They say it’s my birthday

Happy birthday to me


Growing up, having a summer birthday was the worst.

Where other kids in elementary school got special cupcakes, treats and pats on the back all day on the occasion of their birth, those of us cursed with non-school-day celebrations were recognized in a lump at the very end of the year. No colorful pencils. No birthday song. On the final day of school, everyone with a late June, July or August birthday was mentioned during the morning announcements — names blared over the loud speakers in one fluid rush.

“And, finally, happy birthday to those celebrating over the summer: KrissyThompsonJennaSmithMeganSniderLesleyAtkinsJohnnyMiller . . .”

So much for a moment in the sun.

To be fair, my parents were always outstanding about recognizing the colossal importance of birthdays. In fact, they’re the ones who spoiled us to death — and first put the idea of Birthdays are Awesome in my frizzy head. Long before Facebook sent out timely reminders of friends’ special days, my mom and dad made sure everyone in our social circle remembered that, though our birthdays weren’t recognized with our classmates, our days were important. They took us to the movies, baked cakes, had the friends not gone on summer vacation over for themed parties. We went all out.

My sister and I were born three years and five days apart, making us both July babies. I’m the 18th (today!); my dad is actually the 19th; and my sister is the 23rd. This trio has been dubbed “Christmas in July” for all the celebrating we do in a short period of time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The pains to which our parents went to make us feel special meant that, even without the classroom cupcakes, we got our chance to shine.

As an adult, birthdays are less exciting. There’s no morning announcement, no day off work. Where once my mom took off to take us for a special lunch and do some shopping at a local music store, vacation time is now in short supply . . . and, heck, music stores don’t even exist anymore.

I’m starting my 28th year at my desk, same as I have for most of the last seven, but that’s all right. I know my fiance and family will be waiting (with dessert!) when I get back, and that’s a gift itself.


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Surprise! A 75th birthday celebration

Behind the scenes in Maryland and Virginia, a group of cousins (and their respective parents) were hard at work preparing a celebration in honor of a special woman. Mom, Maw Maw and Aunt Margy are a few of her popular monikers. And as we gathered to celebrate her 75th birthday, we were all reflecting on what she’s meant to us.

Both my grandmothers played a larger-than-life role in my growing-up years. Maw Maw introduced me to baking, helping me patiently press out sugar cookies when I was as young as 2 or 3. One of my earliest memories is of standing in her kitchen with flour covering the counter, my little hands covered in sticky dough. She introduced me to peanut butter cups, Red Hots candy and tomato sandwiches (for breakfast). She helped me learn to try new things, exercise some patience (oh, the never-ending torment) and, best of all, to always try to get along with my sister.

Maw Maw was always patient, never had an agenda; if my sister and I wanted to spend hours playing a single game, she would happily oblige. Her house was always fragrant, like springtime, and I loved hearing stories about my dad running down the narrow hallway growing up. A large coloring book was hidden beneath the couch, and you would never dare utter an “I’m bored” at her Maryland home. There was always something to do, somewhere to go.

It’s funny the random, visceral moments that return to you later in life: the easy way I can recall the fresh, summery smell of the backyard when we would visit in June or July. The sound of crickets chirping as we wandered through the grass, admiring Maw Maw’s frog statue in the yard. Eating Pop-Ice on the back porch and watching “Strawberry Shortcake” on beta tape. Peering down the well near the driveway, and asking Maw Maw for sticks of wintergreen gum.

Even years later, I can remember walking into her cool-tiled kitchen and reaching up for my favorite drinking glass. Sneaking candy from her cabinets. Admiring the trinkets in a nearby hutch, and watching her pull family photos from drawers in the living room.

Everything I remember is through a child’s eyes.

