Tag Archives: Birthday

Birthday kudos to the woman responsible

Today we celebrate a man and the woman who gave him life. After all, shouldn’t we pay our  due to the person responsible for putting the “birth” in “birthday”?


My Beloved commemorates another day on this earth today, and that means I get to party with him all day–singing, opening presents, eating–it’s non-stop celebration around here because, well, every day is a gift. I’ve written about why my Beloved is beloved before, so I won’t bother to reprint here, but to be honest, he deserves a whole book, not just a blog post (or 10).

No, today I write about the woman who gave birth to him many long years ago. My mother-in-law is a great mother-in-law, but first, she’s a great mom. When my Beloved’s dad died 30-something years ago, his mom was the only parent he had, and she lived up to the challenge. She’s a tough cookie–have I mentioned she changed careers midlife to become a registered nurse? She perseveres like that. She has loved my husband–and us now–though all kinds of clear sailing and storms. I can’t tell you how many times she’s lent her creativity and elbow grease in acts of service like painting my Adored stepson’s room, making couch pillows and bed shams, sewing my wedding gown (and more than one of my Beloved’s Halloween costumes), making dog coats and rugs, and probably two dozen other projects I’ve taken for granted. Did you know she lived with us for 10 weeks in a 1983 RV one winter? She was fun, a great cook and I loved getting to know her better. And she’s cleaned my refrigerator more than once. That’s love.

My Beloved’s birthday horoscope from Holiday Mathis seems to echo this sentiment, that a good relationship with Mom is worth more than gold:

What you put your money into is the least of your investments in 2016. You’ll attract support from those who understand that relationships are the true wealth in your life. When your time and attention help your personal life grow in satisfying directions, you’ll be on top of the world.

Happy Birthday, my Beloved! And thanks to my mother-in-law for bringing him into the world!

100 things about Grandma and her lifetime

My paternal grandmother turned 100 today. In her honor, I’m sharing 100 bits of trivia about her and her lifetime. Happy birthday, Grandma!

