Like a Phoenix

Time to get serious for a minute.

Self-publishing has sort of a bad reputation. It’s often seen as “vanity publishing,” and there is sometimes an assumption that our books aren’t good enough for traditional publication. We spend an awful lot of time trying to prove that we are “real authors” despite the route we’ve chosen to take to publication.

But I’m not going to bore you with yet another dull comparison of all the pros and cons of self-publishing as compared to traditional publishing. It is what it is.

I want to talk about the Indie community. The circle of independent, self-published authors who are, for the most part, some of the most incredible and supportive people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. Oh, sure, there are more than a few loopy-loos and whackadoodles out there, but they are hugely outnumbered by the Good Guys.

One of those Good Guys is Mark Dawson. He’s a fabulous writer and a terrific role model who offers training, workshops and support to help his fellow indie authors learn to navigate the confusing world of publishing and marketing.

As if that weren’t enough, I recently learned that Mark has taken his kindness to the next level. I’m going to quote him here from his post on KBoards: 


“Emma Johns is the wife of my son’s godfather and has been battling with breast cancer for five years. In the middle of her grueling treatment she found out that she was pregnant (the chemotherapy was supposed to make her infertile but, to her surprise, it didn’t).

And then, in December, she gave birth to her own little miracle: baby Phoenix.

(You really couldn’t make that up. It’s the nearest thing to a miracle I think I’ve ever seen).

Emma’s condition is worsening but there is some hope: a trial immunotherapy drug called Pembrolizumab has shown amazing results for women with incurable triple negative breast cancer (like her). But, due to her pregnancy, Emma missed out on being eligible for the only trial available for this drug. Her best option now is to pay for it privately for the eye-watering sum of 40,000 pounds.

I’ve written a short story in my John Milton and Beatrix Rose universe – called PHOENIX – and I will be giving all of the proceeds to her and her family.

The book is available for preorder right now at $2.99. Every sale makes a difference.”


This one hits home, folks. My mom died of breast cancer on Mother’s Day 1987. It’s been thirty years next week. Breast cancer is a real bastard who has taken too many mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives.

I don’t know Emma Johns or baby Phoenix. I’ve never met Mark Dawson face-to-face. But Phoenix shouldn’t have to grow up without his mommy, so I’ve already bought my copy of this book. I am reaching out to all of you who follow my blog, and I’m asking you to spend a measly $2.99 to help out; I’m asking you to share this post and get the word out there.

To pre-order your copy of Phoenix by Mark Dawson, follow this link to his Amazon page.

Thank you for helping out.


Shamrocks, Blarney, and Mom

When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, I always think of my mother.

She was part Irish, although I have to be honest and say she was sort of part-everything. Her maiden name was Kirk, and she always told us that she had once traced the family tree back to the first Kirk to come to America from Scotland; he married an Irish girl, and their son married a Cherokee, and so on down the line. She insisted that we had our own Tartan and family crest, and swore that our family history also included Welsh, Swedish, Dutch, French and German ancestors.

She also insisted that she was 5’5” but barely reached my chin, and I am 5’4”, so I think it’s safe to say that many of my mother’s “truths” should be taken with a grain of salt. Irish or not, she definitely had the Gift of Blarney.

She loved St. Patrick’s Day. She was an incredibly irritating Morning Person who was hard enough to deal with on a normal day, but on St. Patrick’s Day, she amped it up by blasting “Irish Washerwoman” on the radio and clog-dancing around our beds to wake us up. She insisted on speaking in a thick Irish brogue all day, and the real tragedy here is that she thought she was good at it.

She was not.

She had a song that she liked to sing on that day, in the same terrible brogue, that involved a drunken fool coming home late at night and doubting his wife’s explanations about a hat on the hatrack or a head on the pillow. I’ll admit that I thought the song was really funny as a child, especially the part that went, “A football with a mustache on I never saw before!

Of course, now that I’m a parent and have access to Google, I looked up the song and was promptly horrified to discover that my mother’s favorite song was a delightfully filthy little ditty called “The Traveler.” I honestly don’t remember if she left out the following verses or not:

“Oh, you’re drunk, you fool, you silly old fool,
You’re as drunk as a fool can be;
That’s not a cock a-standing there,
But a carrot that you see.”
Well, I’ve traveled this wide world over,
Ten thousand miles or more;
But a carrot with balls on,
I never saw before.

