I love birthdays. Mine. Yours. Anyone’s really.
In my opinion birthdays are yet another reason to celebrate and I especially love doing that.
I’ve never been one to dread getting older either. I know some folks truly despise their birthdays like each one is another step closer to death. I never thought about it like that. Rather, I’ve always thought of my birthday as exciting and fun and honestly not at all scary or intimidating.
Maybe it’s because I don’t really feel older or because age is just a number, blah blah blah, or maybe it’s the childlike enthusiasm that comes with looking forward to an upcoming birthday that makes each year feel more magical and important than the one before. Or maybe it’s the cards and gifts and all the special “happy birthday” messages and songs. I love all that stuff!
I’m not sure what it is entirely but like every other year I’m looking forward to my birthday and as I approach this one—the big 4-0—I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, about the person I’ve become and about all the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had along the way, and specifically the things that happened in my 30s, as well as my goals and accomplishments, too.
In addition to birthdays, I also love making lists so, to mark the occasion and as a sort of decade sendoff, I made a list of thirty things I accomplished in my 30s. I made a similar list about my 20s (with just twenty things) when I turned 30 but I didn’t blog back then, or I’d have probably posted it too. To keep with the theme, in another ten years, I guess I’ll probably have to come up with forty things for my next big milestone birthday. Looks like I’ll be pretty busy in my 40s!
I also made a list of goals for the year ahead when I turned 39 (my insanity isn’t strictly limited to whole decades) and as I reviewed it recently I came to realize just how much I snuck in during the previous ten (and still counting) months.
Truly, a whole lot has happened this year! A whole fucking lot in fact! But it makes sense since it has sort of been an overall theme to the entire decade. 39 (which isn’t quite yet over but will be soon enough) has indeed been—and continues to be—a proper climax to my 30s.
It’s been a dramatic year filled with many twists and turns and more highs and lows than you can shake a stick at (I’m not sure what that means but I like how it sounds). I might even consider revising my Things to Accomplish in my 40s list (yes, of course, I’ve already drafted that, too).
Anyway. Here’s my list.
30 Things I accomplished in my 30s
- Lived in three states: Texas, New York and Iowa (prior to my 30s I lived in PA and NJ, too)
- Directed numerous large scale international events and ran a department at a media company
- Traveled nationally and internationally to many places and met lots of interesting people
- Directed two celebrity golf tournaments (in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic)
- Married my soul mate, Jason. Awww!
- Took a huge risk in giving up my career as an event planner to write a novel!
- Lived at the beach!
- Started my own company and eventually realized it wasn’t for me (this is a 2 for 1 deal)
- Designed two websites all by myself
- Started blogging
- Gave birth to a beautiful girl named Lyla. Being her mom has been awesome!
- Got diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease – not exactly a traditional accomplishment but still
- Learned to live with PKD and battled and survived postpartum depression!
- Connected with my inner hippy through meditation and astrology (I even met Susan Miller!)
- Taught myself how to read Tarot (this comes in super handy at parties!)
- Saw Prince in concert (checked that one off my concert bucket list!)
- Made the decision to move to Iowa!
- Bought a house!
- Made lots of amazing new friends and became a part of an awesome little community
- Bought new carpet for the house (so far, this is the moment I felt the most grown up)
- Wrote a bunch of poems and two novels (and revised and rewrote both several times)
- Went back to school to acquire my MFA in Creative Writing
- Wrote an award winning screenplay!! Yay!
- Got to stay downtown in Philly and play tourist in my hometown with my family
- Lost 50 pounds (gained half back but who’s counting?)
- Finally completed my novel Private Mommies Society!
- Graduated with honors!! I officially have my MFA in Creative Writing!
- Queried literary agents and kept pushing forward and revising despite rejections
- Received an offer of representation and signed with my agent!
- Hmm… Looks like I have room for one more… I have a feeling it’ll be a good one.
We laughed till the sun rose
Memories and wine were to blame
You couldn’t feel your nose
I might have forgotten my name
Ceiling spins and it rushes back to me
Stomach erupts as cartoons pierce my brain
Reminds me of responsibility
Oh how we now need to breathe through the pain
This time the hair of the dog won’t fix it
When the new puppy pees on the floor
Unsupervised minions run rampant
We must be Mommy and Daddy once more.
Plop plop fizz fizz in our OJ sure hits the spot.
A relief it is… though a mimosa it’s not.
