Happy Birthday, Dad

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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!

Light and Love

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“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.

10 Happy New Years

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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!

Toast(ed)

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As promised, a blog dedicated to Champagne Concoctions…

Like many of you, I love champagne. I love the triumphant pop of the cork, the festive fizz, the easily overflowing glasses and, of course, the bubbles… anyone who follows my blog knows I have a fondness for bubbles.

Not only is champagne fun to drink but it’s a lot like a celebration in a glass. Even if you have nothing in particular to celebrate, it makes you feel like you do and there’s nothing wrong with that. And while I have no problem drinking champagne straight up (and occasionally with a straw); it’s always fun to get creative. So add whatever you like but here’s a breakdown of what I consider some highly successful and yummy creative champagne concoctions.

Popular Concoctions: These are some champagne fan favorites. For those of us who love champagne (me!!) or just simply don’t like beer (me too!!), these creative, festive drinks are especially fun. There seem to be many variations and new versions get added each New Year, but here’s a brief list of my all-time favorite favorites. If you haven’t tried one of these yet, I suggest you get started!

  1. Poinsettia: Chilled champagne, about 3 oz cranberry juice (or POM is also yummy), splash of triple sec or Cointreau. I’ve also heard a variation of this called a Pretty Woman (maybe because if you drink too many, you might end up in a bandeau tube dress in Richard Gere’s hotel room?)
  2. Bellini: 2 oz peach juice or puree, 4 oz champagne (the colder the better so might I suggest pre-freezing the peach juice in ice cube trays)
  3. Frozen Bikini: Add 2 oz vodka, 2 oz peach Schnapps,   3 oz peach nectar, 2 oz OJ, splash of lemon juice to a chilled glass, then fill the rest of the way with chilled champagne. Drop in a strawberry if you’re feeling especially sassy.
  4. New York City (AKA: Metro): 4 oz chilled champagne, 1 oz Vodka, splash lime juice, splash Cointreau, splash cranberry juice. You’ll be singing New York, New York in no time.
  5. Blushing Bride: Chilled champagne, Peach Schnapps, Grenadine

Nameless (and faceless) Concoctions: Here’s a list of concoctions I’ve come up with on my own over the years, although (since everything old is new again) others have probably concocted the same or similar versions. Fair Warning: These are simple but dangerous!

  1. Equal parts X-Rated Fusion Liquor (it’s pink and sort of tastes like pink grapefruit juice) and pink champagne (Barefoot Bubbly is my fave).
  2. Champagne with just a splash of grenadine (or any cherry syrup) and a lime twist (or squirt of lime juice if you don’t feel like twisting). I almost always love the taste of lime and cherry mixed together.
  3. Champagne Jell-O Shots: These are popular and there are a ton of different recipes available. Here’s mine: Add 1-six ounce box Jell-O (any flavor, I like strawberry if you want to use pink champagne or grape if you want to use white champagne) to 2 cups boiling water (stir till dissolved), add 2 cups cold champagne (pink or white). I use a turkey baster to divide the concoction into tiny cups (I use thin plastic cups or I double up paper cups which can be found at any party store). Chill to set. Note #1: For stronger shots, add just 1 cup of boiling water, then add an extra cup of champagne once solution dissolves. Note #2: I also make a mean margarita Jell-O shot but I’m saving it for Cinco de Mayo… though since it’s green, maybe I’ll post for St. Patrick’s Day.
  4. Chilled champagne is perfect all alone but I like to add fruit (grapes or strawberries are perfect additions) and even a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract to make simple champagne even better! Fruit is good for you!
  5. Raspberry (or any fruit flavored) vodka and champagne (I don’t measure when I do this, but if I did it would probably be about a 1:2 ratio, give or take). So easy… so go easy.

Champagne Punch: Great for parties of 2 or more! This is a sampling of awesome punches I’ve discovered along the way. Bust out your fancy punch bowl (or perhaps a less risky shatter-proof Tupperware or basic plastic bowl if your parties tend to get wild) and get to spiking!