And I’m sure she omitted the following:

“Oh, you’re drunk, you fool, you silly old fool,
You’re as drunk as a fool can be;
I ain’t your wife, this ain’t your house,
You have never lived with me.”
Well, I’ve traveled this wide world over,
Ten thousand miles or more;
It’s the fifth time that I’ve stuffed this bird,
She ain’t never complained before.

I also remember the year she was supremely offended when I met her brogue-to-brogue with some alternate lyrics I had learned for “Irish Washerwoman:”

Oh, McTavish is dead and McTivish don’t know it
McTivish is dead and McTavish don’t know it
They’re both of ‘em dead and they’re in the same bed
And neither one knows that the other is dead.

She was not amused.

Neither were my sisters, as I recall. It was pretty early in the morning for a brogue-off.

But the real reason I think of my mother on Saint Patrick’s Day is McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes. Dear Lord, those things are pure evil. Nothing should taste so good! Cold and sweet, just minty enough, creamy and smooth. I am not usually a big fan of milkshakes other than plain old vanilla, but Shamrock Shakes are so much more than just a milkshake. They are an experience.

In the final days of Mom’s battle with breast cancer, she developed a craving for a Shamrock Shake. She had lost her appetite and her weight had dropped to well below 100 pounds, so we were happy that she had a craving for anything. The cancer had invaded her brain; she was childlike in size and behavior by that point.

One of us stopped and bought her a Shamrock Shake on the way to the hospital that morning. I don’t remember now which one of us it was, and it really didn’t matter. All that mattered was Mom getting something that made her happy at the moment. Before she could even take her first sip, however, one of the nurses who was drawing her blood at the time somehow managed to bump the tray and spill the shake all over the floor.

The nurse was even more devastated than Mom. Mom wept like a child over her lost treat, and Debbie, the nurse, couldn’t stop apologizing. I remember that she cried a few tears as well. For the next several days, she stopped on her way in and brought my mom a new Shamrock Shake every day until my sister gently told her it wasn’t necessary any more. By that point, Mom didn’t remember any of it.

I’ve never forgotten Debbie’s kindness, or the horrified expression on her face when she realized what had happened. It was just a shake, just a stupid mixture of frozen milk and too much sugar, but it meant the world to a dying woman with seven brain tumors and three grieving daughters. Debbie could have dismissed it as just a stupid shake and shrugged off my mother’s tears, but she cared enough for her patient to worry about more than just who was going to mop up the mess. She let my mom into her heart and I knew, even then, how much that cost her.

Now, more than thirty years later, I still buy myself one Shamrock Shake to drink alone every St. Patrick’s Day in honor of my Mom, but also in honor of Debbie and nurses like her everywhere, who care enough to let their patients into their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.

It’s just a shake, just a stupid mixture of frozen milk and too much sugar, but it’s so much more than that.


This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day. . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Kelly from Just Typikel, and Lisa from The Meaning of Me. Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Everybody Needs ’em

There was a boy in my sister’s grade in school who wrote a song that we all affectionately referred to as “The Boob Song.”  It had several memorable verses and a rousing chorus that went something like “Everybody wants ‘em, everybody needs ‘em, they’re boobs BOOBS!”

I have long since forgotten the young composer’s name, along with some of the finer points of the song, but that chorus is forever burned into the deepest recesses of my memory and will not go away.  Boobs.  Titties.  Chi-chis.  Hooters.  Ta-tas.  Big ones, little ones, perky or saggy.  We dress to hide them, make them look bigger, cover them up or reveal them.  We spend a fortune on bras to push them up, minimize them, support them or simply strap them down.  I have a friend whose bra doubles as a purse, storing everything from loose change to Driver’s License and possibly even a change of clothes.

And now that I’ve made you all incredibly uncomfortable or at least made you start to question my orientation, let me throw a few statistics at you.  According to the American Cancer Society, here are some estimates for breast cancer in the United States in 2014:

  • About 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,000 women will die from breast cancer

To put that into perspective, the number of new cases in 2014 will be equal to roughly double the size of the population of Lansing, Michigan.  The number of breast cancer deaths is almost exactly equal to the population of the town I grew up in.

But there’s more.

  • 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime
  • Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women, second only to skin cancers.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
  • The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%).

