Birthday to Remember

April 8th, My Birthday 2019

Do you remember any of your birthdays? How you celebrated? A special gift you received? Someone who surprised you with a visit or a greeting of some kind?

I try to have something memorable happen on my birthday most every year, and I’m willing to come up with it and do it alone if no one is available.  This year I didn’t have to do it alone. My mom and I did something together. We got sick.

Food poisoning, but we can’t figure out what it was for sure. I spent the day barely able to move without passing out.  In spite of being very dehydrated, neither of us wanted to risk putting food or drink into our unstable stomachs.  I spent the day crawling from the bed to the recliner and back again. I cancelled the one appointment for the day – the gym – since there was no energy available for training.  In short, it was not the memorable event I had in mind.  I get a rain check, right?

Today is better. We are both on our feet a little more, but still glad not to have a lot to do today. It is amazing how dependent we are on vital elements, like water. Take away ten pounds of water weight, and I’m barely able to function.  It definitely reminds me of my episode of dehydration on the Appalachian Trail and the recent D post I wrote on dehydration. 

It all makes me think of how we are designed, with enough flexibility to cover the usual ups and downs of life. Most of the time we don’t have to think about how much we’ve eaten or not eaten, or whether we’ve had enough to drink. Food and beverage are available to us on a pretty regular basis, leaving us free to worry about lesser things.

But there are places in this world where it is not so.  What must it feel like to live in a body that is little more than skin and bones, where there is no food or water to be had?  It happens in our own country, where being homeless or in poverty can make it so difficult to be fed with something nutritious.  I was overcome with weakness, loss of motivation, pain and the need to rest somewhere safe.  I can’t imagine being out on the street in a city, or out in a desert village in Africa and trying to survive under those conditions.

I am grateful that I was at home yesterday, recovering slowly as I watched birthday greetings come in on Facebook. I got a delivery of flowers, several cards and a book I had ordered in the mail, a visit from my brother and his kind delivery of some Pedialyte.  I have reasons to remember this birthday, just sayin’…

The 15th of October

I have a friend (at least one, thank God!) who has a birthday today. What a joy it is to me to think about someone who is special and dear, and be able to share those thoughts publicly. Meet my friend Arlette.

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There is something about her that actually looks French, but I’m not sure what it is…

You will notice that she has a name which I think both looks and sounds French. She is of French origin and this comes through in so many of her ways. Of course, there is the accent which she has not been able to shed (nor should she) even though she is fluently English speaking. I hardly ever have to wonder what she is saying. I love the way she and her French-speaking husband call each other “chere”. Sometimes, she will be thinking of an exact word in French but not able to immediately find the English equivalent. She will question Dwight and together they will come up with it. Endearing.

I met Arlette because our husbands were thrust into work together. The men set up an office in Sarasota for their company, an American subsidiary of a French corporation. Although we women knew each other and the Shackelfords were very kind in helping us get settled in Florida, we did not automatically jump into friendship. That started when Arlette agreed to tutor my home-schooled daughters in their French lessons. Merci beacoup mon ami!

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Two people who speak French very well, and a daughter who still knows a little of it, I think.

As time progressed, we became better friends, mainly because Arlette is an accomplished hostess (which she has trouble admitting, but it is true). Her invitations were NEVER turned down. I don’t have any other friends who do a small, intimate dinner evening for two or three couples so excellently. She loves beautiful flowers in simple vases, interesting tableware, luxurious touches like cloth napkins, just the right music, and well-planned food choices. She believes in appetizers, which I have to admit were a new thing for me. My family experience – we sat down and ate. At Arlette’s house I learned to enjoy a warm up meal before the real thing.

We deepened our friendship in the last ten years because we learned of common things in our faith worldview. I felt Arlette would really enjoy Bible Study Fellowship, which I was attending. She finally agreed to check it out, hoping to put an end to my annoying requests. I was right, she liked it. We have had nearly ten years of enjoying spiritual growth together. It is hard to put into words what sharing our hearts, and mutually acknowledging what God is doing in our lives has done for me. I view her friendship as a gift from God, evidence that he kindly answers my need for companionship.

