My Go-To Tunes: Musical Memories

Sometimes, I’m going through life doing something completely mundane when all of a sudden my brain becomes aware of a song and I’m instantly transported to a different place and time. This happened yesterday as I was completing an overdue monthly expense report for my employer. I heard the high hat and the keyboards and started bopping in my chair. In came the bass, and I turned up the volume on my headphones without even realizing what I was doing. I started singing the first chorus before I became aware of the sound coming out of my mouth.

Sidebar – this happens all the time, much to the annoyance of my former cubicle neighbors when I used to work in the cube farm. “I’m sure you think you have a lovely voice, but it’s very distracting when you sing at your desk.” Um, well, I actually do have a good voice, but most of the time when I’m singing at my desk at work, I really don’t notice that I’m doing it. I’ll try not to listen to music but you screaming into  your phone is a distraction too! Is it any wonder I didn’t last there?

Back to the story…

When this happened yesterday, I was transported from my home office in Waterford, New York, USA, to the house on Mirramar Park in Blackmans Bay, Tasmania, Australia. I was sixteen years old in September 1990 when my host brother, Mike, blared the song at 6:45 AM and yelled at me to get out of bed. I remember the moment because it was one of the few mornings I did not get up before Mike to get ready for school.

This memory sparked another memory – February 15 is Mike’s birthday! A glance at the clock and some quick calculations and I realized it was already February 15 in Australia. I left a quick note on Mike’s Facebook page, sharing my musical memories and birthday wishes. He replied this morning (well, morning for me but I’m guessing he’s heading to bed).

Denise – You are AWESOME! I still absolutely love that song!!! i will play it tomorrow to my 3 daughters in your honour! I love how the bass line kicks in half way through the bar on the off beat…gold!

I love that music can be a universal language, connecting me to friends and family who happen to be on the other side of the world. Some people associate memories with food or scents. I know someone whose memories are triggered by clothes. But my memories have always been sparked by music.

The song that served as my memory spark this time was Modern Times by Daryl Braithwaite. Included on his album Rise, it is a staple on my “Aussie Tunes” playlist. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, but yesterday I was struck by the second verse. Though the song was released twenty-seven years ago, the lyrics are still relevant.

Somebody pulls the trigger, while somebody waits to get hit

Somebody freezes in the winter, and I’m complaining about the heat

Nobody listens these days, though they’ve all got something to say

I’m singing songs about waiting, and you’ll come back some day

Now I need to go listen to the song again. You can listen to it too, in honor of Mike’s birthday.

Remote Viewing

Tonight I will be the keynote speaker at the North American Youth Exchange Network (NAYEN) conference. It is an honor to be asked to share my unique youth exchange story with the 400 conference attendees. I am excited and hope my words will inspire the audience.

Wait Denise – I thought you were still stuck at home because of your broken leg?

Yes, I am still home bound. Thanks to the wonders of technology I will be delivering my speech live from my dining room, via Skype.

This will be the first time I have addressed a large audience from the other end of a webcam. I have conducted meetings and interviewed using Skype, I have held webinar training sessions, but I have never presented to a large group in my slippers. (Trust me – I will be wearing slippers because shoes are still uncomfortable on my broken leg.)

I was initially invited to speak at the 2015 NAYEN conference. I would have accepted the offer, but I was already committed to making my Australia trip a reality. The chance to speak at the Rotary District Conference in Tasmania was an opportunity I could not refuse. Would NAYEN be willing to consider me for the 2016 conference?

Thankfully, they were. I eagerly prepared to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, site of this year’s NAYEN conference. I recruited my friend Melissa to be my travel companion and Personal Assistant. We agreed on, and booked, flights which would get us to and from Ohio with the least amount of transfers.

Then I broke my leg on January 13. With the snap of a bone, plans had to change.

I did not want to back out of the conference again. I mean, I could have, and I’m sure people would have understood. But I already felt bad for not attending the conference in 2015, and I did not want to get a reputation as the speaker who never actually speaks when she is invited. Especially when it comes to a topic I am passionate about – the benefits of youth exchange, and how my exchange year positively changed my life. I felt so strongly about making it to NAYEN that it was one of the first things I mentioned after waking up from the surgery to fix my broken leg. My sister Sandy told me time and again not to worry about NAYEN, however I was determined to find a way to honor my commitment.

