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!

#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…

Making Faith Common

I woke up this morning knowing that my plans were in jeopardy. I had the awareness that we should have been up and around, getting ready to travel the four hours to see the daughter whose birthday is tomorrow. That was still in my mind last night as I rounded things up and put them in the car for an early start. It was nearly 7, and we had meant to start at 8. I could tell already that wasn’t going to happen.

But don’t panic. Your plans may need to change, and that will be alright.

I checked my phone, as usual, and saw a couple text messages that had come since I had gone to bed the night before. My daughter was undecided about the weekend. She was going to have four days off and was wanting to make good use of it, maybe travel away from home to look for a new job. She was also concerned about her dad. He had hurt his back and she knew he wouldn’t want to sit in the car for hours and hours. Should she come home to us so he wouldn’t have to travel? The possibilities were confusing. I wanted to talk to her but she wasn’t answering the phone.

You’re right. Don’t rush around trying to get ready and don’t be upset or confused. I know what’s going to happen and you will know, trust me.

 My husband wasn’t even stirring yet. I knew he liked to go slowly in the morning even when he was feeling well. His painful back was going to make it even harder to get ready. It seemed okay to let him sleep since I wasn’t sure what we were going to do anyway. An hour later he came shuffling out of the bedroom, every step taking effort, and headed to his favorite chair – the one that made his back feel better. I told him the situation. “It would sure be easier if she could come here, but I’ll go up there if she can’t. I want to be there for her birthday.”

You know what you need to do – ask me for help and affirm your trust. I’ll take care of the plan.”

 We had been praying together in the mornings pretty regularly, so it wasn’t hard to decide to do it given this situation. We asked for peace for our daughter and for ourselves. We asked that she be blessed on her birthday and that she would know that she was valued and loved. We asked for the best plan to be clear and that we would not balk or feel inconvenienced. “We want what you want Lord, so we’ll wait until you let us know what it is.”

Soon after, my cell phone rang, and my daughter and I talked. “We should have thought more about this weekend, I guess.” She was subdued and sounded tired.

“Yes, Dad doesn’t look any better this morning. He’s not moving very well. It might not be the best thing for him to travel.”

“That’s why I asked if I should come down.  His bad back wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping in my accommodations either.  I want to get away from here anyway, stay somewhere a little nicer this weekend. Can I bring the cats?”

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The cats seem to have settled in already. It’s their specialty.

And so it happened that instead of going to Jacksonville for the weekend, Jacksonville came to us – the girl, the dog and two cats and that really does seem best to us all. I was consciously aware of and thankful for the fact that I did not waste energy worrying about how it would turn out. I did not struggle with the change of plans. There was no miracle here, no dramatic voice from above, just a quiet interchange of spiritual thought in a rather common type of situation. What makes it possible is the claim of God to be caring about the details of my life and the response to believe him. It is very freeing and my wish is to be able to apply it, practice it, until it is second nature in all situations. It is like having adventures with someone who has all the time in the world for me. And I thought I would say that I like that, very much.

 

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+.

A to Z Challenge: The B word

Birthday (not what you were expecting?). The one day of the year when a person should do something bold, rejuvenating, uncharacteristic of normal activity, all in an effort to offset the fact that another year has come and gone.  I have no idea what to do this year, except I’d like to avoid eating being the focus.  I’d prefer activity at little or no cost – the perfect combination – with a token of remembrance of some sort. Other years it’s been kayaking, or an epic hike or bike ride.  So far there is nothing on my schedule for that day except semi-annual AC tune up by the Cool-It Man. I don’t know what I was thinking when they called.

one more memorable birthday NOT
one more memorable birthday NOT

I was doing something memorable on April 2 thirty-two years ago. It had to do with “birthday” as well, but not my own. On that day our family went from three to four in number. As much as we could, we were trying to keep you (you know who you are) from life-long April Fools jokes, and there you were a few minutes after midnight, cooperative as usual. Today my heart celebrates you and EVERYTHING you have added to my life. All my love and Happy Birthday (!!), Mom