Today is your birthday, and I love you dearly. You are managing to walk through what life has given us and I need you to know that we are all so proud of you. Nothing about this year has been simple or easy. But it has been filled with love and gratitude, and I promise more of that from all of us in this next year of your life. And every year to come.
I looked back to see what I had written about in past years on your birthday, and I was struck by how much this message describes our journey right now. It's all about taking courageous steps when we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. We'll keep taking them together. You and me.
Now picture me behind you.
[Only you'll get that, but I hope it made you smile.]
See that cute little girl?
It's her birthday today.
My mom is a woman who has taken so many courageous steps in her life. When she was in high school my Grandma Flo had gone to confession as she did every week, and the priest one afternoon refused to give her absolution for her sins unless she started sending her children to the Catholic school. My mom had good friends at her old school, played on a basketball team that won the state championship and had no desire to transfer anywhere... but her junior year she took the plunge and enrolled in the new school so Grandma could get absolution and save her soul.
Because that's where she met my dad. The cool guy who had a van and a boat and loved to dance... he fell in love with my mom and that's where the story gets started. I can't even imagine, with the pace my life exists, the pace my mom was living at my age. She married my dad in 1964 and had her first baby 9 months later... and had her sixth baby 8 years later at the age of 29.
She learned how to help out on a hog farm (clipping pigs' tails and teeth... a job I could never bring myself to do) not to mention taking care of six little kids, doing laundry, making meals and everything else that a household entails. And often, in the middle of it, a couple of dad's younger brothers would be living with them while they worked on the farm.
Does your head hurt yet?
And when I say something like "making meals" I mean full-out meals with meat, potatoes, side salads and dessert... and in the summer time that was how we had lunch and supper. The table was always set properly and while we had fun, we learned manners and how to be respectful.
When we were little and would come in off the bus, mom would sometimes have snacks ready for us... doing the little things that make a difference like putting our pudding in separate little fancy dishes so we would feel special... because sometimes love is in the smallest of details.
Now, truth be told, as we got older and my siblings started leaving the house, mealtime changed and the snacks became different, but that's because mom was taking courageous new steps in her life. She had gone to work for the first time in her married life and she eventually found herself employed at Merle Norman Cosmetics (where her favorite phrase was that natural beauty takes time). :) She started working there, eventually bought the business, and through trial and error made it a success.
I definitely get my creative side from mom and loved going to her store during my junior high and high school years... helping out, doing makeovers, even piercing ears. She taught me about not being afraid to try, assuming you can do anything with enough effort and believing that new challenges are a good thing. She eventually sold that business, but couldn't stay idle for long.
She has had a recurring dream for years about being in an old house and redecorating it, and she woke up one night and told dad she wanted to start an interior design business. Courageous steps. So they took our attached garage and converted it into a show room... and she was in business! At a time when most people would be slowing down my mom was just getting started. Her business eventually moved to a space in town where she got to be creative every day, helping people make their houses into the homes they want for their families.
There are a million things I could tell you about my mom... about how I was attached to her hip through most of my childhood, how she would show off being able to turn a cartwheel with the best of them, or how she would take the Izod lizard off an old shirt and sew it onto a new one so we felt a little cooler at school...
But today, on her birthday, I want to say that most importantly she helped teach me by her example to not be afraid to try when you have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Because that's the kind of lesson that brought me here to all of you.
Happy Birthday, Mom... I'm very proud of you, and love you oodles and caboodles all around the world and back.