I am grateful to John, Ed, Kevin and the other conference planners who have worked to make it possible for me to fulfill my obligation tonight. After a successful test run yesterday, I am hopeful there will not be any technical glitches today. If there are, I know we will get through them. Twenty-five years ago, my exchange experience taught me how important it is to be flexible and creative (among many other lessons).

While I will miss being able to socialize with the conference attendees after my speech, I have to be honest and admit how relieved I am not flying to and from Ohio this weekend. My knee is certainly better than it was, but being lifted in and out of plane seats and aisle chairs would require high doses of pain medications. Speaking from the comfort of home, I can keep my leg elevated if I need to without needing mind-dulling narcotics. And I get to sleep in my own bed instead of struggling to get up on a high hotel mattress. In theory, this should result in me offering a more polished speech. All from the comforts of home.

Have you successfully used technology to solve an access problem? Share your story in the comments!

30 Days of Thanks Day 27 – Andrew

I met my friend Andrew in Miss Moyes’ music class at The Hobart College. It was my first day of school as an exchange student in Tasmania. I was overwhelmed and feeling lost on the campus. At home in New York, I was one of sixty-four students in my grade. Now I was one of 1,400 students – and the only one using a wheelchair. Andrew walked into class, smiled at me and sat down in the desk next to mine.

G’day. You’re new!

I quickly learned Andrew had a dry wit, and usually got a stern look from Miss Moyes when he made me laugh with his comments during class. Over the next two months, Andrew and I got to know more about each other. He was someone I could trust to tell me the truth when other students tried to teach me slang words which meant something completely different in Australian English than American English.

On our last day of school, we had a party in class. Andrew asked if he could sit in my empty wheelchair as someone had taken his seat. I have a few photos from that party. Andrew is seated in my chair in all of them, smiling broadly.

Andrew and I saw each other again when I returned to Australia in 1996. As a graduation present to myself upon completing graduate school, I spent three weeks in Tasmania visiting my friends and host families. Andrew was living in Sydney and offered to host me for a few days before I flew back to the United States. I jumped at the opportunity.

I was no longer able to walk in 1996, but Andrew quickly adjusted to my new “normal.” Sometimes when extended amounts of time pass between visits with friends, my changing abilities take some friends by surprise. Andrew asked me questions about my disability, which we had never really discussed during my exchange year. For the first time, I honesty acknowledged my anger and disappoinment with a body which did not cooperate with all my mind wanted it to do. He listened with an empathetic ear over tea in his living room.

You need a night on the town! We’ll go out tomorrow.

I have so many fun memories from those days and nights in June 1996, but the one which makes me laugh the most involves my night out with Andrew. I can’t remember the names of all the bars and pubs we visited on Oxford Street. What I do remember is being slightly more than tipsy as I was carried in my manual wheelchair up a flight of stairs by two drag queens while Andrew climbed a few steps below us.

No worries – I won’t let you fall all the way to the bottom if they drop you!

As soon as I knew I would be returning to Australia, I contacted Andrew to see if he would be available for a visit if I spent some time in Sydney. My friend Ulla was also planning to come to Sydney. The three of us, along with my cousin Kelly and Ulla’s boyfriend Carlos, spent two fun evenings together. We talked nonstop, laughing over wine and food. The hours passed quickly and all too soon we were saying farewell as I prepared to fly home again.

Andrew – thank you for all the many laughs you have given me during the past twenty-five years. Through our friendship I have learned important lessons about tolerance and diversity. The many laughs we have shared are some of my best memories from my times in Australia. I promise to return the favor when you come visit here. I can’t promise to find drag queens willing to carry a wheelchair up a flight of stairs at 3:00 AM, but I’ll do my best!Photo of a man and woman. He is seated on a couch, wearing a black t-shirt. She is seated in a wheelchair, wearing a black sweater and orange skirt.

30 Days of Thanks Day 24 – Sam and Dolly

I wrote about my amazing parents last year to start my 30 Days of Thanks. My mom, known as Dolly, and my dad, Sam, deserve recognition once again this year.

I am the person I am today because of the lessons, gifts and blessings bestowed upon me by my parents. Their belief in my abilities and encouragement helped me set and achieve goals.

Back in 1990, when I told them I wanted to be an exchange student, I never considered the fact they might have said no. I was sixteen, and needed their permission to pursue this dream. But since they had never said no to any dream of mine before, I did not really think about what I was asking them to approve.