It’s October.  National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We all put pretty pink ribbons on everything from ink pens to coffee mugs.  We wear pink t-shirts with catchy slogans, and our sons wear bright pink socks with their football uniforms to increase awareness.  We play silly games on Facebook and go braless for a day, or we spread funny memes about saving “Second Base” or whatever. We participate in 5K runs and bake sales and every possible kind of fundraiser there is.

All of that is great.

But there’s more.

Ladies, we need to talk. Put away the embarrassment and social niceties and pleasant little euphemisms and really talk.

All of the fundraisers and awareness campaigns won’t help if we don’t take a little bit of responsibility for our own health, our own bodies. We need to get our mammograms or breast ultrasounds.  We need to go to the doctor for our annual visits and get that incredibly awkward and uncomfortable breast exam.

I know.  Their hands are always cold.  The person performing the mammogram invariably has bad breath or b/o, and they get so far inside your personal space that you feel like they owe you dinner and a movie afterward.  They lift and squeeze and manhandle until you feel violated. And the basic exam in the doctor’s office isn’t much better; lying there exposed while a virtual stranger touches, presses and kneads one of the most personal and intimate parts of your body and you can’t do anything but count the ceiling tiles.

But there’s still more.

Ladies, these are your breasts, boobs, titties, or whatever.  You should know them.  You should be performing your own breast self-exam every single month.  Again, I know; it’s awkward and uncomfortable.  Do it anyway.  Get your boyfriend or husband or girlfriend to help, if that makes it more pleasant. Whatever it takes.  Just do it.

All the awareness campaigns and fundraisers in the world can’t do a bit of good if breast cancer goes undiagnosed.

My mom was 38 years old when she found the lump on her breast.  It was the late 1970’s, and her doctor laughed at her for being worried.  He told her that she was too young for breast cancer, and that lumps in that particular spot on the breast are never malignant.

He was wrong.

She underwent a modified radical mastectomy when I was in middle school.  She went through chemotherapy and radiation and she beat the odds for a while because she was a pushy broad who refused to let a doctor dismiss her concerns.  She lived long enough to see us all graduate, long enough to meet two of her future sons-in-law, long enough to hold her first grandchild.

She was 45 years old when it came back, 46 when she died seven months later.

She was not a statistic.  She was Kay.

A few weeks ago, I learned that another one of my friends has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She is young and strong and otherwise healthy, and has a support network of friends and family that most of us could only dream of having.  She is a kind soul, a beautiful person inside and out, with a wicked sense of humor and a terrific laugh. This world cannot afford to lose her.

She is not a statistic.  She is Melissa.

It’s easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives.  Take care of the kids, manage the house, go to work, complain about the ex.  It’s easy to worry about everyone else and put our own needs on the back burner.  “I’ll do it next month,” we tell ourselves.  “I’ll get my mammogram next year,” we say.

Knock it off.

Take care of yourselves, ladies.  As embarrassing, awkward, scary and uncomfortable as it may be, you are the only one who can make this decision whether to take care of yourself or not.  Early detection saves lives.  Period.

And isn’t your life worth a few minutes of discomfort?

Mother’s Day

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday is a rough one for me.  I wasn’t really sure about doing it, but I’ve missed the last couple of Fridays, so I don’t really have a choice.

This one might hurt a little.


Dear Mom:

I’m supposed to write a letter to you for Mother’s Day.  I think this is where I’m supposed to talk about how much I miss you, and lament the fact that you aren’t a part of your grandchildren’s lives.

Screw that.

You were a Drama Queen, and we both know it.  When your cancer came back that last time and we all had to face the fact that this was going to be your final battle, it was a given that you were going to leave us in the most memorable way and on the most symbolic day possible.  Since you were heavily into your religious phase at that point, we were all placing our bets on Easter.

It never crossed my mind that you’d die on Mother’s Day.  That was a little cruel, even for you.

Yes, I’m angry.  Twenty-seven years later, I am still pissed off at you for dying on Mother’ Day.  I mean, Mother’s Day was always going to be hard without you anyway, but to mourn the anniversary of your death and miss you on Mother’s Day on the same day is really a double-whammy I could have done without.  It’s not fair.

So I’m being selfish.  Damn it, I want my own Mother’s Day.  I want my Mom.  I want to know what it’s like to have an adult relationship with the woman who brought me into this world.  I want to have someone in my life that I can turn to when I have questions:  “Was I as stubborn as my daughter is?”  “Did I talk as much as my son does?”  “Do my kids look anything like I did at that age?”

