My Birthday Week and Paying It Forward

Wow, y'all! This has been such a fun birthday week. Dinner with my mom and my bestie, dinner with my husband, lunch with some girlfriends, dinner with my boys, drinks with a friend, and more to come! Birthday week? Why, yes, I'm so glad you asked about the birthday week. The birthday week originated when I was in college. My birthday was always during exams, so it seemed that everyone's schedules were always conflicting so I would have several celebrations with different friends throughout the week...including my cute husband who I have been dating since I was 18. Then I would head home for summer break and celebrate with my family and my friends from home. This tradition has continued now for over 15 years...ugh...but is still so much fun. If you celebrate a birthday week, yay for you!!! If you don't, you need to start immediately. No, seriously. It's an amazing tradition that brings great joy and friendship blessings every year.

It's too confusing to try to plan one night for all of your friends, family, children, spouse, everyone to get together unless you commit to having a huge birthday party every year. That requires a lot of planning, a location, invitations, clean up, etc. That is just too much pressure every single year ;) So, when my friends offer to take me to dinner, to lunch, out for a glass of wine, when my family offers to babysit so that I can go out with my husband, when my husband offers to take me and the kids out to a "special" dinner, I say YES! to all. This was not always the case. I used to be modest and say, "oh, no, you really don't need to do that for me." You know what? That's true, people don't need to do that for me. I have found, though, that when I ask someone if I can do something for them and their response is, "no, you really don't need to do anything for me," it's sort of a bummer! I really get excited about doing things for other people. It's a blessing to me much more than it's a blessing to them. That's the long way to tell you why I now say YES! to all offers to celebrate my birthday. It is, in fact, only one week, I mean day, of the year, right?

While we're on the subject, I wish that we would all be less stubborn about saying YES! We are all guilty of trying to "do it all" and wearing ourselves out in the process. There have been many circumstances throughout the years when my friends have offered their time, their help, their resources when I have said, "oh, no, you really don't need to do that for me." Then I find myself in the midst of a mental breakdown because I have put too much on my plate, I am overwhelmed, and I am alone kicking myself for not simply saying, "yes, thank you, that would be great" to those amazing friends who wouldn't offer to help if they didn't want to in the first place. Why do we make it so hard on ourselves?

I did not come to this realization that I could use a helping hand overnight. When I first had kids, I was particularly bad about accepting help from my friends. Maybe I thought that I was failing as a mom if people helped me because I was supposed to be able to handle these kids myself. Maybe it was because I felt like I couldn't offer the same help in return at that point in time. Maybe it was my pride getting the best of me. Maybe I was just too exhausted to even think about letting someone help me because I was stuck in my own head space with a newborn and another child who could barely walk or talk and a husband who worked insane hours. Maybe it's because the only people I thought it was appropriate to ask for help were members of my family who lived at least 6 hours away at the time...much further a couple of years later.

A wise friend in Nashville showed me that it was okay to ask for help and that she wanted NOTHING in return. No, seriously, nothing. She showed up when I needed her without asking. She watched my children. She made my children's birthday parties amazing. She showed up with wine. She showed up with meals that she cooked in her crock pot in her 2nd grade classroom. She embroidered Easter baskets. She met me for walks. She drove me to the airport. She helped me move. She just SHOWED UP. I learned that sometimes you don't need to ask someone if you can help them, you just need to simply show up. Whether it's a phone call, a visit, a meal, a bottle of wine, a night out...just show up. The other thing I learned from my friendship with her is that I can never repay some of the things that she did for me. We moved when our boys were 10 months and 2 years old. I wasn't living in Nashville when my friend had her second child or when her children started preschool or when she redid her house or when she moved or when she...the list goes on and on. I felt guilty about this for a while after I moved to Scottsdale, but then I realized that I what I COULD do was pay it forward. What a concept, huh? I know, it's not rocket science, but it took me a little longer than most to recognize that this was the path to take in repaying my friend for her above-and-beyond friendship.

So, that's what I have tried to do since leaving Nashville nearly four years ago. I'm trying to be more graceful in giving and receiving help. I have swallowed my pride and opened my heart and my life for all to see. I have exchanged days of feeling alone, like I was the only one going through what I was going through, to days filled with telling my stories, listening to my friends, commiserating with fellow mamas of small children, rejoicing in the small accomplishments of the day (like only having to mop once during the day or avoiding a big pink tardy slip in the mornings). It's so much easier to just admit that I can't do it all and that I'm not perfect (don't be shocked!). Being honest with myself and with my friends has really made the days so much easier. As the saying goes, the days are long but the years are's up to us to help make those long days a little easier for ourselves and for each other.

So, the next time I (and when I say "I," I mean I, but I also mean any friend) offer to take your kiddos, to bring you dinner, to drop by the grocery store, to take you out for a glass of wine, to drive you to the airport, to pick up your kids from school, please say YES!. And if you need anything, ASK! I promise I'll say no if I can't help you...but I will do anything I can. Nothing brings me greater joy that making someone's day a little easier. We can all use that, right?

That's the whole reason I started this make other people's days just a little easier. So thank you for using the recipes and reading the stories that go along with them so that in this small way you are blessing me by saying YES! to me :)

Happy Cooking!

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