5 Things You Must Do for Your Birthday!

5 things to do for yourself on your birthdayHate celebrating your birthday? Always disappointed? I had a very Happy Birthday on the 11th and celebrated it BIG time this year. How? Easy. I depended on myself to have fun.

5 things you must do for your birthday:

#1. Take control. Plan your day in advance.

Waiting around for someone else to plan it is too much pressure on friends and family. Make it easy. Do it yourself.

Me – I didn’t want to exhaust myself with appointments and running around all day. Instead, I planned two outings and dinked around with a new toy I bought for my birthday. My son, Kelly, picked it out. *hint, hint* You’ll find out soon enough.

#2. Lower your expectations.

Oh, sure it would be great to be asked out to lunch or walk into a surprise party, but what if it doesn’t happen? Don’t let disappointment ruin your day.

Me – I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary. I stuck to my plan.

#3. Pamper yourself.

Make an appointment for a massage, facial, nail or hair appointment. Or why not meet with a fortune teller. Ha! Hopefully they will tell you the next year will rock.

Me – I got my hair cut. Then I took a long nap and watched a movie. Why not? It was my day!

#4. Go out for a meal.

Whether you go with a special someone or go by yourself, be sure to pick your favorite restaurant and eat something delicious.

Me – I met my family in Denver for dinner at one of my favorites, Venice Ristorante.

Interior of Venice Ristorante from their site

#5. Enter three highlights into a gratitude journal at the end of the night. There’s a lot to be thankful for. You lived another year. Yay!

Me – It’s been exactly one month since my brother, Joe, passed away. I’m remembering him through my journal by living my wild life.

Many people hate birthdays since they feel horrible about being one year older. Get over it! Remember the alternative. I’ve faced down my own death (evil death!) and tried to breathe life into one who had passed. Birthdays are what life is all about. Bring them on!

This was all I needed.

Five things you must do on your birthday

Do you celebrate your birthday? What’s your favorite thing to do?

Related posts:

I Celebrated a Birthday, but Failed to Save a Life

When You put Your Dog in Charge of Your Birthday – VLOG

I’m Planning on a Happy Birthday!

I Celebrated a Birthday, But Failed to Save a Life.

Have you ever taken a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation class? I took one for a babysitting badge when I was in Girl Scouts. I remember the plastic dummy and going through the routine while hoping to God I’d never have to use it. Flash forward a few decades.

On March 9th, I flew back to Wisconsin for my mom’s eighty-seventh birthday. My brother, Joe McCartan, ordered a cake and I picked up flowers. Mom was so surprised! Over dinner that night, she told us she planned to live a long time. For her one-hundredth birthday, she wants a stylist to dye a blue streak in her hair. I love her attitude.

My brother is the king of joking around. I couldn’t get a picture of him when he wasn’t mugging for the camera.  When I left Colorado it was seventy degrees. Check out the temperature on my brother’s iPad.

Two days later, Joe drove to the butcher to buy steaks to grill and went to a chiropractic appointment. In February, he slid on black ice and crashed his car into a telephone pole. It exacerbated an already sore back.

Later, the three of us watched the UW Badgers cream Northwestern by thirty points. Being a yawnfest, Joe texted on his phone. He’s a highly sought after, free-lance, on-location sound technician for major networks, television, movies and corporations. Very excited, he read the thread out loud. It regarded a commercial he had been hired to record. The company wanted to shoot tight shots of musicians playing the oboe, violin and cello. He had texted the high school music teacher, who had all kinds of ideas.

“The kids will love being in a commercial.” Joe was stoked.

“Sounds like you contacted the right person,” I said and yawned. “I think I’ll take a quick nap.” I walked upstairs to my room.

When I returned downstairs, Mom played Words with Friends in the kitchen while the steaks thawed in a pan. I had planned to walk the dog, but Joe had already left with Charlie. I opened my laptop and wrote my last post about daylight savings time. After dinner I thought it would be fun to play a game and take some group selfies.

Always pretty high energy, Joe burst through the door led by their Collie.

“I just missed you,” I said, looking up from my computer.

“Yep,” was all he said. Then he ran up the back stairs to his apartment behind my mom’s Victorian. I heard his footsteps overhead and then settled in to proof my stupid post.

He moved in a year before my dad passed away and has been taking care of Mom. He’s been a godsend, taking her to appointments, shopping and the little things, like setting the table for meals. He brings her tea and puts her eyedrops in before bed. My mom is super sharp, but has glaucoma and hasn’t been able to drive for years.

When Joe didn’t come downstairs, Mom said, “What’s taking him so long? We need to get the steaks on the grill.”

I shrugged and more time passed.

“Go check on Joe,” she said. “I don’t want to eat at 8:00.”

“Give him a few more minutes,” I said, knowing he liked his privacy.

A few more minutes passed and I ran upstairs.

I opened his door and peeked inside. “Hey, Joe!” I shouted. You have to walk through a kitchen to get to the large open, living and dining space.

“Joe! Time to make dinner,” I shouted through the doorway.

No response.

