I had a birthday this week. And I liked it.

Not that it’s probably been obvious to anyone reading this blog, but I’ve been experiencing a major shift inside for the past few months. A positive one. I’ve pondered many times how to explain it, but just can’t ever seem to put it into words. I can only say that a few months ago, I seemed to reach a sort of crossroads. Things that previously might have made me feel bitter and angry … well, they no longer dig so deep. Like I said, I can’t really explain it yet. I can only say that for the longest time, I felt like I was who I was and that I could never change. And my faith, while always important to me, had grown so very stagnant. Until something shifted inside, and suddenly … maybe not suddenly … more like gradually, but steadily, there began this whole new outlook. An entirely new sense of peace and belief and positivity began to seep in that wasn’t there before. And the more I feel it, the more I want to feed it.

Like I said, not that you might have realized it just from reading this blog. I’ve mostly tried to keep things upbeat around here. And if I was writing in a positive manner, I was truly feeling it. But if I was feeling a little dark inside, well I usually wasn’t writing it. But believe me, I felt it at times, that darkness. In my entire life, there’s been a side of me that’s been steadily bitter, sarcastic or disbelieving at certain times. Things were what they were. And maybe it’s only the things I told myself …  Some things will never change. This is as good as it gets. Don’t get me wrong. I knew that my good as it gets was pretty damn good. Still, it was this feeling that there could be nothing more. That I had no power to do or be or have the things I thought were out of my reach. But there came a point where I heard from deep down inside myself, But what if there is more? And what if so much of it is just up to me?

Anyway, that’s about as much as I can do to explain it. The whole point of all that is to say today, that this change made my having a birthday this week an entirely new and great experience.

I feel pretty fortunate to have reached this age, (closer to fifty than not,) and feel as good as I do. But as I’ve grown older, I have so much preferred to celebrate birthdays quietly. I removed my birthday from my Faceb00k profile before last year’s big day, to try to keep it under wraps. It didn’t work. Someone inevitably posts a birthday wish on my timeline and my other Faceb00k friends can’t help but notice. Soon the birthday greetings are pouring in from all over. Which is great except that I’ve always felt slightly undeserving for some reason of so much affection. I’ve never been comfortable being the center of attention. Someone forgot to tell my husband. He’s thrown me two surprise birthday parties over the years!

As my birthday approached on Wednesday, I knew my coworkers would make it known. I’ve been a party to many a stealth cubicle decorating. I’ve made birthday treats for the person of honor and helped announce to the entire office that someone was turning another year older. I knew I would have to take my turn. And when I woke up Wednesday morning, I made a mental decision to embrace it all instead of shy away from it.

When I arrived at work, my suspicions were confirmed. My birthday was being celebrated. You can’t quite tell from the photos, but no one was going to miss the fact that I was having a birthday.

There was nothing so different about my birthday this year as compared to previous ones. But somehow it felt bigger. It felt as if everyone who walked by my festively decorated cubicle at work poked their head in to wish me a sincerely happy day. There were treats – cupcakes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, caramel brownies and candy. One coworker, Diane always sings the Casey Jones Happy Birthday song to anyone celebrating their big day. In the past, I’d shy away from being sung to in the middle of the office. This time, I stood before her and proudly accepted her gift of the birthday song.

It was hard to get anything done at work that day. And it was a busy week with several deadlines! I was frantically trying to put together an important presentation for Monday morning. And yet somehow I managed to finish it by Friday afternoon.

My kids worked together (… let me repeat … my kids worked together!) to secretly order birthday flowers to be delivered to my office. This was no small feat. I work for the affiliate of the main company, in a branch location which relocated almost two years ago. Apparently the interwebs haven’t been updated very well with the new physical address, making it all that much more impressive that my birthday flowers found their way to me.