Did you love me anywhere near as much as I love them?

Do you miss me, just a little?

I’m sure you are watching from above.  You have to be.  You’re up in Heaven, finally getting along with Dad and his sisters.  You’re reunited with your own little brother, and I know you find the time every day to wrap your arms around your niece Randee just to hear her call you “Aunt Kay.”  God, how you loved spoiling that little girl!

You have to be in Heaven, Mom.  If there’s no Heaven, then you are simply gone, and I can’t accept that.

I think you would have liked my husband.  You probably would have urged us to end the marriage sooner than we did, but you’d be here for me right now when I so desperately need you.  I don’t know how I’m going to survive this divorce without someone to lean on.  I don’t know how I can be a single mom without my own mom in my corner.

That corner is pretty damned lonely, Mom.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  Your grandkids will make me breakfast and we will have a good day, just the four of us.  I’ll probably tell a few funny stories about you, make them laugh.  We’ll call their other grandmother and wish her a happy Mother’s Day.  I think you would like her, by the way.   You probably wouldn’t get along very well because she is every bit as determined and strong-willed as you were.  But you’d like her.  Even more than that, I know you’d respect her.

She’s been the best mother-in-law I could have had.  I call her “Mom.”  I don’t do it to hurt you, and I hope you can forgive me for loving her as much as I do.  She’s been a great mom for the past eighteen years.

I’ve been blessed in my life to have two amazing mothers.  I’ve lost you both now; you to breast cancer and her to the divorce from her son.  I’ll have to call her “Jean” now, instead of “Mom,” just like I have had to start calling her son “Ken” instead of “Honey.”

Mom, I never appreciated how strong you were.  You were a single mom before it became fashionable.  You worked a dead-end job that you hated, and you had to know that your second husband was an asshole.  You knew what his son was too, I think; there was a reason why you kept convincing him to move out, wasn’t there?  I’m so sorry I doubted you.

I think of you all the time, not just on Mother’s Day.    I’m a single mom, just like you, and I am so afraid that I’m not going to do it as well as you did.  I wish you were here to tell me what to do and how to do it.  I don’t want to be the grown-up all the time.

I want my Mommy.

I want to spend Mother’s Day with my children, and I want to enjoy it for what it is:  my day.  Not yours.  Just once, I want Mother’s Day to be Mother’s Day, not The Day My Mother Died.

This year, can you give me that gift?  For just this one day, just this one time, stay out of my thoughts.  Let me have a Happy Mother’s Day.  For Once.


The-Pink-Ribbon-breast-cancer-awareness-372389_792_1056This one’s gonna hurt.

I wasn’t sure if I should write it or not, wondered if I had the right to put it into words and post it for the world to see.

You see, I didn’t know Kristy very well.  She wasn’t my best friend, although I would have been honored to have her call me that. But she was my friend, and I miss her; just knowing her at all was enough to make me want to be a better person.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn’t try to hide it.  But she didn’t milk the drama of the situation, either, as I probably would have done in her place.  She faced it with an honesty and bravery that still take my breath away.

Kristy wore fancy scarves and cute little hats that did more to emphasize her baldness than camouflage it.  When her dark, curly hair came back in stark white, she never tried to color it.  No, she got it cut into a sassy style that played up her big eyes and magnificent smile, and she wore those gorgeous white curls with pride.  She worked at a local bank, where everyone could see her and see every sign of her war against cancer, and she never attempted to hide her battle scars.

She was embarrassed when her friends held fundraisers in her honor.  Can drives, spaghetti dinners,  silent auctions.  It’s a small town, and it sometimes seemed as though everyone in town was a friend rather than a neighbor.   They donated auction items and bought bracelets with her name on them and took dinners to her family during her hospitalizations.

She had remissions and recurrences, but that smile never dimmed.  I’m sure she must have had bad days, but we never saw them.  She didn’t shy away from the camera during her illness; there are countless pictures of Kristy with her friends and family during good times and bad, with or without hair.

But always smiling.  Always.

When I was house-bound and whiny after my car accident, Kristy always found the time to send me little messages on Facebook.  Little one-liners and words of hope that always seemed to hit me just exactly when I needed them the most.  She wasn’t the only one looking out for me, but it still amazes me that she took the time to lift my spirits when her own battle was so much more desperate than mine.