Arlette is my friend who says she is not brave but nonetheless allows herself to be talked into outings a bit past her comfort zone, like expeditions in the kayak. She has braved a weekend in a motel with me, let the husband and I have free overnight stays in her home, exercised me with many long walks, hauled my furniture and boxes around, advised me on home décor, helped me plan parties, listened to me for hours on end. There are some things I haven’t convinced her to do with me yet, but the potential is still there. I don’t intend to let this girl rest.

So, happy birthday, my friend. Don’t worry about getting older. You are still younger than me and, barring a miracle, will always be. God bless you today and always. I love and appreciate you.

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You are lovely!

Celebrating Today

Although I am not with her, today I am celebrating the birthday of my daughter, Julia. As I scrolled through multiple pictures of her it was easy for me to recognize why I love her and am blessed to share life with her.

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First off, you cannot put this girl in a box. Oh, wait, maybe…

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Of course, I am her mom and have a fair amount of bias. There are a lot of “mom pics” in the album I’ve made. But most of the photos are of Julie with the family at large, with her Cambodian “sisters and brothers”, with her clients and their animals, with her own menagerie of four legged friends, Julie being silly, enjoying the outdoors, Julie being Julie. The smile is always present and gives the impression of coming on easily and quickly. She is connected. She is involved.

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I’ve seen her when she isn’t at her most glorious, when her dishes aren’t washed, when she doesn’t feel well, when she’s depressed, when she’s overwhelmed with her complex life, having a bad hair day, in trouble at work… all those things that happen to us all. I still like her. I always love her. I admire her resiliency and her ability to work through to better times. If I were a captain choosing my team, I would pick her.

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So today, thank you for keeping yourself in my life Julie. I am grateful for your friendship and all the wonderful opportunities you give me to talk, to laugh, to work, TO HAVE FUN! I am forever on your side and you are forever in my prayers.

Love, Mom

The Birthday Blessing

November is the birth month of  both my mother and my father, who is now deceased. Last week the family was missing him and reminiscing about the birthday rituals in our past… The story of the birthday blessing needed to be refreshed, and here it is. 

 

It was 1961. Sunday mornings were undoubtedly stressful for the mom – how could they not be with four little boys to dress. It would be comparable to the circus act where the man balancing spinning plates on the tops of poles, would have to keep rushing back to give the first plate another spin before he got the last plate up and balanced. A completely dressed child would spill something on his shirt, an uncomfortable shoe would be kicked off and forgotten, a squabble would break out and hair would be mussed up, someone would discover a missing button, or perhaps escape outside and find some dirt. Fortunately the oldest, a girl, had learned to dress herself pretty well and even helped with the boys on occasion. It was somewhat safer when all were in the car, but even then… who would get to sit in the front seat on the way to church?

The small white church on the corner lot was where the family had worshiped for the last two generations. Mom and Dad had met there when they were teens. For decades life had revolved around the weddings, funerals, potlucks in the church basement and “youth group” activities. The wide “foyer” (such a funny word) was up a flight of cement steps and through double doors. The bathrooms and classrooms and kitchen were down the stairs to the left. Coats were hung on rods on the long wall which was bisected by another set of double doors with glass panes. These doors were often shut to guard the sacred quiet of prayer or teaching, but were wide open if service had not yet started.

Inside the sanctuary were two sections of wooden pews (another funny word for long benches with arms at the ends). A wide center aisle and narrower side aisles led up to the front of the church where the organ was on the far left next to another door going to the basement, and the piano on the far right. The raised stage was small, only having room for a podium for the speaker, and a short half wall behind which the choir sat. A door on the right side of the stage opened to a small room, where the pastor supposedly constructed his sermons, but most of the children knew it as the place where they waited nervously for their part to come in the Christmas program.

Most Sundays the children would enter, walk up to one of the first pews on the right and slide into place on the smooth wood. They would sit, not still, but sit, as the Sunday school superintendent (often their grandfather) would open the service with a welcome and some songs from the small chorus book. Their mother was often playing piano or organ. Their friends were usually sitting close by so the whispering and giggling would start. Big sister often got to sit with her best friend, but the boys needed to be monitored a little more closely.

Reading scripture was always a part of the opening. Better yet were the times when the “super” would give the Bible reference and have everyone compete to see who could find it first and get to read the scripture out loud. Announcements were given, an offering was taken (often by their father who was an usher), and then, “Who has had a birthday this week?” The honored ones were invited up to the front where a birthday offering was put in the little wooden church bank – coins to equal the age.  A jar full of new pencils would be brought out, if the birthday child was old enough to choose one for themselves. Then the congregation would be led in the birthday blessing.