  1. She was born March 8, 1915.
  2. Civil War veterans were still alive when my grandmother was born.
  3. The Model T automobile had been in production seven years in 1915.
  4. Her birthplace was the house on the family farm in Central Minnesota.
  5. Grandma went to country school.
  6. She has lived within 20 miles of her birthplace her entire life.
  7. Her father was born in Hanover, Germany.
  8. Her mother was born in Wisconsin.
  9. She is 100% German.
  10. Grandma spoke both English and German growing up.
  11. She had two sisters.
  12. Grandma had three brothers, including an older brother who died at birth.
  13. Grandma milked cows by hand until the day she married my grandfather.
  14. She remembers squirting milk into the barn cats’ mouths.
  15. The first refrigerator was invented when Grandma was 12.
  16. The Great Depression began when she was 14.
  17. Grandma got married when she was 21.
  18. She married a man nine years older than her.
  19. They got a milk cow for a wedding gift.
  20. My grandfather was Grandma’s sister’s husband’s brother (got that? two sisters married two brothers).
  21. My grandparents lived on a farm a mile away from his brother and her sister’s farm.
  22. My grandfather once dated my grandmother’s oldest sister (but they fought a lot).
  23. Grandma’s oldest sister became a nurse.
  24. My grandparents raised milk cows, sheep, hogs and chickens.
  25. They grew hay, corn and grain to feed the cows.
  26. Grandma rarely drinks milk, and she doesn’t particularly like ice cream.
  27. My grandparents had four children; the first three were born five years apart, the last one three years after the third.
  28. My grandmother has 14 grandchildren.
  29. Grandma has 17 great-grandchildren.
  30. She has one great-great-grandchild in utero (“on the way”).
  31. Grandma has experienced the death of two grandsons.
  32. None of her children have divorced (one son lost his wife to cancer and remarried).
  33. Only two of her grandchildren have been divorced (I’m one of them).
  34. My grandparents and my great uncle and great aunt eventually retired from farming and moved to the same small town.
  35. None of Grandma’s children became farmers.
  36. The first computer was invented when Grandma was 31; her second son grew up to work on room-sized computers for Control Data.
  37. Lund Boats was founded when Grandma was 33; two of her sons eventually worked for the fishing boat manufacturer.
  38. Ray Kroc founded McDonald’s when Grandma was 40.
  39. The first Wal-Mart opened in Arkansas when Grandma was 47.
  40. When my grandparents moved to town, they became janitors at the church.
  41. Grandma earned extra money babysitting.
  42. One of my earliest memories of Grandma was when she babysat me, my sister and brother overnight. I couldn’t sleep, and she made me warm milk with honey.
  43. There were to 53,364 centenarians in the United States in 2010, according to the most recent U.S. census.
  44. There were 1,211 centenarians in Minnesota, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  45. Grandma had lived independently until about a month ago when she had a heart attack and double pneumonia.
  46. Grandma has a good sense of humor.
  47. She loves practical jokes.
  48. Women did not have the right to vote when my grandmother was born (the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920).
  49. She has lived through all or part of 17 U.S. presidencies.
  50. She has remarked that her favorite presidents were Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton.
  51. She is an excellent gardener.
  52. At one time, she raised an acre of cucumbers for Gurney’s Pickles and used the money to buy school clothes.
  53. She has a knack at keeping Christmas poinsettias alive until long after Easter (years later).
  54. She grew tomatoes, lettuce, radishes and flowers on her back porch last summer.
  55. My grandmother is a gracious hostess,
  56. She makes delicious pies; her secret is her pie crust.
  57. She made a pecan pie for my father’s 67th birthday. She was 95 at the time.
  58. The recipe to her pie crust is not written down because one of the directions includes the words “until it feels right.”
  59. She loves visitors.
  60. She serves “coffee” to her visitors; coffee means the caffeinated beverage and an array of sandwiches and desserts.
  61. Grandma likes Lutheran coffee. Lutheran coffee is weak enough you can see the bottom of the cup.
  62. When my grandfather was alive, he’d make coffee so strong a spoon could stand up in it.
  63. Grandma serves coffee in china cups with saucers.
  64. Her coffee meal always includes a garnish: pickles, pickled beets, a sliced orange or something else tart or colorful.
  65. Grandma loves coconut.
  66. Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C., with their first powered aircraft 12 years before my grandmother was born.
  67. My grandmother was 54 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
  68. Grandma is an accomplished quilter and belonged to a quilt club most of her adult life.
  69. She has made dozens of quilts including at least for each of her children, grandchildren and most of her great-grandchildren.
  70. My grandparents were married 41 years before my grandfather died.
  71. My grandmother has been a widow for 37 years.
  72. The world’s first television station began when my grandmother was 13; her son (my father) would one day make a living selling and repairing TV sets.
  73. Grandma is hearing impaired and has worn hearing aids as long as I’ve known her but she enjoys closed-captioning on TV.
  74. The highlight of the Easter egg hunt at Grandma’s house through the years was finding the Golden Egg, a hard-boiled egg Grandma painted gold.
  75. Grandma broke her neck when she was 83; she fell off the steps in the garage, got up and walked back into the house!
  76. She had to wear a halo (one of those contraptions doctors screw into your head to keep your neck immobile) for months.
  77. Grandma is a little vain; she allowed no one to take her picture while she was in the halo.
  78. She gets her hair done once a week.
  79. Grandma colored her hair into her 80s.
  80. Two of her children have red hair; two do not.
  81. None of her grandchildren have red hair.
  82. Breaking her neck was her second brush with death (her first was a tangle with bleeding ulcers in the early ’60s).
  83. My sister’s middle name is the same as Grandma’s: Marie.
  84. Grandma takes a nap almost every day.
  85. Her entire family gathers at her house on Christmas Eve.
  86. She was a regular church goer until about two years ago when she started using a walker.
  87. When she was growing up, she went to church only about once a month in the winter; the weather prevented it from occurring every Sunday.
  88. She has endured every Minnesota winter for 100 years.
  89. She is Lutheran.
  90. She got confirmed when she was 11.
  91. Grandma prays before meals and before bedtime (when her sister died, she was found kneeling beside her bed, her hands in the prayer position).
  92. When Grandma drinks wine (I’ve only ever seen her drink alcohol on holidays or special occasions), she drinks Mogen David.
  93. My grandmother’s only source of income is Social Security, which was created by Franklin Roosevelt when my grandma was 20.
  94. I not-so-secretly believe I will be long-lived like her.
  95. Her four children live within 60 miles of her; until she moved to a nursing home in a nearby town, two of her sons lived in the same town as her.
  96. All of her grandchildren except two live in Minnesota. One lives in a town just across the border in North Dakota. I am the other one living out-of-state (in Illinois).
  97. I write Grandma a letter about once a month.
  98. She almost always writes me a return note; I’ve gotten hundreds of letters over the past three decades.
  99. In her lifetime, there have been 86 Academy Awards, 49 Super Bowls, 25 U.S. presidential elections, seven major U.S. wars, and the Chicago Cubs have lost the World Series seven times.
  100. In a brief family biography, she said this about her longevity: “I have people ask me why I think I’m living so long. I don’t have an answer but I think there is a reason. There is something I have to do yet. I am getting forgetful. Maybe someday I will forget to wake up. I don’t know, but I think I have something left to do. I had a good life and a good husband and kids. All of my life was good.”

