“Happy Big Birthday to Me … and You!” Feb. 19, 2018

I’m writing this on the eve of a pretty big birthday. Never mind how big. It’s my biggest so far. To celebrate, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned, decade by decade. Here goes:

In my first 10 years, I learned to walk, talk, feed myself, read, write, do arithmetic, mind my manners (if not my business) and try to do as I was told. I learned to love sunsets and biscuits and the company of a good dog; how to run like the wind, laugh in my belly and keep my chin up, rain or shine. I learned that the world isn’t always safe or fair, but it is new every day; that there are things you can trust and things you can’t, and you need to trust yourself to know the difference.

In my second decade, I left childhood behind, survived my teens and learned to make big choices: First, to go to college; then, to leave my family in the South and move to California. I also stopped doing exactly as I was told and tried to think more for myself. I was still the person I’d always been. But like a reflection that becomes clearer as troubled water grows calm, I began to see not only who I was, but who I hoped to become.

In my 20s, I got married and had three babies. Talk about an education. Becoming a mother taught me to love someone more than I loved myself. To put their needs before my own. To do all that I possibly could to nurture, protect and make them happy. More than a lesson, it was a gift. I knew it the moment I first felt them flutter like a moth inside of me. They’re older now than I was then, and I still feel the same way about them.

In my 30s and 40s, I learned to juggle laundry, meals and lives for five people; keep score for baseball and basketball games; write a weekly column for a newspaper; and help my husband battle cancer. Those years slipped like sand through my fingers. But there were moments that seemed to whisper, “Watch this, treasure it, remember it, learn from it.”

So I did. I learned that, in Little League, some kids pitch, some kids hit, and some play the outfield to pick daisies for their mom. Socks can be reworn without washing and no one will be the wiser. A fried egg counts as supper. Writing a column is a strange way to earn a living. Chemotherapy is not fun, even if you aren’t the patient. And prayer is always answered, but not always as we hope.

I began my 50s as a widow. It taught me many things, such as this: In good times and bad, it helps to have family, friends and readers … and a wise daughter who says, “Mom, you might not feel like it, but we are going to celebrate your birthday.”

Her words became my goal: To celebrate, no matter how I felt, the gift of being alive. Gratitude and joy aren’t just feelings. They are actions. Grief may numb them for a while. But if we practice them, sooner or later, the feelings will return.

A friend sent me a sympathy card that promised: “Just when you think you will never smile again, life comes back.” I kept it by my bed, read it every night. Then, one day, I smiled. And I ended my 50s as a bride.

Three things marked my 60s: My new husband’s job changed; we left our family in California and moved to Las Vegas; and then we became grandparents — six times in seven years. Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. We like it a lot. But it’s got nothing on a child who calls you “Nana!”

Big birthdays make us thankful for all the years we’ve been given and hopeful for at least one more. Who knows? This may be the year we’ll move back to California. And the Giants will win another Series. And I’ll quit dying my roots.

Life is worth celebrating every day, whether it’s a birthday or just another day to be alive.

Here’s wishing you a happy birthday whenever it may be.

You don’t need to send me a birthday card. Unless you really want to.


  1. Nancy Clark says:

    Happy Birthday, I read your column and cried through every word you wrote. I related to everything except the cancer. However, I’ve been a single Mom for the last 10 years with zero contact with a dead beat daddy. I’ll be empty nesting it shortly for my son will be graduating from high school. I tell myself to remember this moment. I too will be 60 soon and lost.
    Happy Birthday and Congratulations
    Nancy Clark

  2. Terry L King says:

    Hi Sharon,. I read your columns in the Defiance Crescent, Defiance Ohio. I put 2 and 2 together and have a pretty good idea which big birthday you celebrated! For what it is worth, you look younger than your age. Happy Birthday!


  3. Mona Baen says:

    Happy Birthday Sharon. Once again, our local paper has eliminated your column. It is a loss to people who have no other way to discover your talents. Your column today was so well written, true, interesting and educational to many young women who are struggling through life. I wish I could have read something like this as a much younger woman. Give them an idea of what to expect with each decade, and the curve balls life throws at you won’t be a complete surprise. Wonderfully written, much appreciated, and I will continue to read your column online every Sunday. It’s my special Sunday treat. Hope you make it to California. And, thanks for checking on us when the Hurricane hit South Texas last summer.

