Birthday Week 2021

Birthday week has officially been over for several days now, but I have yet to thank my well wishers because I’ve been traveling and struggling to keep up with the A to Z Challenge posts. But I am thankful! You all made me feel loved and celebrated. Here’s a little report (just because it’s Sunday and I don’t have to do a post for the A to Z).

On the 8th I was in Florida visiting with friends and family. The day started with going to the Dune Deck in Lantana for breakfast with an ocean view. I had heard of it often as a place my Florida family liked to do celebrations. Quite a few of our group were able to come and we had a relaxing time and a good breakfast. They had no birthday cake, but they did have key lime pie, with a candle, and they sang the song. It felt birthdayish.

I’ve already forgotten what the rest of the day was like, except I do remember there being a pool and a floaty that was conducive to napping. That also was far from my normal day, and very birthdayish.

Dinner had been claimed by one of my dear friends, who took our whole family out to a Japanese steakhouse, hibachi grill style. Yes, the food was good and the cook did his best to impress us with his knives and his onion volcano, but the real fun was just being together with all the family, young and old. Never mind that one of the kid’s paper cup sprang a leak (accidentally he said as he plugged the hole with his toothpick) and shot soft drink around, and another one sent the bowl of that thick pink sauce shooting off the table and onto the floor. I wasn’t the parent so it was more like an interesting movie, a comedy, to watch it all take place.

This must be the first trick they ALL learn.

The trip down to Florida and back, flying first class, was kind of a birthday present from me, to me as well as to Mom, who was with me on this adventure. On the way down, it was too early to feel like doing anything except closing our eyes and occasionally lifting our masks to eat our snacks. On the way home we were more ready to take advantage of everything first class offered.

I got cards from friends and each one was read and treasured. It is greatly encouraging to be remembered in this way and knowing that, I think I will try to do more card sending this year. A few gifts, and real flowers came my way. Thank you all so much – you know who you are (and I’m planning on sending cards there too.). Last but not least, to all my facebook friends, thank you for being there and responding to the Facebook prompt to send a greeting. You didn’t have to do it, but you did and I saw it.

Birthday week is over, but because of it I will feel more connected to people all year long. That is what I care about. Grateful for you all!

Twice Blessed

It just so happens that I have two men in this present stage of life that are near and dear to me. It just so happens that they are both named Dennis. It just so happens that they both have birthdays this week. Isn’t that a little odd?

The husband’s serene smile.

The one that I’ve known for the last 49 years is the husband Dennis. We are together still and figuring out life together, one day at a time. He will be 75 on Friday. His birthday has always been a little anticlimactic, being a day after the birthday celebration of the Savior of the world. He’s always seemed very accepting of being in the shadow though. It’s fortunate for him that he doesn’t put a lot of stock in birthdays in general, his or anyone else’s.

My brother even goes geocaching with me (well, once…).

The second Dennis is my brother. I’ve know him for all of his life. He came on the scene when I was ten years old, the youngest of my four brothers. His birthday is tomorrow, Monday. He might as well have been born on Christmas, since the holiday lasts nearly a week for all practical purposes. It’s easy to get overlooked in a very busy season.

We who write, read, and blog – we’re kind of a community, aren’t we? I’ve shared my two Dennis’s with you because I have an “ask” to put out there. If you have time, and just want to put a kind, happy surprise in the life of someone you may not even know, would you wish them a happy birthday? I haven’t tried this before so I don’t know if Facebook lets you say happy birthday if you aren’t on a person’s friend list, but I love experiments. Feel free to tell me if it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter if you do it on the exact day either. Thank you so much! I love these guys.

Brother Dennis can be greeted here: https://www.facebook.com/dennis.l.smith.739

The husband Dennis can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/dennis.r.dietz

Yes, I did my 10,000 steps!

2020 Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday…

And I decided to count and name my blessings throughout the day.

1. I woke up. The chance to celebrate one more time.

2. I woke up on land my grandfather used to own, still in the family, in a free land.

3. 12 people actually read yesterday’s blog post.