A few months ago, Angelina  Jolie was in the news for her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.  She was praised for her bravery.    I’m not denying that it took courage for her to make that decision.  I’m sure her surgeries were painful and her recovery difficult.

But Ms. Jolie chose to undergo the procedure.   She said she did it so she could be around for her children, but she never had to worry about going to work in pain just to keep food on the table for those kids.  She didn’t have to worry about meeting co-pays and fighting with insurance companies.  She didn’t have to swallow her pride and accept charity from friends and neighbors.

Angelina Jolie had the luxury of keeping her struggles private until after the fact.  She had plastic surgeons and make-up artists and nannies to make sure that she was always stunning and well-rested, no matter what.

Kristy had no such luxury.  She sandwiched her chemotherapy in between her work days, and she went to her job with her jaunty caps and pale skin.  She went to school events and showed up at our small-town festivals with a kind of quiet grace and dignity that puts Angelina Jolie’s press conferences and self-serving public announcements to shame.

I wanted to write about breast cancer today.  I wanted to make a list of all of the women I have known who have fought against it, and maybe even turn this post into a statement about the need for more research or funding.

But Kristy was more than her breast cancer.  She was a mom, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a neighbor.  A woman.   A kind, funny, thoughtful, brave woman who made the world a better place during her short life.

I want to remember her and honor her, but also thank her for showing the rest of us what real bravery is.  Not the Hollywood/Angelina Jolie version of bravery, but the real thing.

I thought I was writing this for Kristy, but I was wrong.  It’s for all of the women who miss her every day, and always will.  It’s for Anne, Jordann, Joelle, DeAnn, Missy, and so many others.

Thank you, Kristy, for touching our lives.


Hooters and Chi Chis and Boobies, Oh My


I am tired of hearing about Angelina Jolie’s boobs.

For those of you who live in caves or have had no access to the most important news story on every possible outlet, Angelina Jolie recently announced that she has undergone a “preventive double mastectomy” because she tested positive for the BRCA1  gene, which shows an increased risk for breast cancer.   Reporters are singing praises for her bravery, and Brad Pitt has gone public to say, with moist eyes, how much he still loves her.  She says she did it so that she can be there for her kids in the future.

Let me see if I’m understanding this correctly.    A famous millionaire was able to pay for a very expensive medical test that most of us can’t afford, and which is not covered by most insurance.

She then chose the double mastectomy, followed by expensive reconstructive surgery that made her famous breasts even more beautiful and famous than they were before.

Her loving man still loves her despite the best, most lovely set of tits that money can buy.

She wants to be there for her children.

Aww, let’s nominate her for sainthood.

Unlike the average woman, who can’t afford to be tested for the BRCA1 gene, she was able to make an admittedly difficult decision.  And unlike the average woman, that decision wasn’t made more difficult by the prospect of living the remainder of her life with a disfigured body – because, unlike the average woman, she could afford a terrific plastic surgeon afterward.

She is being lauded for raising awareness of the genetic test for BRCA1.  I find that amusing because awareness isn’t the problem.  Most women are aware of the test.

I know that I have been aware of the test since I had the first lump removed from my breast ten years ago.  My doctor told me about the test, told me how much it would cost, and explained that my insurance would not cover it.  Then he reminded me of my high-risk status because of my mothers’s diagnosis at age 38, and sent me on my merry way for my biopsy.

Awareness of the test isn’t the problem.  Affordability is the problem.  It needs to be made affordable to the average person, and it needs to be covered by medical insurance just like any other preventive testing.

Let’s talk about bravery.  Lori, who survived and became an outspoken advocate for her Sisters in Pink.  Her best friend Dee, who lost the battle before her thirtieth birthday but never, ever stopped fighting.    Kay – my Mom – who fought it twice and only survived long enough to hold one of her seven grandchildren.  Kristy.  Delores.  Sherry.  Donna.  Aunt Noni.  Chris.  Even Pam, the first Mrs. Big Guy.   The list is too damn long.

Every one of those women loved her children and wanted a future with them just as much as Angelina Jolie wants a future with hers.

Every time I hear someone on TV talk about Angelina Jolie’s bravery and difficult decision, I get angry.  I can’t help it.  I’m sorry, but she’s no braver than the women who fight breast cancer every day.  The only difference between them and her is that she has the money to be proactive.

