“When we give, we get” was the motto of my birthday this year. The unpredictable event served as a perfect reminder of valuable life lessons.

You all know the saying, “Man plans and God laughs.” Without a doubt, the last few days of my life involved give and take, organizing skills, a lot of frazzle and dazzle and…magic.

I love my birthday for many reasons. I love the month of May, my birth month. I love that May 17 is my special day. I love celebrations and I love surprises. I love opening gifts and love writing thank you notes. I just love my birthday.

Before I tell you about my few days of birthday magic and surprises in New York, I want to explain why I feel so blessed to be born in the month of May.

I watch with joy as my world become a garden, and truth be told, next to my family there is nothing I love more than nature. I watch with joy the popping up of May flowers, new blades of lovely green grass, little green leaves sprouting on gigantic trees limbs and Evergreens turning greener. I love the soft wind blowing through my hair, watching the boats fill the harbor outside my windows, tossing off my winter clothes of gray, navy and black and transforming myself into whites and florals. I love walking the tree lined streets with Orchid looking in the shop windows and listening to church bells ring at noon. I love the rain drenching the soil and washing away the cold. My sign is Taurus. I am earth. I love the month of May and I am grateful it is my month because the world once again springs alive.

Reminder of valuable life lessons: Put others first

And now for some the unexpected magic and surprises.

This year’s birthday plan was to remain in Chicago and celebrate with our Chicago family. It was not to be because our grandson David Good was graduating with a Master’s Degree in Communication Design from Pratt University of Arts in New York on my special day, my birthday! At the last minute David texted to say he was able to get four tickets and he wanted us to share his graduation with him.

My husband and I decided we would go. Our daughter-in-law whom we adore, Jami, was flying in from Garden Valley, Idaho. David’s father had passed away.

These were my immediate inner thoughts.

Did I want to share my birthday? Of course.

Did I want to leave our Chicago family, my daughter, my mother, my grandchildren, my brother? Not really, was my first thought.

Did I want to leave Orchid, still ill and trust others to provide her with the right diet plus eight pills a day, some with food, some given an hour after food, some 12 hours apart? “No way” was my first thought.

We decided we would go. My next thought was this: No one knows what tomorrow will bring. I am my own Chief Executive Officer and I will leave Chicago for New York knowing Orchid will be safe.

I ran over to Walgreens and bought pill packets and arranged Orchid’s pills by the hour. I hired dog sitters I trusted. I wrote detailed notes. I prepared all of her food with the help of Yoli, my housekeeper, who just arrived back from Belize. We cooked batches of brown rice, cooked chicken with the skin and 99% fat free ground beef and boiled carrots. We made 12 meals for Orchid putting each meal in a ziplock bag.

Reminder of valuable life lessons: Never stop learning

My ultimate concierge and I arrived in New York a day before my birthday. I had a wonderful day. We went to the Museum of Modern Art in the afternoon and dined at Benjamin’s a top steak house in Manhattan. We were greeted by Benjamin and were wined and dined. He and my husband had friends in common and the rest is history, if you know what I mean.

My birthday arrived. We had to get up very early to avoid the lines at Radio City Music Hall. No sleeping in on this birthday, no breakfast in bed on this birthday. We met Jami at our hotel at 8:30 a.m. and off we dashed. We arrived to a line 8 blocks long. We lost my husband. We were worried.

My first magical surprise on my birthday. As Jami and I raced to get into line I turned back and far in the distance I saw my older husband standing on the street signaling me to hurry back. I smiled and thought to myself, “Nothing old about Sheldon Good.”

I already figured out my ultimate concierge figured out a way to put us at the head of an 8 block line! I started laughing with Jami as we raced towards him, at least four blocks. What had he done?

He saw an old friend from years past who recognized him and was in charge of the event. They spoke for a few minutes and then my husband said, “Can you get me in now?” “Sure go and get your family. Anything for an old friend. Glad to help you.” It happened just like that. That was my first birthday surprise.

My birthday was David’s day, by choice. Graduation lasted forever. Except for the hundreds receiving their diplomas it was exceptional because the speakers moved me several times. Their words of wisdom were for all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed the hours spent at David’s graduation.

That evening we had dinner at Ciprioni’s, one of my favorite restaurants and it was special. We knew Sergio, the maître d’ so our table was superb, we ran into people we had not seen in years and David and I sharing our special day, a birthday and graduation, was the best. I fell asleep happy.

Reminder of valuable life lessons: Be grateful

My second and third magical surprises.

The day following my birthday we had a leisurely breakfast.

“Let’s walk down Madison Avenue,” said my husband, “There is a store that sells golf slacks. I can only buy them in New York.”

“Alright,” I said.

He found his slacks, had them fitted and then he said, “Pick some shops you love. I want to take you shopping for your birthday.”

I was totally caught off guard.

My husband watched me, in my favorite boutique shops, try on outfits and of course helped me choose. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was Pretty Woman. I expected nothing and so the surprise was magical and very special.

On our walk down Madison Ave., I say a flagship jewelry shop. I own several pair of their earrings and had a problem with a pair. We went in to discuss the problem.

This story is so loving. The woman behind the counter was wearing a pair of earrings I immediately noticed.

“I love your earrings,” I said.

My ultimate concierge said, “Try them on.”

“Are you sure?” I said.

“Yes, I am sure.”

I tried them on. I loved them.

“I loved them on you. Wrap them up,” said my ultimate concierge.

I was spellbound and said to the salesperson, “Please gift wrap them so my husband can give them to me. It was my birthday, yesterday.”

I walked out of the shop with my problem solved and gorgeous new earrings.

Dear readers, I know I live a charmed life and I am so grateful. There is not a day that I am not grateful for something. A phone call from a girlfriend, Orchid seeming better, a smile from a stranger walking down the street, my husband’s voice. You can take the girl out of the small town (Kankakee by the Sea) but you cannot take the small town out of the girl. I am grateful to you…Kankakee by the Sea for much of my character.

Reminder of valuable life lessons: Trust others

And now to the most magical part of the day!!!

We left the jewelry shop. It was 5 p.m. We walked from Madison Avenue to 5th. My husband tried to flag down a taxi. Hundreds of full taxis passed us by. We knew it was a tough time of day to grab a cab. About an hour passed. I was exhausted. My feet hurt from walking and trying on clothes. We were about 20 blocks from our hotel and it was 90 degrees outside.

Across the street was a bus stand. “Let’s try and catch a bus,” I said. No luck. They were Express or going to Queens.

We were about two miles from our hotel so walking, due to my exhaustion, was out of the question.

We decided to walk down 5th avenue. I was almost in tears. All of a sudden my husband told me to walk to the next stop light. He had a plan. He went out into the traffic, this older husband of mine, and flagged down a van and we hitch hiked back to our hotel! Can you believe??

The van was driven by a man from Afghanistan. His wife was wearing a burka. They were Muslim. Their three daughters were in the back seat. It turned out that the husband, Mohammed, worked in the same division at the UN that my husband worked! His wife, Shazia and I are now emailing. We had a joyful time together. They wished me a happy birthday when they dropped us off right in front of our hotel.

As we walked up the steps to our hotel, I was laughing and laughing and telling my husband, “I cannot believe you flagged down a van and we hitch-hiked.”

“I had to take care of you,” was his answer.

That evening we had a romantic dinner at our favorite French restaurant, La Grenouille. It was established in 1962. Filled with flowers, delicious food and beautiful people, it is very special.

As we toasted one another I raised my glass to my husband, “You are no longer my ultimate concierge. You are my ultimate, ultimate concierge.”

And, I meant it from the bottom of my heart.

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