One year ago today, I was walking on the beach with my family. It was the first time I was at the beach for my birthday and I loved it.
Two years ago, my husband threw a wonderful surprise party for me for my 40th birthday. We had a great time celebrating and he and the kids created a video for me that was beautiful, funny and touching. My brother who lives over 600 miles from me, created a hilarious video with his kids highlighting funny moments in my life.
Three years ago, I was 6 months pregnant with my third child, Jason, our long awaited bundle of joy and energy!
Ten years ago, I celebrated my birthday, 5 months pregnant with my second child, my only daughter who I knew was a girl even though I did not have an ultrasound to reveal her sex. I had felt the presence of her spirit and even heard her speak to me before I was even pregnant. I was working as an OT in home health care, something I really enjoyed as it gave me great flexibility to do paperwork from home and set my own schedule. I was now working part time hours and planned to work far less after my second child was born. I planned to homeschool my children and my oldest was in a preschool morning out program for the last year.
12 years ago, my husband held a surprise party for my 30th birthday. It was a complete surprise and including him calling to tell me the car was broken down in order to get me to show up at the park where the party was waiting for me. My life was busy between working full time and spending the rest of my time with my first born and so Don invited people that I had not yet met to that party. How fun to discover the party and wonder who some of the people were. My parents, sister and some friends from out of town came out to celebrate as well as people who I did know. And I enjoyed meeting those people who I had known only in name prior to my party who were in my husband’s life as a stay at home dad including several members of the play group he belonged to for our son.
14 years ago, I celebrated my birthday while 8 months pregnant with my first child. I would soon become a mom and my life would be forever changed. I had been eager to have children of my own and start a family but I had no idea what mother hood would be like. I even agreed to go back to work full time after a short 12 week maternity leave and allow my husband to stay home with our newborn while he worked from home growing his new business. I had no idea how difficult it would be to leave my three month old bundle of joy and return to work- the most difficult thing I ever had to do at that point in my life.
17 years ago, I celebrated my first birthday as a married woman. I was 25 years old, working at Charlotte Institute of Rehabilitation, my first job I took after graduating college with my degree in Occuapational Therapy.
19 years ago today, I celebrated my birthday with my best friend Kimberly in Allentown, Pa, by going out dancing. I had a new car, my first car, 1992 red Toyota Corolla and had a new job that I would be starting in one months time. I would be moving over 600 miles from home to Charlotte, NC- on my own, eager with my new career path to begin a life of my own in a new and exciting place. My closest relatives would be my sister, 3 hours away and my aunt who lived 1 1/2 hours from my new home.
21 years ago today, was half a life time ago for me and my 21st birthday! I remember going out somewhere to enjoy my first bought alcoholic drink. It was some kind of ice-cream drink, like peanut-butter chocolate or something like that. I was a junior in college and was now legal before most of my classmates- the last advantage of being older than people in my class. It was the beginning of weekends at dance bars. Dancing became a favorite past time for me and with some alcohol to free me of my shy, cautious nature, I was able to let go and really enjoy myself. Luckily, surrounded by great friends who looked out for me. (and yes, we always had a designated driver- which usually was not me)
Funny how things that mattered to me, things I worried about 21 years ago, seam so distant now. I look back and see how carefree my life was yet, at the time, I did not really know that. Being a worry wart and a cautious person, it took many years for me to really come out of my shell. Something, I feel I am still in the process of doing. I believe I worry less about what others think now and speak my mind more easily, at least in writing. I did not know at the time how my passion for writing would carry me through some difficult times in my life. I also did not know I would find my way back to my love of writing, even pursuing to earn a living through writing.
23 years ago today, I celebrated my first birthday at Elizabethtown College. I was 19 and beginning life in college, something i had looked forward to for at least the past 4 years, both living on my own and the more mature educational experience of college, complete with college social life. Weekend campus dances were one of my favorite parts of college as well as all the wonderful friends that I made in those 4 years of my life. I enjoyed college life and learned how to let go and enjoy myself along with learning from a vast amount of wonderful professors with a plethora of life experiences. We had small classrooms and no teaching assistance. Most of my professors new me by my first name.