This whole thing strikes me as being a bit Marie Antoinette-ish.   If the poor were starving, Marie Antoinette declared, then “let them eat cake!”   And now, if you’re worried about breast cancer, Angelina Jolie crows “let them be tested!”

Angelina Jolie is not a role model in this situation.  She’s a woman who was rich enough to find out if she was at risk, and rich enough to do something about it.  That’s all.


Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

There are days in my life when the glass is half-full, but there are also days when it is half-empty.  Then again, there are days when that glass is nothing but a pile of shattered glass and melting ice on the floor.

Whenever someone mentions the half-full/half-empty analogy, I am reminded of something that happened when I was fourteen years old.  Mom sat us down at the kitchen table and told us, in a matter-of-fact tone, that the she had breast cancer.  She explained the words chemotherapy, radiation, radical mastectomy.

There was nothing to say.  Mom was nothing if not efficient, and she answered all of our questions before we asked them.

I was really young and stupid.  I thought I could make it better with a dumb gesture.  I went to the sink, half-filled a glass with water, and plunked it on the table in front of her, saying something like, “It’s half-full, Mom.”


There was, of course, much eye-rolling from my older sisters and deafening  silence from my mother, and I mentally kicked myself for being such a moron.  The incident was never mentioned again until nearly eight years later, when the cancer came back with a vengeance and Mom told me that my gesture had been a source of strength for her the first time around.

Ha.  Score one for my inner optimist.

Life sucks sometimes.  People get hurt and people die, and most of us suffer unbearable losses at one time or another.  But the sun comes up the next day, and we drag our sorry asses out of bed, and we trudge through the next day to face the possibility of more pain, more loss, more heartache.  Some nights, we cry ourselves to sleep and pray that tomorrow never comes, but that damn sun comes back again and again and hope keeps rising with it.

I could cry because I lost my mom at 21, or I can be thankful that I had her for eight bonus years.  I can rage about losing Dad at 31, or I can thank God I had a chance to reconcile with him before his death.  I can whine and wail about everything I lost on June 21, 2011, or I can be grateful for all of the miracles that kept my children and me alive when the tree fell on our van.  Seriously, how many people survive something like that?

To be honest, I still struggle with that one.  It’s one thing to be grateful; it’s another thing entirely to keep my chin up when I’m in too much pain to remember my own name, or when I have a flashback triggered by something stupid like thunder or a car wash or the color blue.

But overall, the glass has to be half-full.

If it isn’t, why are we here?

Blow Out The Candles

Tomorrow is my birthday.

As birthdays go, it’s not a big one.  It doesn’t end in a zero or even a five.    To anyone else, there’s nothing special about it.

But to me, it’s huge.

Last year’s birthday was pretty emotional; it was the first one after my accident, and everyone who knew me agreed that it was a day to celebrate.  It was a birthday I came so close to missing.  An age I very nearly didn’t reach.

We don’t do much for my birthday anymore.  My sister will call, and so will my mother –in-law, and I’ll get oodles of wonderful birthday wishes on Facebook.  I got a card earlier in the week from my husband’s great-aunt – the high point of any holiday is the card and letter from her—and I got my card and gift from my mother-in-law today as well.

I’ll make some waffles for everyone with my favorite butter pecan syrup, and we’ll have some special coffee that’s supposed to taste like Northern Michigan Cherries.  For later in the day, we have a lemon cake mix and everything we need for a big taco dinner.

It will be a nice, quiet birthday, just like all my others.  No fuss, no big deal.  Just comfortable and low-key, a day spent with the people I love.

I’ll miss the calls I used to get from my aunts, calling to sing a loud and painfully off-key version of “Happy Birthday”.  The aunts are all gone now, all four of them. And Dad, who always called with a really raunchy dirty joke and a quick “Love ya, Kid!” – Dad’s been gone eleven long years now.

No, this birthday isn’t notable for all of the people I’ve lost.  Not even for all of the loved ones I’ve gained.

This one is about a different kind of milestone.

You see, my mother died young.  She died of breast cancer; she fought with everything she had, and she hung on longer than anyone expected her to.  She was a brave, beautiful and feisty woman who left us all too soon.

Tomorrow, I will be older than Mom.

Tomorrow, I will have passed the age at which my mother died.