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The Living Without Series

This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2006 on living with less stuff. Check them out: liv011Living #2liv031liv04

Coal Creek Farm on Facebook

The Chicken Doctor


The Architect


The Birthday Saga Part IV ~The Rondo

If you want to start from the beginning of this story click:
Part I
Part II
Part III

Driving back across town to a Mass Street restaurant, I was thinking this has been the best day.  The gift of spending one on one time with my friends was priceless.  I was so proud of Clay for knowing that the intimate time with my friends meant so much more to me than a big party where I would have fun, but not be able to carry on a conversation with one person for too long.

I still couldn’t imagine who would be waiting to have lunch with me.  Maybe it was one of the sweet people I work with.  I just had no idea who he would pick that I would love to eat lunch with and talk to for an hour.  But, Clay knew exactly the right person.  He knew that more than anything I would love to have quiet time with this one very special lady.  A lady that I would hand over a kidney if she would ever need me to do that.  A lady that I have known all the days of her life.

My daughter.  I was ecstatic to see Ellen.  Clay excused her from school to come spend a couple hours with me.  I gave her a big hug and we laughed.  She asked me if I was having a good day and I told her everything I had done so far.  I told her I had no idea she was going to be having lunch with me.  She said something like, “I’m your best surprise so far….no doubt.”  I totally agreed.

We ordered salads and iced tea and took a seat in the quiet section of the restaurant.  Ellen told me that Clay had just told her all the details of my birthday a couple days ago because he was afraid she might leak it to me.  After he layed out the plan for her she had to pause for a minute and ask, “Dad, could you run through all that again?  I didn’t quite understand all of it.”  Which cracked me up, because I can just imagine Clay thinking how exhausting it was to tell her the whole plan the first time.  He had to ask Ellen for some help on a few details because of all the people in this world that know me, Ellen probably knows me second best.  In fact, if I die today, she could fill my shoes fairly well and people might not know that I’m gone.

I am so ridiculously proud of Ellen.  She has become such a neat young lady.  She has always been a very sweet, calm, compliant child.  She’s shy in a crowd, but once you get to know her, she is hilarious and sarcastic and full of life. I have heard multiple times from her teachers, “Ellen is so quiet, but she’s starting to come out of her shell.”  I always think, if you just give her a chance she will amaze you.

Can I just brag for a moment?  Yes?  Okay, thanks.  This year was a stellar year for Ellen.  She was part of the State Champion volleyball team, she lettered in 3 varsity sports (volleyball, basketball and track), she won the Most Improved Player award on her basketball team (we joke that this award needs a new name because it sort of says…you sucked-then you got better. Of all the basketball awards, she was hoping she wouldn’t get this one, but I’m still very proud of her for getting recognized as a good basketball player and we had a right good laugh when she brought home that trophy), she had the best stats on her team, she set a new high jump record for her school, she got 3rd at state for high jump in which all 3 girls went out on the same height which was 5 feet.  She medaled in most of her events at all the track meets.  She wrote a poem that was sent to a competition and now it’s published in a book. She had a piece of art work go to competition that won an award.  She won the drama award this year for her acting in two plays at school.  But, the award I’m really proud of her for receiving  is the Priscilla Award which honors one female student for having upstanding character and a servant’s heart.  I almost cried when her name was called to receive this award.  I was so happy that other people can see how wonderful of a girl she is, this award is voted on by faculty at her school and her Bible teacher told me after the award ceremony that it was very easy to choose Ellen as the recipient.

Ellen is not the type of person to draw attention to herself or chase after awards.  She is usually the girl that can’t get a word in when multiple people are talking, she never steps over conversations.  She is at times, the invisible girl in the room and on the team.  She has let people push her aside so they can be noticed for a job that she is far more capable of  more times than I can recall.  She isn’t bossy to anyone except her brothers.  So many times I have wanted to inject her with more courage, more confidence, more sass.  I’ve wanted her to punch people in the face and tell them what’s-what when they have wronged her or bullied her or been giant poop heads.  But, then she wouldn’t be the sweet Ellen that she is.  She wouldn’t be able to spread her compassion and patience to people like she does.  Ellen is a superstar,  a very quiet, understated superstar.