I spread my yellow cotton sheet out onto our lawn’s lush green grass and lay down alone with my laptop. The warm air still smells of last night’s campfire tainted with a faint hint of chlorine. Birds are chirping. Bees are buzzing. This is the perfect spot to write a poem about nature, I think. I look across the street at the young cornfield and wait for my inspiration to come to me.
I feel the sun’s warmth
as deer play in the distance,
But then braided blond hair bounces by. It belongs to a giggling girl. I look up and watch as she skips through a sea of bubbles, laughing, playing fairy, granting wishes. She spies a butterfly, chases it for a moment but becomes distracted, as easily as me, by a dandelion that has gone to seed and so she pauses to make a wish of her own. I lean in and listen.
She wishes for cake
with candles. Ah, more wishes.
Mother like daughter.
She spins off and I smile and look away. I try again to write this poem. “Watch me, Mommy,” she shouts and I turn back again just as she scoots her bottom onto the swing. Then she watches me to make sure I’m watching her. I smile to reassure her. She holds on tight and launches.
Swinging on a swing,
higher and higher she goes,
toes tickling clouds.
As she looks up, I do too. I see the cotton candy blue sky above us with its big puffy white billowing clouds. They pass ethereally. Maybe they’re my inspiration. They glide by and by and as I relax into the moment my mind decides to go with them.
Floating on a cloud,
looking down, the world drifts by,
but only a dream.
The sound of sneakers on gravel brings me back to my blanket. I rub my eyes and then stare back down at the glare on the blank screen. This assignment is due soon and I feel I must focus on being inspired. I need to force this poem out of me. Just then the reflection of the sun’s rays barely stings my eyes, just enough to inspire me in a different direction.
I look away again and see Lyla at the top of the slide.
“Arr, I’m a pirate!”
Sharks are surrounding the ship.
This haiku can wait.
Dry out less
It’s not the things we have and don’t have that make us who we are. It’s the people who we love and who love us.
I am so thankful for my family, my friends and for all the people who have come in and out of my life. Thank you for making this life such a wonderful journey.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
I need to go to the supermarket today and do some pre-Thankgiving food shopping so this morning I decided to put together a list. While doing so, my 3-yr-old daughter, Lyla, approached and asked me what I was doing.
I told her I was making a list of food and groceries to get at the supermarket and she replied that she wanted to make one, too. So, mostly humoring her, I asked her what needed to be on the list, though I’m not sure why I bother humoring her when it’s becoming clear that she’s smarter than me.
Anyway, (without any prompting and in the order she mentioned each item) the following is exactly what she told me to put on her list:
- Apple Juicey
- Fruit Snacks
- Rectangle Crackers (AKA: Graham Crackers)
- Sour Creamy
- Colored Cereal
- Charm Cereal
- More veggies for dipping
- Yo-grut (this is spelled incorrectly on purpose per her pronunciation)
- Ranch Dressing
Not a bad list. I’ll need to add a few items of my own and maybe remove at least one (or perhaps both) of those sugary cereals she seems to love so much but all in all it’s a pretty decent shopping list… especially for a 3-yr-old.
I’m actually kind of surprised she didn’t include ice cream (Va-lil-la is her fave). I think I’ll go ahead and add that one in anyway!
If you’ve met him, then you know that my dad, Frank Zane, is the funniest guy on the planet. But that’s not all…
In addition to being hilarious, he’s also raw, honest and smart. He’s a natural storyteller. A hard worker. He’s never boring. Fun to be around. The life of the party. He’s strong yet sensitive. A family man. He loves with his whole heart. He can teach you a thing or two about everything. But you’d better listen carefully because when he gets to talking, he talks fast and his stories tend to go on for a while and they go off in many directions.
He reminds me of me. Or maybe I remind me of him?
When it comes to my dad, you either love being around him or you simply can’t stand him. I’ve found that if the latter describes you, then you’re probably pretty uptight because I swear he can make anyone laugh. But, at times, you have to be willing and able to laugh at yourself in order to get the joke. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then you and my dad will probably not get along.
Sure there’s no denying that he’s funny, but my dad also has a very serious side. He cares deeply. He loves intensely. He wants you to listen and get to know him and he needs to make you smile. He will hold your hand when you’re sick and never leave your side when you’re struggling or in pain. If you want to talk politics, take a stroll through a museum, if your GPS breaks down or you need a good punch line, he’s the guy to call.
