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Happy Birthday to ME!

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn't take photos when I was up.

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn’t take photos when I was up.

I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate.  This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got.   I’ve got a lot to celebrate!

I feel good.  There have been many years where I haven’t.  Two years ago I was recovering from surgery.  Five years ago I couldn’t move.  25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy.  Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.

I still have family.  I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house.  My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us.  At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share.  Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way.  Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

My kids seem to like spending time with me.  I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday.  We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier).  Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday.  Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends.  All worth celebrating.

My friends are finding time to “catch-up”  I’ve had three brunches this month.  I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum.  I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone.  Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly.  I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake.  It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me.  It’s great to touch base and reconnect.  I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not.  Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club.  It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast.  I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.

It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful.  I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with.  I have generous friends and family.  I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers.   Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash.  I am truly blessed.

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn't have to make it so no complaints.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn’t have to make it so no complaints.

 

Spring Fever

Anticipating the equinox

Anticipating the equinox

I don’t want to sit inside and write.  It’s been unseasonably warm these past few days.  Sunny and up into the 50’s!   That may seem entirely reasonable, but typically we would expect another 3-8″ of snow in March not greening grasses.

Many of my friends are throwing open windows during the day just to air things out.   I’d like to do that as well, but then there’s that little allergy piece.  The warmer weather brings out all the mold.  I’m not miserable yet, but I can feel it in the air (and in my eyes and in my breathing.)

I’ve been out and about quite a bit in the past week, birthday dining.   I went to tea with a good friend.   My kids took me out to dinner.  There were seasonal rituals with much feasting (not really birthday related, but this one happens every year in competition with my birthday weekend so I’ve adopted it.)

Dinner with Karina and her boyfriend and Orion. They put candles on desert.

Dinner with Karina and her boyfriend and Orion. They put candles on desert.

I picked up some tulips at the grocery store to brighten my inside.  Since the kitchen is becoming more and more useless I need the “pick-me-up”.  I’m anxious to spend another day buried in seed catalogs and garden designs.

The spring thaw is an important lesson in balance.  It’s easy to pick up a cold when the allergies are threatening the immune system.  It’s easy to dress too warm, or not warm enough.  It’s easy to put off the things that need to be done and just sit in the sunshine.

A few spring flowers brighten up even the cloudy days

A few spring flowers brighten up even the cloudy days

It’s too early to be out planting the gardens yet.  Patience is part of the lesson here.  It’s probably fleeting.  Chances are very good we still have some freezing days ahead.  Theres an unsettled feeling.  A sense of growth, bursting forth that isn’t quite ready to happen.

The equinox is still a few weeks away, so spring isn’t officially here yet.  Even when it comes, experience tells me that it won’t necessarily feel like it.  Still the sun is shining, the days are longer and it doesn’t hurt to enjoy it while it’s here.

Mind the Gap

Happy birthday to me!  I started the week ready to celebrate.  There were meetings, cake, cupcakes and not enough protein.  I neglected to take photos.  I’ve always believed that the older you get the longer you get to celebrate.  I do have plans for high tea this week along with a dinner out with the kids.

Mind the Gap!  It doesn't look too bad

Mind the Gap! It doesn’t look too bad

There seems to be a gap, a gap between expectations and reality, a gap between celebrating and aging.  I’m a year past my last brush with cancer.  I’m celebrating.  I’m grateful.  I’m thinner, have more energy, get a lot more accomplished and have better general health.  I’m also ordering off the senior’s menu.

I’ve chosen to apply my birthday celebration logic to bridge the gap.  Every time this year I order off a senior menu I’m officially celebrating my birthday.  WOO HOO!   Honestly, the smaller portions make a lot more sense post bariatric surgery than they would have without it.  Another thing to be grateful for!

Gap number two is the time vs money gap.   There is a saying if you have the time you don’t have the money, if you have the money you don’t have the time.  I have found this to be generally true, although lately I’m feeling like I don’t have either.  Clearly I need another round of rescheduling and rearranging priorities.

Of course there are spots where the gap is considerably worse!

Of course there are spots where the gap is considerably worse!

I’ve started seriously working on my next book – about Daily Practice.  You would think that if I’m writing about it I ought to be able to put some of those things I’m writing about into play.  That helps with the time piece, but doesn’t address the money part.   I’m afraid if I go out looking for the part-time job that would bridge the money gap I’ll lose the time I’m spending writing.  Such a dilemma!