“Many happy returns, on this, the day of thy birth

May blessing and sunshine be given,

And may the dear Father prepare you on earth,

For a beautiful birthday in heaven.”

It was memorized. There were no bulletins, no screens with words, no theater lighting or electric instruments. There were only families together with their God, doing Sunday school and church, worshiping, fellow-shipping, having birthdays and feeling blessed. And for those younger people, the words were said with little idea how meaningful they would become as time progressed.

 

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things K

My Kayak

The first reason for having this fine thing for a favorite is that its word is a fun palindrome. Kayak is kayak no matter which way you look at it.  I love words that look quirky too and having those k’s at the beginning and end give it a nice balanced look. Balance is a very good thing for a kayak to have, believe me.

I had a birthday recently and one of my hopes for every birthday is to do something mildly scary (or new) that makes me know I am still alive and meeting challenges. I also love to share my birthday experience with someone, but this year there was no one free to help me out. I had to do something alone, and that was probably the needed scary factor – doing it alone.

I decided that I would go out in my kayak to a new place, Lake Manatee, which is a reservoir on the Manatee River east of the town where I live. I have done a birthday kayak outing once before but at that time I rented a kayak. Having my own now, the first challenge was to get it on top of my car and fastened in place, by myself. Doing something a bit difficult and awkward with someone watching on makes me feel a little like a two-year-old screaming “I do it myself!” but that’s the way it had to be since I had to know if I could do it.

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Yeah, just try to figure one of these out….

The most difficult thing was figuring out how to work the ratchet straps. I’ve never studied them long enough to really “get it” but now I do. They are very handy things but you have to know how they work.

Since I’m always a nervous driver when something is strapped on to the outside of my car, this process of loading up was very important to me. Can you imagine my kayak laying out in the middle of I-75? That’s not just mildly scary, it’s nightmare material.

I’m happy to say I did it, I enjoyed it and I lived to write about it. In the interest of keeping posts short, I’ll post my picture story and be done.

 

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Here’s how I travel. Safely in the parking lot at the lake.

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Looking a bit wild. It was windy. But, I am all color coordinated which is the important thing.

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I saw an alligator in one of the backwaters I investigated. I left rather quickly.

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It’s even more windy in the middle of a lake, and of course, that’s where I went. I don’t know why.

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It was beautiful along the shore, sun made the water sparkle.

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An outing is no good without food. I found this sheltered shore with a “hitching post” and had my snack.

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I rescued this balloon out of the water. Things like this can pose danger for water birds and other wildlife.

What do you like to do on your birthday that makes it memorable. Don’t say “eat cake” please…

Sand in My Food

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Neither one of these guys are out here by choice, BUT THEY WILL ENJOY!

Earlier this week was the birthday of one of my good friends, a regular blog reader and quirky commenter,  JC Barnhill. The town we live in is coastal, on the Gulf of Mexico, but since he is a “farmer” and horse trainer the beach might as well be several states away. He never goes there for fun, unless I take him.  This is the third time we’ve celebrated his advancing years out by the ocean.

Going to the beach is always a mixed bag experience.  There’s no denying it’s a beautiful place geographically and I appreciate that about it, but even I don’t go there to be comfortable. It’s hot out there, and bright, with way too many people dressed to leave nothing to the imagination. Taking food out there makes it even more of an adventure. Here’s my quick list for an “exotic” supper at the beach.

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JC, having a little sand with his chicken and biscuit. To him, beach attire means sunglasses and a hat.

  1. Do not work all afternoon making delicious things. They never taste as good with sand in them. Save that kind of food for home. And don’t think you’re going to find a grill and cook food. Buy Kentucky Fried Chicken in a protected bucket that can be closed quickly.
  2. It’s good to have cold drinks, especially like now in July, but no matter how hot it is, bring coffee and Half n Half. If Barnhill is along, bring sugar. And cookies.  The things you eat last will be what you remember most.
  3. Park as close as you possibly can to whatever beach view you want to enjoy. It helps when all you have to do is open your car trunk and set up your chairs.  No long trek across the sand.
  4. Don’t let the birds see your food. Don’t let them see you eating.
  5. Don’t take napkins unless you plan to decorate the beach with them. A roll of paper towels is what you need, and a garbage bag. Put some sand in it to weight it down.
  6. Keep track of your car keys.
  7. At the very least, go down and touch the water. It’s required.