  4. Shelley Kellerman says:

    Happy Birthday Sharon!! I read your column every week on line since our newspaper decided to not have your column any longer. You and I emailed back and forth after they no longer carried and I contacted our editor as you suggested but unfortunately to no avail. As long as I get to read it on line I am happy. I wouldn’t miss it. One of your many faithful readers.

  5. Gwen Russell says:

    Hey Sharon, I just finished rereading your Birdbaths and Paper Cranes again. I brought you into my life in 1997 while I was off work healing a broken neck in a wreck that took the life of my daughter Heather. We met a few years later when you visited the library I worked at in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. I still feel the hug we shared. I love you and pray you has a fantabulous b-day imaginable. I’ll be 69 in May. God bless and keep you. Gwen Russell’s

  6. Wally Mueller says:

    Happy birthday ol’ friend, it’s been awhile since I’ve said this to you. You share the same birth date as my love, Jane. We all just keep plugging along, isn’t that great? Here’s to another great year.
    Your devoted reader in Texas,

  7. Alice Marie from Tennesee says:

    “Roza” Sharon , Your Birthday Letter was a lovely gift to me. I’ll save it for mine. I’ll be 97 in June You certainly have experienced a lot of living and loving for one as young as you!

  8. Kate Sciacca says:

    A blessed and very happy birthday to you! I hope this IS the year you get back to CA and family… and stop worrying about the roots (heck, I’m 62 and still WAITING for gray hair) – but about that Giants thing…. ummm…. well…. yeah, no. 😉

  9. Happy Birthday Sharon, I hope your birthday was a big deal. As you know we only get one birthday a year. So we must get the most out of our ”day”. Sharon I took my Mother to see you when you were in Bristol, Tn. We made a dinner date also that night. Got to set on front row watching your beautiful face light up as you were talking. It was close to Mothers Day. My Mother has since gone on to Heaven…..oh how I remember that dazzling night my Mother & I shared with you. Thank you Sharon for my lovely memories. Connie

  10. Marilyn Green says:

    Hope your birthday was the happiest ever. I take our local paper only because they continued to carry your column….and the obits. You are much better than the obits. I do enjoy your columns. You have such a warm way of expressing how life was and is and hopefully will be.

    • Kate Sciacca says:

      “You are much better than the obits.”

      Don’t know if you meant to, but that gave me a good chuckle 🙂 Thanks!

  11. Cynthia Giel says:

    Happy, happy birthday and many, many more!

  12. Ruth Ann says:

    Happy birthday Sharon. I love birthdays. I always consider it a time of great reflection of the joys and trials that have brought me through life. Your column today really put into words that I often lack in my ability to express in writing. Life is a journey, for sure. God bless you on your birthday and the days and years to come. Thank you for your words that always bring a smile and real life experiences.

  13. Darlene says:

    Best wishes for the Happiest Birthday Ever to an author who gives the gift of her column to her readers each week. You have been blessed with talent and we are fortunate to benefit from it. Thank you so very much and happy birthday!

  14. Shashi says:

    Happy birthday yo you, a genius columnist and writer. Lot of love. We talked about our past childhood days just today . I had only one sweater to wear in the cold. My mother knitted it. She knitted three more for my sister and two younger brothers. We never shivered with cold. Yes, I had two…one for school and one for home.All kids stayed warm. I am sure she had only one. But she knitted two for my father as well. My parents raised four kids with one salary.
    We live in states and she lives in India. They are very rich now when all kids are doing good jobs. They own few things only. We want more than 10 dresses for all seasons and forget which one is never used. Our parents never celebrate their birthdays. Our grand kids must know how we spent our young life. Thank you for this reminder. Love you!!

  15. Betty McNall says:

    Happy Birthday! I have been able to celebrate my birthday with my husband of 56 years, 57 years ago we got engaged on our birthday! This year, God willing, we will celebrated 58 years! Then 4 years later our 2nd child, a daughter, was born on our birthday! This made June 3rd an important date we have together. This is a wish to you for many more. Betty McNall

  16. Sheila says:

    A very happy birthday to my favorite columnist also! We have never met, but I feel like you are my friend. I have a feeling we just might have grown up in the same era.. just miles apart. Enjoy celebrating! 🎈🎈🎈

  17. Miriam Deluca says:

    Your column this week made my cry. Such wise words. Have a very happy and healthy birthday

  18. Portia Waters says:

    Happy Birthday, Sharon ! As always, you blessed us all with your insight … my mother and her group of friends had a name for someone you relate to in a special way .. a ‘heart sister’ … one who shares how you think and feel and this is the special feeling I have when I read your writings ! So, thank you for sharing with us – what is in your heart !

