Happy Birthday, Mom! (Wish You Were Here)

Several years ago I wrote this blog for my mom’s birthday, several years after she had passed away to her heavenly life. This year I have updated it, because I know in my heart that even though a lot of what I originally wrote is still true, there are a couple of important changes, which you’ll have to read to the end to discover.

Today would have been my mother’s 110th birthday! Where has the time gone? No of course she isn’t with us anymore, and hasn’t been for some 16 years. But that doesn’t mean we can’t remember her on her birthday.

We always wish for “just one more” of those special times with our loved ones after they’re gone. It’s our own human nature, because we don’t want to let them go. There won’t be any more of those special celebrations here on earth, but in my heart I’ve been imagining what her birthday today might be like in her heavenly home, where she’s been for quite some time now.

And in my dreams (even a bit last night) I’ve imagined what my mother’s heavenly birthday might be like.

First of all, my mother didn’t like birthdays, at least not her own. She didn’t want to be reminded of her age. And if she were reading this blog, she’s probably already upset with me for telling – again! Sure, she enjoyed other people’s birthdays, but she never wanted to have any type of party or celebration for her own. But in heaven, I’m fairly sure that’s all changed now.

Her birthday is the anniversary of her arrival here on earth. Now that’s she back in her heavenly home, the aging process she disliked so much is no more. No more old age. Although we have no idea what our heavenly bodies will look like, we know they will be perfect, free of wrinkles and infirmities, restored to our own perfect beautiful self, just as the Lord sees us.

Engagement PictureI imagine her now as she appeared in her engagement photo, a beautiful young woman, full of happiness! Looking ahead to a wonderful life with the man she loved.

I imagine her waking up on this birthday morning in a beautiful room, full of flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds darting all around. There are heavenly birds joining in chorus with some of the angels, singing her a special birthday song meant only for her ears. I imagine her smiling happily at this special greeting!

My father is there, too, restored as a young man, who takes her hand and leads her to the special celebration that’s been planned in her honor.

There’s a beautiful table set out on her porch which overlooks a sea of flowers. Not only the roses my mother so loved much here on earth, but flowers we can’t imagine, grown only in heavenly gardens, their colors painted from heavenly rainbows by the Lord’s own hand. Their scent is amazing, and drifts by as a special heavenly perfume, created for her on her special day. A few of the deer she so enjoyed watching in her back yard wander aimlessly through the flowers, waiting for the right moment to wander up on the porch to visit with her.

The pets she’d had here on earth are there as well, little dogs playing with each other, barking happily as they see her walk in, ready to jump in her arms and wish her a happy birthday! I see her face light up as she greets each one by name and gives them a special hug and a heavenly dog treat which they scamper off with to enjoy.

Her family and friends are there as well; her own mom and dad, as well as her brothers and sister, some of her best friends from earth, all delighted to celebrate with her! Plus other relatives I never met, but know one day I’ll get to know.

There are other young adults there as well that I don’t recognize, but I know they are the children she miscarried, now spending eternity with their parents. My brothers and sisters that I won’t meet until that day in the future when I join them.

I see young children around her as well, hugging and kissing her, bringing her flowers and presents, and I hear them calling her “Grandmom.” Obviously, all the babies I miscarried, living in their heavenly home and being watched over by the grandmother who adores them and loves them just as much as she loved and adored the only child I was able to give birth to.

No birthday celebration would be complete without birthday cake and presents. And her cake is a heavenly three-tiered masterpiece, a concoction of sugary flowers and butterflies that no pastry chef here on earth could even begin to duplicate. I can only imagine the taste as it’s served on crystal plates, for all in attendance to enjoy.

And the presents…what kind of presents could you possibly get in heaven, since you already have everything you could ever want? So there aren’t that many, but the ones there are so special. Beautifully wrapped in iridescent paper, which changes color from time to time, and tied with the most intricate and amazing bows like nothing we could ever tie here on earth. The gifts slowly unwrap themselves as they’re placed in her hands, to reveal a few specially selected gifts designed just for her. Another jewel for her heavenly crown. More colorful embroidery thread for her needlework.