2014-11-12e

After work, Mark and I went out to dinner and celebrated quietly. My food wasn’t that great, but he enjoyed his and shared with me. And our waiter was very attentive and personable. And Mark and I talked and found things to laugh about. And it was just nice.  I’d received cards in the mail, and a birthday call from my dad. My sister left a gift bag hanging on my front door while I was out to dinner. All day long, I was made aware of how many great people I have in my life and how fortunate I am to have them.

A coworker  whose birthday is coming up next month insisted she wanted no acknowledgement of her birthday when it came time. I don’t want any more birthdays, she insisted. I know she didn’t mean it so literally, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. If we truly wish to not see another birthday, aren’t we wishing to quit living?

And I guess I’ve decided that I’m not ready to quit living. I’m tired of thinking that I’m at where I’m at and all that’s left is to ride out the remaining years as is. And I’m tired of letting negativity work its way inside of me and bring me down. I know there will be times when it will be harder to fight off than others. But I think I sometimes have a choice in this. Of course it’s so much easier for me to see today than it was thirty years ago, but life here on this earth is short. I want to be making the most of whatever time I have here. I have opportunities to keep growing and learning and being a better person than I was yesterday. I don’t have to remain stuck in the same place day after day, year after year.

The birthday goodies and celebration stretched out clear through Friday! It was fun to have visitors stop by my cubicle periodically to keep chipping away at all the sugar that had been contributed in honor of me turning another year older. People were still wishing me a happy birthday yesterday. Several times, I was asked if I did anything fun on my birthday. My response was that I’d been having fun all week-long. And it was entirely true.

Twenty-One

I’ve been referring to my offspring as young adults for quite some time. They are, after all, in various stages of grown-upness and responsibility. Brad is living on his own, working full-time and engaged to be married. Jake continues to live at home (and I’m grateful that he does,) but works full-time and just purchased his first new vehicle. Kacey just finished her third year of college and is preparing to start her summer job next week.

Yes, my kids have definitely grown up. And it’s official today. My baby is twenty-one years old today! It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. I still remember that day twenty-one years ago, when Mark was driving me to the hospital and based on my two previous experiences, I was preparing myself for another twelve to eighteen hours of labor. Then we arrived at the hospital and thirty minutes later, I was holding a baby girl in my arms.

Having only been a mom to two little boys to that point in my life, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just knew I was in love with her from the moment she arrived. I dressed her in frilly, pretty dresses just until she was old enough to move around on her own and it became clear she needed durable clothing. She had two brothers to keep up with, sand castles to build, climbing to do and bikes to ride. As she grew up, she grew to love playing sports and she also displayed a thirst for knowledge. She loved school and for many years, she would tell anyone who would listen that she wanted to be an art or phy ed teacher when she grew up.

She has always loved to be involved – in almost any kind of activity. She mentored younger kids in high school, was a youth leader at our church, and babysat the littler kids in the neighborhood. She went to school dances and played volleyball, softball, soccer and basketball. There were hundreds of sleepovers to have and to go to. Her social nature helped form the bonds of strong friendships. She loves her friends and they love her.

And so do I. She’s my best friend and the world’s greatest daughter. And she’s twenty-one today. Of course, there are plans to celebrate with her friends later on this evening, but she gave her family the honor of taking her out for her first celebration – for dinner – and her first legal drink.

Kacey and Me on her birthday

My baby’s all grown up now. And I’m officially old. (Not that it took her twenty-first birthday to make me realize that!) Happy Birthday, Kacey!

Happy Weekend

The weekend went by too fast, but I knew it would. It’s always like that when the kids are home. And we had a lot to squeeze into just a few days.

Since Connor had fraternity responsibilities and couldn’t come join us for the weekend, and since I still don’t have my new car, therefore Kacey still doesn’t have her “new” car, that left me to go pick her up from school on Thursday afternoon. I didn’t mind the hour and a half drive to and from, since I knew she would entertain me with stories while I drove us back home. I was laughing so hard I was crying over a story involving Kacey’s friend, Laura and free tampon samples at the gym!

