Happy Birthday to Me

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On January 30th, I happily celebrated my 43rd birthday. It was a great day. It was exactly what I envisioned and most importantly, I embraced my sobriety. There was no going to bed wasted and waking up feeling like crap. Nope. Not this year. I enjoyed every minute of my birthday and for that, I feel extremely blessed.

Birthdays are a really big deal in my house. In fact, my children make fun of me because I don’t just celebrate my birthday on the day I was born, I celebrate it all month long. At the beginning of every new year; the 29-day countdown to my special day begins. The month long observance of multiple festivities (this year sober ones) culminates with The Birthday Week Countdown whereby one of my best friends, Sheila “Dizzle” Diaz, gives me a precious gift everyday for the five days leading to the big day. She totally gets me and loves me so much that she has “bought in” to my birthday magic.

I love her for that. Another Witt birthday tradition is that my son Chantz slaves over a delicious breakfast of Texas french toast complete with candles and serves me this feast in bed. And sometime during the day, my adoptive parents, the Campbells, send me a beautiful bouquet of birthday flowers that never ceases to amaze myself or my students. And then of course there are my daughters who, no matter how little money they have, make the dollar store merchandise as appealing as that of a high end department store. I’m not kidding, they always go above and beyond the normal and create dimestore chic.

The celebration continues into the evening as the Birthday Queen gets to select the dinner menu and then my fabulous husband, amateur chef Ken, prepares the meal. This year I chose steak, scallops, sautéed mushrooms and a green salad. Every single bite was amazing and paleo-friendly.

After dinner, we go around the table taking turns sharing what we love most about the guest of honor. I absolutely love that part, even when it’s not me they are praising!  I must admit that this year was one of my favorites, as my daughter Shelbee gave a detailed speech about how much she loves me and why. However, the other birthday attendees weren’t as thrilled as I due to the lengthy nature of her tribute. Ummm…too bad, so sad. Ask me if I care. I don’t. (Insert cackle here.)

There is no doubt; I am loved. So, why then, with the love fest that I call my birthday, does it bother me so much when my father doesn’t acknowledge my birth? Not a card, not a phone call, not a text…nada, nothing, zilch. And not just this year, but every single year. I should be used to it. It’s not like it’s any surprise when my special day comes and goes without so much as a peep from my dad. I should be used to it, but I’m not. I wanna be; but I’m not.

Grow up Kristen! My goodness, you are 43 years young and you care about what your absentee father does? Yes, I do. But, I don’t wanna. It’s painful and I don’t like pain.

So, here I am, six days later and I finally had my annual post-birthday meltdown. I cried, I yelled, I screamed, and I questioned God as to why I was “gifted” with such a crappy father. Why me, oh Lord? Why is my father so self-absorbed and selfish that he doesn’t acknowledge my birthday, or me, for that matter? What in the heck did I do to deserve such an unkind and basically nonexistent father?

Yes, I RSVPed to this pity party and spent a good part of my day there. After much questioning and a horridly poor attitude on my part, I finally admitted to my husband what this “mood” was all about. His response? He just hugged me and let me cry, as he’s done a hundred times before where my father is concerned. And I appreciate that. I love him for that. He, too, gets me.

Sometime during the evening, my mom called and left me a message. Know this: I love my mom, but we have had our issues. She has had her addictions and problems and I was forced to shut her out of my life and the lives of my children several times. We don’t speak on a regular basis and she did not call me on my birthday.

Still, in her defense, I have never doubted her love for me. My mom has a good heart; she just got sucked into the addiction nightmare. After all, she absolutely refused to abort me after my father begged her to. That speaks volumes in my book.

I took a deep breath and pressed play on the message. “Hi Kristen. This is your mom. I couldn’t go another day without wishing you a happy birthday…I love you. Goodbye.” Tears. But, happy ones. And she sounded good! I could understand every word she said; no slurring and no going off on a tangent. And suddenly, my entire mood changed. I felt joy, I felt peace, I felt love.

And I called her back. And we talked for twenty minutes and we haven’t done that in years. My mom loves me and I love her. And that feels so good because that is the way God created us.  As humans, we are born to love and be loved. And I know that I am so loved, by so many. It’s like God has put people in my life to love me because he knows that my father isn’t capable of that in his humanness. But, sometimes I forget that and today my mom’s phone call reminded me of that. And I am thankful.

Rachel Barrentine sings a song called Sacred Symphony. It’s about how God loves us so much that he sings over us with a sacred symphony. The tune continues with us asking him to open our ears to hear this beautiful song that he’s written just for us. It’s a virtual love song written by God, especially for us.

The first time I heard this song, I absolutely sobbed. I was at a women’s retreat and the flood gates just opened up far and wide and I didn’t care who heard me. For the first time, I just the Father come in and love on me and more importantly, I felt deserving of this honor and not because of anything I had done, but because what Christ did for me.

