And there was a cupcake

June 11, 2019

Before he passed, my Dad put our family cabin on the market. It closed last week and I received the check on Monday. Since it was a rather large amount, I went into the bank to deposit it into my Mom’s account on Tuesday.

The teller was quite chatty, and the transaction took a long time, and she had to have someone else approve the deposit, and at some point I started crying quietly. I haven’t been able to enter a bank without crying since Dad’s death. I’m not sure what the trigger is, and I thought perhaps this day would be different, but it wasn’t. I mumbled, “I’m so sorry. My father recently passed away and dealing with paperwork is difficult.”

She excitingly said, “Oh, tomorrow is your birthday! Happy birthday!” I smiled wanly and thanked her. “Are you doing anything extraordinary and special?” And what went through my mind was, “I’ll be celebrating without my biggest supporter, my Dad.” Last year’s birthday was extraordinary and special – so many of my friends came to Asheville to celebrate 50 turns around the sun. And Dad loved it. He always loved interacting with my friends and was always so charming. He reminded me of how lucky I was to have such strong friendships.

Instead, what I said was, “No, not really” and tried not to sob loudly, the tears running more quickly down my cheeks, annoyingly hot in the air-conditioned bank.

“Would you go out and get a cupcake? And maybe put a candle on it?” she asked.

“Maybe,” was all I could muster as I received the deposit slip and walked out of the bank into the hot, hot summer day.


June 12, 2019

Mom and I went to a friend’s house for dinner. It was the happiest I’ve seen her since she moved to Asheville. She had a glass of wine, she ate a full meal, and she accepted a piece of cake to take home. It was the most perfect birthday present I could ask for.

I took her home, we sat on her balcony, we watched the sun set behind the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then I returned home.

As I walked onto my porch, I noticed a cupcake, right there on one of the chairs, next to the mailbox. It was beautiful. A chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, so perfectly swirled, with two blueberries and one raspberry on top, with decorative papers, and enclosed in a plastic clam shell.

“A cupcake!” I thought, and brought it inside.


June 13, 2019

I had back to back meetings all day and didn’t stop for meals. Around 1:30 pm, I was hungry. I saw the cupcake on the counter and took a bite. The icing, so smooth, so just a hint of raspberry deliciousness, perfectly complemented the moist chocolate cake.

I ate the whole thing.

During the last bite, I had a thought. “I just ate a cupcake and I have no idea where it came from or who left it on my porch. I’ve become that person who just trusts people leaving food on her porch.”

And I think I’m okay with that.

And if whoever left the cupcake is reading this, thank you for the second most perfect birthday gift you could have given me.

Note: image is not the actual cupcake. I ate the whole darn thing before I even considered taking a photo.


Today I turn fifty. I’m not really sure what I expected fifty to feel like, but I don’t feel much different than before. In no way was I dreading this birthday; I’ve loved birthdays that end in “0”s in the same way that I’ve loved birthdays with the same double digits (11, 22, 33, 44, etc). They feel more special than the others. I love that my birthday is the same day as Loving Day (and off by just one year from the actual pronouncement). I like to think that I was born of a generation that recognized equality for all (I know that we haven’t, though). I’m saddened that two years ago my birthday was the day of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida. For the past three years, it’s made me reflect on how much work we still have to do with regards to gun control, tolerance, and acceptance. These feelings mix with each other in a fabric that can only be described as human.

The overwhelming feeling that I’m feeling this year, however, is grateful. So incredibly grateful.

I moved back to North Carolina in September last year. I looked forward to moving to a smaller city after living in San Francisco for twenty-five years. I looked forward to quiet, to calm, to a slower pace of life, and to being closer to mountain trails. And I’ve found all of those. And more. I’ve found community, and kindness, and friendliness. As I planned to move, though, I did think to myself, “I’m kind of sad I won’t be in San Francisco to celebrate my 50th birthday.” San Francisco is where my friends are – the ones who I’ve known for twenty plus years. When I was moving, I envisioned having dinner at a nice restaurant in Asheville by myself on my birthday. A lovely birthday, but perhaps a lonely one.