Who lets their sixteen year old disabled daughter go live on the other side of the world for a year? Sam and Dolly, that’s who.

Granted, they didn’t make it easy by saying yes right away. The agreement we made was they would consider it, but I had to find a way to pay for the trip without touching the money in my college savings account. I was working a couple of afternoons at a local dressmaker’s shop. I spoke to my boss about my intent to travel and took on an extra shift to help earn additional money.

After a few months, when I started to attend the outbound exchange student orientations, they told they would sign the permission paperwork. In my teenage naivete, I questioned why it took so long for them to decide. It wasn’t like I was going to be completely on my own. I was going to stay with Rotarians – what could go wrong?!

Now that I am an adult, I have a better understanding of their fears and apprehension. I was (still am) their baby, the youngest of their six daughters, and I had a disability. Of course they were nervous! I wasn’t going to be two hours away at college. I was flying 14,000 miles away, quite literally half way around the world.

But they let me go.

Both of my parents shed tears when we said goodbye at the airport. Mom was full on crying, hankie pressed to her face, shaking as she gave me a hug. Dad was silent, a single tear escaping down his face. Cheeky me, all full of anticipation and excitement, told them not to worry. I would be alright. I would write every week. I knew right from wrong and would follow the rules. I promised not to do anything which would get me sent home early.

Eventually, they stopped hugging me. Dad put his arm around Mom, pulling her into his shoulder. I remember what he told her.

We didn’t raise her to keep her home Doll. We have to let her go.

Mom and Dad, I appreciate you giving me the confidence to go, to live, to say yes to life. You have given me so much love and taught me the value of working to fulfill a dream. Twenty-five years ago you said yes when I had this absurd idea that living in another country would be a great adventure, even though you were worried about me. You continue to offer me support when I try new things and pursue new goals. Thank you for encouraging me to advocate for myself and for trusting me to succeed. I love you.An older woman is sitting on the knee of an older gentleman. Both are smiling. She has brown hair and is wearing a pink shirt. He is balding, with white hair, and is wearing a red and green plaid shirt.

30 Days of Thanks Day 13 – Ulla

I started my 30 Days of Thanks this month intending to not repeat any posts about friends I wrote about last year. But, events today made it difficult for me to finish my intended post, so I am taking a shortcut.

I wrote about my friend Ulla last year during 30 Days of Thanks. I also wrote about her when I described my time in Sydney.

Ulla is one of the friends who made this trip to Australia a reality. She supported my financially, and she also made it possible for Kelly and I to stay in Sydney for two days before returning to the USA.

If you didn’t read about my friendship with Ulla before, please read about what a great person she is. And know that our time together was brilliant, fun and full of laughter.

Thank you again Ulla for always remembering to make me enjoy the moment, for sacrificing time and money to spend time with me, and for so many memories.Two women are posed in front of the Sydney Opera House. One woman has brown hair and is wearing glasses and a green shirt, seated in a red wheelchair. The other woman has blond hair and is wearing glasses and a blue sweater.

Thirty Days of Thanks Day 11 – My Living with MD Friends

As soon as I knew my trip to Australia was a sure thing, I began to plan. As I have mentioned before, travel logistics for the disabled adult are more complicated and time-consuming than for most non-disabled adults. While some people may be able to just get up and go, or have flexibility of flights and destinations, I require more advanced consideration.

I had been to Australia twice before my most recent trip, but for each of those visits I was using a manual wheelchair. I fly frequently within the United States using both a manual and power wheelchair. But my trip in March was the first international trip using a power wheelchair.

I began my research online, utilizing the connections I have made through a Facebook group called Living with Muscular Dystrophy (LWMD). The group is a private peer-support group of adults from around the world who are living with any of the neuromuscular diseases covered under the umbrella of Muscular Dystrophy or ALS. Group members discuss many topics including personal care assistants, medical equipment, travel, health care, and employment. The goal is to help one another navigate a world which is not always accessible for our needs.

Some of my first connections were with group members from Australia. Julie was helpful in answering questions about accessibility in Sydney. She explained the train system and offered feedback on potential options for finding a wheelchair charger. Sadly we were never able to meet in person while I was there, but this just means I have to make a return trip.