On April 7, we celebrated Maw Maw’s 75th birthday with a surprise party. I’ve never helped orchestrate a surprise party — or any party, really. And it was awesome. Though my hat is off to my organized and awesome cousin, Karen, for doing the lion’s share of the arrangements, the small parts I contributed — like the tulip table decor — were so fun to put together. Save friends’ wedding and baby showers, I’ve never had a hand in planning an event — and I felt like I was doing a trial run for a reception. Everything went smoothly.

It was wonderful sharing happy memories and celebrating a lady who has had such an impact on our lives. Seeing Maw Maw’s surprised face — and she really did seem surprised — was priceless. Having so many generations of family together created a warm atmosphere, and I’m so thankful we could all be together.

I’m also thankful to be Margy’s granddaughter. May the good times only get better.


Getting my cousin to ‘Just Listen’

God help me, my baby cousin is turning 13 years old this week. On Oct. 29, 1996, baby Ciara came howling into the world as the perfect, sweet kid she still is today! The youngest grandchild on my mother’s side of the family, Ciara is one kind, intelligent and vivacious young lady! And now she’s a teenager. Sweet Moses. If I close my eyes tight and breathe deeply, I can still feel her baby weight in my 11-year-old arms and remember her little hands on my cheek. Ciara has always felt more like a sister than a cousin, and I feel much the way I’m sure a parent must feel as they look at their wonder of a kid and think, Where did she come from? and How did she get to be so awesome — and old?

just_listen So like any good bookish cousin, my mom and I ran into Books-A-Million a few weeks back looking for a great novel to bestow upon my newly-teen relative. The selection process was daunting. Do I pick something frothy and light, or grab a book with a little more substance? I wasn’t comfortable picking up anything for her that I haven’t read myself, so that narrowed down my choices in the young adult novel aisle. While my YA reading list is always expanding, there are still so many great books I simply haven’t gotten around to yet.

In the end, I went with a personal classic: Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen. I know I’ve written about Dessen on numerous occasions and it’s true that I rarely get tired of talking about one of the reigning queens of young adult fiction! Her characters are always well-drawn, believable and moving — and her plots involve real-life issues (family dynamics, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, friendship, death, grief) in a empathetic, sincere way. I never feel like her novels become boring or condescending, but they’re not all action and adventure and drama! the way some YA reads can be. They’re quieter — but I love that about them.

So yes — Ciara’s birthday gifts included a copy of one of my favorite reads ever — a story of sisters, friendship, love and loss that still appeals to me when I flip it open now, many years later. In fact, I’m thinking I should go back and re-read it so I can text her about the plot once she starts reading! Yes, as difficult as it is for me to accept . . . I can now text Ciara. And she texts me back. Immediately.

Here’s to you, Ciara — happy 13th!

Weekend wrap-up: D.C., books & birthdays

newseumkatie_birthdayTo say the last few weeks have been busy would be a gross understatement (gross, I tell you!). Birthday season is always action-packed, but I’ve been enjoyed every minute of it! My baby sister turned 21 last Thursday and we made a trek to the Newseum in Washington, D.C. once more to check out the history of journalism and see all the cool exhibits. We had lunch at the Elephant & Castle — a British-style pub we love — and then had dinner at Clyde’s, which was awesome. Their fantastic blondie (and the birthday girl) are pictured at right!

Saturday was my sister’s big pool party, held by her boyfriend Eric! My grandmother’s “beer cake” was a huge hit, and I’m happy to say that I only had one slice — a serious achievement for me! I loved lounging with my best friend Nichole and meeting Kate and Eric’s great group of friends. Throughout the day, I even managed to actually A) put on a bathing suit; B) get in the pool; and C) participate in pool volleyball, all while barely keeping my head above water. (Hey, I’m only 5’2″. That pool was wicked deep!) 

poolI was proud that I’d “stepped out of my comfort zone” and made strides toward becoming a new, balanced and more relaxed me. I’m heading to another friend’s pool party this weekend, and I even broke down and bought a new suit! Of course, considering it’s almost August, I had a hard time finding anything decent . . . but that’s my own fault for being so inhibited for so long, I suppose!

