A Birthday and Many Thanks

So I know it’s been a while since I posted, and I wanted to apologize for that. I got off my regular schedule when I went on vacation, and it’s been hard to get back to it. That on top of some personal things going on in my life have not made it easy to post regularly. However, I am making a commitment (and telling all of you, so that I will stick to it) that I will post every Tuesday and Friday from now on.

And although it’s been a little while since my 23rd birthday, today’s post is about that. Leading up my birthday, I knew it was going to be hard. This would be the first birthday without my parents, without my mother, and the second big celebration without her (second only to Mother’s Day of course). And while I knew it was okay to just be upset about that, it was still my birthday. I knew I didn’t want to spend the day feeling miserable.

Knowing that I would be on vacation on my birthday and be surrounded by three of my precious nephews was comforting, but still I wanted to do something more. I have seen for years, as I am sure most of you have as well, all the Facebook fundraisers that people do, often on their birthdays, for nonprofits big and small. I thought it might be cool to do a small one of those for my birthday raising money for Ruth’s Cottage and the Patticake House, a local domestic violence shelter, which also helps sexual assault and child abuse victims as well.

I started the fundraiser a week before my birthday on July 2nd, and had the end date set for exactly a week after my birthday. I set my fundraising goal for $230 in honor of my 23rd birthday and just slightly above Facebook’s $200 minimum for fundraisers. Within an hour of posting the fundraiser, I nearly double the original goal. I was astounded. I had initially been worried that I wouldn’t even meet the goal of $230. To go over it in such a short time was incredible.

As the day went on, people continued donating Ruth’s Cottage the director of the shelter, as well as others, even shared the fundraiser to their Facebook pages encouraging people to donate if they were able. I decided to change my goal to $2,300 instead of the initial $230 because of the incredible response I was getting on that first day, although I was still worried I would not meet that goal.

The next day, the Friday before we were supposed to leave for vacation, Ron and I decided to celebrate my birthday, just the two of us, a little early. We ate lunch together at my office, got Chinese takeout (that both of us had been craving for weeks), and went to a socially-distanced play in our local park (which you might have seen on my Instagram), and then did my cake (which my husband made himself!). My husband also got me what has to be the cutest present I’ve ever received. So for years now, Ron has always drawn little cartoon like drawings of the first nephew born on my side of the family and has started incorporating his brother and cousin since they’ve been born as well. For my birthday present this year, Ron had his sister, who has the equipment to do vinyl cutouts for t-shirts and stickers and other things, make a t-shirt with a drawing of all three boys that says “Best Aunt Ever.” I nearly cried when I saw it.

Here’s the t-shirt Ron had made for me by his sister for my birthday. He drew out my oldest nephew holding his younger brother and younger cousin and then had his sister turn that drawing into a shirt.

The next morning, Ron and I left for vacation, as did my sister and brother and their families. Cell service/wifi at our beach house was a little spotty, so it was hard to keep tabs on how well my fundraiser was doing. I knew that it had been getting fairly close to the $2,300 goal, but by the time I checked it on my birthday, it had already surpassed the goal, and by the end of the day, it would go over $2,500 and all total, it would raise $2,700.

My actual birthday was spent poolside with my family, my amazing husband, and my adorable nephews (who we couldn’t get to look at the camera in this picture).

There were donations ranging from $5 to $250. Donations were made for $23 in honor of the age I was turning, and one donation was made for $52, in honor of the age Mama had been when she died. There were donations from family members, from friends I had known all my life, from people I or Mama had worked with at some point, and then were donations from people I had never even met. I was amazed by the response of people, amazed by their generosity and willingness to both honor my birthday and my mother’s life. I was somehow still amazed at the wide reaching impact Mama had during her lifetime, and I was amazed at the impact it seemed I had on people who had not known my mama but knew me. And while it could not replace my mother being there for my birthday, I spent the day surrounded my two of my three siblings and their beautiful children, my loving husband, and knowing that I had started a fundraiser that raised over two thousand dollars for a cause that was important to me. A cause that could prevent other women from dying in the way that my mother did.

I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all those who donated for my birthday fundraiser. I know this is a belated thank you, but know that I truly mean it nonetheless. Your donations made a day without my mother, a day that in some ways I was dreading for that very reason, a much happier day. You made it much easier for me to choose happiness.

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