  1. Classic Champagne Punch: 2 liter bottle of ginger ale, bottle of champagne, container of orange sherbet  (empty contents into bowl, serve)
  2. Pink Punch: 1 bottle pink champagne, 2 containers frozen pink lemonade concentrate, 2 containers frozen cranberry or fruit juice concentrate, 1 bottle chilled red wine, 1 quart chilled club soda, ice cubes
  3. Hawaiian Punch: 2 liter bottle Hawaiian Punch, 2 cups Malibu Rum, 1 cup Southern Comfort, 1 bottle champagne, 2 liter bottle Pineapple soda, jar of maraschino cherries, 1 bag frozen pineapple (cubed), ice cubes (Note: coconut shell bikini and grass skirt optional)
  4. Sucker Punch: 1 bottle champagne, 1 cup vodka (vanilla is nice in this), 1 cup tequila, 1 cup rum, 2 cups peach Schnapps (sucker!!), 1 can frozen OJ, 1 can frozen pineapple juice, 1 can frozen cranberry juice, 2 liters tonic water, ice, (add club soda if the punch tastes too sweet)
  5. Margarita Punch: 1 bottle champagne, 4 cups clear tequila, 4 cups triple sec, 1 bottle of either lime margarita mix or sweet n sour mix, 2 liters lemon lime soda, 1 cup Agave Nectar (if available), 1 cup lime juice, 4 limes (sliced and quartered), crushed ice, (serve in margarita glasses with salted or sugared rims as an option)

Champagne Floats: Add a scoop of frozen, mashed, sliced or diced strawberries, peaches, pineapples, grapes or berries to champagne and it’s almost like a delicious, nutritious, fizzy dessert! Prep the fruit in advance, store in freezer bags and keep frozen till needed. It’s also fun to add a spoonful of sorbet (any flavor, I like raspberry) or water ice (for yews Philly folks) to a glass of your favorite bubbly (kind of like a party punch but for a party of one).

“My-mosas”: Who doesn’t love mimosas? I know I do. I often joke with my brunch buddies and say they should be called “moremosas” because I like them so much. Occasionally, instead of adding OJ to champagne, I like to add any one of the following: mango nectar (it’s thick so just a splash will do!), Welch’s grape juice (it’s like grape soda, only better!), V-8 Splash (why not drink your veggies?), cranberry juice (yummy, festive and good for the kidneys!).

Born Again Virgins: Non-alcoholic “champagne” concoctions can be made by substituting the champagne for anything fizzy (i.e., tonic water, ginger ale, sparking grape juice). I call these Born Again Virgins. When I host a party, I like to serve both alcoholic and nonalcoholic options so everyone can join in on the fun. It’s a nice way to include your designated drivers, people who can’t or don’t choose to drink, pregnant and nursing women and even kids/teens. Remember: You don’t need alcohol to have fun!

If you come up with or come across new yummy champagne or mock-champagne concoctions or cocktails, please share them by leaving a comment. I’d love to add more bubbly fun to my list.

Most importantly, please be safe and responsible! If you’re going to drink, I suggest doing so in the safety and comfort of your own home and/or with friends or family whom you trust to take care of you. If you’re going to be out and about, it’s always a good idea to select a designated driver in advance and leave your car keys at home. If you (or your friends) aren’t fit to drive but need to get from here to there, please call a cab, a friend or ask someone who hasn’t been drinking to help. Don’t drink and drive. You know better!

AAA offers a wonderful FREE service called Tipsy Tow for folks needing a ride home. You don’t need to be a member; simply call 1-800-AAA-HELP between 6pm on 12/31 and 6am on 1/1 and they will come get you. That’s sure to save lives. Thank you, AAA!

Have fun and be safe!

Here’s to you! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year’s Eve (a few days early)!

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Have I ever told you how much I love New Year’s Eve? Well, it’s my faaaaaavvvvvvorrrrrite day of the year, and I can’t wait!

Now is the perfect time for making resolutions, looking forward to happier days ahead, celebrating all the people who bring us joy and coming up with fun, festive champagne concoctions!

I like to think of the New Year as a free pass at hitting the restart button. It no longer matters what you didn’t have the opportunity to do, try or achieve this year. It’s a chance to shake off any residual negativity and start anew. Now you have a whole new year! I hope you make the most of it. I know I will.

Personally, I like to make a long list of resolutions. In fact, I just finished obsessing over my list. I like setting and striving for goals. And by having multiple goals, I have a better than average chance of achieving (at least some of) them. If I should happen to miss a few, oh well. I don’t think of it as failing. Besides, between you and me, I have a system that never allows me to fail.

I start by writing a long, rather vague list. People often say “the devil is in the details” and I find that to be especially true with resolutions. And the more the merrier, right? I truly believe that I have a far better shot at success if I don’t put all my eggs in the same resolution basket. So once I have a lengthy, less-than-specific list organized, then I give myself immediate points just for trying and then partial points when I make small strides (like losing 2 pounds, for example) and more points (if and) when I succeed. Oh and it helps to have poor math skills, since my creative addition typically adds up to a perfect score.

