Thursday, September 28, 2006

So, the actual birthday itself...?

Not too impressive. Before I explain why, let me preface this by saying that our family doens't really go all-out for birthdays and anniversaries. We celebrate them and acknowledge them, but unless you're a kid in the family, chances are it's going to be with minimal fuss.


Last year, when my husband turned 40, I made an effort of recognizing it in a bigger way than usual. With the help of a friend, we threw a little surprise party for him. Cake, cards...nothing fancy, but it was more than he was expecting, I'm quite sure. I wanted him to know that I knew this was a special birthday. After all, marking four decades of life doesn't happen every day.

But you see, I realize now that I broke one of my cardinal rules of life when I planned that party. How? I had an ulterior motive. I'm not sure I even realized I had it at the time. But I'm pretty sure it was there. I'm strongly against ulterior motives in life...I sincerely believe in giving without expecting anything in return. I think I live by that fairly well most of the time.

But the party...yes, the party was genuinely for him and I wanted him to know how much his friends care about him and that I care enough about him to go completely outside of my comfort zone to plan a gathering of that sort. But. I think I may have also thought that by giving him a little party, he would GET THE HINT that I might like to have my 40th birthday similarly acknowledged this year. Nothing extravagant. Just a small gathering of friends, some cake, some cards...a time to laugh and have fun. To celebrate life.

And then, as luck would have it, just a couple months ago, one of our friends threw a surprise party for his wife's birthday...not even a milestone birtday, but her 42nd. Just because they'd never had a special party for her before. I thought that was the sweetest thing in the world, and I commented on that to my husband a couple of times. And I thought...surely he's PAYING ATTENTION and is GETTING IT that I might really appreciate something like this for my birthday.

So. Yesterday. Birthday. 40th birthday. I got a couple e-greetings from friends and my mother-in-law wishing me a wonderful day. Talked to my mom on the phone twice...she remembered it was my birthday on the second call. With all that's going on in her world right now with the move, I couldn't really get upset at it slipping her mind. My kids, however, said nothing. My oldest is usually pretty good about calling and remembeing, but he didn't call until today. And the younger two? Ok, I thought. They're kids. It probably isn't the first thing on their mind.

So we went through our day yesterday...went to soccer, went to the library...ran into a couple friends when we were out and about, both of whom wished me a happy birthday IN FRONT OF MY KIDS. Did they pick up on this? No. No they did not. Not one utterance of birthday wishes from either of them. Fine. Whatever.

On the way home from soccer, we stopped at McDonald's for a snack. When we got home, I attempted to snag a few of my son's French fries since I didn't get any for me. He, channeling the attitude of a greedy little piggy at that moment, would not share. So, feeling beyond miffed at this point in the day, I said, "You know, it's my BIRTHDAY and you didn't wish me a happy birthday, so the LEAST you could do is let me have some of your FRIES!" At that point, both kids chimed in with a happy albeit remorseless chorus of "Happy Birthday!!!" (But he still wouldn't share his fries, the little twerp.)

Now, I've been on the verge of weepiness all week long...mostly due to life transitions happening in my life and that of a close friend, not really about the birthday at all. However, this obvious lack of any caring whatsoever by the people in my life who are SUPPOSED to love me had really gotten to me. So when my husband came home from work -- after having NOT called me ALL DAY to acknowledge what day it was -- and the first thing out of his mouth was, "So, how was your day?" he was lucky I didn't skewer him with a pitchfork then and there. (Not that I keep a pitchfork in the kitchen, but you get my drift.)

I didn't answer right away. I waited. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. A chance to THINK and REMEMBER and not completely blow it. So, he asked again. "How was your DAY?"

I have my limits.


Despite how miserable I felt and how big a pity-party I was throwing for myself inside my head, I almost felt sorry for him because he truly had one of the most convincing deer-in-the-headlights looks on his face I've ever seen. "I'm sorry..." he started, but by then I was a full-blown mess and retreated to the bedroom. I mean...I accept the fact that when it comes to this kind of stuff, he has always been clueless. Downright CLUELESS. He's the first to admit that. And for 14 years, I've made the best of clueless. I've put up with it.


