40 for 40

Lordy! Lordy!
Look who’s forty!

That’s what you’re supposed to say. Right? Well, whether that’s really the case or not, I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m now a forty year old.

In recognition of this landmark achievement, Dad encouraged me to take a few minutes and think back on my story – where I’ve been, who I’ve met, what I’ve done – and reflect on that. I took it to heart. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot, honestly.

During my reflection, I thought, “You know, I should write these down.” So I did. And now I’m sharing them with you. Some are serious. Some are less than serious. I hope you can tell the difference. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be challenged a little bit along the way.

40 thoughts for 40 years  Continue reading “40 for 40”

B is for Birthday Girls

B is for Birthday Girls - A to Z Challenge

This week is always a fun week at our house. Two of my three favorite girls celebrate birthdays this week. The other one’s birthday is in October.

You might think of this as a cop-out, but that’s OK. I’m still going to keep this post short because there’s a whole lot of celebrating to be had.

Aly and ChristyHappy birthdays, Christy and Aly!

Christy, I can’t believe we get to share our lives together. I love you more today than I did yesterday. And I’ll love you even more tomorrow than I do today. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is. I’m so thankful that you said “yes” all those years ago and gave me the opportunity to take this lifetime to show you how much I love you.

Aly, I am so proud of you. I love you with all my heart. You captured my heart when I held you in my arms for the first time and I continue to be amazed each and every day by your creativity, spunk, and compassion.

**I’m participating in the April A to Z Challenge. This post is part of that endeavor. A lot of people are doing the same thing. You should check out some of their posts!**

 

Free food makes birthdays fun again

Dark Side has birthday cake

This past weekend, I celebrated another birthday. Of all the people in our family, I think Mihret was the most excited about the fact that my birthday was coming. For more than a week, she had a countdown to my birthday. I’m pretty sure it’s because she knew that this would make her even closer to her birthday. In our family, my birthday comes first on the calendar. Then it’s Christy’s. Then Aly’s. Then Aiden’s. Then…finally…Mihret’s. So now that my birthday has passed, she can check my name off the list of birthdays she has to endure before it’s time for what she really cares about: her birthday.

Me? I’ve been getting kind of excited about my birthdays again. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as excited about my birthday as Mihret is about my birthday. But I do get excited nonetheless. It’s not about the cards or the facebook birthday wishes or the birthday cake or the occasional visit from a dancing gorilla. Those all pale in comparison to what truly makes birthdays exciting again.

Free food!

OK. That’s not entirely true. There were other memorable moments. Like being inundated with birthday well-wishes from friends on facebook. That’s always fun. Especially when they include images like this one:

This Darth Vader birthday card isn't funny. But it is funny.

I’m pretty sure someone has actually given me this card for my birthday. But that’s OK. It’s still funny. Kind of. I mean, it’s really not funny because it implies that I’m ancient. But yeah, it’s still funny. Especially since I can’t remember who originally gave me the card. Gosh. Maybe I really am getting old.

Then there was this one:

Pug Darth Vader

And this one:

Happy little Millennium Falcon painting

My facebook friends get me.

Even Spike TV gets me, apparently.

I have to admit, though, that it felt a little creepy that Google wished me a happy birthday when I went to search for something.

Google wished me a happy birthdayI know that I had given them my birth date at some point. Probably when I signed up for Google+ way back when. But since Google isn’t exactly known for having a stellar privacy record of late, it left me feeling a bit flummoxed. I don’t really know why, though. I mean, I’ve known for a while that they’ve been reading my email.

Now, by now I know what you’re thinking:

“This post is great, and all, but you said there was food. I want free food!”

When it comes down to it, I like birthdays again because of one simple thing: free food! And it really isn’t that hard for you to get free food, too. Here’s a simple list of all the places I could and should hit up over the next month. This list is not exhaustive by any means. A simple query with your favorite search engine will produce far more results than I can share here.