4. I had hair to comb.

5. I got to go over and have coffee with my mom.

6. My youngest brother came over to sit with us and tell me happy birthday.

7. Mom added a 1927 cookbook to my antique collection.

8. Pancakes and Nutella for breakfast.

9. A day with no rain in the forecast!

10. Singing birds everywhere outside – red winged blackbird trills,my favorite birthday song.

11. Online greetings that make me tear up.

12. No headache today.

13. Already have supper figured out and ready to cook.

14. A long birthday walk on Hospital Trail North, all 10,000 steps in the great outdoors

15. A surprise stare down with a beautiful wild deer in the forest (which I took as a birthday present since it doesn’t happen very often)

16. More birthday blessings from people online, more happiness reviewing those memories

17. A “hope” rock from my sister-in-law

18. The special dinner – I didn’t burn anything!

19. Birthday dessert from my mom.

20. Alexa played music I liked all evening – another rare occurrence.

21. FaceTime talks, texts, and calls from family during the day. They all helped me to feel valued and to process the fact of aging, and live with the fear of it.

22. The mantra “We understand fear is normal, but courage gets the final say.” from “The Next Right Thing” by Emily Freeman

The Least Favored Soup

The Least Favored Soup

They kept coming, wave after wave of people carrying backpacks, looking a bit dazed, numb. They were hungry and they needed food, warm liquid, salt, calories. They had just skied 29K in below freezing temperatures. This was the Kortelopet and Prince Haakon races of the American Birkebeiner. https://www.birkie.com/ski/events/kortelopet/

Our small town hosts this winter event every year in February, unless there is no snow or the temperatures are deadly, rare situations. The number of people in town goes from the usual 2500 to 40,000 for the two days of races. It’s a pretty big deal for people who like snow. It takes nearly the whole town volunteering to pull it off. This is my second year of helping in the food tent, where all the skiers congregate after crossing the finish line.

The International Bridge which all skiers cross to reach the finish. It is erected over the main highway and covered with snow.

My brother is one of the race chiefs, heading up the serving of food and all the volunteers who help him. The menu is simple – soup, bread, bananas, cookies and drinks. The challenge is doing it in a tent, set up on a vacant lot where everything you need has to be brought in by someone. All the soup arrives frozen in gallon bags and has to be thawed before being warmed to serving temperature. It takes a crew of several men to keep filling the warming tanks, opening the bags and emptying them into the cooking pots, then transferring the hot soup to the serving tables inside the tent. All this is done outside.

“I ski the Birkie every year just for the chicken soup,” one man tells me. I don’t believe him, but the soup is really good. Volunteers inside the tent ladle it into serving cups as fast as they can for hours. Chicken noodle soup is the favorite but there is a choice. The tomato vegetable soup was my station and it is also a good one, perhaps a bit more nutritious too. However the chick/noodle is favored two to one.

I’m guessing that the pots are filled with about seven or eight gallons of soup at a time. I emptied seven of them – I can’t even imagine how many servings that was. It helped that I was tall. Scooping into the pot is easy when it’s full but as the level goes down, it gets more difficult to reach the bottom, and messy, especially when doing it fast.

The (least favored) vegetable soup

It was cold in the tent before we started serving the first finishers. The wind would lift the tarps and blow cups and table coverings off our tables. The ground also is frozen and cold, which is why we stand on rubber mats. After we got really busy I forgot all about my feet feeling like frozen blocks of ice. Watching the people come in, young ones, elder ones, men, women from all over the world, all I could think was “why would they want to be this cold and still call it fun?”

We fed over 3,000 today, and this was the smaller of the races. Tomorrow’s crowd will be twice as many. I hope to be there again, serving up the least favored soup, just sayin’…

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.

cimg2093
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!

20130609_170350
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.

20180628_121003~21912340362123067909..jpg
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.

20180729_205135
First off, you cannot put this girl in a box. Oh, wait, maybe…

20171126_120452

20170926_174919

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.

20150615_17133720151226_17341920170614_1748221

20180804_10310920180802_193157

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.

20160319_11515120170707_16433820171125_120139

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.

20170412_211955
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.

 

20170408_142812
Here’s how I travel. Safely in the parking lot at the lake.

20170408_150439-1
Looking a bit wild. It was windy. But, I am all color coordinated which is the important thing.

20170408_143707
I saw an alligator in one of the backwaters I investigated. I left rather quickly.

20170408_152344
It’s even more windy in the middle of a lake, and of course, that’s where I went. I don’t know why.

20170408_161600
It was beautiful along the shore, sun made the water sparkle.

20170408_161629-1
An outing is no good without food. I found this sheltered shore with a “hitching post” and had my snack.

20170408_164643
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

wp-1470014568951.jpg
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.

wp-1470014823579.jpg
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.

wp-1470012289006.jpg
.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!