For 14 years, my birthday has fallen exactly FOUR days after his. His is the 23rd of September and mine, two, three, FOUR days later....on the 27th. Every year. No deviation. He used to joke that it was a good thing his was first otherwise he'd never remember mine. Clearly his early alert system failed. What about using Outlook reminders? Writing yourself a note? PAYING ATTENTION to your WIFE who has been YABBERING ON AND ON FOR A YEAR about how much she is totally, genuinely looking forward to her 40TH BIRTHDAY?


So, that was how my birthday went. Not at all how I'd anticipated celebrating that day. I'd really love a do-over. :::sigh::: Of all birthdays...I can't remember ever looking forward to one as much as I was this one. Not 16. Not 21. This one was supposed to be special. And I guess it still was. It was special to me as I spent an entire year looking foward to it and ruminating about it and reflecting on what it means and truly being happy to have gotten to this point in life. It really does feel like a milestone to me. I just would have really liked someone else to share in the celebrating. I'd have liked my family to GET ME enough to know how much it would have meant. I think that's what is bothering me the most. That they didn't. And that makes me feel kind of lonely.

I know this post sounds really whiny and oh-poor-me...and that really isn't my style. I don't tend to go this direction very often. I try not to let myself get consumed with self-pitying issues because really? Life is bigger than this and it's too short to waste time being bogged down over a forgotten birthday. I wasn't even going to blog about it because I was worried that people would come away from reading this thinking, "Man, what a self-centered b*tch she is." I've been trying to just put it all out of my head and forget about it and get on with life. It's just silly, I tell myself. But it's still eating at me. And that tells me that it isn't completely silly and I need to be honest with myself about how I'm feeling instead of doing what women do so often and just brush the things important to them under the rug lest they seem selfish.

So, I'm being honest. Yesterday really was not a good day. My feelings were hurt more yesterday than I can recall happening in a very long time. I know it's not the end of the world, and I will get over it. Already today a good bit of the sting of it all has left. (I probably couldn't even have written this yesterday, frankly.) And tomorrow will be yet a better day. And then on Saturday, we leave for Florida, where a whole new leg of this life journey will begin, and the lost birthday will not seem so hard. Time is a good friend.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Happy birthday to me...

I'm 40.
I'm content.
I (mostly) like who I am.
I'm optomistic about the future.
I feel like I'm in the midst of life-changing transitions, but I have faith things will work out fine.
I think I finally feel like an adult.
I am who I am, and that's ok.
I don't have to fit anyone else's mold for me.
In some ways, I think I'm just getting started.

Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Theme parties, rhymes and infernal gods...

I'm neither big into theme parties nor Shakespeare, but I've long thought that -- as opposed to the stereotypical toga parties one might think of when considering these two topics in the same sentence -- it would be really kind of fun/quirky/literarily geeky to throw an Ides of March party. Come March 15th, everyone could dress up as a favorite Shakespeare character and go around quoting bits from plays appropriate to their character so that other guests can try and guess who you are. And we could drink wine. And have people feed us grapes. (I'll be the one wandering around in a daze randomly shouting, "Out, out, damn spot!" which I realize is actually a mis-quote of the line, but it's what everyone knows and loves, so we'll go with that.) (Did I mention the wine?)

Anyway, I was looking at Cathy Z.'s blog today and admiring her 12 on the 12th layout. Ever one to try and think up new twists for other people's ideas, I thought to myself, "What about doing an 'Ides of...' layout series? One layout on the 15th of each month!" Sure! Why not? But then I realized that I dind't know if the 15th of every month was really considered the "ides" of that month, or if it was specifically a March kind of thing.

Off I went to visit my best friend, Google, who took me next door to see my other friend, Wikipedia. And lo and behold, Wiki had all kinds of things to say about ides (traditionally the day of the full moon) and nones (traditionally the day of the half moon) and the ancient Roman calendar in general ("ancient" being considered pre-46 that point you enter Julian territory and that is just too modern to even talk about).

Seems that ides fell on the 15th of long months and the 13th of short months. You see, depending on the time period, months started out having either 31 or 30 days, and then later moved to having 31 or 29 days, with February having 28...but that was only after they added January and February to the calendar, thus avoiding that long, uncomfortable and undoubtedly cold period during the winter that had no months at all. And with only 10 months in the year, they had to toss in intercalary months every couple of years (which usually usurped the end of February, but it was all rather arbitrary) to keep up with the actual solar year. It's a wonder the Romans ever knew what the date was, if you ask me.

