November 24, 2021

It’s my birthday! It’s also one year since I had the biopsy that revealed my cancer. We hear all the time how life can change in an instant but it’s hard to grasp it until it actually happens to you. But here I am, less than a month after my last radiation treatment, celebrating my birthday again post cancer. Everything went sideways for a while, but now it’s back on track. A lot of people celebrate a second birthday when they’re cancer-free. Lucky for me I can celebrate it on the same day.

And today I got to celebrate by first having Christmas morning with Brianna and Noah. They opened the presents we got them and I opened birthday presents. Then we went to the apple orchard and an antique store and lunch before hanging out at home. Bri and Noah even decorated my outside chalkboard for me. It was a good day. I’m lucky and grateful.

May 3, 2021

My oldest daughter Brianna turned 27 today. I don’t know how I got so old. I still think of my kids as teenagers, and yet she is getting married in a couple of months. For someone who started out life so tiny and fragile, she’s become a strong, independent woman. I wrote about this years ago, but Brianna was born three months early and spend two and a half months in the NICU. She was only 3 pounds at birth.

The first time I held her was about a week after she was born, on Mother’s Day. And I spent every day of the months before she came home sitting next to her incubator and worrying. Like a mother does, I still worry about her. I worry about her happiness, her future, and her safety. The one thing I don’t worry about is the person she’s become, someone who is kind, intelligent, creative and beautiful.

Bree in the center.

It’s also my youngest sister’s birthday today. I remember as Brianna was born, it struck me that it was Jenny’s birthday. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about them sharing the day. However, I can’t imagine a better person to link to my daughter. Jenny is also intelligent, funny, beautiful and giving.

Jenny, The Lady in Red.

So I’m thankful today for both of these women on their birthday. They have added joy to my life.

Patrick’s birthday

I love birthdays, probably because I like celebrations. I like carefully chosen presents and special dinners. Balloons and cake. But mostly I love that birthdays remind us that people we love shouldn’t be taken for granted, and so we celebrate that they’ve been with us another year.

Today is Patrick’s birthday, and to him, birthdays are just another day. He couldn’t care less about a celebration. In fact, one year he insisted that all he wanted was to be left alone to work on his house. So like any good girlfriend, I ignored him and showed up at his door with a present and a slice of cake. It took a lot of will power not to bring a balloon, but I didn’t want to push my luck. After all, I had promised not to do anything.

This year, regardless of his party pooper attitude, I celebrate the fact that he’s been in my life another year. Yes, he’s a bit of a curmudgeon. Yes, he’s often antisocial and snarky. But he’s also one of the best people I know. Generous. Intelligent. Fun. He makes me laugh with his sarcasm and wit. He makes me feel safe with his dedication and honesty. He’s been accepting of my quirks, my horde of shoes (most of the time), my crazy family, and my general silliness. And when I’m feeling my lowest, he’s supportive and compassionate; I know that he always has my back.

Our life together may be low key, but it’s never dull. He’s challenging, interesting, competitive, and curious. Sometimes he pushes my buttons, but he also pushes me to grow. I know I’m a better person with him. So today, I’m extra thankful that I can celebrate another year, and I hope there’s many, many more birthdays to come.

August 7

I was invited to a four year old’s birthday party last night. She got the scooter she had been wanting for the last several months and her reaction was just what you’d expect. That’s just what I wanted she said several times. And as she opened her other gifts, she was smart enough to show some enthusiasm, even commenting on one of the board games that my boyfriend and I gave her that it, too, was something she had always wanted. But the scooter was a definite highlight. She wanted to ride it immediately after gift opening, going in circles inside a few times until finally getting to go outside with it. But what was sweet is that she didn’t want to ride it alone. She asked if I’d walk with her. So we went up and down the driveway a few times until she decided she was done with the scooter. Then we played with other toys for a while and then raced a few times up and down the driveway. She pointed out where her mom had written happy birthday in chalk on the sidewalk. She explained why she loved a Wisconsin postcard she was given. We made faces in a plastic mirror that she found in the garage and sat outside and ate birthday cake. And that was pretty much it. Complete excitement. She got the scooter she wanted, rode it for about 10 minutes and was perfectly happy with her birthday celebration. What a great reminder to appreciate the small stuff. I think sometimes our expectations for things, especially things we have been anticipating or waiting for, are too big. Adults sometimes expect the things we desire to fill more than what they’re designed to…we expect the attainment of “things” to somehow drastically change our lives, whether those things are objects (new car, nice clothes, new house) or people or jobs. But really, a scooter is just a scooter. Good for about 10 minutes of fun. Getting the things we desire won’t change anything unless we are somehow content already. At least reasonably content. Because if we aren’t, then we simply start looking for the next thing on the list that we think will make us happy. And the next thing. I’m thankful to have been reminded by a four year old that the things I yearn for will only be gifts (realistically or metaphorically) when I see them as additions to my life, not panaceas for any discontent. Once again, gratitude is key.