He’s an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum disguised as a dirty joke.
But if you think you have him all figured out, you don’t. Just when you think he’ll say or do one thing, guess again. He will shock and surprise you. He tells the best stories and some of the worst jokes (most of which I can’t repeat here). He drives slower than anyone I know and, yet, he always arrives first. All these years and I still haven’t been able to figure out that last part.
There are a million stories I could tell about my dad to convey who he is and how important he is to me. This one comes to mind:
When I was in high school, I started taking flying lessons. I’d wanted to learn to fly planes ever since I was a child when my dad would take me and my brother to Philly Int’l Airport to watch the planes take off and land. It was cheap and effective entertainment. Because I loved the thought of flying so much, before I was even old enough to get my driver’s permit, my dad pushed me to take flying lessons (he also taught me to drive but that’s another story).
One day, while learning emergency procedures of all things, the small single engine Tomahawk I was piloting suddenly began to fall apart. My instructor and I were flying at about 2000 feet and he had just asked me if I spotted a suitable place to land in the event of an emergency when some wind got under the engine cover causing it to come unhinged. It tore off and flew over the plane, shattering the windshield. We were forced to land in a blueberry field in Hammonton, NJ. For the record, that wasn’t the spot I’d picked.
When my dad came to pick me up that day, the representative from the FAA said, “Your daughter’s very lucky because had that piece come loose, she would have been decapitated.” Lovely. Apparently he was pointing to a small piece of windshield that was still intact. A two inch piece of fiberglass (and my instructor’s quick thinking) saved my life.
My dad turned to me and said, “Don’t you dare tell your mother.” Then, the next day, when I was considering giving up my aviation aspirations, he gave me his version of the classic “when you fall off your bike” pep talk and urged me to get back up in the air ASAP and keep on trying.
I get my stubborn streak from my dad. I guess you could blame him for my temper and lack of patience, too. But you have to take the bad with the good, right? Well, he also taught me a lot of very important things.
He taught me that hard work and commitment pay off. He taught me to be fearless even when I’m scared to death. He is the reason I laugh at funerals and say the most inappropriate things every chance I get. He taught me how to be strong and sensitive at the same time, to stand up for myself and the people I love and to fight for what is right–even when everyone else says it’s wrong. Because of him I believe that life is an adventure. And that no one is the boss of me but me! He taught me that I am in complete control of my life and if I fuck it up, well that’s OK because I can always get back up, brush myself off and start over. He taught me to reach for the sky and never stop reaching.
And, perhaps most importantly, he taught me that it’s OK to laugh at myself. And it’s a good thing because these days, I find myself doing that a lot.
I love my dad. He’s the greatest, sweetest, craziest man I know.
Happy Birthday, Dad!
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – MLK, Jr.
This is one of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, of which there are many. But this one, to me, transcends all issues, big and small.
Even though tomorrow is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the Unites States, today is his birthday. As a tribute to an amazing man who worked hard to teach us so many amazing lessons, let’s continue spreading his message of light and love. And just like you make resolutions at the turn of the New Year; why not resolve right now to be the change you want to see in the world? We’ve all heard that saying. Well, it’s time to live it.
What can I say about MLK, Jr. that hasn’t already been said? Arguably one of the most profound prophets the world has ever seen, his words are forever poignant. He was an amazing leader and teacher as well as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, implementers of positive change.
You may not agree. You might even say, “But, Val, there have been so many awesome implementers of positive change, how can you possibly pick a #1?” True. And while I’m sure there will eventually be a VH1 Greatest Implementers of Positive Change Countdown, I’m not sure who’d make the #1 spot on the list, or if I’d even agree with whomever got picked (I sure as hell haven’t agreed with all their #1s), BUT there is no doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. made our world a better place. I’m sure we can all agree on that.
But we can’t simply rest on his laurels, no matter how awesome those laurels may have been. Our lives and our world are ever changing. And I believe (no pun intended) that if we keep King’s positive message in our minds and in our hearts, the changes we experience and implement will be positive, too.
While challenging at times, change is good. It’s healthy. It’s necessary. It teaches us that even though we are humans who make mistakes, we do not have to live and die by those mistakes or by the errors of our ancestors. We can always correct mistakes of the past, make adjustments to the present and fix our future.