One particular verse changed my life, “You formed my heart before time began. You smiled at me, the day I was born. So fearfully and wonderfully made, by your hand oh God.” That was all it took, the chains were broken. You see, not many people smiled on the day I was born; teen catholic pregnancy, a father who didn’t want me and was angry that he had to give up a college scholarship to become a a responsible human being and care for his child. In any case, the smiles were few and far between. Except from my Heavenly Father who smiled and smiled and smiled and wrote a song just for me.

I don’t know why, but it took my mom calling this evening to remind me of how much I am truly loved. He handpicked both of my parents and he knew exactly what he was doing. He just doesn’t make mistakes and that’s good enough for me. So if my dad continues to live a life devoid of myself and my children, it’s okay. God has my back and His plan for me is better than I could ever formulate on my own. I truly believe that.

In the meantime, I will continue to do birthdays with my family like we are “rockstars” because after all, God sings a sacred symphony over us every single day of our lives.

Can you hear yours? I hope so. You are loved.

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Day 12: Pajamas & Crazy Hair…All Day

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Every year on Christmas Eve, we open one gift. The contents of that present will never change, no matter how many times my children whine and complain. When they were younger, they would write letters to Santa begging him to add the spice of variety to our Christmas Eve gifts. How did that work out? Well, let’s just say that the contents of these boxes remains the same: Pajamas. I know, it’s not a fancy tradition, but it’s ours.

Within that Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, or Baby Jesus wrapping paper, lies one of the only Christmas traditions that I have carried on from my own childhood. It is a cornerstone of the Witt Family Christmas and in all fairness, I think that my teenage and twenty-something children are finally beginning to understand the importance of these presents. No, it’s not money, or I-pads, or gift cards, that make these gifts so special. In fact, truth be told, it’s not even the PJs that make this ritual so important; though I do spend a ridiculous amount of time selecting them. For me, it’s about the creation of memories within our family and maybe even the hope that my children will continue with this tradition in their own families. A girl can hope, right?

This year, I even went so far as to have the girls’ bedtime attire monogrammed with our initials and they were thrilled! And perhaps even more important, I didn’t meltdown when two sets of the boys’ matching pajamas didn’t get delivered on time. I simply splashed on some doTerra Elevation  and trekked to the Walmart to purchase some substitutions. I was a warrior queen; nothing was going to rain on my pajama parade!

And so as the evening progressed, we proceeded with the opening of the gifts in the usual order, youngest to oldest. ( I won’t tell you where I fall in that pecking order.) And even though everyone knew what their box contained, there was still an atmosphere of excitement and a bit of sarcasm with, “Geez, mom. I wonder what this could be?” Ha, ha very funny. They could say what they wanted, but I knew they were excited; a mother knows these things.

After the unwrapping frenzy, everyone changed into their jammies and it was time for our annual PJ picture in front of the tree. We couldn’t help but go into hysterics when my husband entered the room. Unfortunately, his ensemble was a size too small and he looked like a disco dancer in a leisure suit, chest hair and all! And since his chest hair is gray, he is now affectionately referred to as “the silver fox.” After nearly peeing my pants, we got serious and the photo shoot began. I am happy to report that we are getting better! It only took us 20 attempts to get a few acceptable pictures! By acceptable, I mean that my oldest daughter, Shelbee, approved of a few of them.  After all, she is the self-proclaimed “selfie” queen and every photo must be perfect prior to being launched into cyber space.

After many laughs and jokes and blinding flashes from the camera, we prepared for bed and for Santa to deliver the goods. As my husband and I were headed to bed, Shelbee’s boyfriend, Karson thanked us for the evening. I smiled and told him that we were happy to have him share in our tradition. He seemed so childlike and thrilled to be pajama-clad like the rest of us. He was quick to say that this was one of the most “awesome” traditions that he had ever been a part of and would some day continue it with his own family. Gulp…a lump in my throat and the sting of tears in my eyes. I smiled, hugged him and walked down the hall to bed, leaving my husband to explain that the tears signified my happiness. Oh, after 23 years of marriage, that man knows me so well.

Ken was right. My tears did signify happiness and joy and even gratitude that I was allowing myself to be present in the awesome moments of life. I was allowing myself to participate in this beautifully blessed life that God created just for me. And if you read yesterday’s blog, you know that those parts of me had been shut down for years. How awesome that Karson loved our tradition enough to contemplate continuing it with his own family some day. How beautiful that a piece of the Witt family tradition could possibly be carried on within another family. And as simpleminded as it may sound, in that moment, I knew that my decision to limit our Christmas Eve gifts to pajamas was one that I would never regret.

Today, we are creating a new tradition. Today we celebrate our first annual Pajama and Crazy Hair Day. The rules are simple, you must wear your Christmas Eve pajamas and you are not allowed to comb your hair. Let the games begin. My cup runneth over.

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