Birthday Shenanigans

It was a stabbing pain to the left side of my forehead, my temple throbbed, as I opened my eyes and blinked and tried to focus on my husband, who was standing at the side of our bed with a tray in his hand.

“Wake up…It’s your birthday breakfast, Sweetie.” He said as he smiled and handed me the tray with the plate of bacon and eggs. “It’s your favorite.”

The left side of my head was throbbing unmercilessly. “My head hurts…Noooooo…Not today…Babe…Motrin, now, please.” I rubbed the left side of my forehead as I sat up in bed.

I couldn’t figure out why today of all days, on my birthday, I woke up with a headache. I was not amused as I looked up at the ceiling and issued a warning to the imaginary Gods of the Universe. “Today is my day and you’re not going to screw with it. I will enjoy MY day!”

Damn, I’m Determined

My husband suggested that it might be the “wine from last night” that was causing my headache. My thoughts went back to the night before; we certainly started the birthday celebrations off with a bang. Greg, my husband, took me to see the Donna Summer Musical on Broadway, which was excellent. I was singing and dancing with the rest of the audience, especially with the gay couple who sat directly in front of us and who were having the time of their lives. By the end of the night, one half of the gay couple and I found ourselves in the aisle of the Lunt-Fontanne Theater dancing up a storm to Hot Stuff and Last Dance. Oh, what a fun time it was!

After we left the show we walked the 6 blocks to Gallagher’s Steakhouse, me in my high heels strutting my stuff pretending not to feel the start of the inevitable high heel ache that comes on after a few hours of wearing stilettos. Oh, how I miss my youth! I used to be able to rock those babies all night long; but not anymore. I made a mental note to slip into my sandals as soon as we sat down in the restaurant, but for now, the birthday girl in her birthday outfit needed to keep moving along gracefully in those 5-inch heels. Yes, people, I walked 6 NYC blocks in 5-inch heels! My Mom always said, “Beauty feels no pain.” Someone should have added to that saying “until the next day.”

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The high heel wearing ache was nothing compared to the migraine that was trying to force me to spend my birthday in bed. I wasn’t having it though, I swallowed some Motrin and hopped out of bed and started getting ready for the gym. Greg thought I was crazy. I tried explaining that for the past decade I have been going to the gym on my birthday every year and I wasn’t about to break the tradition. Besides, my gym gave away a free protein shake to everyone on their birthday. I had waited 365 days for my free shake and I was going to get it.

Greg looked at me like I was insane!

“It’s my birthday, Babe. I have to go to the gym. How else am I gonna see my gym buddies so I can get my well-wishes and birthday hugs? Greg just stared at me in disbelief and walked out of the room. He was clearly fighting a losing battle trying to convince me to stay in bed until the headache subsided.

So I donned my birthday button and left for the gym. πŸ˜ƒ

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I have been wearing my button every year for longer than I can remember. It’s so much easier than telling everyone I run into that “today is my birthday.”

By the time I arrived at the gym, the Motrin was taking effect and I was feeling good.

At the start of the Aerobics Step class, the instructor had the class sing “Happy Birthday” to me. I loooooved it!!! It was a scene right out of grade school, the only thing missing were the cupcakes. I couldn’t be happier. The day was headed in the right direction.

As I walked out of the gym sipping on my free protein shake I noticed the morning clouds had cleared, the sky was a gorgeous blue and the temperature was a lovely 75 degrees. Afternoon showers had been predicted but the Universe knew it was my birthday and gave me the best day weather-wise.

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The Crash!

Greg and I had planned lunch and the movies – since going to the movies is one of my favorite pastimes, what better way to spend the afternoon. (Check out my blog piece on the movies here Let’s Go to the Movies!)

As we sat having lunch at the restaurant across the street from the Cinema, I felt the migraine coming back. Truth be told I felt the headache trying to make a comeback while I was getting ready to go out to lunch, but I refused to stay indoors, I refused to take more painkillers and go back to bed. I was fighting the good fight, I wanted to be out and about on my birthday. I tried helplessly to ignore the throbbing pain on the left side of my temple. Then it happened – A cough followed by a sneeze and that’s when I knew I had no more fight left in me.

“Take me home,” I whispered to my husband.

The poor man look worried. He could not believe his ears. No, I did not want to go to the movies anymore. No, I did not want the “birthday” chocolate mousse dessert I was offered by our nice waitress. Yes, I was sure I wanted to go home. Then I sneezed again and I almost cried. I was getting sick…On my goddamn birthday!!!! What kind of cruel joke was this?

I had dinner plans that night with my best friends, another birthday tradition. I couldn’t afford to be sick. When I arrived home I got under the covers swallowed some flu medication and dozed off to Kavanaugh’s voice vehemently denying the allegations levied against him. Yes, my birthday was the most historical day of the Senate Judiciary Hearings.

Never underestimate the power of a nap! I woke up a whole new woman, got dressed and headed out to meet my girls for my birthday dinner. It was a fun evening of great conversation and loads of laugh but I dare not touch a drop of alcohol because I could feel the migraine waiting in the wings to make a nasty comeback.

