Tag Archives: Birthday

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.

A rare name for a rare woman: My mother

My cherished mother turns 71 today. Happy birthday, dear Mother! How I adore you.

She is the best mother on the planet, at least for me. She loves me no matter what and that’s just what a flawed, struggling middle-aged woman like me needs some days.

She is an interesting person in her 70s, but in honor of her birthday today, let’s turn to her early years.

She was born Karen Meleese in 1941 in western North Dakota. You can see by this picture, presumably taken on the farm where she lived, how flat the landscape was.

“Karen” was the 19th most popular girl’s name in America that year, according to the Social Security Administration. It’s her unique middle name, “Meleese,” that fascinates me. Both my sister and I have talked about using that name for a daughter but, alas, I did not bear children and my sister delivered only sons.

“Meleese” comes from a 1910 book by James Oliver Curwood, “The Danger Trail.” My grandfather appreciated language — he loved to read, recited poetry and once sold magazine subscriptions for a living — so I suppose he ran across this uncommon name and committed it to memory, intending to use it at some point.

When my mother was born, he found his use.

Thanks to the World Wide Web, I discovered the character’s name plays a major role in Curwood’s book. Here’s an excerpt:

He stood looking down into her glowing face in silence. Then, “They are gone,” he repeated. “They were the men who tried to kill me at Prince Albert. I have let them go — for you. Will you tell me your name?”

“Yes — that much — now. It is Meleese.”


The name fell from him sharply. In an instant there recurred to him all that Croisset had said, and there almost came from his lips the half-breed’s words, which had burned themselves in his memory, “Perhaps you will understand when I tell you this warning is sent to you by the little Meleese.” What had Croisset meant?

“Meleese,” he repeated, looking strangely into the girl’s face.

“Yes — Meleese — ”

She drew back from him slowly, the color fading from her cheeks; and as she saw the light in his eyes, there burst from her a short, stifled cry.

“Now — you understand — you understand why you must go back into the South,” she almost sobbed. “Oh, I have sinned to tell you my name! But you will go, won’t you? You will go — for me –“

In an album she made for me, Mother mused, “In my dreams about growing up, I was going to live on a ranch in Wyoming and be a cowgirl and change my name to Lovica.”

Whatever you call her — “Karen,” “Karen Meleese,” perhaps “Lovica” — her best name to me is “Mom.”

May you have a blessed day, Mom. I love you!

A birthday for a brother, a boy and Obama

Some important-to-me birthdays occur today, Aug. 4.

My brother, who died 10 and half years ago in a car accident, was born Aug. 4. He would have been 37 today.

My nephew, Logan, turns 6 today. My sister didn’t really want him being born on her dead brother’s birthday, but Logan arrived that day, of all days, anyway.

Isn’t that just how a Leo is? A little bit “look at me” and “I’m in charge, not you”?

Well, that’s how Leos are in my experience. My ex-husband is a Leo. Behaved very much like the king of the jungle.

My stepdaughter is a Leo, too. Sleek, proud and in control.

Ironically (or not, I suppose everyone has to be born on a day someone else was born), it’s President Obama’s birthday today, too. He’s 48.

Since his fortunes in the next year might mirror our own, I got a kick out of Holiday Matthis’ horoscope for Aug. 4 birthday celebrants today:

“Vitality increases this year. You’ll spiff up your image, impress your loved ones and attract new friends. Shockingly good news comes in September. An effort to bring family together heals your heart in December. In the new year, you’ll shift your perspective on work and suddenly make much more money in less time. Capricorn and Scorpio adore you.”

Shockingly good news in September, huh? Can’t wait to see what that might be. A bullish stock market? Kim Jong Il’s demise? Universal health care passes Congress?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking of my brother and hoping a 6-year-old in Minnesota has a great day!

94 and going strong

I try to write a letter to Grandma at least once a month and especially when I’m out of the country. I like to tell her about different places around the country or the world.

She is my father’s mother and my only living grandparent. I am one of 14 grandchildren.

She still lives independently, and though she is more stooped in recent years, she remains in pretty good health. I am convinced I will live into my 90s or 100s because of her good Minnesota genetics (and those of my dad, her son). She is severely hearing impaired, but closed captioning on the TV helps keep her abreast of current events. For instance, I know she was a big Hillary Clinton fan and had a very hard time voting for Obama. She loves to sew and has made quilts for most of the major events in our family — births, graduations and weddings.

She has a great sense of humor and loves April Fool’s Day. A widow for more than three and half decades, she also has a ton of perseverance. At 94, you have to! Here is just one example of how she lives optimistically:

When she was about 83 (give or take a couple of years), she fell off the steps inside her garage and broke her neck. Yes! Broke her neck! She actually got up and, feeling stupid for falling, went back inside the house!

At some point, she went to the hospital and the doctor diagnosed her broken neck, and she had to wear one of those halo things that they screw into your head to keep your neck immobile for something like six months. Imagine! An octogenarian with a metal halo! She couldn’t turn her head, and I imagine it was no fun trying to sleep. The worst part for her wasn’t the pain or the fear of not healing — it was being embarrassed about her appearance. She didn’t like looking strange. Well, who does? But you think you get over vanity by the time you’re 80!

That attitude helped her get better, I think. She was stubborn, and she she got better, and has gone on to live another decade on her own. Someone else cut from different cloth might have given up, suffered deteriorating health and died. Not Grandma.

She turned 94 on Sunday. 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.”