But I digress. (Can you really digress in a post categorized as "random"?? Hm.)*

I've never, ever been good at remembering which days of the current calendar have 30 or 31 days until a few years back when a friend taught me the little trick of keeping track of it by saying the months while counting your knuckles and the dips between your knucles in order to keep track. I remember my mom trying to teach me the little sing-songy ditty of "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one, ..." but then I totally forget how the whole February part goes and it inevitably loses it lyrical benefit for me. Anyway, Wiki shared with me that even the old Romans had a way of remembering their ides and nones and whatnot.

"In March, July, October, May
The IDES fall on the fifteenth day
The NONES the seventh; all besides
Have two days less for Nones and Ides."

Ok...not sure that the ancient Romans actually said this to remind themselves of how their days were ordered, but it sure has a lot more going for it than that other little ditty, doens't it?

So, September being a short month, we've already missed the ides of it. Bummer. But! To help alleviate your disappointment, allow me to share yet another twinkling tidbit of ancient Roman calendrical trivia for you. Seems the ancient Romans despised whole numbers, superstitiously dreading them, which is why they preferred their months to have uneven numbers of days. The month of February was given over to the infernal gods, though, so it was completely ok for it to have an even number. Besides, at that point, the twelve months added up to 355 days, an uneven number, so it was all good in the end.

Fascinating, no?
No?? Oh, what's that you're saying? You weren't looking for the Geek-of-the-Month party? So sorry. Try the room down the hall...the one where everyone isn't wearing a toga.

*[Edited: my old blog had a category called "random" it is basically the same as "odd bits," from which I imagine it is just as impossible to digress.]

Monday, September 11, 2006


As I get older, I find myself purposely trying to avoid situations that will evoke excessive emotion in me. I don't read "tissue warning" e-mail forwards. I don't watch many schmaltzy, made-for-TV movies. I don't listen to St. Jude telethons. It's not that I'm hard-hearted and don't want to feel the emotions these things evoke. It's the opposite. I know how easily I'll feel them, and they often leave me raw. I don't like that feeling. That vulnerability.

For most of the day today, I didn't tune into any news web sites. Our TV is still not hooked back up to the cable, so watching television news was not an option. We don't get a newspaper. Thus, it was not hard for me to avoid these annual reminders of what this day will always mean. The closest I got to any of it was while waiting for my drink at Starbucks and glancing at the cover of the New York Times. And then glancing away again.

Still, how can you have lived through that day five years ago and not remember? You can't. And that's why, after a day of purposeful avoidance, I found myself surfing through news sites tonight...looking at all-too-familiar pictures that hit me like a sharp blow to the stomach as they evoked vivid memories of that blue skied the middle of teaching my then 5 and 6 year olds math when my phone was my friend, knowing I wouldn't have the TV on at that time of day..."You need to turn on the television," she said..."...and so I did, and there my children and I watched together as the towers began to crumble and fall, people still standing in the windows...and the world -- my world -- was forever shaken.

I asked my kids tonight if they remembered what happened on September 11th five years ago...if they remembered the pictures I was looking at on the computer. My daughter, the younger of the two, said she remembered the stories but not the pictures. I told her it was just as well. My son? He remembers. He can recount the horror of that day. I'll never forget the prayer service we attended at our church that evening five years we were all invited to share what we were feeling with those around us, and my six year old son piped up, in a voice beyond his years, and said, "I just don't know..." Everyone there could have said the same thing.

So I've felt the feelings I wished I could have avoided today, and I remembered in my own way, at my own speed. And I reflected on how much our world has changed. On how my kids will never know anything other than a post-9/11 world. How I feel proud of the people who have gone to fight and die as a result of all this, and how I wish they didn't have to be there. And how, so many of my days, I live without giving thought to any of this, how I just take for granted that it will be a normal, safe, mundane kind of day. The kind of day I can go and get a drink at Starbucks without fear or trepidation. The kind of day when the sounds of air traffic blend in and go unnoticed. And how I need to be more aware that every normal, safe, mundane kind of day is a gift, not to be taken for granted.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

You know you're...

...experiencing a life transition when you suddenly find yourself engaged in reading an issue of More and actually able to relate to the themes of the articles.

Twenty-four days until 40....