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The Birthday Party

I am sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that I have a birthday party every year. This year the party was planned for the Saturday night, 2 days after my birthday.

The day after my birthday, that is the eve of my birthday party, I spent most of the day in bed. I was miserable. The day should have been spent delightfully running around doing last minute prepping for my party, which thankfully was a small party, a very intimate affair, this year; but instead, the flu-like symptoms came on full force and I spent the day in bed cursing at the untimely onset of my illness and trying to decide whether or not I should cancel my party.

I was sneezing and coughing and headachy for most of Friday but woke up on Saturday morning, the day of the party, feeling like I could conquer the World (thank you God for Tylenol Flu and Cold tablets). The party was on, and when Greg came home with my birthday cake the party vibe hit me even more.

I spent the better part of Saturday busying myself with party preparations, I thoroughly enjoy doing stuff like that, and was content with hanging balloons and strategically moving around stuff in my house to facilitate my guests until the endless coughing and sneezing came back just 4 hours before my party was supposed to begin. I was livid! What made it worse was every time I coughed or sneezed, the cough or sneeze triggered a ruthless headache that lasted at least 10 minutes.

I even tried to bargain with God, I promised him that if he would keep me in good spirits for the rest of the evening he could make me bed-ridden all of next week. God wasn’t having it though and at 3:30 I had to crawl back into bed even though the party was scheduled to start at 7 pm.

Again, never underestimate the power of a nap. I still wasn’t a hundred percent when I woke up but I took a look at my cake and my dress (one must draw inspiration from wherever one canπŸ˜‰), turned on some Donna Summer music while I was getting ready and willed myself to feel better; and oh yeah took some more of that magical Tylenol Cold and Flu tablets.

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In the end, the party turned out to be a success, I remained “fierce and fabulous” in true Racquel form for the entire night. However, this birthday taught me that I can’t do it like I used to, now I need to take naps in between in order to keep going. πŸ˜ƒ After all, I am a year older; but I won’t give up though, I will never settle into being old, I will never readily concede. I am never ever going down without a fight.

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One love, Racquel!!!!

Birthday Alert!

Today is my favorite day of the year because today is all about me. Today I get to be unapologetically selfish since today is my birthday.

I love birthdays because it’s a time of celebration and reflection. It’s an excuse to celebrate yourself and to examine strides you have made, no matter how small, and to plan goals for your next 365-day orbit around the sun.

One of the things I like to do on my birthday (or during the week of my birthday; since the actual birthday itself is always chockful of activities) is to write down all the things I am grateful for that occurred during the past year followed by another list with a few goals I would like to achieve during the upcoming year. Doing this gives my life intention and even though things may not go exactly as I planned all the time it does give me some purpose and a lot to look forward to.

My husband loves my enthusiasm surrounding birthdays and has confessed that his birthdays have gotten so much better since he’s known me.😊 I not only make a big deal about my own birthday, but I also make a big deal about everyone else’s. I use to wake up my son with a dozen or more balloons every year on his birthday (while singing him “Happy Birthday” in my tone-deaf off-key voice) simply because when he was little he loved balloons.

I cannot emphasize how special it is to experience a healthy, stress-free birthday. Life should be celebrated. Always! We get so busy with our everyday existence and obligations that we run the risk of not celebrating ourselves. The least we can do is to take a day – at least one day – where we indulge ourselves with our whims and fancies; and what better day to do it than on your birthday. You are so worth it!

To each his own, but as long as I live I will never understand those who tell me that their birthday “is no big deal, it’s just another day.” Yes, of course, it’s another day but it’s your day a day that should be acknowledged, recognized or celebrated even if in the smallest manner.

My celebrations started last night with the Donna Summer Musical on Broadway followed by a nice dinner with my Love. The birthday is off to a great start, and I am truly excited to continue celebrating, not only today but also the remainder of the week. Happy Birthday to Me!!!!! πŸŽ‚πŸŽ‰πŸŽ

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Growing Old Gracefully (or not)!

The alternative to aging is death, so obviously I’ll take aging any day over being 6 feet under but hello why must the process be so damn hard. A show of hands, please, from those who wake up every day to some kind of mysterious body ache or pain. Oh, not you! It might be only me, then. Well, I am not ashamed to say that within the past few years I feel like my body has been slowly breaking down. From no longer being able to just run up a flight of stairs, to holding onto the arm of the chair when I get up from a seated position, to that mysterious ache that has somehow, over the years, moved from my left knee to my right knee back to my left knee again and even more recently back spasms; I am here to say that aging sucks!

It took me years, (clears throat) who am I kidding? It took me decades to finally fall in love with my body. I’m sure, like me, you grew up bombarded with images of what the perfect body should look like from the perpetually ‘high school skinny’ female models to the muscular, rock-hard bodies of their male counterparts plastered all over bestselling magazines, it took me a while to accept my thick thighs, my not so buxom bosom, my huge behind, my very wide, child-bearing hips and of course my belly. However, as soon as I started accepting my body, all of it, even the cellulite; as I settled into being comfortable with my imperfect weight to height ratio; here it is that my body has slowly started to let me know in no uncertain terms that I am not young anymore.