But the most precious gift is a photo frame, decorated with pink hearts and pearls, which contains a picture of her great grandchildren…her namesake Rachel, as well as her little sister Ryleigh This is certainly not like an earthly photo frame, since it allows her to watch little Rachel and Ryleigh as they grow up, through all of their stages of life. What more appropriate gift for her! And on this birthday there are also pictures of the next grandchild in that frame, a little boy named Ryan, who looks just like his daddy. Just think, Mom, you’re getting to actually see what he will look like before he even arrives!

I’ve never seen my mother so happy. So beautiful. And so at peace with her life. But heaven is a place of total joy, total peace, and eternal joy. Of course she’s happy.

So Mom, Happy Birthday! I know you are enjoying an amazing celebration! And you deserve it!

I miss you, and I love you so much!

Celebrating Birthdays

Birthdays are a funny thing. We each have one. Every year. Even those people who are born on February 29 still have a birthday every year; they just celebrate them either on February 28 or March 1. It’s a celebration of our entering into this world, but it’s also a way to keep track of how old (or young) we actually are. Because that’s important information, since it’s used to determine a lot of things which go on in our daily lives, and in the decisions we make.

When we’re kids we can’t wait for each birthday, because it usually means presents and cake and ice cream. As we get older we can’t wait to hit the magical age of thirteen because then we’ll be a teenager. And that’s really a big deal. At least we thought it was. (Not so sure about our parents!)

And then there’s 16. For us girls it’s better known as “Sweet 16”. It’s a rite of passage, a special day for us to get together with girlfriends and celebrate a special age. What’s so special? Looking back now I have no real idea. It just was. For many of us of that certain age it meant we were allowed to date, and get our drivers licenses. Many of us had Sweet 16 birthday parties and actually invited…boys!!! (Yes, that was years ago!)

Then we looked forward to turning 18. That was really important. We were becoming adults. Sort of. We thought we were so special! Invincible, really. Our life was just beginning and our futures were bright. There was nothing we couldn’t do. We were going to change the world! We graduated from high school. We went to college, or trade school, joined the military, or went right into the working world.

Then we finally turned 21. We could legally buy alcohol, and we thought that really made us adults! But the morning after our 21st birthdays we were still the same person we were the day before. Just a year older. And for some of us, a bit hung over!

And we learned that real life sometimes interrupts and changes our plans. College life wasn’t always what we thought. Jobs were tough and didn’t always pay a lot. The military sent many of us or our friends to Viet Nam. There were marriages. And children. And divorces.

Suddenly we knew the meaning of being adults. It wasn’t all the fun we thought it would be. When we were kids, it seemed we waited forever for each birthday to get here. And then as we got older the birthdays seemed to come quicker. And we wanted them to slow down. Because as we got older we realized our lives weren’t going quite the way we’d planned.

And suddenly we were wishing for time to slow down rather than hurry along. Twenty-one became 25, and then 30. And many of us weren’t where we’d thought we’d be, and started trying to make a lot of things happen when we should’ve been patient. Thirty-five was looming over us as a reminder of what we’d said in our teenage years: “Never trust anyone over thirty!”

Surely that really didn’t apply to us now!? We were in our best years, weren’t we? But those years were going by quickly.

Turning 30 hadn’t bothered me that much, but turning 40 sure did! I remember my husband taking me to the beach for that weekend to celebrate, and him having a huge bouquet of balloons waiting for me in the room. Yep! Forty of them! That just sounded old to me, even though he’d turned 40 the month before! Suddenly I realized I wasn’t that young girl of 20 anymore; life was hurrying on a little faster than I wanted it to!

It’s these so-called “milestone” birthdays that really get us. No sooner did we turn 40, but then here came 50!

That was the biggie!

My husband had been saying for months before his fiftieth birthday that he was dreading it because he was going to be half a century old! According to him, his life was quickly going downhill towards the end! Really? So what did I do? Woke him up at one minute after midnight to tell him “happy birthday“ and remind him he was officially half a century old! And he was still with us!

