“The Birthday Express,” Feb. 11, 2020

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about birthdays. Why?

From the end of December to the middle of February, our big “blended” family celebrates eleven birthdays. The birthday people include my husband and me; three of our five children; three of their spouses; and three of our eight grandchildren.

That’s a lot of cake. Not to mention, cards and presents and dinners and parties. I call it the Birthday Express. It’s quite a ride. Only two more celebrations this week, then the grand finale next week, which happens to be mine. The remaining eight family members were wisely born at other times of year. Some have a whole month to themselves.

Few things are more fun than celebrating the birth of someone you adore. My standard wish (besides “Happy birthday!”) is “I’m so glad you were born!” I started saying that to my kids when they were small and now they say it to me, too.

I love cards that have been handpicked just for me, or handmade by the grandkids with stick figure drawings that make me look skinny, and don’t crack jokes about getting old.

Aside from good wishes and a lot of hugs, I don’t need gifts. When you’ve blown out as many candles as I have over the years, your mark of a great birthday isn’t presents or parties. It’s hearing “Happy birthday!” from the people who love you and getting to take a nap.

But there’s one birthday ritual I try to keep every year. I take a little time to think about my life’s journey, places I’ve been, people I’ve known, things I’ve learned along the way. Then I ask myself this question: What do I know now that I wish I’d known when I was starting out?

Here in random order is my latest list. I wish I’d known:

_ My children would grow up healthy and strong to be people that I like as much as love. Had I known this, I’d have gotten more sleep and less gray hair.

_ We shouldn’t take things so personally. Not everything is about us. We need to give others, and ourselves, a break.

_ Actions are more important than looks. It’s better to be kind than beautiful. Unless you can manage to be both at once.

_ Things change. Count on it. The best we can do is change with them, and pray that we are changing for the better.

_ If you need help, don’t be too proud to ask for it. And if someone needs your help, try not to be too busy to offer it.

_ It’s OK if somebody doesn’t like you. Chances are, they’re not very likeable themselves.

_ Hair is like a child. It has a mind of its own. You can try to change it, try to make it do what you want it to do. But it’s better just to let it be what it is.

_ Say what’s on your heart, but only if you mean it. Some words are better left unspoken. But there are three things that ought to be said often and sincerely: “Thanks.” “I’m sorry.” And “I love you.” And to telemarketers, “Please don’t call me again.”

_ My mother was right about most of the things I was so sure she was wrong about. I wish, not only that I’d known it, but that I had told her so before she died.

_ We don’t need someone to complete us. We can be whole on our own. But if we choose to share our life with someone who is also whole, the sum can be greater than its parts. And that can be a whole lot of fun.

_ Those of us of a certain age shouldn’t fear that a birthday means the end of youth. Age is only a number. Forty (or 50 or 60 or more) is not the end of youth. Thirty was the end. The payoff for aging is getting to stay alive, and maybe, if we’re lucky, getting grandchildren.

_ Finally, the best thing about birthdays is realizing we’ve been blessed to have lived another year and had a chance to keep learning, loving and laughing.

Here’s wishing you a happy birthday whenever it may be. Yes, I’m so glad you were born.


  1. Brenda Johnson says

    I read your column often. Just wanted to say I really enjoy your writing,it is always upbeat and family friendly. God bless you and you inspire me and others

  2. Naomi Smith says

    Happy Birthday! Have a wonderful day.

  3. Carolyn Merriman says

    Sharon, I have laughed, cried & loved your columns for many years. You are going to be in Wichita Falls next month & I sure hope I am able to see you. Have a wonderful Birthday!🎉

  4. Betty McNall says

    Happy Happy Birthday to you! I wait for your writings!

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    What a perfect list… we have six birthdays from Jan 25 thru Feb 11… the other busy month is September (which I attribute to cold winters…. have to stay warm somehow!! 😜😜). I guess my only thought would be that I’ve never met a kind person who wasn’t beautiful….and I’ve never met an unkind person who was 🙂

    Happy birthday to you and all the rest!!!! And if you didn’t know it —-the latest studies say that birthday cakes have no calories! Ain’t that grand?????

  6. Happy birthday Sharon !! Such a positive post!! Love you !!

  7. SYDNEY S LOVE says

    I truly am glad that you were born, Sharon. I have used that phrase with my family since I read it in your column years ago. Just like the phrase your late husband told you, you could do anything for 4 miles. I have learned so much from you and I continue to do that. You are truly a gem and such a wise lady. Your family is so blessed to have you. I hope they all know it. I love your list. It will be printed and put on my fridge so I can read it often. Happy Birthday to someone I’ve never met but has been a special part of my life for years. Hope you have a great day!

  8. Happy Birthday Sharon!
    I’m happy you were born! I’m happy I still get to be a part of your life through your columns!
    I can picture you and your beautiful family every time I read them!

  9. Sheri Titcombe says

    Happy birthday. Everytime I read your column I can see myself..

  10. Patti Peters says

    And the happiest of birthdays to you Sharon. Your gift is in your words and thoughts…and sharing those with us.

  11. I think your words of wisdom are great, but I especially like “I’m so glad you were born.” I think I’ll steal that one, if you don’t mind.

  12. I’m so glad you were born. 😊

  13. As usual, LOVE THIS❣️ And your timing couldn’t be more perfect! Just had the “remember to be grateful for every day we are upright” talk with a friend after my sister’s passing yesterday morning. And my beloved husband’s birthday is in 2 days. Im glad they both were born! And I’m glad you were too, Sharon!!!

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