That being said, I think this is a pretty good list. It has lots of good stuff. If you want to get in on the free birthday goodness, you’re gonna have to give up an email address for most of these. In the end, though, I think it’s worth it. Because who doesn’t love free food?

There’s a method to my madness with this list. Some offers are good for just a few days surrounding your birthday. Others don’t expire until 30 days later. So I’ve ordered these offers by how long the offer lasts. The first one is only good on the day of your birthday. The last one expires a month later. Everything else falls somewhere within that continuum. Clear as mud? Good.

I’ve also included links for you to sign up. It might take up to a month for them to enroll you into their system. So don’t wait until the last minute.

You want free food on your birthday? Here it is!

  • Firehouse Subs: Free medium sub (on your birthday) – details here
  • McAlister’s Deli: $5 coupon – sign up for Deligrams
  • Baskin Robbins: Free 2.5 oz scoop or 3 oz swirl – join the Birthday Club
  • Famous Dave’s: Buy one entree, get one half off – sign up for the Email Club (you also get a free burger for joining)
  • Auntie Anne’s: Free pretzel product with the purchase of a pretzel product – get
  • Qdoba: Buy one, get one free – get Qdoba Rewards
  • Cold Stone Creamery: Buy one, get one free – join My Cold Stone Club
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Free snack size wings – enter the Buffalo Circle
  • Chili’s: Free dessert (with purchase of an adult entree) – sign up for Chili’s Email Club
  • Sirloin Stockade: Free buffet – join their e-Club
  • Jason’s Deli: $5 coupon – sign up for their Mailing List
  • Texas Roadhouse: Free sidekick of ribs or appetizer (with purchase of adult entree) – join their email club
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill: Free entree (with drink purchase) – subscribe to Moe’s E-World
  • Fazoli’s: Free dessert – join the efamily
  • O’Charley’s: $5 off a $20 food purchase – become a member of the O’Club
  • Scotty’s Brewhouse: $10 coupon – become a VIP 
  • Benihana: $30 coupon (for dinner use only) – join the Chef’s Table
  • Noodles & Company: Free bowl – sign up for their Noodegrams
  • Steak n Shake: Free double steakburger with cheese and fries – join the eclub
  • Red Robin: Free burger – become Red Robin Royalty
  • Champps: Free Mile High ice cream pie – join the Champps MVP League
  • Buca di Beppo: Free brownie sundae – sign up for the eClub (they also send you a deal for your wedding anniversary)

What birthday freebie goodies am I missing? I’d love to add to my ever-growing list!

Oh…by the way… I wrote this post while sipping my free tea from McAlister’s Deli, thanks to what is the equivalent to a $5 gift card. Tea from McAlister DeliWhenever your birthday is, I hope it’s a happy one full of freebies from your favorite neighborhood restaurant! 

 

K is for Kids

A to Z Challenge 2013 K is for Kids

It’s that time of year again…Girls’ Weekend, where Christy and her college roommates get together for a weekend away – just the four of them.

Back when the kids were younger and I had some pretty important responsibilities on Sunday mornings, this weekend was pretty chaotic and even a little bit stressful sometimes. Now that they’re older and everyone realizes that things just might be pretty OK when Dad’s left alone with the kids and that all of us really will survive, it’s time for some fun.

Aiden, Alyson, Mihret at the Rotunda at University of Virginia
See? We’re all happy. Nothing to be concerned about here.

As you already know, ice cream for breakfast will be had. And it will be even more fabulous this year thanks to everyone’s suggestions. Some of the other things in store for the weekend…

  • Family campout/sleepover/WhateverYouWantToCallIt in the Living Room
  • Cheering on Caedmon at his soccer game
  • Celebrating a birthday with Graely
  • School (yuck!)
  • Fishing
  • Some fierce Just Dance 4 competitions
  • And maybe a clean apartment for mom to come home to (if she’s lucky)

I’m glad Christy’s able to do this every year. I’m also glad the kids and I are able to survive thrive while she’s reconnecting/relaxing/recharging with her dear friends.