Of course with it being his 50th, that called for an invasion of 50 black crows and cows (he was into cows back then rather than flamingos!) in front of his office, which had also been artfully decorated inside with all sorts of “old geezer” signs. Not to mention the surprise party the following week complete with a roast featuring a book I’d put together called, “This is Your Life, Ben!”

It’s funny how as we get older we start to have a special kind of fun with those milestone birthdays. It’s sort of like bringing out our long-forgotten inner child who enjoyed those birthdays so very much!

Turning 60 was more of a challenge. We were certainly getting older, and we were starting to realize it. Although we didn’t feel any different, at least in our minds, there were a lot of reminders that we weren’t 40, or even 50, any more.

But the 60th birthday deserves a special celebration as well. Mind you, planning something big is difficult when your husband is home every night, which means all your work and plans need to be done after he’s asleep. Not an easy task, but on the morning of his 60th birthday, Ben was greeted with a fly-in of 60 flamingos on our front lawn, and a bunch of decorations in his office, including an inflatable walker and other “fun” toys.

And there was a pile of 60 gifts when he came home, each of them numbered to be opened in order! And each of them containing 60 items. Like 60 safety pins to use when he lost a shirt button; a 60 watt light bulb for when he had a good idea; 60 pennies for good luck, etc. it took him two hours to open them all!

And then there was the 60th birthday (adult) diaper cake, complete with a black crow on top and decorated with yellow caution tape and miniature false teeth. He still has it!

Turning 65 sort of started to feel

old, because it was always known as the retirement age. Retirement? Uh, no. Not in this household!

But in the last 30 days, Ben and I each turned 69. That in itself doesn’t sound bad, but next year we’ll both turn 70. And to me, well that actually sounds old. I remember so many years thinking how old it sounded, and how everyone in that age group just seemed to look old to me.

How times have changed. How our thought processes have changed. I don’t think I look my age, and in my mind I don’t think I’m that old. But then again, what should someone my age look like? Or feel like?

Birthdays come very year. We celebrate, and we enjoy with family and friends. And yes, we do get older every year, and no matter how we joke around and say “I’m counting backwards now,” or “I’m not having a birthday this year,” or we take a few (or several) years off our age when people ask us, being around to celebrate our birthdays is certainly better than the alternative, as a lot of us are now saying.

So when it’s your birthday, celebrate it. Flaunt it! Enjoy your friends and yes, any restaurant personnel who decide to serenade you or bring out a lighted birthday cake. Wear the funny hats and play along with whatever is planned for your special day.

Birthdays are special, whether you want to be reminded of them or not! So party on!

And if any of you have some great ideas for that 70th milestone birthday, let’s hear them!

Birthday Reflections

Funny how certain days cause us to look back and reflect on those same certain days throughout the past years. How things and circumstances around us have changed; how people have changed. And yes, how we’ve changed, and how our outlook on life has changed as well.

Birthdays when we were children were certainly different than they are for us as adults today. It’s funny, but I don’t remember having birthday parties when I was growing up. Sure we celebrated, but it was always with our family members. I don’t even have a lot of pictures from those celebrations.

In fact, the only birthday party for myself that I remember was my Sweet Sixteen. Most of us girls had them, of course. It was a rite of passage. But sadly I don’t remember finding any party pictures when I cleaned out my mom’s house. I guess since the cameras all used film that had to be developed, it was a bit expensive, so photos weren’t taken all that much.

I do remember my 21st birthday, and yes, that was a big deal for all of us that year. I was in school in North Carolina, and in a “dry” county, so we had to go to Charlotte to celebrate so I could have the traditional first legal drink of alcohol. Of course, restaurants there weren’t allowed to serve cocktails, so we had to “brown bag” it. We sure felt like real adults then!

Yes, times have changed!

I remember the year I turned 25, and said something about it to the receptionist at the TV station where I was working at the time. She had just turned 18, and I remember her comment as if it were today. “Twenty-five!?? That’s OLD!” And she meant it quite seriously. Let’s see? She’d be turning 60 this year. Wonder how she’s feeling…?