This year, I’ve made 12 resolutions (for 2012). Here’s my list:

  1. Take better care of my mind, body and spirit
  2. Make time to play every day
  3. Drink more water
  4. Nourish relationships and build new ones
  5. Ignore negative thoughts and negative people
  6. Find creative ways to be happy
  7. Get more sleep
  8. Take bubble baths every chance I get
  9. Surprise myself
  10. Conquer at least one fear
  11. Decorate
  12. Never stop trying

So as you can see, they’re for the most part pretty vague. And that’s perfect because when I look back at this list, I will be able to see the good in what I set out to do and recognize many ways in which I was able to achieve these goals. See? The New Year hasn’t even started and yet I’m already winning (did that last part make you think of Charlie Sheen?).

Speaking of winning, why not celebrate as though you’ve already won? Whether or not you make an actual list of resolutions or simply take a moment to set a specific goal, make it a point to celebrate moments and milestones along the way. Recognize how awesome you already are and how much more awesome you are becoming!

On New Year’s Eve, I plan to surround myself with people I love and toast our past, present and future achievements throughout the night. That’s a lot of toasts, which is why I’m also trying to come up with some creative champagne concoctions. When I have that list, I’ll be sure to share it with you! And I also plan to stay safe (no driving!) and hydrated by alternating bubbly beverages with water (hey, that’s 2 resolutions right there! See? I’m already winning!).

Whatever you do to ring in the New Year, I hope you have fun doing it. But more than that, I hope you had a wonderful 2011 and I wish you and yours a safe, successful, happy, healthy 2012!

xoxo

Deck the Halls with Cookies and Candy! Fa-lala-lalaaa…

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My holiday baking and candy making extravaganza begins today!

A self-proclaimed chewy-gewy treat addict, I’ll admit I’ve waited all year for this. I’ve always loved to bake and get otherwise creative in the kitchen.

I think all of us creative types need a second imaginative outlet. If you’re primarily a painter, perhaps you also like to sing? If you’re a musician, maybe you also act? Many writers I know turn to the kitchen, whether it be baking or cooking or creative drink making (and drink drinking), for the release of that unspent pent up artistic energy.

While I too partake in the occasional drinky-drink for various inspired and not-so-inspired reasons, personally I love baking. It satisfies my creative needs and soothes my soul, much like writing. And in recent years, to the gratitude of my family and friends, I’ve added making candy and canning jellies and jams to my repertoire! And, of course, I never do anything half-assed (my father taught me that lesson!). Nope. I joyfully frolic in complete creative obsession!

Back before I became a wife and mom, I would compete with myself year after year. If I made 20 different types of cookies one year, I had to make at least 21 varieties the next. Spending the majority of my 20s living and working in North Jersey and New York City, it often seemed that the size of my apartment and closet-sized kitchens were counter-proportional to the quantity of cookies and cakes I chose to make.

But that’s when I learned to improvise. Add a little extra creativity to the mix, so to speak, and you can make anything work. For example, when I ran out of counter space, I turned to the coffee table, sofa, chairs and window sills. One year, I had an army of gingerbread men strategically spread throughout my tiny one bedroom apartment. They had already invaded my kitchen, living room, bedroom and even my bathtub. A dozen or so of them were waiting outside, perhaps planning their next attack from my fire escape.

Competitive and obsessive? Who me?

Well if the snow shoe fits!

The Christmas following the birth of my daughter, it got worse. With a new bundle of joy and a recent kidney disease diagnosis, all of our money was going to diapers and doctors. We were flat broke. While I could’ve given up my festive holiday hobby, I decided instead to get even more creative with it. So I got my supplies on sale and made my own packaging, decorations, ornaments and wrappers. Since these were the only gifts we could afford to give, I wanted to make sure each one was made with love. I wanted my family and friends to feel special and know that even though we’re struggling financially (and at times, physically), we love and cherish them very much.

At first, I struggled with it. I thought my loved ones would feel slighted. I wondered if they thought I was being selfish, cheap or stingy. But you know what? I was worried for nothing because in comparison to gifts we’d bought over the years and wrapped with pretty and expensive paper, ribbons and bows, the people in our lives seemed to appreciate these homemade gifts even more. And perhaps more than they loved receiving and consuming them, I loved making and sharing them.