  19. Donna Glembin says:

    Happy Birthday to another February baby.

  20. Mariruth Coffin says:

    Happy Birthday! I’m halfway through the decade you are just beginning. It’s a great one, really!! Sometimes I can’t believe I’m this old. Kyle’s children have given me four great grandkids with another due next month. Of course, I have to travel to Tucson to love on them, but that’s great, too!!! Hope you are enjoying all your well wishes. I hope you will write your column for a few more decades. You bring such joy and comfort with your words.

  21. Sue Summers says:

    Happy birthday.

  22. Sue Summers says:

    A very happy birthday and be thankful you still have them. In May I will celebrate 84 birthdays.

  23. Judy Sheeler says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Not sure how the first sentence in my post earlier got there but I did not write that comment. I think it showed up the last time I posted something so if it shows up with this post ignore it.
    It’s a mystery! 😟

  24. Judy Sheeler says:

    Happy Birthday, Sharon! Hope it was a special day! My son, Eric’s birthday was today, too!
    He turned the big 50, so fried chicken and apple pie was his request for dinner. So guest what I was doing today!
    Always enjoy your column! Have another great year! 😊💕

  25. Pag says:

    Thank you for letting me not have to spend money on a card for you. You are too good to me. I look forward to your column every week. Hope I run out of birthdays before you do.

  26. Jeanie Anton says:

    I’m reading while relaxing in Hòi Àn, Vietnam 🇻🇳
    Your columns always bring back many memories of the Randall family. Recently I met with Nate; it’s fun to see him as a grown up and a family man … and living back in PG.
    Happy Birthday. 🎂💐🍷 Welcome to a new decade. Keep in mind that you’re the youngest for now in this group. Jeanie Anton

  27. Sarah Webster says:

    Happy Birthday, Sharon and many more!!

  28. Sharon Nugent says:

    Mine is a few days after yours and apparently I am a “few” years older but not much. I can tell you that I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for the rest of this decade for me and you. Keep on writing.

  29. Garnett Zamboni says:

    Thank you for sharing with all of us. It’s a terrific way to help others learn to open their hearts. For sure you’ve opened mine over and over again.
    Obviously you’re not getting older Sharon, just more beautiful with every day.
    Happy birthday 🎁

  30. Roxann says:

    Sharon, I don’t care what decade you are in, you must promise to never stop writing columns. At least while I am still having birthdays. I don’t think I am far behind you. Your weekly columns are almost a refreshing as my daily devotions. You bring such wisdom and joy to my days. Again I wish you happy birthday and joy everlasting. Write on🎂

  31. Betty Bewley says:

    Well, I’ve learned that every birthday is a “big” one especially when you pass 40 or 50 but when you are blessed with friends and family…and especially grands…there could be no better day despite the number.

  32. Debbie Fortune says:

    A time to celebrate does the heart good…Happy Birthday, Sharon‼️ 🎉🎁

  33. Dolores Daley says:

    And I forgot to tell you that your style – decade by decade – was just what was used by our oldest son when he spoke at the celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. That was in 2001. That son is a world traveler and lives now in Saipan. I am lucky enough to have our other three , and our five grandsons, living in California. I am never alone. My wonderful husband lives on in my heart.

  34. Dolores Daley says:

    I really do want to wish you a happy birthday, Sharon. No card – just good and loving wishes.

  35. Carol Toothman says:

    Happy Birthday!!

  36. Margie Poe says:

    A “Very Happy Birthday” to a fabulous lady—whatever the age! 💞

  37. Sally Merrill says:

    Best wishes for a wonderful time celebrating your special day and also wishes for many more birthdays to come for you! I agree with you, nothing’s much better than hearing “Nana” from a grandchild, best sound ever!

  38. Sharon Cole says:

    Happy birthday to my favorite columnist. You brighten my day when I read your column, though a tear may be in my eye at the same time. Thank you for your wisdom and the joy you show in each column.

  39. Vickie Garrison says:

    My birthday is my favorite holiday! Because I suspicion I could be running out of them, I decided to celebrate my half year birthday. Another day to celebrate! Just not as extravagantly as the actual day. I love July 15th and count it a privilege every year I am gifted with another one. Hoping to collect as many as possible. Happy Birthday Sharon!

    • Sarah Webster says:

      A local restaurant sends $10. coupons for birthdays AND half birthdays. Yes, it is great to celebrate every day we wake up. 🙂

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