I could also write like a mad fiend and then work like crazy to promote the new book.  I could create opportunities to speak on the topic, and get paid for it.  I could invest in my new lifestyle vision.    It sure sounds good on paper!

The time vs money dilemma runs me headlong into the third gap.  Which is an actual gap – as my kitchen cupboards are slowly falling off the wall.   I’m looking at a major expense, no two ways about it.  My kitchen was “old” when we moved in 23 years ago.  It needs a serious remodel.  Lot’s of planning (and time) and potentially moving for a bit.  Certainly there is deciding what stays out and what gets packed away.

Until you begin to realize all the cabinets are falling off the wall!

Until you begin to realize all the cabinets are falling off the wall!

Disruptions happen, it’s part of life. Finding the way to stay on our feet, keep moving forward, continuing our Daily Practice, that’s balance.  It’s an active word.  It’s about making choices.   So I go back to the first gap and decide I’m old enough to have earned a new kitchen for my birthday.

Happy birthday to me!

Karina

Karina and I in NYC April 2015

Karina and I in NYC April 2015

Every year on their birthdays I write my kids a letter.  I don’t think either of them have ever seen them.  I’m not sure any of them are legible to a generation accustomed to typeface rather than sloppy cursive.  They are tucked away in baby books and old photo albums and who knows where around the house.

Since today is Karina’s birthday it seemed appropriate to write this year’s letter here.  The “photo essay” is for you guys, but the letter is for her.

Karina appreciated good food from an early age.

Karina appreciated good food from an early age.

6/8/2015

Dear Karina,

Wow!  This has been a year of unexpected changes and challenges for you.  You continue to impress and amaze me with your ability to maintain a level head and make good decisions in the face of adversity.

I started your year out with the challenge of my bariatric surgery.  Growing up with your brother, I know you have issues with spending time in the hospital.  Even so, you stepped up for me.  Your calm (eye rolling) reminders kept the surgeon from canceling the procedure all together.  You celebrated the outcome and assured me you knew it was going to be fine all along.

Her fearlessness and determination have always been evident.

Her fearlessness and determination have always been evident.

Only you would have found the best way to manage your time while I was in the hospital was to include walking the puppy with your visits.  You arranged to work through the system and get permission to bring Minnie in to visit.  It was a treat to see her (and you) and I’m sure it got me released faster.

You were so stressed you quit a job, which was a good decision.  It was definitely time to move on.  But I know it was hard for you to regroup and decide what you wanted to do next.  The ups and downs of early 20’s relationships didn’t make it easier.  I’m not sure I did either, but I always believed you’d figure it out.

She has an artistic bent that comes out in her cooking.

She has an artistic bent that comes out in her cooking.

Then you took on the family dynamic and held Christmas at your house.  Family holiday dinners are a huge undertaking for anyone.  Given your family, and all its extensions, the potential for disaster was huge.  You were determined.  Everyone would show up, feel welcomed, and have good food that suited their dietary needs.  It was impressive.  I know that post party feeling of exhaustion and wondering if it was worth it.  Now you know you really can do anything you set your mind to!

My having cancer and a second surgery threw you for a loop.  It didn’t help that you were just starting a new job, that looks like a perfect career move.  Again you managed to juggle all the pieces and perform above expectation.   Karina’s Korner was launched to rave reviews and I managed to attend my birthday dinner with very reasonable portion accommodations.

She makes the hard stuff look easy - even that awkward age!

She makes the hard stuff look easy – even that awkward age!

This last month has been yet another challenge with moving, and then having the apartment you were moving to fall through.  Most of the people I know would have spent a week crying under the covers.  You picked up, kept packing, arranged for a storage space and have already found a new, new apartment.  Chances are you’ll like this one better in the end.

This year begins for you with a fresh start.  You and Minnie will be settled into your new place before the end of the month.  You’ve left your 2nd job behind and moved to a full-time position in your career field.  Your creativity and management skills are being utilized and challenged in productive ways.  You are ready to shine.

I can’t tell you how proud and impressed I am by you this year.   You have an astounding resiliency.  You have learned a lot about yourself through these trials and have a new appreciation for your own independence.  Even when you’re hurting you are kind, and generous, and dependable.

I'm so grateful that she still enjoys spending time with me!

I’m so grateful that she still enjoys spending time with me!