In regards to our financial situation, well we’re not out of the woods yet. Far. From. It! We’re all in the same boat, and the economy has taken a paddle to everyone’s bottom line.

Had I known the economy was going to crash mere months after I quit my job to take a huge risk and become an aspiring novelist… well, I would have still done it. No guts, no glory. Right? No pain, no gain? I guess I’m a glutton for more than just sweets. Let’s just say, I’m bound and more-than-determined to stay the course and live life by these sorts of mantras until I achieve my dream. Then at that point, I’ll continue doing it for shits and giggles.

So today, I start my annual making and baking for the holidays. In round one, I will be making candy cane kiss cookies from scratch and itty-bitty baby cheesecakes with homemade toppings. My homemade toppings will be comprised of jams and jellies I’ve made and canned throughout the year. Tomorrow, I’ll add the classics: oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, meringues and snickerdoodles for a few of my favorite elves.

Round two will be all about candy. Val’s Candy Workshop has already been prepped. I’ll be making coconut cream bon-bons, peppermint patties, peanut butter cups and brittle. Plus I got tons of candied fruit, pretzels, cookies and some other homemade goodies with which to experiment.

This year, the secret password is fondue.

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like chewy-gewy calories and chocolate covered everything! We can worry about burning it all off in the New Year.

11.11.11

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Happy birthday to me!

One of my favorite things to do on my birthday is look up my “Year Ahead” horoscope. Any other year, I’d look up several, compare and contrast. But today, on this most “epic” day, I have a lot planned so I only had time for one. Here it is:

Your Birthday Year Forecast (via www.cafeastrology.com):

A Full Moon in your Solar Return chart marks this as a year of great personal significance, when major new beginnings, endings, and activities occur. This period is the culmination of a stage of personal growth and development. Events occurring this year may bring various developments in your emotional, psychological, or spiritual life over the past several years to a head. Relationships are especially important. There can be increased activity in your professional and public life, causing a conflict with your domestic and personal goals. There is little moderation in your life this year. Connections are made or ended; or your job focus may change as one focus fades to make way for a new direction. The year ahead is certain to be a very busy, dynamic, and significant period in your life.

This is an excellent year in which to advance projects revolving around communications – writing, speaking, selling, and so forth. Your reputation may be enhanced through word of mouth. Making new contacts through learning and mental pursuits figures strongly as well.

Your mind is fertile this year, and you are able to blend practical thinking with imagination. You can talk your way into, or out of, almost anything. You can be successful in an artistic area this year. Your great imagination and ability to understand and formulate artistic ideas are big assets.

At times, however, you could struggle with variable energy and motivation levels. Be aware of a tendency to be attracted to impractical ventures. You may find that is too easy to waste your time and energy, perhaps due to a lack of drive or feeling directionless. You may also experience passive-aggressiveness in others, which impacts your life in frustrating ways. Although you may enjoy an increase in your intuitive capabilities, you may also be too open to influence so that fears or delusions impact your ability to see your life clearly. This could also be a year in which you are more creative.

It’s a strong year for recognizing flaws and errors. As long as you don’t forget the “big picture”, you could find you are motivated to channel your mental energy into tasks that require structured and organized thought, tackling projects that you may have found too mundane or downright boring in other years. It’s a strong year for polishing your skills and formal learning.

Mars trine Jupiter in your Solar Return chart infuses the year with enterprising spirit. This is a strong aspect for professional as well as personal opportunities. Your faith in your ability to produce and to win takes you places perhaps never imagined. The energies of this influence favor negotiations, deals, legal matters, reasonable speculation, and travel. This aspect also favors positive outcomes in competitive activities, including sports and business, for example.

You might enjoy increased influence, faith, and insight this year. The desire for more personal significance can motivate you to more ambitiously pursue personal or professional goals. The ability to sway or persuade can be enhanced. You might solve a problem that has been in existence for some time, or capitalize upon a resource that was previously hidden, and take steps towards self-improvement.

You can find yourself in high demand this year, and increased opportunities are likely for new friendships. Communications and learning are favored. The tendency towards putting your energy into impractical ventures, however, should be watched for. If you can channel your energy and be vigilant with self-discipline, you can get a lot done.

That sounds promising! I hope all of my birthday wishes come true in the year ahead. And I hope it proves to be a good year for everyone.

Happy birthday to me! Happy 11.11.11 to you!