I thought we would stay for the sunset and get some spectacular photos but instead we got to see an enormous storm bank roll in with some hair raising lightning strikes. Tip #3 above was such a good idea.

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.From day to dark in very short order

So JC, you can rest easy now that this year’s beach outing is over. And next year, I don’t care how white your legs are, you need to wear some shorts. And maybe get wet in the ocean. Happy 83rd!

On the Train

On the Train

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Amtrak Cascades, The Birthday Train

After all these years I sit

Once again on the train, the

Birthday train where we who

Have birthdays go to be

Special, hoping to be special

And we are, even if no one knows

But ourselves, we who have

Birthdays and ride

The birthday train.

 

 

Yarn everywhere, knitters

Chatting and staring at their

Work. Where do they all

Come from and why are they

Knitting, here on the train

The birthday train, perhaps

It is their birthday. They are

Knitting to feel special. The

Girl who talks loudly and

Sells yarn should go away.

 

I feel strange not knitting

Instead my yarn is already

Wrapped around me, soft

Black, gray, silvery mauve

My new sweater helping me

Feel special on the train. New

Clothes on the train

The birthday train to Portland

To spend a special day.

 

Lacking rest, head aching,

Bad coffee, which nearly

Landed in someone’s lap

As I rocked back and forth

The motion of the train both

A comfort and a challenge

breakfast pizza and my

daughter friend wanting to

make new memories of

being special on the train

 

We are special together

Just because we are here

My daughter and I

Riding on the birthday train.

 
As it turned out, we were on the Yarn Train. Ladies from a Seattle area knitters guild travel regularly to Portland yarn shops for a day trip. So interesting… Just sayin’.

The Birthday Problem

I have no one to blame but myself.  I think it all started for me with that first picture (I have no actual memories of the event),  the one where I’m in my high chair with a cake with one candle in front of me.  I have an unknowing look on my face but I’m about to start a lifelong habit of expectation.  People are lined up on both sides of the table and I’m obviously the center of attention.  And why not, it’s my birthday.

Ever since then birthdays have presented one kind of problem or another.  Sometimes it’s a problem for those who remember and must plan an event, a card on time, a meaningful greeting or those who forget and have to assuage their guilt.  Other times it’s a problem for the birthday boy or girl who can’t decide if they want people to know or if it would be better to pass the day in anonymity

There are some people, the husband for instance, who must not have had their birthday expectation pump primed in infancy. There is never a hint about the approaching holiday. There is never a post birthday let down.  It’s just another day and these people might even be surprised if you remind them that they are a year older on that day.  There are others who, like me, anticipate what might happen with a fair amount of excitement.  I have a list of these kindred souls.  Some years I even go out of my way to feed their birthday appetite.

And so it was several years ago with my friend J. Carroll Barnhill.  He talks about his memorable birthdays and always includes the one where I kidnapped him out to the beach with a picnic supper.  He hadn’t been there in years and it was quite a trick to get him out of his boots to wade in the surf.  A little sand on the fried chicken, a picture of the sun setting with a sailboat silhouetted against the sky, and you have a birthday memory.

There was also the year that he actually cleaned off the back porch and I got him a swing to hang from the rafters. Another time we had a breakfast party with a stack of whipped cream frosted pancakes for a cake.  And the year he turned 80, I managed to get the word out to most of his family and friends for a get together complete with presents and pot luck food.  Why do I do these things? Because I know he loves the fuss.  How do I know that?  Because, like a kid, he is reminding me that his birthday is coming.  Sometimes once, sometimes twice or more.  He clearly hopes to have fun because of what happened on seven, twenty-seven,thirty-three.

This year, knowing I would be out of town on the infamous day, I took him out to dinner at a restaurant.  It wasn’t his favorite restaurant but it was convenient and he had a good meal.  And we enjoyed ourselves.  It’s your day J. Carroll and I’m giving you a little notoriety on my blog to memorialize the event.  Happy birthday fella!.  Hope you’re having a great day.

Here you go, birthday boy!  Not bad for 80+.
Here you go, birthday boy! Not bad for 80+.