February 9th will mark the day that twelve years ago Quinn Padraig arrived and completed my family. Of all my babies, my pregnancy with him was the most challenging – there was an amnio, second trimester spotting, and enough ultrasounds to make a flip book of his growth. Gestating that guy was an intense combination of joy and stress and I couldn’t decide if I wanted it to last longer (since I knew it was my final pregnancy) or just to be over (because I was so worried something could go wrong).
That conflict between wanting it to last longer versus wanting it to be over was the perfect precursor to my general attitude towards my youngest son’s childhood. As time marches on, I have moments when I wish I could stop the clock and keep this awfully tall little one of mine young for a bit longer. His generosity when it comes to hugs and I love yous will be sorely missed if they fall by the wayside as he becomes a teen. There are times, however, when I can almost begin to imagine having an empty nest and it doesn’t necessarily seem to be such a bad thing. To everything a season and all that, right?
What 12 looks like at my house.
Until that day arrives, though, I’ll continue to appreciate the time I get to share with my “baby.” The kitchen dance parties, his knowledge of geography, history and politics and his remarkable vocabulary will never fail to impress me. I know he’ll make me laugh more often than he frustrates me and I’m hopeful that he’ll always insist upon kissing me goodbye when I leave for a run.
How about we all wear our jammies inside out tonight and get Quinn what he really wants for his birthday – a snow day. He’ll sleep in at his dad’s, and then I’ll make him pancakes and bacon and we’ll watch as many movies as he wants. I promise to make the day last as long as I can.
… my taste for customer service, that is. I don’t often shop at Brooks Brothers (their clothes are well tailored but a bit conservative for my lifestyle), but after visiting their Lee, MA outlet location twice in the last few months, they just may have made a customer out of me. Here’s why…
I dropped into their store at the end of summer to pick up a few dress shirts for a friend as a gift. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping track of measurements and sizes and that trip to Lee was no different. I had no idea where to start with sleeve length and neck size for this guy, but I did know that he has a history of shopping BB and I hoped that perhaps there was a database of customers that could be accessed. I stepped up to the counter and inquired and within minutes I knew the necessary shirt size. Easy.
What I didn’t know was that there was a preference (or even a difference) in collar style. Seems that my birthday guy prefers a close collar rather than the wider one I had randomly selected. So, for the last few months three (almost) perfectly new shirts have hung unworn in a closet. Last weekend we took a drive over to rectify the situation and that’s when the customer service took an additional, even more tremendous, leap forward.
Retaining a sales receipt for months is not necessarily my strength and we found ourselves in Lee without evidence of the purchase. I’ve been in this situation in the past and was successful in obtaining a credit by presenting the credit card originally used for payment, but, naturally, I recently switched American Express cards, so that wasn’t an option. As I prepared to log on to my Amex account to recover evidence of the transaction, the clerk asked me if I knew the date of the transaction and, miraculously, I did. Within 2 minutes the transaction was located and an exchange receipt printed. Simple.
A short time later we left the store, new purchases in hand, and headed to a place more my speed – UnderArmour. I had asked at Brooks Brothers for directions to the UA outlet since it was frigidly cold and we weren’t feeling up to wandering around the outdoor mall. As we were browsing the running gear an employee approached me to inform me that I had forgotten my phone at the Brooks Brothers store. Apparently, one of the employees there had made the effort to track us down to notify us of our oversight. Wow. Thoughtful initiative? Yes, please and thank you. Well done.
- Run a half marathon.
- Check out the sales at Macy’s.
- Buy nothing. You really don’t need a thing.
- Have dinner out.
- Get a pedicure.
- Go to bed early.
- Eat a delicious salad.
- Take a run.
- Have a beer.
- And a shot.
- Laze in bed an extra 20 minutes.
- Feed the birds.
- Put on a pretty white linen dress (because it’s still summer, at least for today).
- Read birthday messages on Facebook.
- Try not to listen to the news of the latest unarmed black man being killed by the police.
- Charge the battery for your 35mm camera. You’ll need it.
- Have a hot flash.
- Ask your flag waving children to fly the Irish flag just for today in your honor.
- Arrange to have a carrot cake baked by the same friend who made your wedding cake.