24 years ago, I celebrated my birthday as a senior at Whitehall Highschool. My 18th birthday and yet I had only gotten my driver’s license about 2 months prior to my birthday. I had a boyfriend and had recently quit my job at Franklin’s Family Restaurant as a waitress and had begun working at Tina Marie’s Bakery and Deli located just down the hill behind my house. I frequently walked to work. I was eager to graduate and move away to college. I had been eager to be an adult for as long as I can remember. My boyfriend was away at college and so I spent a lot of time studying during my senior year- while others were skipping school and partying. I was counting the days until graduation and… freedom!
26 years ago, I celebrated my sweet sixteen. I had begun working at Franklin’s Family Restaurant 6 months earlier, starting out as a “busgirl”- clearing tables and working in the dish room and then went through waitress training. I worked more busing tables than wiating on them prior to my birthday due to work restriction laws in PA for someone under 16. Now that I was 16, all the work hour restrictions would be lifted allowing me to work past 7pm on weeknights and past 10pm on weekends. My friends took me to the mall to surprise me- getting my ears pierced- because they thought I needed my ears pierced. I went along with it but only kept them pierced for about a year. Outside of school, my personality could shine and guys talked to me. It was a very different world at the restaurant than in school and I really enjoyed myself at work. I went on my first date with a fellow employee of Franklin’s Restaruant, Chuck McGlade, he picked me up at the retaruant after I finished working in the dishroom. I was not yet 16. …I wonder what became of Chuckie? I met great people working at Franklin’s and learned important lessons about how to treat customers and about hard work -motivation to attend and complete college. Minimum wage was $3.35 per hour but as a waitress I made $2.01 an hour plus tips.
29 years ago, I celebrated my 13th birthday (the current age of my oldest child) in a new home and town, a 7th grader at Whitehall Middle School. Life was challenging in this new place, having moved over the summer from Bethel Park, Pa on the other side of the state.
I was placed in a confirmation class in church with 4th graders- a traumatic experience for a young teen. The age of confirmation was 9th grade where we had lived before. The middle school was more like elementary school to me compared to the middle school I attended in Bethel Park, Neil Armstrong Middle School.
I vividly recall my first day of school that year. As I sat and looked around at the unfamiliar faces, I noticed that I was the only girl wearing sneakers and was only one of two girls who were wearing jeans. Apparently middle school students in Eastern Pennsylvania dressed differently than middle-schoolers in Western Pa- a big deal to a 13 year old who had spent the past several years convincing her mother than she needed brand name jeans and sneakers. I think my older sister, Michele, helped me win that battle.
I took an IQ test for the first time before beginning shcool that year only to learn my IQ was a few points too low for the gifted program. I messed up the question about where the sun sets and from that moment on, I always remembered where the sun rises and sets. Both my siblings were in the gifted program. On the school folder where my name and homeroom were listed, you could see that the room number had been changed. I always assumed if I had scored a few points more and had been labeled gifted, then I would have been in a different homeroom. Sounds silly but after a fall field trip to a local opera house to see a performance eneded in my class getting in trouble and not being able to talk in homeroom for about a month, I began to wish I had been put in the other homeroom class.
My life was forever changed that year. I was going through puberty and my light, easy-going personality was shifting to a more reserved, shy and uncertain nature. Moving at this tender age was one of the most challenging parts of my childhood even though before the move, I embraced the idea of moving fully and was excited and eager to move. Who knows what life would have been like if I had remained in Bethel Park for my teen years? Despite the challenges, I am grateful for my life exactly as it has played out. All of it makes me who I am today.