Active Lifestyle

I’ll be 45 on my next birthday, which happens to be next month, and I have always lived a pretty active lifestyle. Do I run marathons? No, I don’t. I’m the girl who can’t run a full mile without becoming out of breath, but I can walk 10 miles without stopping at a fairly fast pace. Am I CrossFit / Insanity type fitness enthusiast? Nope, not at all. All that jumping coupled with the incredulous amount of burpees aren’t for me; but I can keep pace with the best of them in any regular aerobics, step, spin or boot camp class. I actually like to exercise and have been doing so consistently since I was in high school. Plus I have had always had a gym membership since I started College so, I can’t for the life of me, understand why my body has started to feel like someone who has never enjoyed the benefits of exercise. Isn’t it supposed to be that the more active you are the younger and fitter you will feel despite your true age? I was under the misguided impression that was how it worked. Thankfully, I look younger than my age but I’m certainly starting to feel every bit of the 44 years that I have been around.

Aches and Pains

It began with the left knee, a few years ago, that suddenly started hurting out of the blue. I went to see a doctor, had an MRI done and I was told that I had a torn cartilage. Alright, fine, that happens to the best of us. I followed the doctor’s orders and consistently did all the exercises required to strengthen the muscles around the knee in order to prevent joint instability and further damage. I can’t remember how long it took but soon I wasn’t feeling any pain, not even a minor ache; than a couple of years later the same pain came back again but this time the pain had mysteriously moved over to the right knee. Like, WTH?! I went through the entire process again with the doctors and the MRIs but this time I was told that the MRI didn’t show anything wrong. Really? Well, why does my right knee hurt then? “Age, perhaps!” was the response from the doctor. Wait! What?!

Over the years the pain in both my left knee and my right knee kind of just comes and goes. I will go months and not feel any pain in either of them and then out of nowhere one will start hurting for a couple of days, then the pain will switch to the other knee or just magically disappear. It’s the weirdest thing, but I suppose that as long as both knees don’t hurt at the same time I think I can live with it.

The Metabolism

It’s a known fact that the older you get the more your metabolism slows down. Well, my metabolism has not only slowed down but it has freaking stopped! It’s like I cannot lose that extra 10 pounds no matter what I do or how hard I try.

When I was younger, all I had to do was think of losing weight and the pounds would just miraculously melt away. Once, when I was in College, I purchased a dress 2 sizes smaller than my regular size (the store didn’t have my size and I just had to have that particul dress) to wear out the following weekend. I was confident that I could drop enough weight in seven days to fit into that gorgeous red dress, and guess what? I did! I went on what was called the Cabbage Soup Diet for a week and lost even more weight than I had anticipated. It was just that easy! Yes, it took tonnes of discipline to only eat/drink that horrid cabbage soup for an entire week but I hung the dress on the door to my dorm, where I could see it daily, as a way of motivating me and I did it. I was able to slide into that little red number on the very following Saturday night, despite it being 2 sizes smaller, just a week before, when it was purchased.

Now, I’ll exercise the same discipline I had back then by spending even more time, weeks on end, eating fruits, and vegetables, and drinking green smoothies; I’ll even amp up my workout at the gym and I still won’t lose a pound, not a single pound. If I’m not careful, I might even gain a pound or two, even on a strict regiment. Why? You guessed it; because of aging.

Doctors

For years, as an adult, I only had one doctor, and that doctor was my gynecologist. At the time, I only needed one doctor to maintain my health and vitality, just one. However, as I have gotten older my list of doctors has grown significantly and I now need a team of doctors to help me stay healthy and to assist in the fight against the aging process. It is truly a phenomenon that I have gone from only having one doctor that I would see annually to now having 5 doctors – an orthopedic doctor, a chiropractor, an internist, a radiologist and most recently a dermatologist – that I see on a regular basis; and I am a reasonably healthy woman. A team of doctors is now needed because I just happen to be getting older. I mean, who would have thought that having not visited a dermatologist in my entire 44 years on this planet that in recent months I would have had to go to the dermatologist, not once but 4 times. Apparently, there is something called adult acne.

The truth is I am healthy, and I am very lucky that whatever little bit of aches and pains that I may feel is minor; but I can’t help but think back to only a decade ago to the things my body could do effortlessly and painlessly without much thought. These days I won’t do certain exercise moves without first thinking about whether or not I might inadvertently pull something and, or, wake up with that brutal after workout pain that causes me to walk and flinch for the next 24 to 36 hours.

Having birthdays and aging is indeed a privilege but growing old gracefully, well, that is a matter of choice. What will you choose? As for me, I choose to fight the aging process. I will continue to cover my greys with Clairol Nice N’ Easy hair color, I will still wear my high heels, who knows, I may even go dancing in them too; and when I take my selfies, I’ll make sure to use a selfie stick and hold it as far away as possible, so that my laugh lines won’t show in the picture.