Christmas Card.

That is how I remember it, dashing outside to snap a quick picture.

So this year, even though some were missing, I thought, We will do the same thing. Eat at 4, then head outside for a picture, and that will be what I use for Christmas.

Only we did not eat at 4, and with each passing moment, as the sun lowered in the sky, the photo-op slipped away. Still I grasped, and worse, I did not communicate my thoughts or desires to the family. That is what did me in and where the fault lies, if we are finding it.

I am not the only person in this family.

It was after 5:00. The sun was setting. People were being summoned from all corners of the house to come to the table, and I threw out, But first, let’s run outside and take a picture.

It did not go over well. Understandably. Each person has feelings and experiences tied to having a family picture taken, and just because some were more vocal does not mean others did not feel similarly. I realized immediately the many errors of my ways and retracted the request.

It’s okay. Really. We do not need to take a picture. I think I was trying to hold onto something that has passed, and I did not even prepare you for the moment. It’s nobody’s fault (because we often move to blame), it’s just what it is this year.

So Merry Christmas, Dear Readers and Friends! May you honor what is real while holding hope for what is to come as you celebrate!

 

Advent Candles

I decided to get more candles. Rather, I requested that my husband pick some up last Saturday while running errands with a daughter. I knew exactly where I had seen the boxes of pre-packaged, advent-colored, purple and pink candles.

They were sold out.

Instead a text image came through with the image of bulk candles and a question, Is the indigo color okay? I missed the message.

He bought three indigo and one white candle. I like the indigo color much better in person.

The following day, I used the seasonal snowflake paperbag that the candles were packaged in to cover a small cardboard box. I glued the words Get ready on one side and Celebrate on the other. I pressed the five candles into floral foam, lining them with pinecones and berries.

It was my adult son’s idea to move it from the living room mantel to the lazy Susan in the middle of the table. Each night we light the candles during dinner and put up the felt tree piece afterwards. It has been the most chill Advent to date.

If you look closely, you can see some scatter I added this week in honor of Hanukkah.

I love all things miniature and could not resist them!

Speaking of felt tree, this is how ours looks today, December 16, 2017. There are 15 objects placed, and the wall hanging makes 16. Since this particular activity begins December 1, we are actually on track. This is a momentous occasion for us.

Usually we miss several days and spend much time catching up. The candles on the table have been the game changer for us this year.

I chose to persist, in keeping with my word for a few more days. It has not been easy, but it has been good.