There are 365 days; 8,760 hours; 525,600 minutes; 3,153,600 seconds in a year. As I look back on my last trip around the sun, I can’t help but think of how many emotionally challenging things have happened. I will turn 33 this weekend. I always look forward to my birthday for a few reasons; 1) the alternative is death 2) each year I see personal growth within myself.
My 32nd year was hard. It started out by realizing my maternal grandfather had kept a VERY big secret. Ancestry DNA exposed his secret; an affair which resulted in a daughter. My grandfather passed away over a decade ago, so we have had to piece everything together…. Bit by bit…story by story. Luckily, I ended up with a super rad new aunt [and two 1st cousins], and my kids think it’s completely normal to get LOTS of new relatives later in life BECAUSE it turns out… I ended up getting ANOTHER 1st cousin in October, this one an adult (and from another member of my family). I swear, now that I’ve done Ancestry DNA, I’m a little nervous every time I get an email that says I have a new match. So far, I’ve matched both my mom and dad…. and I didn’t match my husband. All a win! My older sister just sent her Ancestry DNA test in the mail …. I guess we’ll see if she really is related to me.
After the discovery of my new aunt, I became the family historian and dug up all the missing ancestors who were hiding under Plymouth Rock. (Actually it turns out one of my ancestors traveled on the Concord Ship, often referred to as the German Mayflower, and settled Germantown, PA.) My new relatives included a Germantown founder, a well-known abolitionist, and Teddy Roosevelt, to name a few. Imagine how many Ancestry hints you get once Teddy Roosevelt is in your family tree!!!
In addition to the significant additions to my family tree, I had 3 surgeries this year, all postpartum related surgeries (my youngest is almost 5); I wasn’t able to address many of the health issues earlier because I spent a few years recovering from a car accident (more on this in a later post). 2 of these surgeries were removing MANY painful varicose veins from my legs. My vascular surgeon actually referred to them as impressive. So I spent a better part of my 32 year in compression socks. If you are curious, veins outside of the body sort of look like unfried calamari, and my recovery took a lot longer than I truly expected. Aside from a lot of incision marks, I do not feel the pain in my legs that was becoming unbearable when I ran.
Furthermore, my allergies have gotten significantly worse since having kids, so this year I began allergy shots. Unfortunately, the allergy shots were causing me the inability to breathe. I ultimately was diagnosed with asthma; apparently, decades of breathing problems weren’t just me being out of shape. Moreover, I was instructed to cut gluten and dairy from my diet; I struggled for over 15 years with abdominal pain, and eliminating these two things out has made a significant difference with my IBS. Speak up! It’s your body and your life.
I was fortunate to have the ability to volunteer in both of my kids’ classrooms, weekly, this year. My oldest finished 1st grade and my youngest graduated from preschool. I was asked to join a board at my church. My volunteer experiences have given me a different perspective in the classroom and at my church. I, also, took time for me and traveled. My family and I spent a week in northern MN, just the four of us. We used airline miles and went to Phoenix for Christmas, where my younger sister lives. My older sister and I went to lunch in Baltimore, and enjoyed time just the two of us (which is a rarity). And I drove many times, in 45 below weather, to and from North Dakota to spend the last weeks of life with my father-in-law.
In January, my father-in-law passed away. He was one of the kindest, most optimistic, hardest working people I have ever met. The loss that our family has felt has been significant. Nothing can prepare you for the death of someone you love, whether it is expected or unexpected. Adjusting to our loss was hard, and all the stages of grief were present. I’m so thankful my kids had the years they did with their grandfather, but one of the hardest conversations I ever had to have was when my youngest, who is four, asked me, “Mama, what if I can’t remember Poppa?”
After his dad passed, my husband got busy building many storage shelves in our basement. Woodworking is very therapeutic. He has a ton of saws, most were either his dad’s or given to him by his dad. Then, this spring, we decided it was time to redo our backyard. We had a quote for $20k and we decided to forgo that route and utilize the many saws my husband has. It was a big job, but our marriage survived. My husband and I celebrated our 10th year together, in different states; we also celebrated our 8th year of being married, camping with the kids since our son requested to do so for his birthday (it coincides with our anniversary).
All in all, this year was challenging, yet rewarding. I am very much looking forward to what 33 has in store for me. I’ll leave you with the words I’ve cogitated to describe how I truly feel about my forthcoming birthday.
Happy B.I.R.T.H.D.A.Y to me.
Believe in yourself! Too often we are caught up in what we think we cannot do or are afraid of what others may think. Oftentimes, people get in their own way. Think positively. Set goals for yourself. There may be setbacks, but look at it as a hurdle, not a roadblock.
Intuition is real. Listen to your inner voice. You may not ever know why you KNOW something, but go with it.
Reflect on your experiences. Be grateful. Learn from your mistakes.
Travel as much as you can. Traveling gives you experiences. Experiences help you grow as a person.
Healing takes time. Give yourself a lot of time when grieving. Everyone is different and everyone acts different when someone they love dies.
Dare to try new things. Whether it be a new food, a new adventure, a new job. Take risks. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be hard, but it can also be one of the most rewarding things.
Adapt to new situations. Life isn’t always what happens to you, but in how you respond to what happens.
Yes…. SAY YES! Saying yes will get you a lot more out of life than saying no.
“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important. Capture the good times. Develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out… just take another shot.” -unknown