- Order 15 pizzas from DeFazio’s.
- Open the sunroof on your car on the way to work.
- Turn up the radio.
- Treat yourself to a blow out – that’s blow out, guys.
- Imagine that Elizabeth Warren was running for President.
- Have a hot flash.
- Eat tasty treats from your coworkers.
- Read birthday messages on Facebook again.
- Take phone calls from both the friend who has been there for 35 years and the one you hope sticks around for the next 35.
- Accept happy birthday greetings from dozens of middle school students after your birthday is announced over the school PA system.
- Wear the beautiful necklace you had made for yourself.
- Remove the modesty-lending shirt over your pretty dress because of another hot flash.
- Book Talk challenged books to 8th grade students and watch them become agitated about censorship.
- Glance out the window at the cloudless, blue skies.
- Hope, just this once, that time moves just a little faster for the next 60 minutes only.
- Pound water in anticipation of the evening’s libations.
- Crave a coffee.
- Figure out a way to swing by Starbucks between school and a salon appointment.
- Get excited thinking about having so many loved ones in one spot.
- Wish Jeter could come, too.
- Get home in time to freshen up and gather loved ones together.
- Take a walk with your brother.
- Mingle and mix with folks from all corners of your life.
- Beam with pride watching your children do the same.
- Toast repeatedly with gifted Prosecco.
- Worry when the pizza is late.
- Remind yourself that it isn’t your fault.
- Sigh with happiness. Best birthday ever.
Music is an amazing thing – it soothes, excites, inspires, comforts, stimulates and impresses me more than any other art form. There are songs that take me back to specific moments in my life like no other time machine I’ve ever known and guitar solos that still make me shake my head with wonder. Below I’ve shared 50 of my favorites that will always be on my personal playlist, be it for the tune, the time they recapture or the story the words tell. Each and every one of these songs means something to me and made it onto this list after more thought and consideration than I ‘d like to admit. How about you? What’s your life soundtrack sound like?
1. Is That All There Is? – Peggy Lee
2. Ain’t But One Way Out – Allman Brothers
3. Ain’t Wasting Time No More – Allman Brothers
4. Second Hand News – Fleetwood Mac
5. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
6. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
7. You Make Loving Fun – Fleetwood Mac
8. Oh Daddy – Fleetwood Mac
9. Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac
10. Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
11. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2
12. With or Without You – U2
13. Running to Stand Still – U2
14. In God’s Country – U2
15. Save Me – Aimee Mann
16. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
17. Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye
18. Trouble Man – Marvin Gaye
19. Hold On – Alabama Shakes
20. Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
21. Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix
22. If 6 Was 9 – Jimi Hendrix
23. A Sunday Kind of Love – Etta James
24. At Last – Etta James
25. I’m on Fire – Bruce Springsteen
26. American Girl – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
27. Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs
28. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over – Jeff Buckley
29. Just a Little Lovin’ – Shelby Lynne
30. Edge of Seventeen – Stevie Nicks
31. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant
32. Can’t Find My Way Home – Blind Faith
33. Breakdown – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
34. Lover Lay Down – DMB
35. So Much to Say – DMB
36. Gravity – John Mayer
37. What’d I say, Pt 1 & 2 – Ray Charles
38. The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand
39. Girl on Fire – Alicia Keyes
40. Young Americans – David Bowie
41. Justify My Love – Madonna
42. A Moment Changes Everything – David Gray
43. Thing of Beauty – Hothouse Flowers
44. Nobody’s Fault But Mine – Led Zeppelin
45. Changed the Locks – Lucinda Williams
46. I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons
47. Heart of Gold – Neil Young
48. Just Breathe – Pearl Jam
49. Let’s Go Crazy – Prince
50. Waiting on a Friend – Rolling Stones
I sent out some invitations to a party I’m throwing to celebrate my 50th. The guest list was challenging – there are so many people I want to raise a glass with, but space is limited and I want to relax and enjoy the event rather than feel pressured to entertain. I ultimately decided to not give in to the reflex of obligatory invitations and instead only invited people who bring joy. I’m lucky enough to have many such friends in my life. Speaking of bringing, I didn’t specify “no gifts,” as I’ve seen on some recent invites I’ve received. I like presents, but hope no one feels that gifts are necessary.