I might be a wee bit, over-the-top proud of her.

Okay, back to lunch.  Did you see my salad?  This salad makes me so happy.  Last year my friend Beth, whom you met at the nail salon, decided that she, her husband, Clay and I should all go on a juice fast.  Dear God in Heaven do you know what kind of Hell a juice fast is?  It’s Hell.  You drink this sawdust crap mixed with thick organic juice and take a bunch of horse sized pills that look a bit like cut up pieces of garden hose.

We were supposed to do this fast for one week.  Beth and I tried to plan the best time when none of us would have to cheat.  But, Clay had one glitch.  On the fifth day of the fast he had tickets to go to Taste of Lawrence which is a food extravaganza put on by the best chefs in our town. It’s’ an event hosted by The Chamber of Commerce that  all the local business men purchase tickets to show their support and schmooze other business professionals that they might need a little face time with to get a new project.

So, Clay told me we had two tickets to attend this event and that it was pretty important that we go.  I was at the point in the fast that I had lost my initial cravings and so I didn’t think I would be too tempted to eat anything.  Clay on the other hand was none too crazy about this juice fast and just wanted to sink his teeth into a giant slab of meat and slug a 42 ounce Coke Zero.  He kept going back and forth on whether he would cheat or not.  I was pretty certain he wouldn’t make it three seconds without stuffing something in his mouth.

When we entered the hotel where the event was being held we clung to each other like immigrants in a foreign country.  The smells of food wafting from the banquet room were incredible and reminded us of all the wonderful times we had had together….eating food.  Clay looked at me with his now daily surly look and in a half growl, half whimper said, “Remember when we used to eat food?  Remember how delicious it was?  Remember crunching food with our teeth?  Food used to make me happy.  Without food I have no sense of joy.  My happiness is linked directly to my stomach.  I think we should eat.  I would hate for all this food to go to waste when it could be happily residing in my belly….” and on and on and on until he finally convinced me that we should at least eat something healthy.

All the restaurants that were represented at The Taste of Lawrence bring their best dishes and serve a generous sample portion.  You walk around with a handful of tickets and choose what bites of wonderfulness you want to sample.

I made one trip around the crowded room and saw a long line for the bbq sandwiches and an even longer line for the local bakery.  There was beer, wine, donuts, pizza, meatballs, smoothies, cookies, gourmet hamburgers, crab cakes,  a Thai dish, sliders, soups and a ton more.  I just wanted something that would be easy to eat and that I wouldn’t regret too much.  Finally I saw something I couldn’t pass up.  A salad.  Thank you sweet Jesus of all things LETTUCE!!!

I took a small plate of salad and was in Heaven with each crunch of salad.  I ate two little plates and then got a little strawberry smoothie and felt I had eaten a feast.  Clay on the other hand was shoving sliders, bbq meat and salad into his mouth as fast as possible.  Then he topped it off with two cookies one in each hand.  I saw the joy radiating from him with each bite of food he shoved in his giant mouth.  He was not meant to fast. Whenever my friend Beth mentions doing something fun with us, he has to preference it with the question, “Is this going to be Juice Fast fun?”

After the fast was complete I couldn’t stop thinking about that salad.  One day I called Clay and told him we needed to go eat lunch at Ingredient just so I could get the craving out of my system and now I have never ordered anything other than the Crispy Asian Salad from Ingredient. The craving isn’t quite out of my system yet.  If you want to try to make a Crispy Asian salad at home this is what is in it:  Thai-chili glazed steak, Napa cabbage, bok choy, glass noodles, edamame, crisp red peppers, snow peas, carrots, and spicy cashews all spun in a sesame ginger dressing and topped with crispy won-ton strips.  I love it.  Love it. LOVE. IT.

If this would have been the end of my day, eating lunch with my favorite girl in the world, I would have been the happiest woman.  What a fabulous birthday this had been, but there was more.  When we were done eating Ellen pulled out another envelope from her bag.  “Here’s number 5 Mom.  We need to get going.”  I reached for the envelope as she grabbed my camera.

I think the following pictures explain my reaction to the next surprise quite well.

My husband was blowing me away.  I didn’t think it was possible for him to keep topping himself with the surprises, but I was wrong.

to be continued again….heee!

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