Turning 40

Yesterday I celebrated my fortieth birthday. Forty trips around the sun. Forty years of trying to figure out who I am and what I believe.

I had originally planned to write a post about being more aware of my mortality, accepting the reality that I will never have children, and how something on my body hurts almost every single day, but after gathering with a large group of friends Saturday evening to ring in my fifth decade, I realized I am far too blessed to be complaining about the little things.

My mother planned a birthday lunch for me on Friday, where I joined my sister, niece, nephews, and grandmother for pizza, cake, and ice cream.

Honey worked very hard to pull off a surprise party for me at one of my favorite restaurants on Saturday. I thought we were only meeting 3 or 4 people for dinner, so it was wonderful to walk in and see a long table filled with friends with big smiles on their faces! We talked and laughed throughout the meal, and then traveled to Betty’s for cake and ice cream.

Sunday brought a lunch with church friends, tons of text messages with birthday wishes, and visits from family. More celebrating will come tonight when we visit another friend’s house for dinner. I will probably have gained 10 pounds by the time the festivities conclude.

I truly have so much to be grateful for. I am happy with my career, my home, and my partner. Not only was it the week to celebrate my birthday, it has also been 9 years since I met the love of my life. I can’t imagine living without him, and I hope I never have to.

At the risk of raising the ire of the universe, I am content. Here’s to another forty trips around the sun…

Pumpkin party

We had some church friends over last night for a little Halloween fun. We ate homemade chili, carved pumpkins, and then had hot dogs and s’mores around a campfire. It was great fun!

Here are the results of our labors. I did the cat on the limb and Honey did the amazing witch!

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I want to give a special shout out to my wonderful friend, Alyson, who’s having a birthday today – Happy Birthday, Alyson!! Happy Halloween to the rest of you!

Ninety years

Note: Mrs. J’s funeral is tomorrow, and I can’t think of a better way to describe her and how much we cared about her than this post from 7 years ago.

Today was our neighbor’s 90th birthday – a milestone that we figured deserved a celebration. We started talking about what to do months ago, but being the eternal procrastinator that I am, I didn’t start pulling things together until three days ago. Somehow, I was able to plan a surprise birthday party in a town 25 miles away that not only included decorations, but also 14 of her family members and friends. To say that I’m proud of myself would be an understatement, but enough about me. This was an evening to celebrate a phenomenal woman and to reflect on all the ways she’s impacted those around her.

mj_90thMrs. J is like a surrogate great-grandmother to me. She was there when I was a child living in the house on the other side of her, and she’s been here ever since I moved back to the neighborhood. She loves me like I am one of her family, and never hesitates to express those sentiments to those that actually share her DNA. She even gets a kick out of thinking it makes them a little jealous.

She feeds me homemade fried chicken, sweet potatoes, and chocolate pie. She joins in my complaining about everything from the price of gasoline to how long it’s been since we’ve had rain. She never backs down on something she believes in, no matter how archaic or irrelevant it might seem decades later.

She thinks people show too much skin on television and talk too dirty, but she never misses her favorite soap opera (she calls them “stories”). She met and immediately liked my female pastor, but told me that women shouldn’t be preachers. She doesn’t believe in interracial relationships, but she’s going to vote for a biracial presidential candidate. She tells me that she doesn’t care about “how I am,” while complaining about the declining values of other Americans.

She loves to watch movies, even though it’s easy to tell that she has no idea how a DVD works. She seems somewhat fascinated by computers, although it’s clear that she doesn’t understand how the internet works. She laughs at me for constantly swapping cell phones as she pushes the buttons on her clunky handset that doesn’t have caller ID. She didn’t even get touch tone on her phone service until a few years ago because it was going to add $1 to her monthly bill.

She worries that tree roots are attacking the foundation of her house and that moles are destroying the foundation of her detached garage. She worries that her copper pipes are leaking and frequently has one of us check the water meter for unexplained dial movement.

She never ever stops working in the yard, even though her doctors, nurses, and physical therapists have all joined in chorus to tell her to stay in the house and use her walker at all times. She can work a hoe better than most people 50 years her junior and she has the arm muscle to prove it. She cleans house like the Queen’s coming over, with particular chores assigned to particular days.

She keeps leftover vegetables in the freezer and combines them when she has enough to make soup. She makes fabulous fried green tomatoes and a mean pan of cornbread. She keeps soft drinks in the refrigerator just because she knows we like them.

So tonight we celebrated this incredible lady; her quirks, her contradictions, her passion, and her compassion. We expressed our affection with song and brightly-colored helium balloons, with strawberry cake and cards and presents – all a feeble attempt to make her feel as special as she makes any one of us feel on a daily basis.

If her smiles were any indication, we did.

Love makes a family

New Year’s Eve, we headed to the home of some church friends to celebrate the holiday and to witness their commitment ceremony. I was extremely excited, mainly because this would be the first such ceremony that I had seen, but also because I’m interested in having my own some day.

After the sixty or so guests had arrived and greeted one another, the happy couple asked everyone to gather around as they took their places in front of a minister friend. An instant feeling of peace fell over the room as the couple was enveloped in their own love and the support of those in attendance.

ceremony1The women looked deeply into each other’s eyes and smiled as they exchanged their vows of love and commitment, leaving some of the audience in tears. I love that it felt so natural seeing them standing there, holding hands, loving one another. It was easily as genuine and heartfelt as any heterosexual union I’ve ever witnessed, and a beautiful reminder that love transcends all.

After rings were exchanged and the happy partners had greeted the flashing cameras, the party continued. And what a celebration it was!

We had a scavenger hunt that included thirty items artistically tucked away into various corners of the home. After handing each person half of a piece of paper and telling us to find the person holding the other half, I realized that Kelly would be my partner in crime. We found twenty-one items in the time that we were allotted, although I must admit that we had a little help from other gracious searchers.

ceremony2The caterers soon began serving one of the most delicious meals that I’ve ever eaten, which included beef and pork, hash brown casserole, asparagus spears, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, and rolls. I could have made an entire meal out of the beef, which was so juicy and tender it would almost melt in your mouth.

We finished off the festivities by counting down to the new year, having a glass of champagne, and blowing our noise-makers – something that resulted in Kelly, Honey, and I laughing so hard that I thought I would die. It was a wonderful way to end an exceptional evening.

During the earlier ceremony, the minister had referred to this gathering of friends as the couple’s “family of choice”, something that was clearly evidenced by the atmosphere. This was a safe place – a rare oasis for those of us who constantly struggle to fit into a world that seems determined to leave us out.