little_china_pigYesterday found my mom, sister and I walking around an antiques show at our old high school, and logically my eye immediately went to any old books that seemed to be hanging around. I had a vague, ridiculous notion that maybe I’d find an antique copy of one of Jane Austen’s works at a crazy low price, but that didn’t happen! What we did find was a small, worn copy of a children’s book I haven’t seen or thought of in more than a decade — The Little China Pig. First published in 1969, my grandmother would read to Kate and me as kids from a copy that belonged to my mom and aunt! I got so excited when I saw it, and for $2 our china pig came home with us.

I’ve started a collection of kids’ books for my kids — all the unborn, not-even-a-remote-twinkle-in-my-eye ones. Is that strange? I just worry that when I have my own children, all of the movies, books and toys I loved will be gone — or, you know, selling for $1,000 on eBay. I want to make sure I have items like “The Little Mermaid” (my childhood favorite) and will be able to share that with my future family. Don’t worry — my stack of “to be shared with kids” items is very small. But I’m sure it’ll start growing in earnest soon.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Continuing with Christmas in July at my house, today is my dad’s day to celebrate! (My big day was yesterday, and my sister’s is July 23.) I don’t think two little girls could have asked for a better caretaker and playmate — and now, a better confidante, friend and father. Happy Birthday, Dad!

birthday2

1987

One of my favorite snapshots from my childhood is this photo from 1987, right — taken one year before Katie, my younger sister, was born! Mom has always been great about throwing us sensational birthday parties, and this year was no different. Nevermind that it’s always about 95 degress in Maryland in mid-July, with humidity at a cool, sensational 100 percent. I’ve always been a curly girl and a “hot box,” as my mom says, and I think the sweat really speaks for itself. But hey, it was a memorable event!

Dad and I still share so much — including our birthday cakes! But he still deserves some of his own recognition, too, for all that he’s done for our family and friends over the years. I can honestly say that my parents are both my heroes — hard-working, genuine, loving and kind. No one would do more for you than my father, always the last to give up on anyone.

birthday1

1991

And for all the times he drove my friends and me to concerts, stayed up late making sure I didn’t break curfew, made me chocolate chip cookies because I was having a hard day, took my car to get the oil changed, read over my poorly written school papers and made me cry with his corrections (hey, I needed to develop a thicker skin!), raked all the leaves in the yard without making us, helped me nurse a broken heart and the countless other ways you’ve made all of our lives brighter, Dad, I salute you!

Here’s to you, Dad — happy birthday!

Christmas in July '08. Like our crowns?

2008

Happy birthday to … me!

Photo by Flickr user Theresa Thompson

Photo by Flickr user Theresa Thompson

On July 18, 1985 at the ripe ol’ time of 10:21 a.m., Megan Lynn — my parents’ first child, a tiny girl born with a full head of dark hair — came into the world! Twenty four years later, I’m sitting here writing a blog post about it. My hours-old ’80s baby self would have said, “What’s a blog post?!

Ah, yes — it’s my birthday! And I think it’s fair to say that, at 24, I’ve officially entered my mid-twenties. While I find this simultaneously terrifying and awesome, I’m going to have to say that awesome is winning out right now.

Even more than on New Year’s Eve, I usually use my birthday as a marker for looking back at what life has brought me since the previous celebration. It’s true that in the past year, my life has changed quite a bit — especially regarding my relationships — but the fact of the matter is that much has stayed the same. I take comfort in the fact that while I’m still moving forward in many areas of my life, my relationships with family and friends have been a constant source of happiness in my life, as has my writing, reading, photography — and blogging!

I look forward to spending the first year of my mid-twenties reading as many books as possible, eating good food, spending time with the people who matter most to me and — who knows! — finally cranking out the novel that’s going to catapult me to literary superstardom. Here’s to hoping!