I do remember my thirtieth birthday and how old I felt. No longer in my twenties, and at the time, feeling life was passing me by, and quickly. Divorced, no one in my life, and wondering if I’d ever get where I wanted to be. And I wasn’t sure where that even was!

Ten years later, what a difference! A loving husband, a two year old daughter, and my life was finally where it should be. But the idea of turning the big 4-0 hit me differently than I expected. My husband took me away for a weekend, and surprised me with 40 balloons when we got to our hotel room. Yes, I do have a picture somewhere, but it’s not getting posted. He treated me to a great dinner, and we had a wonderful weekend, but still…I was FORTY!!! That just sounded old. And for a while I FELT old.

Fast forward ten years later…my husband and I both turned fifty, him a month earlier than me. For months he’d been dreading turning “half a century” old. Every time I mentioned his birthday, he didn’t want to hear about it. So being the nice person I am, I woke him up at one minute after his birthday started and wished him a happy birthday, and reminded him he was half a century old. I had decorated his office with all the traditional “over the hill” decorations, and even gave him a surprise party two weeks later, complete with a “This is Your Life” book I had worked on for months.

Turning fifty didn’t bother me though. I guess I’d finally gotten to the point that we can’t stop time, and really, would we WANT to? The older we get, the more mellow I think we become. And no, he didn’t do a party and such for my 50th. But he made up for it on my 51st with a limo ride and a dinner cruise with four of my girl friends!

Another ten years and we turned 60. That actually didn’t bother me either, although once again, it seemed to bother Ben just a bit. A friend gave me the idea of giving him sixty gifts, each with items relating to 60, like 60 pennies, 60 watt light bulbs (for when he had a bright idea), 60 keys (for when he lost his), etc. and each gift with a reason for giving them. Took him almost two hours to open them all! For my 60th, it was once again low key, nice dinner with friends and family. And I actually was happy being 60. After all, I’d reached the point of “what you see is what you get”, and if you didn’t like it, too bad. I am who I am.

Yes, you may have figured out by now today is my birthday. I’m 67. Sounds like an odd number to me. But you know, it’s not a bad age. I’m still in the mindset of “I am who I am” and I’m not changing for anyone. Most people say I don’t look my age, and that makes me feel good. In fact, I actually think I’m going to like being 67.

But please allow me to say I’m also somewhat nostalgic at the differences in birthday celebrations then and now. I look at the various people who have been in and out of my life over the years, and I miss them. Some have passed away, while others have just dropped out of our life, many for reasons unknown. Others have taken their place, and I welcome them for the next part of my journey.

To my loving husband Ben, our wonderful daughter and son-in-law, and our most precious granddaughter, thank you for loving me, and for being a part of many more birthdays to come. And to my dear friends who are once again joining me for another year’s celebration, thank you! And even the flamingos joined the celebration and got me a cake!

Each birthday is another treasure to be opened. It brings another year of joys and promises, surprises and delights. And I can’t wait to see what treasures will be opened today for the future.

And yes, I’m only three years away from that milestone 70th birthday! That may take on a whole new meaning…..

Happy Birthday to the Leader of the Flock

Or the “unofficial” leader of the flock! After all, the real leader of the flamingo flock has to have his very own pink feathers! Feathers that grow on him naturally, that is!

But how many guys can actually claim to be an honorary member of the flock? It takes a special guy to have that honor bestowed upon him.

First of all, he has to like pink. Actually he has to like wearing pink! And that’s one thing he’s never minded. He has pink sweaters, pink shirts, and of course certain pink flamingo tropical shirts! Not to mention the glasses, and the hats, and, well, then there are the lights…..

He has to like shrimp, and of course that’s one of his favorite foods. Fortunately eating them hasn’t turned him pink yet, but you never know…! He could wake up one morning with pink hair! (Ben, you have been warned!)

And he has to be a fan of pink wine or pink champagne, or at the least margaritas! And since he does prefer White Zinfandel, which is sort of pink, the flamingos took the opportunity to get some special wine for him for his birthday! Sure hope he likes it!