I love you so much!  I only wish you the best for the coming year.  May all the hard work you’ve done bloom into joy and fulfillment.

Love,

Mom

 

Happy Birthday to ME!

Karina gets creative with her camera

Karina gets creative with her camera

For someone who’s trying to recover from a major surgery I’ve been awfully busy.  It’s hard not to celebrate a birthday, even when you’re not feeling entirely up to it.  This is my first birthday since the bariatric surgery, and my birthdays have historically been about food.

Raw oyster shells are prettier and yummy.  A sampler one from the east coast and one from the west

Raw oyster shells are prettier and yummy. A sampler one from the east coast and one from the west

When we were kids one of the things we got for our birthday was the opportunity to choose the menu.  We didn’t go out to eat a lot as a family, but my parents cooked.  Favorites ran the gamut, but I discovered seafood early and stuck with it.

More oysters - Rockefeller (her favorite) and a "Crab Cake" that's more crab than cake!

More oysters – Rockefeller (her favorite) and a “Crab Cake” that’s more crab than cake!

This year has been a challenge in many ways.  The hysterectomy has me moving slower, not getting around easily and pretty achy.  In addition, just having the surgery has decreased my food tolerance and portions.  That’s kind of normal, except given that I was already working on tolerance and portions it seems a little extreme.

Beautiful lobster bisque - this counts as a main course for me.

Beautiful lobster bisque – this counts as a main course for me.

Of course where there is a will there is often a way!  My dreams of baking myself a cake to take to a party, or making myself a special dinner were very unrealistic.  I’m not that far along in my recovery.  But I have friends and family who managed to keep me eating all weekend long.

The main dish off the Restaurant week menu was a mahimahi on dirty rice with a pineapple glaze.  Karina devoured it.  I had a bite.

The main dish off the Restaurant week menu was a mahimahi on dirty rice with a pineapple glaze. Karina devoured it. I had a bite.

Thursday my daughter took me out to Oceanaire for birthday dinner.  We ordered one Restaurant Week meal, a couple extra appetizers and a cup of lobster bisque and shared it out.   Beautiful food, well prepared, very tasty and oh so very much to eat!  I may not have had much (and took home leftovers) but I was more than satisfied and had a delightful evening besides.

The waitress brought our forks first.   This is what desert looked like when it occurred to us to take a photo.

The waitress brought our forks first. This is what desert looked like when it occurred to us to take a photo.

Saturday I was taken out for sashimi by my ex and my son.   That was also a treat.  Again we managed to shuffle the meals around so that everyone got something they liked and there wasn’t too much extra.  I had time enough for a nap before going out again that evening with friends.

This is what the "death by chocolate cake" with a dark cherry vanilla ice cream looked like in the kitchen.

This is what the “death by chocolate cake” with a dark cherry vanilla ice cream looked like in the kitchen.

That wasn’t specifically for my birthday and much of the “pot-luck” was vegan, but it was good to see some old friends and catch up.  I brought a bag of clementines – not something I would buy for just me.  I can eat a couple of segments at a time.  It was a treat and definitely qualified as a vegan dish.

Sunday was our annual women’s ritual.  Again the food was lovely and in huge quantities.  I did manage to “cook” Tzatziki  to go with my frozen appetizer spanakopita from Trader Joe’s.   There were ribs, meatballs, and spiced nuts,  liver pate,  stuffed clams and scallops, and hummus, olives, and a variety of cheeses.  I definitely needed a nap!   The liver pate came especially for me to help with that anemia problem.  Yummy!

Lunch with Orion was good too.  But not quite so dramatic.

Lunch with Orion was good too. But not quite so dramatic.

I have so much to be grateful for this year.  The hysterectomy took care of the cancer – no chemo or radiation necessary.  I have had incredible support from my friends and family to get through these past few weeks.  I may be grumpy I’m not improving fast enough, but I do continue to be able to do a little more each day. I’m also reassured that I really am doing well, I’m just impatient.   And I have some great leftovers to help me through the coming week!

Growing Up

Orion tried his hand at drumming last weekend.  He seemed to really enjoy it.

Orion tried his hand at drumming last weekend. He seemed to really enjoy it.

