The Missing Birthday

Yesterday would have been Eric’s 42nd birthday. This time of year typically puts me into a spin cycle, hurtling me towards the anniversary of his death on October 29, then to the holidays where his presence is noticeably absent, then finally spits me out sometime in January, when the frigid weather numbs my raw emotions. My brother Luke’s birthday was August 31, and mine is coming up on Sunday. We always celebrated our birthdays together, my two brothers and I. With all three birthdays little more than a week apart, it was not only convenient for my family, but was a special bond we all shared.

This year, we celebrated Luke’s birthday separately, and it felt nice.  I couldn’t help but feel, though, the void in between. With my birthday coming up on Sunday, we’ve lost the connection in the middle. The missing birthday. I’ve struggled a bit with throwing big birthday bashes for myself ever since Eric’s death because it just never felt right. It feels somehow selfish, to revel in the joy of being alive another year, when someone you love isn’t.

Maybe this year will be different. With my oldest in preschool, I can already feel a change. Fall will mean a fresh new start, and not just another reminder of Eric’s death. Maybe this year, my birthday will feel different, too.

Opening presents at one of our shared birthday parties.

Read more of Eric’s story here.

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Note to Self: You Ran

Hello there. It’s late. You’re tired. But not as tired as you’d expected. You’ve still got a few more hours of work to do, and you just might make it. You’ve been a specimen of productivity today, kicking your to-do list’s tushy and takin’ names. And you did this on only 1.5 cups of coffee and NO pop! Amazing. So, what’s your secret? What gave you this steady stream of energy today?

You remember, right? You got up this morning…and ran. You laced up your clunky running shoes, squeezed into your too-tight running shorts, threw your badly-in-need-of-a-cut hair up into a ponytail and you ran. You ran as hard as you could, and as long as you could. You sweated. You gasped. You ran. Your thighs jiggled, but you ran. Your feet turned to lead, but you ran. Your breathing was labored, but you ran.

You. Ran.

By Peter van der Sluijs (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

You collapsed back into your car after only a short distance. You didn’t catch your breath until you were several miles down the road. Your sweat created a sealant between your skin and the leather seat. You limped into the house. Your soaked sports bra adhered to your skin, giving you a mini panic attack before getting in the shower. You washed the sweat away, but the feeling remained. The high. The sense of accomplishment.

You. Ran.

Do it again. Soon.

Love, Me

¡Soy una gringa gigante!

Maybe it was the rose bouquet I wore on my head they were staring at. Too much?

¡ Mira, miraaaaa! ¡ Hay una gringa con pies gigantes!

I whipped my head around to see who she was yelling at, my feet still squished into the tiny pedicure tub. She’d flung the salon door open, and seemed to be proclaiming this news to the entire dusty Guayaquil street. Did she know I spoke Spanish? Did she think I might be offended that she’d just announced to the neighborhood:

Look, looooook! There’s a white lady with giant feet!

Well, I had to give her credit. She was right. My size twelves were probably the biggest feet to ever step inside her little shop. And at only eight dollars for a mani/pedi (not each, together), I wasn’t about to complain about her lack of tact. I would gladly be her freak show. Her exciting story to tell her children when she returned home. Her fond memory of the time the blond, white, freakishly tall American lady asked to have her ginormous toenails painted dark lavender and left a large tip.

For the first time in my life, I stood out. And not just for my above-average height and my “giant” feet. My hair color was different. My eye color was different. My skin color was different. From the moment we landed in Ecuador, I felt like a pale, awkward skyscraper. I could feel caramel-colored eyes staring up at me wherever we went. I frequently overheard comments about the “gringa gigante.” Yep. That was me. The giant white woman.

And while I didn’t embrace this term at the time, there was another word I heard that completely changed how I viewed myself. Exotic. Who, me? Pale, nondescript, me? Wasn’t that term reserved for raven-haired beauties with honey-colored skin? Certainly not for a “pretty unfly for a white girl” like me. I was the opposite of exotic. I was white bread in a sea of toasted muti-grain. I’d fought against my “Powder-esque” skin color through my adolescent and college years. Lotions, potions, creams, UV rays pounding directly onto my epidermis. I was “pasty,” as one muscle-bound YMCA worker called me when filling out a membership form. Thanks, dude.

But here, in a place where I was the minority, my differences were celebrated. I learned to embrace my lack of color, and just rock the pale. I gave up my aversion to heels, and wore whatever gosh-darn shoes I wanted, whether they had a four-inch lift or not. If I ever return to beautiful Ecuador, I will gladly stand on the steps of the Mitad del Mundo and proclaim, “Soy una gringa gigante!” To which, someone will probably shout back, “Get down you crazy white lady!”

Let Me Tell You About My Other Brother

For awhile now, I’ve been sharing what’s on my heart about the tragic loss and aftermath of losing my brother Eric. But here’s the thing. God not only blessed me with one amazing brother, but with two. My brother Luke is five years older than me, and although we fought like crazy when we were young, I consider him one of my best friends now. And today is his birthday.

If I could turn back time, I would have a puppy party with him at sunset after finishing the dishes, share a bowl of ramen noodles in front of the wall furnace, fix a bowl of cockadoodledoo, watch back-to-back episodes of Star Trek (Captain Picard only, please), and sing every song in the Jungle Book sound track at the top of our lungs. These are only a few of the inside jokes and memories we share, and I realize now how lucky I am to have so many.

I love you Luke, and I am the luckiest girl in the world to have you for a brother. You’re one of the smartest, kindest, most generous people I know.

 

Happy Birthday big brother!

 

Then…

 

…and now!

Hot diggity dog! Now I can be dainty AND write with my OWN pen!

Friends, I’ve got some great news. For years, I’ve been dreaming of doing just one thing…writing…with a pen. But up until now, I’ve had to labor away at the keyboard, unable to sign my daughter’s enrollment form at preschool, the loan paperwork for my mortgage, and the checks we give to charity. My husband, with his big masculine hands, has been the only one able to pick up a writing utensil.

But now, thanks to the brilliant minds at Bic, I have reason to rejoice. Finally…FINALLY…a company listened. For years, I’ve been typing correspondence to pen manufacturers begging them to please consider the majority of the population when making their products. After all, at only 5′ 10″, I’m somewhat of a weakling. I’ve only birthed two children, and just couldn’t muster the strength to pick up a several-ounce piece of plastic…until now.

Yes, writing is in your near future! Pay just slightly more than a “man’s” pen and it’s yours!

Ladies, meet the Cristal Ball Pen for HER. That’s right! Product features include:

– Elegant design – just for her!
– Medium 1.0 mm point, Black ink
– Thin barrel to fit a women’s hand
– Medium 1.0 mm point
– Black ink

Can I hear a collective “ooh” and how about an “ahh?” You know, only the kind reserved for opening gifts at wedding and baby showers? What? You’re not impressed? Well, truth be told, neither am I. I’m not angry, just perplexed. I mean, I’m supportive of the “feminization” of some products (t-shirts, hello), but pens, really? Really?! This is just silly. Super silly. What’s next? Declaring that a certain brand of diet pop is only for men? Oh wait…

(Turns out I’m not the only one perplexed by this. Read GMA’s story here. Also, make sure you read the reviews on Amazon. Hilarious!)