It’s time for another happy birthday dance. And cake. And drinks. And assorted purchases and indulgences, all in the name of the celebration of getting older. (Related: one such purchase may or may not be a new line of wrinkle-resistant moisturizer and eye cream.)

With that, I thought the occasion called for a look back at 38 things – some big, some smaller — that made my last 366 days (leap year!) shine bright. In no particular order…

  1. “Bye, bye mama.” Katie’s first sentence. After two years of non-stop talking from Teddy, I’d forgotten how sweet those early words and phrases are.
  2. “I love you.” And her most recent new saying, that’s basically the best thing I’ve ever heard. It’s more like “I rouv roo,” but I’ll take it, especially when it comes with a hug and a big fat kiss.
  3. “Mama it’s broken.” We got Teddy a tot clock that changes color when it’s time to get up. Ha. Yeah, right, joke’s on us. We set it for 6 a.m. At 5:30, he told us it didn’t go off not because it was too early, but obviously, it was broken. Duh.
  4. Barre. Somewhere along the way, I lost my self-motivation for working out. I’m glad to have a class to go to that guarantees that I’ll get at least one workout in a week, and bonus that I’m doing it with a friend.
  5. Bathroom remodel. Bad DIY job turned little dormer oasis (albeit on a more accelerated timeline than we were expecting, or budgeting for).
  6. Her Stories class. I’m still struggling to carve out regular, dependable writing time, but I was so grateful to kick off the year with an investment in my creative side – and the class introduced me to some other wonderful writers. Now I have the HerStories essay series on my list of places where I’d love to publish.
  7. Internet friends. I’ve made and built on some true friendships by virtue of Listen to Your Mother (nationwide), blogs, and social media this year. Of particular note is my mom colleague, Pam. Although we live 2,000 miles apart now, it turns out that we grew up a half hour apart, and our sisters are real-life friends. It truly is a small world.
  8. Have you heard enough about podcasts from me yet? No? Good. My new faves: #amwriting by Jess Lahey and KJ Dell’Antonia, all about writing, pitching – and procrastinating; Coffee + Crumbs, from one of my favorite motherhood blogs of the same name; and 25% Friends, from veteran podcaster (and recovering perfectionist) Sarah Bagley. (And the West Wing Weekly, but spoiler alert! That gets its own entry later.)
  9. Bluetooth speaker. It turns out when you subscribe to a gazillion podcasts, you run out of time to listen to them. That’s where the Bluetooth waterproof speaker comes in. Now I listen to podcasts in the shower!
  10. Dairy-free Earth Balance. But for the first six weeks of Katie’s life (when we couldn’t figure out what was making her cry so much), I’ve been off dairy for more than two years. Going dairy-free doesn’t mean that I don’t want baked goods, though, so I was willing to pay a premium for dairy-free butter substitute. But now Earth Balance is dairy-free, too! Lower price and it comes in giant tubs at Costco. Yay, brownies (and “buttercream” frosting for birthday cakes, ahem).
  11. Goat cheese. Regular cheese is out, but goat cheese doesn’t turn Katie into one big hive. Bring it on.
  12. Grocery delivery (including lots and lots of goat cheese) for the win. Almost no other errand turns me into a bigger grump than grocery shopping. The delivery fee is worth less grumpiness.
  13. Stitch Fix. Wardrobe, transformed. Next Fix arrives on May 26!
  14. Rocksbox. Like Stitch Fix but for jewelry (and with a monthly subscription fee). I don’t need that much jewelry, so I just tried the service out for a month – but had lots of fun doing it. I ended up buying a new bracelet and a new necklace that have added bling to my wardrobe. Maybe I’ll be back to try it again later in the year. (Want to try a free month? Use my code: michelevbff1.)
  15. Train museum. There has been so much Thomas in our house in the last year. SO. MUCH. THOMAS. But the upside is that we have this fantastic train museum, the B&O Railroad Museum, only about a half hour away in Baltimore. There’s Thomas, yes, but there are also dozens of restored train cars, an impressive car full of model trains, and lots of history.
  16. Lacuna Loft and I Had Cancer. I’ve realized over the last year that survivorship is more complicated than I’d expected. I’m grateful to Lacuna Loft and I Had Cancer for being willing to give space beyond my blog to my musings.
  17. The Royal We and the Fug Girls. The book that was my gateway back to reading (now with a bonus chapter all about Prince Harry, er, Freddie!) and its authors whose snarky Royals/fashion/TV posts I never want to miss.
  18. End of Downton Abbey. Speaking of the Fug Girls, they were on fire for the end of Downton. I was sorry to see it end, but damn, it went out on a high note.
  19. Binge watching Catastrophe. If Downton was (somewhat) proper England, harkening back to the Gilded Age, Catastrophe is its crass, snarky, sarcastic, real-life great-great-great grandchild. And oh, how I do love snark and sarcasm, especially when delivered by Brits. Pro: each season is only six 30-minute episodes, tailor-made for a quick binge. Con: three hours and you’re done, waiting another year for more.
  20. Wifi-enabled TV. Hey, they make TVs that connect automatically to Netflix and Amazon streaming now! (Welcome to the 21st Century, apparently.) All the better for binge-watching.
  21. West Wing Weekly. Combining two of my favorite things, podcasts and The West Wing? Why, yes, please and thank you. The only challenge is not watching so far ahead of the podcast that I forget what happened in each episode (see binge-watching-enabled TV, above).
  22. Ann Patchett. A new (to me) author to love. Who wants in on a road trip to her Nashville bookstore?
  23. Hearing “yes” after many, many “no”s. I wrote what what’s probably my most personal essay yet last fall, and then started pitching. And hearing no. And pitching again, and hearing no, again. On repeat. I’m happy to say that the 11th pitch was the charm; hope to have it to share soon.
