Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Birthday She Never Wanted But Loved It Anyway

Busy, busy, busy.  That's been my life the past week or two.  Recovery from the holidays induced a sort of stupor that gives me a bit of amnesia regarding what I've been doing.  It feels like everything and nothing.  Headache-inducing stress, and yet not much noteworthy to show for it.  Let me explain.

A co-worker of mine (if you can call someone based in Minneapolis a co-worker) has left for a 10 day vacation to the Dominican Republic.  And believe me, if you've been living in Minneapolis for the past month, the Dominican Republic is looking like The Promised Land, all sunshine and lovely warm, WARM temperatures.  Can't blame her for skedaddling out of Dodge.  However, I've had to  (once again) be schooled in her job responsibilities so I can take over for her while she's gone.  This results in lots of hours, and many more dollars for me, so I'm not totally complaining here.  However, the learning curve and memory recall was a bit steep and stressful.  I've had to watch my job responsibilities pile up, while I try to regain skills I'd acquired last May and June, but have not had to use since.  It's not rocket science, but for some of the tasks there are many, many steps, and so many tedious details to remember.  And for a brown-nosing teacher's pet like me, well... it's just stressful.  Because I don't like to make a mistake.  I hate making mistakes.  So I've had headaches, and bad sleep, and lots of dreams about the new responsibilities.  Now, the difference this time around is that I'll continue to do many of these things after my working buddy comes back - so that's a plus.  So let's just say that I was a sweaty-palmed wreck last week, and this week will be just about as intense.  Tons to do as I start a new work week, and all the while I'm preparing to go and spend 6 days in San Francisco for an education conference I'm helping with.

The good news is that L is coming with me.  I won't have to work in the evening, and that means 6 lovely nights in one of my most favorite cities with my favorite beau.  It's our 14th anniversary on the 15th, so we'll just call it a celebration while we're at it.  We're going to stay at The Palace Hotel - google it, it's gorgeous.  Yes, I'll be working from about 7:00 - 4:00 every day, but I'll also be spending the evenings with that boy I love so much.  We'll find our own adventures, and we have some friends in the area we're hoping to get together with.  It'll be fun, and I'll sleep better at night with him there.  I'm looking forward to it, even though it's a little stressful doing something new, like working one of these conferences.

But I have to tell you about last night.  It was my aunt's 80th birthday on the 10th.  My brothers and their wives, my parents (my aunt is my mother's sister), and 3 of my cousins and their wives all met together last night at a restaurant to celebrate this imporatant birthday.  And yes, I think 80 is a HUGE milestone.  If you know my aunt at all, you know that she hates hates hates to have any attention on herself.  No birthday celebrations, no parties, no recognition of any sort.  So we had to plan this on the sly, and sort of kidnap her into it.  Oh, we eventually let her know it was coming, and she called my cousin Greg at least twice to tell him it was off, and please don't come, but he is a determined sort, as well as very kind, and he just ignored her attempts at birthday sabotage.  We all did.  She tried everything from begging to getting a little mad, but we wouldn't budge.  I think what I appreciate most of all was the fact that all of my cousins had to drive quite a distance to be there, and every one of them came.  With bells on, and fun wives in tow.  Such a treat.  We haven't been in the habit of getting together at all over the years, and I'm so glad we were able to pull it off.  What happened is that the birthday girl herself had the time of her life.  And the rest of us had an equally good time of our lives.

Here is the miracle of the night: by the time dessert came, she was so relaxed and happy that even when the waiters and the rest of us sang "Happy Birthday" to her accompanied by a lovely bread pudding (her choice) with a candle stuck in it, she just sat there with a big dopey smile on her face.  No argument.  Loving all of it.  Soaking every birthday wish up.  Worth every argument I had with her over Please Don't Do This/Yes We're Doing It Get Over It.  If you're turning 80 you deserve to have a bash - especially if you've never had one.  Or knew that you wanted one.  Which she didn't.   Best.Night.Ever. in my opinion.