So many people offered tips on traveling internationally using a power chair. Cory Lee and Alice answered questions and referred me to others who might be able to help. Carol put me in contact with several people in Australia who provided information about renting an accessible vehicle and traveling within Australia.

There were others who had ideas about how to charge my chair, accessible restaurants, and where to find family assist restrooms in the airports we would be visiting. All of this knowledge made me more comfortable as I traveled.

There is much literature about the value of peer networks for marginalized populations, including people with disabilities. I have been blessed to have access to many peer support networks throughout my life. Because LWMD is based on-line, people who may have difficulty leaving their homes due to disability, lack of transportation or lack of adequate personal care are able to participate in virtual discussions. The collective knowledge and creativity of this group astounds me. When one group member asks a question, people are quick to respond with suggestions and ideas. As a rule, people with disabilities are some of the most creative people I’ve ever met. We have to be. It’s how we adapt to a world not designed for our needs.

To my fellow LWMD-ers – thank you so much for all you did to help me prepare for my trip earlier this year. I appreciate your insights and your information. Your creative ideas were perfect and you made problem-solving a breeze. When I needed support, you were my virtual cheerleaders. And when I had success, you celebrated with me. I am grateful to be a part of this unique family.

30 Days of Thanks Day 6 – Bill

I was introduced to Bill Brundle on the radio. His voice came on the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) newscast every hour. I first heard him while my host parents were driving me to tour the school I would be attending as an exchange student.

It took me several weeks before I realized the Bill on ABC was the same Bill I saw each week at Rotary meetings. Hannah, the other exchange student also hosted by my host club, Kingston Rotary, was living with the Brundles. Bill answered the phone when I called to invite her to a party. I think I blurted out something like, “You’re the radio guy!” He laughed, thank goodness. He may not remember that call, but I do.

Bill and his wife Lyn invited me to their house while Hannah was still living with them. Hannah had talked about her host siblings Samantha, David and Solomon every time we were together. We had a wonderful dinner with plenty of conversation. I think Lyn was worried it may have been a little noisy, but coming from a large family myself I thought it was just like home.

Bill also gave me the opportunity to tour the ABC studio. At that time, I thought I might pursue a career in broadcast journalism. I had the chance to ask questions and observe a broadcast. It was a wonderful learning experience.

Because of Bill, I have remained connected to “my club” for the past twenty five years. Bill is the editor of the Kingston Rotary weekly bulletin. Each Friday morning, I wake up to an email from Bill with the latest update from the Club’s weekly meeting. I read about their fundraising efforts, their service projects, new members, their current exchange students and guest speakers. Sometimes the bulletins include updates from other former exchange students. I’ve never met them, but I feel a bond knowing we all had the privilege of being hosted by this amazing group.

Bill has been a dedicated and active Rotarian for several decades. He served as Team Leader on a Group Study Exchange to areas of the United States in 1997 and was District Governor for the Tasmanian District (9830) in 1999.

When the Kingston club agreed to host me, they made an arrangement of reciprocity with my home club in Bainbridge, New York. Since Kingston accepted me, as student with a disability, Bainbridge agreed to host an Australian exchange student with a disability.  Bill’s daughter Samantha was born with a rare congenital heart defect. Meeting me and observing my experience planted a seed in her head which would forever tie me to Bill and his family.

In 1995, Samantha came to New York on exchange. She lived with my parents for part of her year. During that time, she participated in many of my family dinners, just as I had as a guest with her family five years prior. My father, who is named Sam, was thrilled to have another “Sam” in the house. He still mentions his admiration for Samantha’s zest for life whenever we reminisce about that year.

Like my exchange experience, Samantha’s year would steer her in a course never imagined.  Upon returning to Australia, she followed her love of photography – a passion developed here in an art class. She went on to work for Club Med before marrying the love of her life and settling in Sydney.  Bill and Lyn were told at birth she would live just a few years. Again like me, she refused to conform to medical providers’ expectations and lived for decades until her death nine years ago.

As soon as I received the invitation to return to Tasmania, I emailed Bill and other Rotarians in Kingston. If I said yes, would they help me once again? Bill’s response came first – an enthusiastic yes!