Each of us, at times, fears change. And that’s natural, or so I’ve heard. But in order to succeed, whether that success is competitive or creative, some sort of change must take place to achieve it. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re changing, but we are. Other times, we have to work really hard to see even the slightest progress. But whenever we implement change or simply embrace the changes that are taking place in our lives and in the world around us, we become stronger and that, in and of itself, is progress.
We need to keep moving forward by actively seeking new ways to strengthen our minds, our bodies and our souls. The knowledge and strength we nurture now is the foundation on which we build our future. Positive change takes commitment, drive and determination. It takes work. Positive change promotes prosperity and we all want that. So look to the positive.
Even when that feels like an unbearable burden, when the weight of the world is pressing down upon our shoulders and we feel alone, there is still hope. We just need to open our eyes and be willing to see it and share it. When hope is not so easy to see, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. In those times, we need to believe–in ourselves and in each other.
Maybe we’re not looking hard enough or in the right place. Maybe we need to alter our perspective or open our minds. Or maybe we need the love and support of a friend to help us see it. Or perhaps it is our destiny to create it.
We need to embrace change. Not only because it’s healthy and because it helps us to grow, but because it is necessary and inevitable. The world is going to continue to change with or without us. We might as well find our niche and be a part of it. Live. Love. Learn. Right?
You and I are the light and the love that Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about. We can promote hope and positive change by thinking with our hearts. We should be doing something every day to help those around us and lift each other up. It won’t take long for that positive energy to spread. We all know that even the smallest gesture can start a chain reaction. A smile. A hug. A kiss. A handshake. A kind word. These things may seem insignificant. But they’re not.
How often are you affected by such simple things? Unfortunately it works both ways, on the positive and negative sides of the spectrum. Just as a smile is contagious, so is a frown. A gesture of gratitude can make your morning, the same as an insult or rude remark can ruin your whole day.
Why not make a conscious effort to promote the positive?
Do something positive — big or small. But do something!
I can’t think of a better way to honor the life of a man who gave so much to the good of humanity. Our humanity. Even though he is gone, his legacy lives on and his words and actions continue to make a difference.
Your spirit, your words and your actions can make a difference, too. They already do – every day. Maybe you don’t see it. But it’s true. And just like hope and change, the world needs you. You are here for a reason. You may not have it all figured out yet. Then again, who does? But you and I are more than just cogs in a machine. We are crucial. Our purpose is palpable.
Let’s work together to change the world.
Light and love.
At precisely 10 seconds to midnight tonight, my husband and I will not-only be puckering up, like many of you, with a plan to kiss in the New Year like we do every year, but we’ll also be celebrating our 10 year anniversary!
That’s 10 years together as a couple and a whole decade of happy New Years!!
Wow?! Yay us!
At the culmination of 2001, we were with friends on the dance floor of a packed club in New York City, and just as the deejay started the 10 second countdown clock and the whole place and everyone in it got revved up and ready to ring in 2002, that’s the moment when Jason, the sweet, funny, smart, sexy (and at the time, soon-to-be) love of my life who I’d been seeing on and off for a little over a month (but who I knew for a little over a year), turned to me with a smile and asked me to be his girlfriend. Well, for the sake of 100% accuracy, what he actually said was, “Are you my girlfriend?”
I remember it like it was yesterday. And, at the time, I also remember that I was completely freaked out. I mean, that’s an awful lot of pressure to put on your date at the 10 seconds to midnight mark!
Well, thank God I said “Yes!!”
Jason, my love, I was then, I am now and I always will be your girlfriend! And now, 10 years later, I am also your wife and the mother of your child. We’ve made so many wonderful memories together and, yet, it’s hard to believe a decade has passed. Looking at random pictures blows my mind. It sometimes seems like we’ve been everywhere and done everything together!
Since 12/31/2001 (at 11:59:50pm), we’ve traveled to (and even lived in) so many cool, interesting places and shared so many amazing experiences together. It’s been a crazy, fun, fantastic journey. And I wouldn’t change a thing! I can’t wait to see what adventures will come our way in 2012 and every year after. I look forward to ringing in each new year together with you for the rest of our lives. How sweet it is to live happily ever after with you!
Happy anniversary, Jason Henderson! You are my best friend, the love of my life and the very best thing that’s ever happened to me. You’ve made my favorite holiday even better and my life everything that it is today! I couldn’t imagine it without you in it and I hope I never have to. I love you and Lyla more than anything or anyone in the world. I always have and always will…
I hope all of you are covered in love and laughter in 2012.
Happy New Year!