So good, in fact, that all of the cousins want to have another night just like it.  We were thinking maybe a weekend in Palm Desert, which is more in the cousins' neck of the woods, and somewhere I love to visit - minus the birthday, and probably just us cousins and spouses.  Last night's gathering brought me right back to the days at my Grandma's house when we'd all play in her huge back yard.  Running around, having Easter egg hunts, Christmas Eves when Grandma would knit each of us a new pair of slippers (mine had pompoms on the toes), and we'd line up for pictures, oldest to youngest, in our jammies.  We'd squabble and play, someone would always be crying, Brad would confide that he loved strawberries the best (he is 9 years my junior, so he was my special pet), we'd eat our dinners at the "kid's tables" (the card tables) and the youngest ones would have terrycloth aprons tied around their necks to save their clothes.  At Christmas there was the background glow of my grandparents' aluminum tree with the rotating color wheel.  (Remember those?  I was fascinated by it! )  Such good times so long ago, and I want more.  More cousin gatherings, I say!  More dinners and more laughing.  It was good for the soul.

So YES yes yes.  It's been a busy week, with more to follow.  I'll get through the San Francisco conference and travel stress - and hopefully have a few beautiful memories to keep and share.  Then I really need to get on it and find a dress for my nephew's wedding in Santa Barbara.  Its black tie.  Yes, you heard me.  BLACK TIE.  And I don't have any overalls nice enough to wear.  I seriously don't.  We all just found out about the black tie part, so I'm a bit unprepared.  So I'm praying that I'll find something perfect that I can actually afford (the bride's mother was going to get ideas for her dress from the Golden Globes... yes, they have THAT kind of money... you see my predicament.)  I can't show up dressed in something that looks like I don't know what "black tie" means.  GAH...  But the week before that little soiree L and I will spend a night at the W Hotel in Hollywood while I work again at a small overnight education conference (earning money for that dress!)  L wanted to go see Jimmy Kimmel while I'm working but alas, they're not taping that day.  But it's HOLLYWOOD - he'll figure something out.

So today, Sunday, L and I just took a breath.  We're moving a little more slowly so we don't damage our brains, or clog an artery.  Because tomorrow, the roller coaster starts up again and we'll be glad we rested.  Oh, and the Golden Globes are on.  Maybe I should go gather some ideas for my Santa Barbara dress.


  1. Hello again, dear karen!

    Challenging weeks like these require you to stay in "up time" and that's exactly what you're doing. You are meeting every challenge head on. You are learning more than you ever thought your brain could hold. You are surprising yourself. Life is great when you are operating at this level.

    The story of what happened when your aunt gave in and just went with it is another lesson for us all. How many times do we paint a picture of how we think an event will play out and try to back away from it because that image makes us uncomfortable? 9 times out of 10 it's entirely different when we actually experience it. I am so happy to know that your aunt settled down, got into the spirit of the proceedings and everybody had a great time, including her. Happy 80th birthday to your dear aunt and happy anniversary to you and L! Have a wonderful time in Frisco and remember...

    If you're going to San Francisco
    Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
    If you're going to San Francisco
    You're gonna meet some gentle people there

  2. San Fran sounds SOOO amazing- trying not to be jealous! And then a black tie event? Please share pictures from it! And take a deep breath before this next round of business starts~

  3. I wouldn't know what to do about a black tie affair! But I know that you will rock it, Karen! Your life sounds glamorous and full of fun. I loved reading about your Aunt's magnificent party and your memories of childhood. I was one of the youngest group of cousins, and two or three of my older cousins wanted me for their "pet". I loved the attention, and the occasional special outings in their cars. Have a blast at your conference, I'm sure it will be wonderful.

  4. Wow sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now. Here's hoping for calmer and more relaxing times ahead ;)

  5. Awww, the birthday party sounds so wonderful. I am so glad you didn't give up on the plan in frustration. What a wonderful memory for the whole family.
    I'm with you on hating to make mistakes. My first 3 days back to work in January and I made a huge mistake. Basically crawled into my boss's office to confess, feeling like dirt. His response "no harm done. You've had a lot on your plate". Ugh, that almost made me feel worse. Not a great way to start a new year.

  6. I LOVE San Francisco. I've only been there once. The Hurricane lives in that area and she showed me so many interesting places. The profile photo on my blog is the back of my head in front of City Lights Bookstore. On our way to the bookstore, we saw a Banksy. We were so excited we could hardly keep going. I don't think I could cope with a black-tie event.. I know you'll find a great dress.


  7. Margie's birthday party reminds me of a great episode of Monk where he doesn't want Natalie to throw him a birthday party, but she manages to anyway and he loves it. Margie can be very endearing :) .


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