In March, the day after I landed in Tasmania, Bill and Lyn were the first to arrive for a visit at my host parents’ house. Lyn was flying to Qatar to visit their grandchildren but she made time for coffee with me. I saw Bill again the following week when I was the guest speaker at Rotary. After my speech, we posed for a photo. I posed for many photos that night and each one is special to me. But the photo with Bill is one of my favorites. It captures the love and affection between friends in a natural embrace. I have it framed with other photos from my trip and look at each day with a smile.

Bill, I have always appreciated your support and belief in my abilities. On behalf of my parents and sisters, thank you for letting my family have your daughter as part of our family for a short time. Samantha taught all of us to live each day as fully as possible. She learned to reach for the stars from the lessons you and Lyn taught her. I will always be grateful for our shared connection. Thank you Bill (and Lyn!) for helping to make this return trip possible. As you know, there are many in New York who would welcome you with open arms should you come for a visit!

Photo of the author, a white woman wearing a blue dress and black cardigan sweater and sitting in a wheelchair, being embraced by an older white gentleman. He is wearing a suit jacket, shirt and dress pants.

 

30 Days of Thanks Day 1 – Kelly

A woman with red hair stands on top of a cliff over the Tasman Sea. The water is turquoise. There are puffy clouds in the sky.As soon as I received the invitation to speak in Australia, I began to think about who could accompany me on the trip. I would need someone able to physically perform the duties required of my Personal Assistants. I would also need someone who was available to take a two week trip to the other side of the world – someone who knew we would be gone for a set length of time and would not be coming back early, no matter what happened at home.

You might think it would be easy to find someone to take a two-week all expenses paid trip to Australia. At first, people were volunteering. But as I began to explain the requirements, they realized they would not be able to go. Some had small children and did not want to be away for two weeks. Some did not have enough vacation time at their jobs to take two weeks off. Some weren’t able to perform the required duties because of a back injury or other disability.

For me, it was important to find a travel partner with the right travel personality. I knew I would enjoy this trip no matter what. However, I knew I would enjoy it much less if my travel partner was full of anxiety, uncomfortable in various social settings and crowds, and unable to be flexible. In other words, I was looking for someone who was not “high maintenance.”

I didn’t begin to stress about the lack of a potential travel partner until September. While having dinner with my aunts, parents and sisters one day last fall, I made a comment about not having someone to accompany me on the trip. The next week, I got a text message from my cousin Kelly.

“Mom says you still need a travel partner for your Australia trip. I think I could do it – what do you think?”

What do I think?! I think this is the best news ever!  I had never considered asking Kelly to go with me, which was silly considering I had been asking almost everyone else.

Kelly and I discussed the realities of the trip. I explained the LONG flight, the reason for the trip. where we would be staying, and what duties she would need to perform. I was very honest about my needs. Every time I mentioned something, Kelly’s response was, “Well, that won’t be a problem.”

Kelly is a nurse and works at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Although she does not do direct patient care like toileting and bathing in her current job, she understands the basics – like how to perform a stand-pivot transfer in and out of a wheelchair. For me, finding someone who already knew the basics, who was used to providing assistance, took a layer of stress off the trip.

Although Kelly is my cousin, we have always lived on opposite sides of the country so we have never spent long amounts of time together. Several people questioned me before the trip, wondering how compatible we would be. I never worried about that because I know Kelly is an easy-going person who knows not to sweat the details she can’t control.

Kelly gave up two weeks of her life so I could fulfill a dream, and I will always be grateful. Since Kelly lives in Arizona, we met in Los Angeles to start our journey. I wheeled off the plane to see her standing with a smile and heard her say, “G’day! Isn’t that what they say?”Two women sitting eating ice cream at an outdoor table. The woman on the left has brown hair and glasses and is wearing a blue sweater. The woman on the right has red hair and is wearing a white jacket over a pink shirt.

Kelly was the perfect travel partner – upbeat, flexible, positive, social and FUN! I never heard her complain during our trip, even when things didn’t go quite as expected. Kelly just went with the flow no matter what happened. She listened to me practice my speech multiple times, offering suggestions and feedback each time rather than just tuning me out. She helped me perform at my best at every event while still charming the people we met with her humor and kindness.Photo of the author, a brunette wearing glasses, and her cousin, a red head.

At the end of our journey, as Kelly and I parted in Los Angeles after our long flight back home across the Pacific, we both said “thank you” in unison. We laughed as we hugged, knowing each of us had learned from the other during our adventure.