Jupiter Return promises big things

It’s a Jupiter Return year for me.  When I turn 48 in a month, I will celebrate what’s known in the astrological world as a Jupiter Return.

You might celebrate a Jupiter Return this year, too. Jupiter takes about 12 years to orbit the sun, thus every 12 years, we circle back to wherever Jupiter was when we were born. Jupiter Returns occur at ages 12, 24, 36, 48, etc.

This milestone year been described to me like the hands of a clock passing 12 — we’re at the top of our game, the beginning of a new cycle. Jupiter comes back and reminds you of the opportunities you need to be looking for and taking and creating. During a Jupiter Return, the universe is trying to hold doors open for you that might otherwise be closed. It’s a year when money flows, especially if you’re aligned with your soul’s calling, according to Molly Hall at About Religion.

Germanic people translated “day of Jupiter” to “Thor’s day” (eventually becoming Thursday). Thor, if cinema can be believed, is a bombastic god of hot air, big plans and big demands; remember, Jupiter is our solar system’s biggest planet. Jupiter expands one’s energy, optimism and self-importance and offers an overflowing cup — we can accept it, reject or drown in it, according to Christine Broadbent at Astrological Healing Alternatives.

It all sounds pretty optimistic except for the drowning part, but I’m a lifeguard so that doesn’t scare me — I’ll just tread water if necessary. Instead of dreading adding another year to my chronological age, maybe I should be excited.

Looking back, I celebrated Jupiter Returns in 1978, 1990 and 2002. I can’t remember a whole lot of abundance in seventh grade but it wasn’t the worst year of school either. I graduated college, got married for the first time and moved four states from home to take my first real job in 1990. Life definitely felt abundant then, until I discovered earning $1,000 a month wasn’t the life of wealth I had envisioned as a poor college student. Still, life was pretty good.

The year 2002 marked the end of a dreadful marital incident (so dreadful, in fact, I wrote a whole book about it), but the hands were definitely crossing 12 in 2002 and I started a new cycle.

My Beloved is a “go big or go home” type of guy who throws lightning bolts around for fun; he’s the perfect partner for a Jupiter Return year. And here’s a fortune I found with my Chinese black bean shrimp not long ago, so pertinent it was that I taped it to my computer:

A bold and dashing adventure
is in your future within the year.