Yet that’s not what happened.

Earlier in the year, a few friends said that they wanted to fly to Asheville to celebrate with me. I was taken aback. Flying to Asheville isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s a tiny, charming, regional airport with very few direct flights to anywhere. So I planned a few events – a lunch at a favorite local restaurant, Rhubarb, an evening at Biltmore to see Chihuly’s work, a bbq at my house. And the weekend so far exceeded any expectations I could have imagined.

Friends from college met friends from San Francisco met friends from Atlanta met friends from New York met friends from Asheville met friends from water aerobics class met family. Everyone loved getting to know each other. There was amazing food (hello, bbq!) and engaging conversation. There were bouquets among bouquets of flowers (my absolute favorite gift in the world). And there was love. So much love in the air.

A local friend told me, “Just enjoy the present moment. You never know what will come next. But you can love, and appreciate, what you have right now.” Great advice not just for birthdays, but for every day. 


A Quite Unexpected Most Wonderful Birthday

Some years I’ve had well-planned, spectacular birthday celebrations. This year’s snuck up on me. And might have been the best birthday yet.

Two former co-workers and dear friends were having their wedding celebration in Guerneville this weekend. It was to be an all-weekend affair: Friday barbecue, Saturday morning hike, Saturday afternoon ceremony, Saturday evening dancing and merriness, and a Sunday morning brunch. I wasn’t sure when I’d be back in San Francisco, so I declined plans to do anything on my actual birthday, today.

I didn’t anticipate that I would know so many people at the wedding. When I arrived at the barbecue on Friday afternoon, it was such a pleasant surprise to see former co-workers and other friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I felt as though I was constantly standing up to give and/or receive hugs. Never a bad thing. For dessert, we roasted S’Mores around a roaring campfire while huddled in blankets to ward off the descending chill. I drifted to sleep with campfire in my hair – one of my favorite smells.

Saturday morning found five of us squished into a vinyl-covered, ruby-red padded booth in an all-American diner, ordering steak, eggs, hash browns, bacon, laughing over the previous night’s antics. Afterward, we wandered through a redwood forest, gazing intently at majestic redwoods over a thousand years old. Sunlight danced, sparkling intermittently through the tops of the trees.

Watching Dustin and Laura exchange their vows in a meadow surrounded by redwoods,  friends and family gathered, gave me pause. I have so much to be thankful for. I live in a beautiful part of the world. I’ve had amazing jobs that have challenged me to grow both personally and professionally. I’ve met incredible and interesting people and have maintained lovely friendships. And I’m sitting here, watching two of my dear friends share vows to start a life together, surrounded by family and friends who love them and will support them in reaching that goal. Love and joy and hope filled the air.

Dinner in the orchard was followed by dancing by the pool. The band included a banjo player – how can you not be happy when listening to a banjo’s twang? It’s impossible. Know what else is impossible? To dance and not feel pure joy. We swung, we stomped, we hora’ed, we moshed.

A few minutes after the stroke of midnight, I heard a commotion behind me. I turned around to see two friends approaching, singing a rousing rendition of the Happy Birthday song, carrying a cupcake overflowing with brightly burning candles. What could I possibly wish for? I hadn’t stopped smiling all weekend.

I arrive home, tired but happy, looking forward to a quiet evening. I opened my door and noticed a “Happy Birthday” banner hanging across the wall. I paused for a split second, trying to remember why that would be there. Had I hung it up and forgotten about it? No. When I left on Friday my apartment was in its normal state. What was this? I entered the living room and saw multitudes of brightly colored shiny twirling ribbons streaming from the ceiling, with balloons floating in the corner. I squealed with delight, jumping up and down and clapping. Who had done this? Who has keys to my apartment? I searched the apartment, looking for a note, a card, a clue to who had done this. I love surprises, especially when I have no idea they’re being planned. I made a couple of calls, expressing delight and gratitude, hoping that I had guessed correctly about who might have done this.

A quite unexpected, but most wonderful birthday.