While we drove, Kacey also shared her worries over finding employment for the summer. She had applications in at several businesses, but hadn’t yet heard from anyone. Then, as if on cue, her phone rang, and it just happened to be a job offer, the one she really wanted. She accepted and later told me she felt like a huge weight had been lifted. The next day, she heard from two others and had to explain she had accepted a position already. And when she’s not busy working her “real” job, there are two families wanting her nannying services anytime she might be available. When it rains, it pours!

I spent Friday getting the house in order and preparing as much food in advance of the weekend as possible. Brad and Heather arrived around midnight on Friday, but we were all exhausted after a long day and headed to bed not long afterwards. As we said our good nights, I told them all to plan on birthday breakfast in the morning. And before hitting the sack, I put the crock pot on.

Morning greeted us with the aroma of eggs, sausage, peppers and onions. My crock pot breakfast casserole was looking good!

Birthday breakfast 1

And Emjay’s Company French Toast did not disappoint either. This overnight French toast bake was a huge hit with the family and I will definitely make it again. Although I think my teeth actually ached a little when Jake poured maple syrup all over his carmely double portion! It certainly didn’t need any additional sugar. It was delicious as-is.

Birthday breakfast 2

We were all in a bit of a food coma after that big breakfast. The dogs soaked up all the attention they could while the kids let their stomachs settle.

Birthday weekend

Birthday weekend 2The rest of the day was spent doing whatever the kids wanted to do. Mark and Brad took Brad’s shotgun in for repair. We checked out tool boxes for Jake’s new truck at a few places. I took the girls shopping at a few of the favorite girly places. It was fun! On Saturday evening, Mark and I went to our Saturday league’s bowling banquet while the kids took the dogs along on a visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Sunday morning there was a steady parade to and from the shower. My parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and we were all trying to make sure we were dressed, shaved, made up and had our hair just so in time for brunch at the Lake Elmo Inn. Luckily, some of us are early risers, and we managed to be ready in plenty of time.

The brunch was wonderful. My parents had reserved the sun room for their guests. The day was beautiful and there was plenty of sun and warmth as we enjoyed our time with each other as well with as aunts, uncles and a few cousins. It was so fun catching up with the extended family we don’t seem to see nearly often enough. There was a lot of happy chatter and many hugs were shared. My parents looked so happy to have all of their loved ones around them on such a special day.

So today it was back to the daily grind, for all of us. Too soon. I miss them all already and can’t wait until we can be together again.

The Poop Egg

My kids, even though they are grown up, still like to carry on certain family traditions. Maybe it’s because they’re becoming adults. Maybe their sense of nostalgia is beginning to kick in already. Regardless, it does my heart good to see them willingly carry forward the family traditions.

In the weeks preceding Easter, Kacey reminded me several times to pick up extra eggs and a dye kit. She wanted to color Easter eggs with her brothers when everyone was home for the holiday weekend. And in spite of our sadness over the loss of our little Bella, we were doing our best to celebrate Easter. And staying busy helped keep our minds off of our heavy hearts.

Kacey and Connor cleared the table on Saturday afternoon. They spread newspaper and got out the coffee mugs, one for each dye color. Connor put a dye tablet in each and then measured the vinegar and water. When he and Kacey sat down to start working on the eggs, I heard her say, “We need to make sure we get some colorful eggs done before Jake starts mixing up the colors with his poop egg!”

I had forgotten about the poop egg and Kacey’s mention of it made me smile. Every year since the kids were little, Jake has made it his mission to use every single dye color on a single egg. At times, this resulted in drastic and beautiful Easter eggs. Other times? Well… that’s how the name poop egg came to be. This year’s egg was not artistic. It was poopy. But the Easter egg bounty wouldn’t have been the same without it.

Poop Egg

The eggs were finished in plenty of time for Easter, not that anyone ate a single one of them. I don’t care. My big kids coloring Easter eggs at the kitchen table is a happy memory from an otherwise difficult weekend.