June 1

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have turned 67. I would have called him like I always did to say happy birthday and let him know his card was in the mail, late as usual. He would laugh and say, well, that’s no surprise honey. It’s late every year isn’t it? And I probably would have said something about breaking traditions. He would have then reminded me how much he loved getting a card more than a gift.  We may have chatted a bit more before he passed the phone to Mom. And that would have been the most of Dad’s birthday celebrating. I’m sure the conversations were similar with my sisters when they called. He was simple that way–no fuss. Sincere in his love of getting nothing more than a card. I wish he were still around for many more birthdays. He deserved a lot more. But I’m thankful he is no longer suffering from his cancer. I’m thankful he died before his Alzheimer’s progressed to the point of forgetting all of us, for he would have hated that. And while I miss him, I’m thankful today that I can still hear his laughter in my mind. Happy birthday, Dad.

May 25

Another beautiful day, and one with accomplishments. I finished a huge yard project, just in time for Memorial Day rain. Of course, tomorrow I am hosting a cookout with friends and want to be able to use the fire pit area that I started last summer and completed today. It may not happen with a 60% chance of rain in the forecast, but that will simply have to be OK. It doesn’t change that I’m happy to have the project off my to-do list. There will be many beautiful nights for a proper campfire coming up. My friends and I will still enjoy spending time together tomorrow.

Besides finishing projects, I’m also thankful to have been able to spend time with someone very special to me. It was his birthday and his only wish was to be able to spend the day working on his own house projects. (He just bought his first house.) He wanted our morning coffee run to be the birthday “thing.” However, in my family, birthdays are a big deal. Therefore, I can’t let them simply pass by without a proper acknowledgment. So I promised no celebration, and we compromised on me bringing him dinner in the evening. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as successful as I was on getting projects done.  And although he was disappointed and frustrated with his day, he didn’t let it ruin the night. Instead, the evening consisted of  dinner with fantastic desserts, time on the deck in the perfect evening air, a fire in the fireplace and a Dr. Who movie. I thought it was a lovely beginning to a new year older. I hope he did too.


May 3

My daughter turned 20 today. It’s a bit unbelievable to me. It seems like just days ago that she was born. A miracle baby, born at 28 weeks. Three months early and weighing only 2 pounds. It was a shock, her birth. There was nothing that prepared me for it or gave me a clue. But there she was, laying in an incubator 20 years ago, not quite fully grown. It was a hard two and a half months that she was in the hospital, waiting to get to five pounds so we could take her home. I went every day to read to her from Babar books, talking to her and watching the numbers on her monitor jump around. I wanted so much to hold her immediately and be her mom, but it was a week after she was born that I got to hold her for just a few minutes on Mother’s Day. Then I had to wait and be a spectator for a while. It was a beautiful, painful, maturing experience watching her grow outside of me. And we were all so incredibly lucky. Babies born that early oftentimes have lingering issues of some sort. The most my daughter had was glasses when she was younger, since the eyes are one of the last things to form in utero. And today she is a beautiful, intelligent, giving and talented person. Someone I am so blessed to have in my life and call my daughter. You would never know that she was born premature and had to fight so hard just to be alive. I’m immensely thankful today for her and for the way her birth changed me and made me a stronger mother.