My Birthday

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Since Dick was not in Scottsdale like he had planned to be and because he had already taken off of work and wouldn’t be going to the office, not only was he home all morning, but he wouldn’t get out of bed.

This was going to be a problem.

I needed to take a shower and get dressed. One of my friends was taking me out to lunch and I had to meet her at noon. My bathroom was in my bedroom,  which Dick refused to vacate. We had been sharing the lavatory. When he felt like being cooperative, he’d leave the room so I could have privacy to bathe and dress.

However, on that particular morning, he made it clear that he wasn’t going anywhere. I knew he was looking to start an argument. Before I answered him, the strangest image popped into my head. I saw myself dribbling a basketball at half court, watching the time run out on the clock.  At that moment I realized I was in control of the situation. I just needed to take my time and not react immediately.

So, instead of responding to him, which is what I knew he was hoping I would do, I started humming a medley of Jason Mraz’s songs while I gathered my towel, soap, shampoo, hair dryer, makeup and clothes. Appearing totally upbeat and jovial, I exited the room with a dance in my step and my belongings in my arms.

Being completely inconvenienced, on my birthday no less, I took a shower in my kids bathroom and dressed in Josh’s room. However, it was worth the hassle because I had the satisfaction of not letting Dick suck me into an argument with him. He was looking for a way to drag me down to his level and made sure he spoiled the anniversary of the day I was born. I didn’t let him. Not only was I getting older, I was getting a little wiser as well!

I was happy to leave that bitter, angry, pitiful man behind to marinate his thoughts in the poison he concocted.

I was also looking forward to starting my birthday celebration with a positive frame of mind.

One of my closest friends was taking me out to eat at Lovell’s of Lake Forest. This elegant restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois, owned by James Lovell (the Apollo 13 astronaut) and his family has always been a great place to celebrate a special occasion. I was definitely ready to do that.

Lunch was wonderful. It was so nice to sit, relax, talk and enjoy a delicious meal as if I didn’t have a care in the world or a miserable man waiting to torment me when I got home. The hours passed by as if they were minutes. When we finally left the restaurant, it was time to start getting ready for dinner. That old saying really is true—”Time flies when you are having fun.”

I was getting into the birthday spirit so I decided to stop at the local grocery store and treat myself to a birthday cake. As I was checking out, I mentioned to the cashier that it was my birthday and I for the first time in my life, I had to buy myself my own cake. All of a sudden, she and her bagger assistant started singing me “Happy Birthday.” I was so touched. Complete strangers were doing everything in their power to make me feel special on my special day.

I took Ashley out for my birthday dinner to a cute little Italian restaurant. Of course, we ate too much and were completely stuffed. However, in honor of that special occasion, our waiter brought out the most amazing homemade cannolis. We couldn’t refuse them. It would have been rude! So we forced ourselves to indulge. Ashley encouraged me to make a wish before I blew out the candle. I must have sat there for several minutes with my eyes closed as I prayed for a long list of things I would have loved to come into my life .

After dinner, we went to the movie theater and saw Dear John. I’ve always been a sucker for a sappy love story. However, after watching that film, it just reinforced to me what I didn’t have in my life and how much I craved having a special guy to celebrate my special day with me.

When we came home, we were still filled to the brim from what we ate earlier. While we couldn’t stomach the thought of eating another morsel, Ashley put candles in my cake and sang me “Happy Birthday.” Once again I closed my eyes, stood there for way too long as the wax from the illuminated flames effortlessly dripped down onto the frosting, wished for everything that’s been missing from my life for far too long and blew out the candles in one swift breath. We put the cake back into the fridge, knowing that the next day it would be consumed and enjoyed.

All in all, it was a spectacular day. In addition to all the celebrating I did throughout the day, I was showered with phone calls, birthday cards, e mails and an outpouring of birthday wishes on Facebook.

It was the best birthday I had in a long, long time. I went to sleep happy, content and feeling very lucky to have so many caring, loving people in my life.

It seemed like my wishes were starting to come true.

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It’s A New Day, A New Month, A New Year and A New Decade

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New Year’s Eve is always an exciting time for me.

Even though it is just another night, symbolically it represents a fresh start, a clean slate and a chance to make positive, healthy changes.

With everything going on in my life, I was anxious for 2009 to end and for 2010 to begin. Let’s face it, this hasn’t exactly been a period in my life that I would want to continue ad nauseam.

Ever since college, I always looked forward to the parties, the friends and the hoopla of bidding farewell to the old and welcoming in the new.

For the past several years, we went to the home of a good friend of Dick’s, had appetizers, dinner, dessert, socialized and at 11:00 pm would gather around the television to watch the annual Dick Clark New Year’s Eve event in New York City and start the festivities as the ball dropped in Times Square. Then the show switched to parties at various locales around Chicago and the next hour would miraculously fly by till the countdown for us would begin. Party hats were adorned. Noisemakers were passed out. Champagne was poured.

Then we all yelled in unison:

TEN…NINE…EIGHT…SEVEN…SIX…FIVE…FOUR…THREE…TWO…ONE…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

We immediately followed this up with hugs, kisses and a toast for a wonderful new year filled with all of life’s greatest gifts.

When things started to really turn sour between Dick and me, we both dreaded that final countdown because we would have to give each other the customary peck on the cheek even though both of us would have preferred to take a pass.

In early December, I knew that Dick and Juanita would be celebrating this holiday together in her neck of the woods, so I started hinting to Ashley that she should have a party at our home. At first, she balked at the idea, claiming that her friends would want to be with their families. Then a few weeks later, she said that one of her pals was thinking of having a gathering at her house. I told Ashley that if those plans fell through, she was welcome to have everyone at our place.

Secretly, I was hoping that would happen. My motive was somewhat selfish. I didn’t have anywhere to go and I didn’t want to be home alone, feeling sorry for myself and thinking of what Dick and Juanita might possibly be doing. Nor did I want to wallow in self-pity or be in a deep depression.

As it turned out, my wish came true and our house was going to be Party Central!

It was good to have something to look forward to. Getting into the holiday spirit, I began planning and shopping for the first party that  was hosted at our place in  as long as I could remember.

This year, especially, I wanted to welcome in 2010 with our house filled with happiness, laughter, fun, friends (okay, Ashley’s friends!)  and a fresh beginning.

I bought festive decorations, plates, napkins, silverware ( okay…plastic), sparkling grape cider and plastic fluted wine glasses. Ashley and I planned the menu and her friends all offered to bake desserts.

Everything was positive and upbeat until Ashley told Dick about her upcoming event.

He went berserk, threatening her that if anything was broken or ruined, she and her friends would have to pay for the damages. (What a guy!!!) Being the control freak that he is, Dick barked out orders of what shouldn’t be moved or touched.

As it turned out, he left in the middle of the afternoon on December 31 and told Ashley that he was going away for a business opportunity. As Josh drove him to the airport, Ashley and I got the basement decorated, set the table, put out the appetizers and drinks and totally ignored Dick’s demands. It felt so good to be in charge and disregard the orders left by my soon-to-be ex.

The party turned out to be a complete success. In fact, half of the girls stayed overnight and didn’t leave until the following afternoon. A  friend of mine invited Josh, Ashley and me to come over for a New Year’s Day dinner and birthday party for another one of our friends. Josh, who was out all night with his college pals, took a pass, but Ashley and I went and enjoyed another evening of festivities.

All in all, it was a wonderful start to a new year, a new beginning and a new tradition!