Bring it on.

Stock taking on Dec. 23

Many people spend December 23rd frantically wrapping gifts, baking cookies or cleaning the house in preparation for guests.

I, however, usually spend the day unwrapping gifts, dining on cake someone else prepared and lounging around while someone waits on me.

I’m one of those unenviable Christmas babies. I was born 47 years ago at the late hour of 11:26 p.m. on Dec. 23.

My mother recently apologized to me for this unfortunate timing, but as an adult, I clearly understand how a woman doesn’t have power over such things. Apparently, I was meant to be a durable and determined Capricorn, symbolized by a mountain-climbing goat.

As I reflect on the ghosts of December 23rds Past, this day is always an opportunity not to prepare for Christmas but to prepare for the next year. With a birthday falling so close to Jan. 1, I have double the incentive to contemplate the year behind and my plans for coming year. What is that saying? Man plans, God laughs?


Obviously, the cold sober matters of my accomplishments (or lack thereof) weighed heavily on my mind the year I turned 5. Concerns about the trustworthiness of societal institutions (like the American presidency) were on the horizon but not yet realized (Watergate was broken into six months later); I was apparently disappointed with a flour-based cake. Or maybe I had, in the moments before, learned that Santa isn’t real (oh, horrors! Shield the eyes of the 5-year-old reading this blog over your shoulder!). Yes, yes, the spirit of Christmas and all that, but Santa himself — a charade created by generations of parents designed to coerce nice behavior. I was not amused.


I was a senior in high school the year I turned 18, and I remember being distinctly disappointed after cutting my hair short; as usual, I was not in step with the ’80s trend of big hair. However, the birthday-wrapped gifts in front of me appear to be filled with clothes, which I coveted more than anything else. Mom even made me a cheesecake (my favorite). I was on the cusp of being an adult and at no time then (or now) did I wax nostalgic for my childhood. Turning 18 symbolized the ability to make my own decisions. However misguided they may be.


All of my birthdays have been set against the background of Christmas, as is evident in this picture of my 29th birthday. I was mostly happily married at the time to my first husband and probably plotting how I could earn more money in the coming year. To buy more clothes.

Interestingly, I was wearing the exact same robe and flannel pajamas  — with red socks instead of those sexy pink ones — in a picture taken a year later in a different house on my 30th birthday.


In keeping with tradition on this blog, this picture of me on my 40th birthday properly obscures my appearance. For my 40th birthday, a trio of my girlfriends and I planned a night on the town beginning with an afternoon together at a spa, where I stuck my head into this contraption to determine my “real age” based on the condition of the skin on my face in ultraviolet light. I don’t remember the results, but since I was a lifeguard for two summers two decades previous, it probably wasn’t good. I wish my real age was not so evident on my skin, but as I’ve learned, having birthdays sure beats the alternative.

That was a crazy year. I almost titled my memoir “The Year I Turned 39” because of the drama of that year. The house of cards that was my marriage finally buckled under the weight of disillusionment and betrayal; I moved out, kicked a lover to the curb, filed for divorce and started dating a new man.

I’d like to be able to say I chose more wisely with this new man, but given my history, it was probably dumb luck that I found my Beloved, to whom I’ve been married now for 5 and half years. We had been dating three weeks when I turned 40, and he gave me this card:


Inside, it was unsigned, but he included this message (edited for proper comma usage; my Beloved is a deep thinker who is possibly too enamored with the comma):

You’re probably wondering what I’m up to with this card. Congratulations on making it to your 40th birthday. The reason for the card is that I am sure you’ve gotten all that Hallmark has to offer in their 40-year-old collection and to, once again, make you think: Think about how quickly the last 40 years has gone by, how many memories you’ve made for yourself and, lastly, how much time you have in front of you today. There will be a day when this card applies to your age. So, what are you going to do with the next four decades?