B is for Birthday Girl

B is for Birthday Girl

Happy birthday, Aly!

Happy birthday Aly!
I realize this picture is a year and a half old, but it’s fitting for today!


Don’t grow up too fast. Soak up every moment of every day so when your head hits the pillow you go straight to sleep because you’re exhausted from everything you’ve seen, heard, done, and experienced. Live life to the fullest.

You are beautiful and smart and funny and creative and compassionate and amazing and I could go on and on and on, but let me stop by saying this: I’m proud to be your Daddy and I’m proud of the young woman (or is it big girl?) God is shaping you to become.

I love you!
Dad

My Birthday and the Gorilla in the Room

Our small group was invited to a special meeting last night at church. When we got there, I dropped Mihret off in the childcare area (she was the only one in the preschool area, which meant she got to have four adults wrapped around her finger for nearly two hours 😉 ). As I came around the corner to catch up with Christy and our group, I was greeted by this:

birthday monkeys

Yes. That’s a monkey balloon. Those are monkey masks. They wore them as they sang happy birthday to me. It appears that the gorilla story has taken on a life of its own. And you can’t really stop a gorilla, can you?

In addition to the gorilla greeting, we had orange cake and a Darth Vader candle…

Darth Vader candle

Do these people know me or what?

I know. The candle’s blue. It should be red. I’ll forgive them for getting the candle color wrong. At least they didn’t get Star Wars confused with Star Trek.

Flashback Friday: Birthday Edition

image via CakePictureGallery.com
image via CakePictureGallery.com
Image via CakePictureGallery.com

This birthday celebration could go down as the most memorable in history. I can’t imagine how it could be topped. To be honest, I’m kind of scared about the idea of someone trying to top it…

My birthday is March 1. Becky is my “almost-twin,” with her birthday really close to mine (I don’t know if she wants her birthdate broadcast, so we’ll leave it at that). In the few days leading up to our birthdays, Heather announced that we were going to have a big birthday extravaganza one evening at dinner. She hyped it up every day until that fateful evening.

When I arrived at the party that evening, there were two chairs at the end of the tables with big signs attached saying “Birthday Boy” and “Birthday Girl.” I’m not one to like having attention drawn to myself. So, agreeing to sit in the Birthday Boy chair was kind of a big deal. I got several birthday wishes from people and I was OK with that. It was a nice little shindig, but I wouldn’t call it anything earth-shattering.

Until… (read the rest here)

I love my friends.

Faking it on Christmas?

Surprised faces via http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/show/view/359/

Last week, a UPS carrier delivered a package. It was addressed to Christy but she wasn’t there to receive it. So I had to take the package. I knew that it was a present. I knew it was my present. So I did what some of you might think was pretty insane.

I didn’t look at it. At all.

I took the box, walked directly to our bedroom closet, and left it there. Once I walked away, I didn’t think anything else about it. I did make a mental note to let Christy know it arrived. But that was it. No peeking. No shaking of the box. No searching my wife’s web history to figure out what she had bought for me. I just ignored it.

I’m pretty sure Christy thinks I’m crazy. Maybe you think I’m crazy too. I’m OK with that. It’s not the first time I’ve been called crazy. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last, either. But there’s a reason I refuse to discover my gifts ahead of time.

Let’s turn back the clock to a time that one would think would have been much simpler, a time when the world was my oyster and I was ready to take life by the horns as I surged into adulthood. Yes. This story begins some 18 years ago when I turned 18…

My senior picture
My senior portrait. Note the Milligan t-shirt.

A month or two before my 18th birthday, my then-girlfriend and I were walking through the Mall. As we left some store that sold videos and movie memorabilia, she turned to me and said, “I know what I’m going to do for your birthday. I’m going to get your friends to chip in and we’re going to buy you that Star Wars letterbox collector’s set.”