  24. School on our street. We lucked out in the school lottery last year, originally getting into our second-choice school for Teddy, and then being offered the last slot at our first-choice school…on our street. I’m so glad we took the spot. It’s a priceless feeling to open the front door and be able to look up the street one block and see your kid’s school. (And that’s to say nothing of how fantastic the school experience has been for Teddy, above and beyond location.)
  25. Deleting Facebook. I dumped the Facebook app from my phone as part of my mission to read more. I’ve had a little FOMO, but on balance I feel like I’ve come out far ahead.
  26. Sleeping through the night. No amount of CIO worked for our stubborn baby. She had to learn it on her own, and on her own timetable. Thank god she finally did, just shy of 15 months old. She’s still up most days crazy early, but I’ll take a 5:30 wake-up call over 11:30, 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30.
  27. Back to my DC roots. I moved to DC in 2000 to take a job with the magazine where I interned a year earlier. That office became my first DC family, and I’m grateful to continue to count many of the people I worked with as friends. I finally met up with the office’s mother hen recently for lunch for the first time in five years, and in the small world category, two others live in our neighborhood, and their kids go to school with Teddy.
  28. One Bad Mother FB group. So, yes, I’ve been spending less time on FB. But one of the places I’ve been frequenting when I’m there is the One Bad Mother group. It’s a closed offshoot of the podcast, and unlike so many other parenting corners of the internet, it’s a space where people come for support, and get it from others. The group’s motto is “you’re doing a good job,” and there’s something really, really nice about hearing other people tell you that.
  29. Hotels with suites. We made the mistake of staying in a single hotel room with a kid once. We’ve learned since that it’s all about the suites – and preferably one with a kitchen. And maybe a wine reception and free cookies.
  30. Online downloads from the library. I’m so happy to be reading again, and as much as I love to surround myself with books, we really have enough stuff in our house. Plus I’m terrible at returning things on time. Enter, online downloads!
  31. Amazon Prime. I knew about Prime’s big plus of two-day shipping. But now I’m using it for so much more: streaming music (goodbye ad-laden Pandora!), TV, photo storage (which has finally eased my paranoia about deleting things from my phone), and members get a free book every month. More e-reading, baby.
  32. “There’s no such thing as other people’s children.” I’ve loved being a part of Momastery’s Glennon Doyle Melton’s love flash mobs, which help families in need by leveraging small donations from thousands of readers, and I’ve been even more impressed as she’s joined forces with Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, and others to form the Compassion Collective. They’ve raised $2 million already to help homeless kids here and abroad, all built on the foundation that we’re in this together.
  33. The Bloggess – online, in print, in person. I was thrilled to see Jenny Lawson read from her new book, and I’m slowly making my way through it. But the best Bloggess-related stuff this year has to have been the reader-submitted series of mortifying tweets. You can’t make this stuff up.
  34. Joey+Rory. Joey Feek’s was another voice silenced far too soon by cancer. I so admired her honesty and openness in her last months, and I remain captivated by every blog post her husband, Rory, writes about their family before, during, and after Joey’s illness.
  35. Football parties. The season didn’t end the way we would have liked, and the actual experience of watching the games was more…hectic…than in the past, but I’m always grateful for the routine that is spending Sundays with friends in the fall. The reliably good food spread doesn’t hurt, either.
  36. The French alphabet. Teddy is in a French immersion program. I was surprised by the thrill it gave me the first time I heard him recite the French alphabet – complete with a good accent. I know his knowledge and understanding of French will quickly and far surpass my high-school level competency, but for now I like singing “ah bay cey dey er eff jay…” with him at night.
  37. New babies. See what I mean, above, about big things and little things? Several new babies check both those boxes. Teddy’s especially happy that his best bud now has a little sibling of his own, and we are excited for the arrival of Mariani baby #6 (in less than four years) later this summer.
  38. Low risk. Last, but certainly not least, as I do every year now, I have to count my continued good health. Almost six years out from my last treatment and with my cancer marker remaining nearly undetectable, my doctor declared me to be at low risk of recurrence this year. There’s a lot more to say – and, honestly, to process – about that, but for now, I’ll just say thank you, and raise a glass.

I’ve loved celebrating my birthday here with you. Here’s what I had to say on birthdays #32, #33, #34, and #37.


6 thoughts on “#38

  1. I LOVE this post. And not just because I’m in it! Now I know how you listen to so many podcasts! And how did I not know Teddy was in a French Immersion program? And I want to talk more about your anti-wrinkle regimen soon…

    It’s harder to be brief than to be wordy so I commend you for jamming 38 pieces of gratitude into one post. I am so grateful for you, too!!!

    • My anti-wrinkle regimen mostly consists of staying out of the sun, helped significantly by the fact that the sun has come out roughly 5 times all year here. 🙂 Thank you for the happy birthday wishes and being one of my 38 good things!

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