And since flamingos are quite creative, especially when it comes to decorating and party planning, the leader of the flock needs a bit of a flair for decorating, and, he is known for his talent at decorating the foyer ledge for Christmas and other seasonal events. Plus, the pool parties he has every year are renown for not only the food, but the costume contests, the festive decorating, and of course, the extremely talented bartenders! And let’s not forget Rusty the Golden Retriever Flamingo!

I think by now we all know who we’re talking about. Who else but our very own Ben, who actually began the flamingo madness at our house and invited those fabulous pink birds to take up permanent residence! In fact, they were invited for the Great Flamingo Fly-In on his 60th birthday, and they just never left!

So in honor of his special day, the flamingos decided to have a flamingo birthday party for him. Only the very best for the Leader of the Flock, of course!

There will be presents galore, we’re sure! All manner of flamingo gifts and gadgets to go with his growing collection! He can always use more flamingo wine stoppers, wine glasses, and of course a new set of flamingo dinnerware to use by the pool this summer for those special evenings with his closest flamingo friends who’ll join him for grilled shrimp and margaritas.

And what’s a birthday party without a birthday cake? And for this occasion, they decided to have a birthday cake contest, and they’d select the best five cakes to present to him! Of course, what he doesn’t know is that the flamingos’ way of presenting birthday cakes involves a bit of tossing and smashing, especially when it’s for a really special person! And especially when the flamingos have had an extra glass of wine or two! And the icing just may turn that hair pink!

Which one of these do you think he’d like the best?

So Ben, you’d better be prepared, because when the flamingos are involved, you just never know what will happen!!

Happy birthday to the Leader of the Flock! And a really good sport!

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Happy Birthday, Mom!

Last night I was working on my final (hopefully!) edit before sending my manuscript to my publisher. And what portion of the story came to greet me as I turned the pages?? One of my favorite memories of one of the last birthdays we celebrated with my mother.

Very appropriate, since today would have been her 104th birthday! Which of course set my writer’s mind to thinking as I remembered other birthday celebrations with her, and how I so wished we could have just one more.

We always wish for “just one more” of those special times with our loved ones after they’re gone. It’s our own human nature, because we don’t want to let them go. There won’t be any more of those special celebrations here on earth, but in my heart I’ve been imagining what her birthday today might be like in her beautiful heavenly home.

No, it’s not scriptural, but knowing how much the Lord loves us, and how He only wants us to be happy with Him in our eternity, my dreams have imagined what my mother’s heavenly birthday may be like.

First of all, my mother didn’t like birthdays, at least not her own. She didn’t want to be reminded of her age. Sure, she enjoyed other people’s birthdays, but she never wanted to have any type of party or celebration for her own. But in heaven, that’s all changed now.

Her birthday is the anniversary of her arrival here on earth. Now that’s she back in her heavenly home, the aging process she disliked so much is no more. No more old age. Although we have no idea what our heavenly bodies will look like, we know they will be perfect, free of wrinkles and infirmities, restored to our own perfect beautiful self, just as the Lord sees us.

Engagement PictureI imagine her now as she appeared in her engagement photo, a beautiful young woman, full of happiness! Looking ahead to a wonderful life with the man she loved.

I imagine her waking up on this birthday morning in a beautiful room, full of flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds darting all around. There are heavenly birds joining in chorus with some of the angels, singing her a special birthday song meant only for her ears. I imagine her smiling happily at this special greeting!

My father is there, too, restored as a young man, who takes her hand and leads her to the special celebration that’s been planned in her honor.

There’s a beautiful table set out on her porch which overlooks a sea of flowers. Not only the roses my mother so loved much here on earth, but flowers we can’t imagine, grown only in heavenly gardens, their colors painted from heavenly rainbows by the Lord’s own hand. Their scent is amazing, and drifts by as a special heavenly perfume, created for her on her special day. A few of the deer she so enjoyed watching in her back yard wander aimlessly through the flowers, waiting for the right moment to wander up on the porch to visit with her.

The pets she’d had here on earth are there as well, little dogs playing with each other, barking happily as they see her walk in, ready to jump in her arms and wish her a happy birthday! I see her face light up as she greets each one by name and gives them a special hug and a heavenly dog treat which they scamper off with to enjoy.