Orion turns 26 years old this week.   I can’t even wrap my head around that.   He’s approaching this birthday with typical enthusiasm.  He’s excited to have a theme to use in his interactions with people, especially when he knows they’ll all wish him well.  He’s excited about going out to a new restaurant he learned about from the guy who delivered his new wheelchair last month.  In fact Orion invited the guy and his wife to his birthday dinner and still holds hope they’ll be there.

For me every one of Orion’s birthday’s is a little bittersweet.  I love seeing him so happy.   I love watching him shift and grow as he explores new ways of being in the world.  I love that he doesn’t care at all about presents, he just wants attention and hugs.   His upbeat attitude is contagious.  I don’t know what I’d do without him.

But I also understand the limits of his independence, which become more obvious, more pronounced as he ages.  He doesn’t have aspirations for a career, or even a job.  He’s happy to help out when he’s asked and able, but even his day program hasn’t found a part-time volunteer placement for him in the last 2 years.   His future possibilities get smaller and smaller with each passing year.

There’s also my part in all of it.  I’m not sure that it’s still the best option for either of us to be “tied at the hip”.   As his primary caregiver I’m very much aware of how little I’m able to do to move him forward.  That’s been particularly obvious these last few months when our mobility has been additionally limited by my recovery from the surgery.   Caregivers are hard to come by.  Orion needs stimulation and he’s become too comfortable with the status quo to be motivated to move forward.

I took Orion to Mazatlan when he graduated HS.  He's always game for an adventure! - And the locals were very impressed with Orion's Spanish.

I took Orion to Mazatlan when he graduated HS. He’s always game for an adventure! – And the locals were very impressed with Orion’s Spanish.

When Orion was born we were told that he’d probably be a vegetable and would be dead before he was 5 years old.  I didn’t think that the evidence supported that conclusion then, and clearly rejecting that comment was a good decision.   I have an enormous amount to be grateful for.  Orion has been such a blessing in my life.  He’s an inspiration, a delight, and a wonder.

Orion, may you continue to take joy in the world around you.   May you continue to work at developing social interactions and the skills to build relationships.  May you find ways to do the things you enjoy that are also productive and sustaining.  May you always be open to new experiences, new people, and new possibilities for your future.

Happy Birthday!

Karina Karina

Happy Birthday Karina!

Happy Birthday Karina!

My little girl turned 21 years old this weekend.

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Coming Home

Coming Home

She continues to be such a delight.

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I’m so proud of her and all she’s doing with her life. But it’s also a little sad.

 

 

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She's always wanted a dog

She’s always wanted a dog

Seems like yesterday she was crawling into my lap.

 

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She tried her hand at music.

She tried her hand at music.

And happy to jump in with both feet!

And happy to jump in with both feet!

So I took a little stroll

And found choir and friends

And found choir and friends

down memory lane.

She's always been a take charge kind of girl

She’s always been a take charge kind of girl

She know's what she wants and she'll see that she gets it!  (Buddy's "the Cake Boss" signature.

She knows what she wants and she’ll see that she gets it! (Buddy’s “the Cake Boss” signature.)

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Now she's a Baker and moving her career forward

Now she’s a Baker and moving her career forward

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Happy Birthday Karina!0425142114c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

50

Can you see it says 50? My sister asked for “tie-dye frosting” What a brat!

I don’t know why the 50th birthday is such a big deal, but it is.  There is something about a woman turning 50 that gives permission.  After 50, what other people might think doesn’t matter so much anymore.  After 50 somehow there is an authority of age that didn’t exist before.  Maybe it’s recognizing mortality (I don’t think so) but hitting 50 is like getting permission to be whoever you want to be.  I know I couldn’t have written my book, Manifest Divinity, until after I was 50.

Eventually Karina came through on my 50th, and she’ll never let me forget it!

I was very clear from my 49th birthday on what I wanted and expected for my 50th birthday.  My poor daughter still complains about how horrible I was when it came and went without any dramatic recognition.  Sure I got to go out to dinner with the kids, but it was just us.  She told me I wouldn’t really have enjoyed a birthday party anyway.   3 weeks (and a lot of sighing) afterwards the surprise party she’d planned finally came together.  I was defiantly surprised!

Along with Thanksgiving, last week was my sister’s 50th birthday.  She too had announced a year ago this was a big deal and she intended to celebrate in a big way.  As we got closer to the date her life seemed to collapse in on her.  She’s spent the last month with concerns about her S.O.’s health.  It took him out of the planning loop and of course she put off everything too, making sure he was going to be okay.