We had brunch with my extended family on Easter Sunday. It was a typical, loud and frenzied celebration. When it was over, Brad and Heather went back home, stopping by her parents’ place on the way. Kacey and Connor went to his family’s Easter celebration before they went back to school. Mark went back to bed to get some sleep before working the night shift and Jake disappeared. I put my comfy pants and sweatshirt on and Lucy and I settled comfortably in the living room in front of the t.v. for the remainder of the day.

And that’s when the loss of Bella really hit me. I had myself a good cry for a while. Lucy never left my side. I’d like to think she knew I needed her comfort. And maybe she did. But I knew she was just exhausted as well. She was worn out from a weekend of running and playing with Dacotah.

Lucy Tired

As for the Easter eggs, I used them to make potato salad to have with our dinner tonight. I didn’t use the poop egg, though. Somehow that just seemed wrong.

And as for the poop egg-maker, he’s 22 years old today! Happy Birthday, Jake!

001b

My Reluctant Birthday

I had a birthday this week.  Yep. Turned another year older.

I got this idea in my head last week that I didn’t want my birthday to be a big deal. I just wanted the day to pass by under the radar without a big fuss. I’m not entirely sure now why I was feeling that way, but it seemed important at the time. I’m not comfortable being the center of attention. So I went to my FaceBook account and changed the privacy settings so that my birthday was no longer advertised there.

Monday morning arrived and as I was getting out of bed to greet the day, Mark was coming home from the night shift and heading to bed. Before he hit the sack, he wished me a quick happy birthday.

“Mmm,” I said.

“Mmm,” he asked? “What does that mean?”

“Eh,” I said.

When I arrived at work, I knew that there would be no hiding the fact that it was my birthday. Thanks to some of my favorite coworkers, festive decorations adorned every wall of my cubicle and hung from the ceiling above. I couldn’t help but smile. My cubicle is located in a high traffic area and all day long it seemed that every person who walked by made it a point to stop and wish me a happy day.

And not only had my coworkers remembered my birthday, my FaceBook friends had too, in spite of the fact that I’d tried to hide it from them. My email began to fill up with FaceBook notifications telling me that birthday greetings, a lot of them, were waiting for me when I chose to log in again.

My spirits were so uplifted! So many people took the time to stop and offer me birthday wishes. It felt great! I couldn’t remember why I wanted to let the day pass just like any other ordinary day. What was I thinking? In some ways, my day was just like any other. But sprinkled throughout my ordinary day were constant reminders of the fact that I am surrounded by wonderful people.

My coworker and friend, Lori gave me a gift. She said she didn’t mean to set a gift-giving precedent, “but sometimes you run across something that is just so perfect, you can’t pass it up.”

365 days of Blake!

It’s a 2013 Blake Shelton Calendar! How great is that? It’s a true friend who appreciates your celebrity crush and buys you the calendar! Have I mentioned my crush on Blake Shelton? It’s become one of the office jokes. Whenever Blake Shelton’s name comes up, someone will be sure to point out that he is “Terri’s boyfriend.” I like him so much that Abby drew him at my request!

An AbbyNormal original

So there was Blake. And there was cake. Delicious, chocolate cake with whipped topping. We shared it during our lunch break and it was good!

My kids all sent birthday wishes via text message.  My “little” brother sent one to0, saying “Happy Birthday, old lady!”

I sent one back saying, “Thanks! You just wish you looked this good even at your young age!”  (Because this is the kind of thing you can get away with saying to your “little” brother whose beard is gray and yet he has the nerve to call me an old lady!)

And when I came home from work, there was a present waiting for me. Mark tried to act like nothing was up, when all the while, he was just waiting for me to discover his present. He put it on my bathroom vanity because he knew I’d go in there eventually, which I did because I do sometimes use the bathroom! The bathroom is a strange place to find a big box wrapped in shiny paper, by the way, but good one, Mark!