Her family and friends are there as well; her own mom and dad, as well as her brothers and sister, some of her best friends from earth, all delighted to celebrate with her! Plus other relatives I never met, but know one day I’ll get to know.

There are other young adults there as well that I don’t recognize, but I know they are the children she miscarried, now spending eternity with their parents. My brothers and sisters that I won’t meet until that day in the future when I join them.

I see young children around her as well, hugging and kissing her, bringing her flowers and presents, and I hear them calling her “Grandmom.” Obviously, all the babies I miscarried, living in their heavenly home and being watched over by the grandmother who adores them and loves them just as much as she loved and adored the only child I was able to give birth to.

No birthday celebration would be complete without birthday cake and presents. And her cake is a heavenly three-tiered masterpiece, a concoction of sugary flowers and butterflies that no pastry chef here on earth could even begin to duplicate. I can only imagine the taste as it’s served on crystal plates, for all in attendance to enjoy.

And the presents…what kind of presents could you possibly get in heaven, since you already have everything you could ever want? So there aren’t that many, but the ones there are so special. Beautifully wrapped in iridescent paper, which changes color from time to time, and tied with the most intricate and amazing bows like nothing we could ever tie here on earth. The gifts slowly unwrap themselves as they’re placed in her hands, to reveal a few specially selected gifts designed just for her. Another jewel for her heavenly crown. More colorful embroidery thread for her needlework.

But the most precious gift is a photo frame, decorated with pink hearts and pearls, which contains a picture of her new great grandchild…her namesake Rachel. This is certainly not like an earthly photo frame, since it allows her to watch little Rachel as she grows up, through all of her stages of life. What more appropriate gift for her!

I’ve never seen my mother so happy. So beautiful. And so at peace with her life. But heaven is a place of total joy, total peace, and eternal joy. Of course she’s happy.

So Mom, Happy Birthday! I know you are enjoying an amazing celebration! And you deserve it!

I miss you, and I love you so much!

Every Four Years

February 29 may be just another date on the calendar, but for a lot of people it has a huge meaning; it’s finally their actual birthday! Because technically, if you’re born on February 29, you really only have a birthday every four years. Now that could be a real bummer when you’re a kid, but think about it as you get older. For instance, you’re technically becoming a teenager when you’re 52 years old. For the ladies officially turning Sweet 16, you’re 64. And could we ever do a party for that one!

Statistics indicate that there are approximately 187,000 people in the U.S. who were born on this day. Considering there are about 319 million people in the country, I’d say those leap year babies, who I’ve learned are generally called “leaplings,” are fairly rare. And that makes them pretty special! After all, the chances of being born on February 29 are 1 in 1,461.

0228_lif_carousel-400x257-c-defaultOf course being born on February 29 doesn’t really make them immune to aging like the rest of us. They just have to celebrate on the 28th or on March 1, which is usually the date most states recognize as a technical birthdate for anyone born on February 29. (Otherwise, you’d not be getting your driver’s license until you were in your 60’s, and that really wouldn’t be fair!) For leaplings that have children, unless their children are also born on February 29, their children will probably have had more actual birthdays than their parent by the time they’re 8 or 9 years old. How do you explain that one to a youngster? And how about the teacher who was born on February 29 and ends up having her students technically older than she is?

Saying February 29 doesn’t even sound right, does it? All the other months have a 29th, but poor February only has one every 1,460 days! Maybe it should be some kind of special holiday. We would call it Leap Day.

Just think…Bake shops would offer a free cake, or at least a free cupcake, for each leap year birthday. Restaurants would give a discount, or even a free meal to the birthday person. Even better, employers would give that person the day off with pay! (No it may not be totally fair, but is it fair they only have one birthday every four years?) Each birthday person would dress crazily that day and wear a huge button saying, “It’s my Birthday and I’m only ___ years old!” (That can get interesting, the older you get!)

Personally I don’t know anyone who was born on February 29. At least I don’t think I do. But if you do, by all means, wish them a very Happy Birthday! They don’t always get to hear it every year!