Kelly – thank you so very much for sacrificing two weeks of your time and energy for me. Without you, this trip would not have happened. I would travel again with you anytime because of all the fun we had. I appreciate all the little things you did to make it easier for me to be at my best. You were calm when I needed calm, eager to try new things, and able to be “on” without warning. From our time together, I learned new ways to appreciate so many of life’s joys. Your generosity and appreciation for all creatures helped me view familiar sights with fresh insight. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go back!A woman with red hair stands next to a sign which reads "GASP!"

Image of slate with text: 30 Days of Thanks

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow is November 1. I don’t know how it is upon us so quickly. It seems like it was just here!

Once again, I will be using this blog to participate in 30 Days of Thanks throughout November. In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. 30 Days of Thanks started as a way for people to express gratitude on more than just one day. I participated in 30 Days of Thanks using my Facebook account until I had a blog. Last year I wrote profiles of friends and family members – thank you notes expressing why they are so important in my life.

By far, the most momentous event in my life this past year was my trip to Australia. Many people supported my travel with gifts and donations. Without their help and generosity, the trip would not have happened.

When I was raising funds for the trip, I promised to write a personalized memoir for those donors. So, I plan to use my 30 Days of Thanks this year to recognize some of the people who made my dream a reality.

I have obtained permission from everyone I will profile. There are others who made donations towards my trip who do not wish me to share their thank you on my blog. I am respecting their wishes and will send them personal notes. Unfortunately, there are only thirty days in November and I need more days to thank everyone individually. I have contacted those supporters who will not be profiled over the next thirty days due to space or prior profiles last year, and they know I am not snubbing them by not including them on the blog this year.

How blessed I am to have so many people to thank! This is really a wonderful “problem” to face. I am surrounded by love and humbled by the generosity so many extended to me this past year.

While I am sharing my thank you’s this month, I will not be writing any Redefining Disability Challenge posts. Those posts will resume on Wednesdays in December.

I often hear people grumble and complain about the need to write thank you notes. However, I view them as a gift for the giver. And I love giving unique gifts, so I enjoy writing them. I appreciate all of you who will take the time to read my notes over the next month, and encourage you to make time to offer some thanks to those who matter in your world.

 

Thanks 41!

Tomorrow I will be forty-two. I am excited about another birthday. When I wake on Monday morning, it will mean I have another chance to do my best, another opportunity to tell the ones I love how much they mean to me, another day to be grateful for this miracle called life.

Five months before my fortieth birthday, I almost lost my chance to have any additional birthdays. Complications from what should have been routine surgery brought me the closest I have ever come to death. Upon awaking from my coma, I promised myself I would celebrate all future days – especially birthdays.

Forty was FABULOUS! I threw a fun party with family and friends, and pledged to stop letting fear hold me back from pursuing my purpose. That year I fell in and out of love for the second time in my life, rediscovered writing and accepted my first paid speaking job. I spent time exploring parks and historical sights around my community. I rekindled relationships with Rotarians from my past and received the invitation to return to Australia – setting the stage for the year ahead.

And what am AMAZING year forty-one has been!

Australia.

Montreal.

Being published in a local anthology featuring writers with disabilities.

Woman in a wheelchair on a stage in front of flags from the US, China and Spain. She is wearing an orange skirt, a floral blouse, glasses and a lapel microphone.
One of my most amazing moments this year was speaking at the Rotary District 9830 OneCare District Conference in Tasmania, Australia. Photo courtesy of P. Jack.

Did I mention Australia?

Sure, there were challenges. My wheelchair broke down. My personal care team went through transition. I had a reminder about priorities when neighbors faced tragedy. But forty-one was by far one of the best years I have had.

I am profoundly grateful to have been given so much this year when many I know and love are struggling and facing despair. I am not sharing this post because I want to brag about the blessings in my world. I am not sharing it because I want to appear as if my life is “better” than anyone else’s life.

I share the gratitude I feel with all of you because your support, friendship, and love made forty-one so incredible. Your kindness and generosity, your comments when I was feeling frustrated, and your encouragement made a difference in how I approached this year. Because you believed in me, I was able to help people through my writing and my speaking. And helping others has been the best gift this year.

So, as I prepare to celebrate another birthday, I will say a prayer of thanks for all of you who take the time to bring joy and happiness to my world. I can’t wait to see what forty-two has in store.

I have a hunch it will be BRILLIANT!