When you’re sitting in your easy chair and possibly reopening this card from your scrapbook (I know you’ll have one), remember this particular day and the decision you’re getting ready to make for the next path you will be led down by God. I hope it’s a pleasant, peaceful and loving journey, full of all that life has to offer.

Happy 40th, Sweetheart. I hope I’m around for the signature in a few years, 40 to be exact.

Eight months later, I moved to Illinois to be with this amazing man. Perhaps some regular readers are tired of hearing about how talented, thoughtful and generous my Beloved is, but I can’t deny his greatness. He’s as wonderful on my 47th birthday as he was on my 40th.

And unlike Santa Claus, he’s real.

As I ponder the year that was on my birthday today, I count my blessings of abundance — especially of people who care about me.  I cannot credit my Capricorn determination but rather grace.

Thank God for grace, good friends and love.

Martha Stewart moment courtesy Pinterest

Pinterest is the next best thing to a professional party planner.

My Beloved and his brother hosted a party for their mother’s 70th birthday today, and thanks to Pinterest, our setting was picture perfect.

Upon encouragement from my Dear stepdaughter, we trolled Pinterest for ideas to decorate the afternoon soirée  at a golf club. I typed phrases like “Tiffany blue,” “cheap decorations” and “purple birthday” to add pins to my Birthday Party Decorations board, and I referred to my board (and referred other to it) multiple times in the prep phase.

Party Table DecorationsI made these tissue-paper-and-tulle flowers to decorate the tables, thanks to the tutorial I found here, which I found thanks to Pinterest (easy elegance).

Party Table AnchorsThese mason jar displays for vintage photos came about thanks to images like this pin (the confetti inside this jar above is the recycled trash from the tissue-paper flowers).

Party Card KeeperAnd my future sister-in-law created this beautiful greeting card receptacle with inspiration like this.

A party planner I am not, but the party was a success, I think. Who wouldn’t be happy to have 50+ people sing happy birthday to you and share a piece of cake on your birthday?

Happy birthday, dear mother-in-law, happy birthday to you!

Celebrating the man who shares his gifts every day of the year

Today’s birthday: You’ll entertain many this year. In September, you’ll make a sale, as well as forward a personal interest. October brings you face to face with someone you’ve long wanted to know. You’ll handle a rush of business in December and go into the new year richer. March interests lead you to a fun group of friends.

I don’t put stock in astrology (but then, I don’t put a whole lot of money in the stock market either), but I get a kick out of reading my daily horoscope. Today, I had the excuse to read astrologist Holiday Mathis’ prediction for my Beloved, whose birthday is today.

Words like “you’ll entertain many,” “you’ll make a sale” and “fun group of friends” fit him to a T (him, and probably 10,000 other horoscope readers, but work with me here). He’s a gregarious salesman who loves to surround himself with interesting people, and as his wife, I get to go along for a ride (I also appreciated reading he’ll “go into the new year richer” since, as the barnacle on the ship, I’ll get to, too!).

Life is never boring with him. I always say he’s the sort to go big or go home because we seldom do things halfway.

We don’t have an old RV — we have a sparkling clean, completely operational 1983 Pace Arrow.

We don’t do weekend getaways. We getaway from winter by spending two months in South Padre Island.

We don’t eat teeny-tiny steaks from the grocery. We grill 24-ounce rib eyes or mammoth tenderloins from the butcher he knows by name.

He doesn’t go to lunch with a friend. He goes camping for two days with his friends and packs a menu, clean bedding and three kinds of adult beverages (and he cleaned the camper himself when he came home! He’s a Virgo through and through).

We don’t tend a couple of grape tomato plants. We have eight 8-foot high monsters planted so close together it’s like a game of Twister to pick the little jewels.

On the other hand, the birthday cake he got today was a pecan coffee cake with breakfast. And candles. And he liked it.

I love him so.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

The end of an age

The first day after the end of the world is the last day of being 45 for me.