I stepped inside and saw him chilling in front of the computer. His arms relaxed on the armrests, his head was cocked backward and his mouth hung open.

“No wonder you didn’t hear me. You’re sound asleep.”

Still no response.

Something was wrong. “Joe! JOE!” I raced up to him and patted his pale cheeks.

No response.

“Oh, my God!” I felt for a pulse in his neck, but couldn’t find one. His lips were white. He wasn’t breathing. I screamed to my mom. She called 911, hysterical when the operator didn’t understand what was going on. I used my fingertips on his wrist and heard quick taps racing across the surface. Were they mine? 

Just like I’d been taught all those years ago, I started mouth-to-mouth and alternated with the CPR technique I’d learned on the Internet. One, two, three, four, staying alive, staying alive… I’m sure only minutes passed, but it seemed like an hour before the first responders arrived. They tried everything, but couldn’t get a pulse. Hope slipped away.

The paramedics came and hooked up a CPR machine and breathing tube. I went downstairs to check on my mom. Her friends, Kathy and Roger Roth, consoled her on the couch. Time passed. I ran back upstairs. “Did you get a pulse?”

“No, nothing,” one of the paramedics replied. I felt so guilty. I didn’t do it right. I could have saved him, but I failed! I couldn’t stop sobbing.

After answering tons of questions about his health, I went back downstairs. By that time, the funeral director, Bill Hurtley, and the priest from across the street, Fr. Dooley, had arrived. I got to know and love both of them when they took care of my dad’s funeral. Bill brought my mom back from her catatonic state with his dry humor.

Anxiety filled my empty stomach with broken glass. I turned to Bill for support. “I wrote a stupid blog post and didn’t come upstairs in time. I screwed up. I could’ve saved him.” Tears streamed down my cheeks.

He looked me in the eyes and said, “You found him relaxed in his chair, right?”

I nodded.

“There was nothing you could do. He threw a clot,” Bill said.

“What?”

“A blood clot. Believe me, I see a lot of dead people,” he said. “It’s what I do. Heart attacks are pretty uncomfortable. The victim has time to react, so we usually find them on the floor. Throwing a blood clot is painless. It happens to runners all the time. They go for a run and as soon as they sit in a chair, they die.”

“Why am I here if I couldn’t save him?” I asked.

“For your mother,” he said. “If she would have discovered him, it would’ve been a shock she would never have recovered from.” He took a moment and added, “Don’t blame yourself. Even if someone throws a clot in the hospital, no one can save them.”

An autopsy would have cost five to six thousand dollars. Bill insisted it would be a waste of money. Pulmonary embolism. It’s what people get from sitting too long on planes. Who knows where Joe got his clot. Surgery two years ago? The accident? Bumping into something and not telling anyone about it? We’ll never know. He wasn’t on blood thinners. I’m taking a baby aspirin now.

Alive and vibrant one minute and then gone the next. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

My little brother, who towered more than a foot over me, who did lotus position yoga with me when he was little for giggles, who I took to all kinds of concerts and events when I was in high school and college since I feared our almost ten year age difference would cause us to drift apart. My little brother who I loved dearly is dead at forty-nine years old. I was only a few steps away. How can that be?

He was a saxophone player in a band and was a local celebrity. He worked with people all across the United States. His Facebook and funeral home page are filled with heartfelt shock and condolences. We planned his funeral for March 25th at St. Paul’s Church across the street from their home in Evansville.

Being the writer in the family, I had to write his obituary. It was tough enough when I wrote my dad’s and felt tremendous pressure to do Joe’s life justice. His friend and co-worker, videographer Eric Janisch helped fill in the work details. You can read Joe’s obit here.

Two things I discovered on my own might help others.

  • I couldn’t get the image of him sitting in the chair out of my head. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw him. I must not have blinked the whole time I ran toward him. I stayed up all night. It was the same the next day as neighbors and relatives arrived. My husband, Danny, flew out that afternoon. As I drove toward the Dane County Airport I noticed some perfectly formed trees silhouetted in the snow. I picked one and stared at it as I drove toward it. I closed my eyes and saw the tree. It totally worked. That horrific last image of Joe disappeared, at least from my retinas.
  • Exhausted, I didn’t dare take a nap. Experiencing the shock all over again upon waking is the worst. In the past it has taken weeks for my brain to wrap itself around death. I wondered if saying it out loud to myself would speed up the process. I gave it a try. “Joe is dead. He died and you couldn’t save him. He’s not coming back.” I repeated it again before I picked up Danny and then twice before falling asleep. It worked.

Danny and I have lost half our families in two years; his bother and mom, my dad, then his mom’s boyfriend of fifteen years and now, my brother. It’s devastating to lose the people we love.

What about that quick tapping in Joe’s wrist? I hadn’t told anyone. Even though others shared the cause of death idea, I still wondered if it was instant as the funeral director and doctor claimed.

Days later, I remembered. “Make sure to lay your fingers across the wrist or you’ll feel your own pulse,” the instructor had told the Girl Scouts. I held my husband, Danny’s wrist in a different way. A strong slow pulse throbbed beneath his bones. No quick tapping on the surface. It had been mine I felt, not Joe’s.