So I opened my big shiny present in the bathroom and discovered this:

Racquetball stuff! My very own racquet and safety goggles and pink balls! I actually squealed in delight. I did. I don’t make a habit of squealing much, but the situation called for it. This is a great gift! My hubby done good! I guess I have to get serious about this racquetball thing now and stop running into walls and bruising my forearm when I’m playing.

Later on at bowling, there were pumpkin bars in my honor, more birthday wishes, and I was even serenaded with the Birthday Song by the Who’s Up team.

By the time my day came to an end, I thought about what a wonderful, happy day it had been and how fortunate I am to be surrounded by good friends and loving family. And to think I was all too willing to say no thanks to such a day! A friend of mine left me a FaceBook message telling me, “Celebrate your life, Terri. It’s a beautiful thing.”

I think next year, assuming I’m lucky enough to welcome another birthday, I will take her advice. Willingly, this time.

The Week in Cell Phone Photos (and some video!)

It’s been an eventful week!

Miss Lucy Pie got herself a new pool. The story behind this is that I wanted to give her a bath one day when she came in with muddy paws. I tried to put her in the bath tub but she was having nothing to do with it. She leaped out of my arms before I could get her in and took off running as far away as she could get. Later, I had the idea that maybe a kiddie pool was the answer. And it was. On Sunday, after this video was taken, Lucy willingly let Kacey give her a bath in the pool.

Mothers Day and Kacey’s birthday fell on the same day. I’ve pretty much fallen off the cooking bandwagon, but wanted to make a birthday dinner that I knew my baby girl would enjoy. And she did!

Cheese-Stuffed Shells

Yum!

My kids gave me the coolest gift for Mothers Day! A customized cell phone cover. I’ve been looking for a new cover, but couldn’t find one I liked. This one? I love!

Lucy has laid claim to the area under the pine tree in the back yard. She loves to hang out there. It seemed a fitting place to put the garden stone my nephew, Matthew made her for Christmas. (He made one of these for all of the family dogs! Isn’t he creative?)

Lucy Pie’s Lounge

Belinda and I ventured out of the office Tuesday at lunch time. The food trucks travel around downtown St. Paul in the summertime and we walked to Mear’s Park to see what was good to eat. We found Lamb Gyro wraps – basically a gyro in a wrap instead of in flat bread. And they were delicious!

The Cave Cafe – I highly recommend!

And after work on Tuesday, B and I enjoyed a little happy hour with some current and former coworkers! FUN!

Mmmmm…. BEER!

File this one under the not really funny, except it is category. My mom broke her toe and ended up having to wear one of these boots. How did she break her toe? She was helping my dad put on the boot that he’s required to wear for his own foot injury. (Dad’s boot is much bigger than this one.)

The fashion at my parents’ house

And the happiest ending possible to my week … Kacey is home from college for the summer!

Now to figure out where to put it all until next fall!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Lucy Pie’s First Birthday

It’s Lucy Pie’s first birthday today! At least we think it is. We’re not entirely sure of her age, since the rescue group told me she was four months old when we got her last September, but some of her paperwork listed a birth date of March 21st. The vet was inclined to think the March birth date was more realistic, so we’re going with that.

It’s hard to know what to buy for the dog who has everything. Lucy has a basket full of tug-ropes and Kongs …

KONG Extreme Dog Toys for Strong Chewers - PetSmart

She’s got several “Babies” in various colors, stripes and even camoflage …

ToyShoppe® Loofa Dog Toy - PetSmart

She’s got nyla-bones and real bones and various other toys too. We actually didn’t get her a birthday present. We’ve never been in the habit of celebrating our pets’ birthdays. I don’t think Lucy will notice, anyway. She’s spoiled every day of her life. In fact, it’s a pretty good bet that the next time one of us is at Target, we’ll swing by the dog supply aisle and pick out something for our little diva doggy.

And since it is Lucy’s special day, I thought I’d honor her with her own dog post, which she probably also will not notice, since she really can’t read and pays no attention to this blog. (Photos courtesy of Kacey and my camera, with special thanks to spring break and nothing better to do.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pretty cute, isn’t she?