Speaking of presents, I bought something for myself. I’ve had an idea for a piece of jewelry for many years but hadn’t been able to squirrel away the funds to bring my vision to fruition. Not going away for our usual two weeks this summer, resulted in a surplus in summer funds and thanks to Elissa Halloran (for the referral) and Siobhan Byron (for the artistic skill), I now have a fantastic piece of jewelry created from a few pieces which had been occupying space in my dresser rather than on my body. Behold my new necklace forged from a single diamond stud (remember, I lost the other one? Twice.), a pendant that had once hung from a gold herringbone necklace and a pair of vintage earrings. Isn’t it stunning?! Go see Siobhan at Nahbois in Troy and get yourself something. You deserve it.
Unlike the remarkable beauty of a special piece of jewelry, sometimes stunning has negative connotations. It seems that our world is filled with surprising and devastating tragedies, such as the recent earthquake in Italy. While I had originally intended to feature three of my personal favorite not for profit organizations as potential recipients for September’s Cocktail of the Month at Lark + Lily, I’ve decided instead to focus exclusively on Amatrice. We’ll be offering a classic negroni cocktail, as well as an Amatriciana pasta special, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for earthquake relief. I’ll continue my birthday celebration through October when we’ll return to our usual format of three organizations from which to choose. We all do what we can and I hope you’re able to help support causes which are meaningful to you. Stop in and help us to help those in need.
I haven’t been so excited about a birthday since my 30th, which was just shy of 20 years ago. Then, I was a newlywed, in love and pregnant with my oldest son. I had my first “real” job as a school librarian and we celebrated with a dinner party at a wonderful restaurant with friends and family. Those memories make me smile. Life was good.
This one, though, is different. I mean I think it is.
I’m no longer married, so that’s an obvious and major change. As I plan a celebration for my upcoming milestone, I can’t help but recall that the task for organizing my last decade birthday party was also my responsibility. Not everything changes. My birthing days are behind me and the void has been filled by hot flashes and skinny jeans without front panels made from elastic. In a couple of weeks, I’ll begin my 21st year as a librarian and I am starting to imagine what might come next professionally. It’s exciting. Life is good.
I don’t feel like I imagined 50 would be. The number isn’t scary to me or overwhelming or sad. In fact, it feels like a wonderful new decade filled with opportunity and a sense of capability that can only come from years of surviving and thriving. It’s beckoning and I can’t wait.
I’ve got a big birthday coming up at the end of summer…fifty…half a century…the golden anniversary of my birth…the point in my life when I just might have to begin behaving a tad more adult. I think I’m ready.
It could be just me, but these decade birthdays began taking on more significance as I aged and I can remember each of them vividly. At 20, I was on the verge of independence and living completely on my own for the first time. For my 30th birthday, I was married and thrilled to be pregnant with my first child. When I turned 40 I thought I had it all, only to realize that maybe it wasn’t enough. And now, as 50 approaches, I find myself excited to flip a page to a new chapter in my life despite not really knowing what may come next.
I’ve learned so many things during my years alive, yet I’m still not sure what the future holds for me. Is that lack of certainty, that acceptance that what happens tomorrow is eternally a mysterious surprise, a sign of growing up? Maybe.
What do I know now that I didn’t know 10 years ago?
- I know that I can outrun cancer and the fear of being alone.
- I know that I can juggle a lot and that, even though I now wear a nightguard because I seem to be grinding my teeth, I am more satisfied with a full life and schedule than with one that lacks challenge and stimulation.
- I know that there will be days that nearly overwhelm me with minutia and situations which demand immediate and close attention, but I’ve also learned that they pass.
- I know that I am utterly blessed to have three healthy children and a positive relationship with their father that is based upon our mutual focus on what is best for them.
- I know that the lines on my face and the grey in my hair are evidence of the length of my life and that I’m lucky to have both of them – and access to quality skincare products and a good colorist.
- I know that life is about give and take and trying to remain cognizant of the balance between the two.
- I know that I’m ready for what comes next.
I’m ready, ready for the laughing gas
I’m ready, I’m ready for what’s next
I’m ready to duck, I’m ready to dive
I’m ready to say ‘I’m glad to be alive’ – U2