There was nothing I could do. He had already passed.

How am I? Better. I’m grateful for the time we had together. Looking back, the timing of my visit seems serendipitous. I’ll embrace my grief and will remember him always.

Joe McCartan

Spring is emerging after a long winter dormancy. I see everything more intensely now and understand life’s fragility. Everyone will die. Life is impermanent. The trick is to live each day with appreciation and wonder.

In memory of my brother, I will start a nightly journal. I’ll list three positive things that happened during the day. He would’ve liked that.

What about my mom?

Many of her friends have offered to help. At this point, she won’t consider moving to Colorado with my brother and dad inurned in Madison. We’ll do whatever it takes to celebrate her one-hundredth birthday. I want to see her rock that blue streak.

When You Put A Dog In Charge Of Your Birthday – Vlog

 

funny baby

It’s my birthday! I survived another year of my Wild Life. That’s worth celebrating, don’t you think?

Every year I make plans to do something special. Last year, I made a plan that included a pedicure, a hair appointment, lunch, shopping, meeting family for dinner, eating some kind of chocolate dessert and then dancing, of course.

 

This year, I let my dog, Roxy, decide:

Did you guess what Roxy chose to do? How do you celebrate birthdays? 

What the WHAT? Signs of Life

After traveling to Wisconsin twice over the last three weeks for funerals and memorial services, I woke up with renewed energy and looked forward to “Birthday Week.” Wanting to catch up with writing and blogging, I planned to take care of a few errands first. Imagine my surprise when cleaning up the breakfast dishes. I discovered this in my garbage disposal.

plant in insinkerator

How could a plant germinate on the rubber shield? Three weeks ago, I donned rubber gloves and scrubbed that filthy thing with bleach. We don’t eat sprouts, so it had to be some kind of seed that stuck in the crack. A pumpkin seed? Continue reading

I’m Planning On A Happy Birthday!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it never turns out exactly the way you plan. All of your hopes and dreams may be realized, but it’s never the same as we imagine. This can be very true of birthdays too.

Susie Baby Picture 2

Continue reading

My Impulsivity Can Be Surprising!

When my husband, Danny, was invited to go hut skiing the same weekend as our trip to Wisconsin, skiing won. You’re not surprised, are you?

Anyway, last Tuesday, Danny remembered we hadn’t transferred the tickets. I had spaced them out too. Duh! We would lose them on Thursday. One ticket could be used in April, but I couldn’t think of another time to go back.

While taking a walk on the trail near our house, I had a thought. Why should I stick around the house while Danny has fun and my mom’s eighty-fifth birthday is the same weekend? (Danny says I’m the queen of rhetorical questions.) Then BAM! I had a Eureka moment. I’ll surprise my parents!

This being totally last minute, I called my brother to make sure this would be a good time to come. He thought it was a great idea and arranged to pick me up at the airport. I hoped I wouldn’t give them a heart attack. My dad turned eighty-nine a couple of weeks ago and my mom would turn eighty-five on the 9th.

When I arrived at DIA, I had two hours to spare. Security always takes forever, but glancing over the railing, the line was non-existent. What? Was the airport shut down and I didn’t get the memo? Continue reading

Another Birthday. Thank God!

It’s my birthday! Last year, I looked forward to being a year older. I couldn’t understand why so many people loathe them when we all want to live a long life. That’s the goal, right? We all want to live to be 100! To get there, you have to attain all the numbers in between.

Christmas,  CC birthday, and decor 2009 019

Five days after my last birthday, I had a routine mammogram. I was shocked when I learned I needed an immediate ultrasound. I thought I may not see another birthday. After recovering fully from boobectomies and reconstructive surgery, I still can’t believe I was diagnosed with cancer. I have never gotten used to saying that word.

As I hunkered down with close friends and family to heal, I reassessed. I looked honestly at my life and how I was spending my time. Now I surround myself with people who enjoy my company and support me. I’m excited about my projects and am working hard. Yep. I’ve got another one in the works. I’m sending my book to a professional editor on Monday. Whew!

I don’t feel any different about my birthday this year. I’ve always felt that life is precious. I am grateful to have so many candles on my cake and I plan to add a lot more. I am not a woman who dreads being another year older. I’ve earned it!

2013 Birthday

Last year’s birthday

There are things I can’t change such as my height, the fact that I will never be a pro tennis player or a rock star, or the fact that I had cancer. But I can be a redhead! I made an appointment and plan to get pampered on my birthday.

Last year, I wrote a list of ways to celebrate. Number 1. was getting together with family. I’m looking forward to a celebratory dinner with them once again, but afterward we’re going to DANCE!

DSCN6738

 This is from my rain dancing days with the photo bomber.

My ordeal was more positive than negative. I’ve learned a lot about myself. With adversity, and the gift of living another year, comes clarity. I know who I am, what I’m capable of, and where I’m going. That’s my birthday gift to myself.

Getting older is a very good thing! 

Do you look forward to your birthday?