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”

— Lucille Ball

Birthday questions

One could examine one’s state of affairs any day of the year, but a birthday is as good a time as any.

Recently (as recently as this morning, as a matter of fact), I’ve taken to making the birthday boy or girl these questions:

  1. What’s the thing that makes you happiest in the past year?
  2. What’s the thing you’re glad to be putting behind you?
  3. And what are you looking forward to in the next year?

It stuns me the guest of honor would rather be concentrating on being sung to and eating cake (or biscuits and gravy, in the case of this morning’s celebrant) than thinking hard about his or her life, but I forge ahead anyway and get some interesting answers.

Try it the next time you’re dining on a frosted dessert of empty calories and you might be rewarded with a fulfilling conversation.

Big birthday, little moments, good day

Well, the AARP card arrived in the mail about 10 days ago. My Beloved likes discounts, so he was actually excited about that.

Beyond that, his 50th birthday was celebrated rather quietly, without a black balloon in sight. No surprise parties, Sage, or restaurant soirées, Sheena, and I loved the concept of a limo (thanks, Wyrd) and a special album of wishes from friends (brilliant, Katharine), but I should have been soliciting ideas two weeks ago or two months ago, not two days ago. Instead of interesting beers, Frank, my husband got a big bottle of wine (from his mother), an obscene birthday card (from his uncle) and a Carhartt jacket (from me).

If nothing else, I’m an excellent procrastinator.

He enjoyed breakfast with me, lunch with his mother (and me) and dinner with his daughter (and me — I ate well today, even though it wasn’t my birthday!). “Happy birthday” was sung five different times to him. The highlight was when the waitress dimmed the lights at the sushi restaurant at dinner, and the sushi chef brought out a sculpted orange lighted with a candle and sang “Happy Birthday” a la “Deck the Halls” in “A Christmas Story” (fa, rah, rah, rah, rah …). Tyler laughed so hard! It was better than any fancy cake or elite choir.

It was a happy moment. And I guess, or hope, that’s all that counts.

Happy birthday, Beloved!

Boy turns 18; baker turns to Betty Crocker

All the world is birthday cake,
so take a piece, but not too much.

~ George Harrison

Guess who’s officially an adult today?

My stepson Caswell turns 18! He’s now entitled to vote, buy cigarettes, register with Selective Service, get a motorcycle license without taking a motorcycle-rider training course,  bear arms (some types anyway), own property, marry without parental consent and serve on a jury.

How better to celebrate this magic milestone than with cake!

I mentioned to my friend Jill that Cas was celebrating his birthday this week. Ever the mother (she has two boys) and consummate baker, she asked, “Are you making a cake?”

Eek. It never dawned on me to make a cake.

I hate cake, for one thing, so it’s not very high on my personal priority list. And I’m camping this week. Have you ever seen an oven in 1983 camper? And even when I have the best equipment, I haven’t had a lot of success with cakey cakes. Cheesecake? I’m good at cheesecake. Cakey cakes? Hardly.

A couple of years ago, I made a cake for my Beloved’s birthday and it was a disaster (read about it here).

“Do you think I should make a cake?” I asked Jill.

“What’s a birthday without cake?” she said like a baker who’s whipped out six dozen cookies for a Boy Scout outing with 8 hours notice. “How about cupcakes? You can borrow a pan from me, and I have a FUN da-Middles mix you can have. It’s like homemade Twinkies.”

So she set me up with a pan, celebration-themed cupcake liners and this foolproof mix. Bonus: The secret filling means no frosting required. The tagline, which is as perfect for this baker’s intentions as it is for this confection invention, is “It’s what’s inside that matters.”

The hardest part of the whole process was lighting the pilot light, it worked so slick! And FUN da-Middles are delicious (if you’re into cakey cakes).

Mm … creamy filling …

I get stepmother points (thanks to Jill and Betty), and Cas gets his cake and can eat it, too! Yay!

Happy birthday, sweet stepson.