Star Wars Trilogy: VHS Letterbox Box Set

Okay. Whatever. You’re dreaming. 

That’s what I thought. I mean…the whole idea sounded really cool. But I wasn’t holding my breath. Those suckers were pretty expensive. I didn’t really think anything of it.

Until my birthday started getting closer. All of my friends told me they were going together to buy me something. My then-girlfriend also talked about how they were combining their efforts to get me something that I’ll really love. It was so obvious to me what they were doing that I just assumed they knew I knew what they were doing – you know? After all, she’d already told me she was going to do this.

Apparently, I should not assume anything.

On the night of my birthday, my parents took all of us out to eat at Elliot’s Steakhouse. While we were there, my friends presented me with my gift. And while I was deeply appreciative of the gift, I was hardly surprised when I tore open the paper and saw the blue box with the Star Wars hologram. I thanked everyone profusely and probably said something like “This is really cool,” or something similar.

I did not, however, react like Nintendo 64 Boy (see above).

I found out later that the fact that I didn’t run around with my head about to explode really disappointed some of my friends. They expected a more surprised reaction. Mom was even a little frustrated with my stoic reaction. It’s quite clear that they didn’t get the memo that I already knew they were giving me the present. Don’t get me wrong. It was an amazing gift. We watched all three of them after the after-graduation party that year. I threatened my suitemates’ lives over that collection while I was in college. It’s just that I’m not a very good actor. I couldn’t pretend to be surprised, even if I had been smart enough to think that I should have pretended. I guess I could have reacted like Iago.

After that debacle, I resolved that it’s really better not to know what gifts I’m receiving. There’s a whole lot less pressure on everyone. They can keep it a secret. I can be genuinely excited when I receive the gift. Everyone’s happy. I think Christy thinks I’m nuts. But that’s OK. I’m kind of used to her thinking I’m nuts. After all she’s lived with me for 14+ years. So I’ll keep taking packages that are delivered from UPS/FedEx/USPS and putting them away without giving them a second thought. No one has to worry.

Because I’m pretty bad at faking anything. Especially on Christmas.

How about you?

Thankful…

Thursday evening, a co-worker was displaced from her apartment thanks to a lightning fire. They’re OK, but they had to permanently relocate over the weekend.

Friday morning, I woke up to Christy asking me, “Did you hear about The Dark Knight Rises in Denver?” this was not what I had expected to hear! If I hadn’t sworn off midnight premieres after Revenge of the Sith almost did me in the next day, there’s a good chance I would have gone to a midnight showing Thursday night. While that doesn’t constitute any type of near-miss or anything, it is quite a sobering thought to think about how excited you can be about a movie like that, only to have everything you’ve ever known ripped from you in a few brief moments. My heart continues to break for everyone who was impacted by this act of evil.

On a MUCH happier note, we celebrated a milestone birthday with my mom yesterday.

With all of these events swirling around together, I have been reminded over and over again this week that life is precious. Life is unpredictable. Each breath we take is a gift. I will not take these gifts for granted. Today, maybe in a way that’s different than on other days, I am extremely thankful for the beautiful gift of life.

A Letter to my Nephew

Dear Jaron,

It’s amazing how one tiny life that left us far too soon could have such a profound impact on my life today. In the midst of that terrible heartbreak and the darkness of the valley while in the shadow of death, we experienced the light of God’s love and peace and hope shine through a tiny baby boy and his parents that night. In the midst of our heartache, I believe we caught a tiny glimpse of heaven as you opened you eyes in the arms of Jesus.

Happy birthday, Jaron. We love you. We miss you. I know you would have been so excited to be a great Big Brother to your brother and sister. I imagine you would have been dancing around the airport when we brought Mihret home.

And I know you’ll be dancing around in Heaven when we finally come Home and see Jesus with you face to face. We only held you for a time that was all too brief. But our hearts will never let go. We will never, ever forget you.

Love,
Uncle Matt
(Your favorite uncle. I don’t care what anyone else says)