32 years ago, I celebrated my ten’s birthday new to Bethel Park and waiting to begin 4th grade at Washington Elementary School because the teacher’s at our new school district were on strike. I celebrated with new friends I met in my neighborhood and remembering staying up late watching the World Series because we did not need to get up early for school. It was exciting when the Pittsburgh Pirates won The World Series this first year we lived in the Pittsburgh area. I got a ten speed bike for my birthday which was very exciting to me and needed to navigate the hilly terrain of my neighborhood. I also received my first diary, a birthday gift from my sister.I don’t think my sister had any idea that would be my first of many diaries and was the beginning of a lifetime of journaling. I still have that first diary.
My love of writing was nourished during the three years we lived in Bethel Park. First, I got to participate in an elementary news cast program, one that was locally televised- I was on the writing team. Later in 6th grade, I had an amazing English Teacher who nurtured my love of writing and valued the things I had written. I can still hear her talking to me as she reviewed my poetry portfolio.
I would meet wonderful friends in those three years that I lived in Bethel Park, lifelong friends who despite our short number of years together, would remain dear to my heart. Thanks to Facebook for reconnecting me with several of them! Reconnecting with them was like picking up where we left off. This included my Foreign Pen Pal as well, Zurina, from South Africa who I met through the mail from a magazine pen pal program. We would write to each other through my college years and then loose touch for about 15 years. We would reconnect and meet in person for the first time after she found me by recalling the name of the college I attended. Meeting her was amazing- reconnecting with a long lost friend. Despite never having met in person or even having spoken to each other- all our communication had been through hand written letters sent through the mail, all these years later we talked like we had never lost touch discovering that we had much in common as adults, as mothers.
36 years ago, I celebrated my 6th birthday as a kindergartner at Barr Elementary in Canton, Ohio. It was 1975 and our country was about to celebrate its bicentennial. Looking back, it seams that life was so different at that time. I played outside in the neighborhood while my mother was in the house. I waited for the school bus in our neighborhood and took walks down to the the creek at the end of the road with my older sister and our dog, Coco. At times, a stray dog came along with us, as our yard seamed to attract many stray dogs. We never worried about these stray dogs, and they didn’t bother me except the time I looked out the window and spotted “a polar bear” in the back yard- a large white dog. I liked the smaller dogs like the Cairn Terrier who followed me, but didnt’ like how he would bite at my heels.
42 years ago today, at 5:30am at Dover General Hospital in Dover, New Jersey, a baby girl was born to the parents of John and Ellen Menzo and sister to almost three-year-old Michele. She weighed 10 pounds 7 oz and friends and family responded with “a football player!” She had brown hair and brown eyes.
She was an “easy baby” who slept well after they put rice cereal in with her formula in her baby bottles. She had no ideas some day she would become a breastfeeding advocate and help other woman nurse their babies. She knew nothing of the world she lived in and how she would move to 2 more states and a total of 3 more cities by the age of 13. She knew only the world she was born into with loving parents, an eager and attentive older sister and all the extended family who loved her including 4 living grandparents, 2 great grandmas and 11 aunts and uncles- the youngest being aged 5 and 7. None of her 22 first cousins had been born yet. She didn’t know how to count and did not know that math would become her favorite subject (so forgive her if she messed up any of the math here). When she sat contentedly as an infant holding a book (upside down), no one knew (or maybe some did) that she was developing a love of reading and learning and that she would continue reading and learning throughout her life. When she later tore the living room wall paper, no one new that maybe she wanted a piece of paper to write on- no one new that writing would become her passion.
42 years ago, that brand new baby girl had a lifetime of living to look forward to…
And she still does!
Happy Birthday to me, 42 years young!
I plan to celebrate 42 more..and then some… glorious years of life. Writing, sharing and empowering others to create the life they desire and to be the grandest version of the greatest vision ever they held about who they are.
Living, learning and enjoying with my wonderful family, friends and all who I meet along my journey.