“Cousins” two of my sisters grandchildren

Her original intention was to have a party with her friends the weekend before Thanksgiving.  That would have been fine, but her kids were coming up for Thanksgiving and couldn’t get away twice.  My sister is a Grandma, and that’s a big part about what being 50 means to her.  Without the kids there was no point in the party.  It got canceled and she started referring to her “fxxxing fiftieth birthday party”.

When the family got together for Thanksgiving it was announced that we’d all go over to her house for lunch and the “fxxxing fiftieth birthday party” on Saturday.  She’d let her friends know they could come over and her S.O. would make a big batch of pho  (Vietnamese soup.)  There was some grumbling about crab legs, which is what she really wanted.  “Everyone else gets crab legs and I get turkey dinner.”  “There is apparently a rule that there can’t be crab legs for just one.”  In spite of that things were looking up.

My sister’s newest grandchild.

Saturday morning came and we got a phone call.  The water pump had died.  There was no water, there was no party.  Pretty much this was the end of the world.  I knew that feeling!  I felt the same way when my 50th birthday came and went.  Mom said, “Come over, we’ll have the party here.”  There was some reference to pulling shrimp out of the freezer.  I may have mentioned at one time or another that my mother keeps several freezers full of ‘just in case’.  She probably did have enough shrimp to feed whoever showed up.

Everyone arrived before my sister and her S.O..  Mom organized us to shout “SURPRISE” and sing Happy Birthday as my sister came in the door.  It set the tone for the day.  The ‘boys’ (the S.O., the son and the family friend) drove the 1/2 hour to Brainerd and back because at this point we all agreed my sister deserved her crab legs.  My niece baked the cake, my Mom pulled out the shrimp the boys took several phone calls about “a few more things to pick up while you’re down there.”  The wine was opened and the women sat around the table being crones.

SURPRISE!!! (The cake mix and frosting were her birthday present from my Mom, their annual tradition)

When the ‘boys’ got back they not only managed to get everything on the list and then some.  They brought enough king crab legs and lobster tails to feed the crowd.  Not only that but the shrimp still came out of the freezer and my Mom made her infamous cocktail sauce.  The tears came again, this time because everything really did turn out perfect.

50 is a big deal.  It’s definitely worth acknowledging in style.  Happy Birthday Sis!

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Distractions

Sorry I’m late posting this blog.  It’s been quite the week of distractions, pleasant ones.  The problem is that I get behind.  Then I’d rather continue to be distracted than catch up.  I managed to get through most of my to do list yesterday, just missed this one.

If my daughter read my blog she'd be mortified I posted this. It was a class assignment and she wasn't happy with her work.

Snow laden branches pulled toward the ground.

The first distraction of the last week was my birthday.  (It was probably the second and third distraction as well.)  I’m a firm believer in celebrating many times in small doses and this year is no exception.  My kids took me out for dinner on Tuesday night.  Nice restaurant, great food, decent price because apparently it’s “restaurant week” so there was a tasting menu.  Didn’t get much done around the house, but didn’t plan to.  The weather was wet and ice was forming on the trees by the time we got out from dinner.

Looking across the street out the picture window.

Wednesday the distraction was definitely the weather.  The snow storm came through and my house was one of 13,000 in town without power.  Better than having no house because of the tornados that came through the lower midwest behind this thing.  Still, I spent the day off of the internet and tending the hearth.

Hearth fire

A fireplace goes a long way towards keeping the pipes from freezing because no power means no heat.  Luckily by the time the sun set I had electricity again.

Even at midday the fire added warmth and light.

Thursday evening is often catch up time for me, but my daughter had tickets to the home and garden show.  We went out again for the evening.  We saw a culinary demo by Yigit (the winner of Top Chef Desserts) and chatted with him afterwards.  You may or may not know my daughter is in culinary school studying to become a dessert chef.  She and Yigit hit it off as you can see.  I had a great time.

Karina and Yigit from Top Chef Desserts. Aren't they a cute couple?

All of this rushing about (and avoiding household chores) has made me tired.  I feel like I’m fighting off a cold with a sore throat (I have a history of strep throat every spring and fall) and all I want to do is curl up in bed.  Hulu was made for days like this and so the Marathon of mindless TV colored my weekend.

There really is no excuse for getting as far behind as I did, except that it was my birthday week and I just didn’t want to do anything more.

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