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Another candle on my birthday cake

Published May 05. 2012 09:01AM

When I looked at the calendar to check the date of an upcoming interview, I was startled to see my birthday was less than a week away.

It seems like it was only a few minutes ago that I flipped the calendar to April.

Where did the month go?

Where did the year go?

Life seems to melt away faster than a chocolate candy bar sitting in the sun. That's one reason why I think it's important to celebrate every day of life, especially birthdays.

Some tell me they dread having another birthday because it means getting older, something they would rather not think about.

I have no hang-ups about adding one more candle to my figurative birthday cake. Rather, I relish every year. I know that the years ahead can be just as rewarding as the ones behind me.

When we go dancing I look with appreciation at couples that are a decade or two older. But there they are, dancing energetically, laughing like children and having fun in life. All around me I have these wonderful role models.

What I find is the capacity for fun and for getting a kick out of life isn't limited to the very young. As we age and get more aware of time, we know the importance of not letting life slip by while we stagnate.

I like to squeeze every ounce of pleasure out of every day and that's especially true when it comes to celebrating a birthday.

I have always been sentimental about birthdays, both mine and that of others. I do something special for every close friend when they have a birthday because it gives me joy to do it.

Of course, I like to do something for my own birthday, too. My version of "something special" doesn't have to be something exotic. I just like to do something out of my usual routine.

Sometimes, that means I get together with a favorite friend I don't see often. Other times, I like to drive to a new area or try a new adventure.

A few years back, Dave and I went to the opening of a new Orlando water park. We had a great time enjoying the water rides. At one point Dave asked me to look around at the others in the pool. That's when I noticed for the first time that we were the only older folks there.

Since we married late in life, we were formed by different experiences and expectations. Dave wasn't in the habit of making a big deal about birthdays. But after I went through great lengths in the last two years to plan a perfect birthday getaway for him, he must have taken the hint.

He planned a three-day celebration for me at Silver Springs, an area of Florida I always wanted to see. I like to explore new and interesting areas a few hours from home.

Silver Springs is an absolutely beautiful Florida river that is so crystal-clear you can see all the way to the bottom. That is, if you can tear your eyes away from the abundant wildlife all around you.

The area is also known for its monkeys. It's the only place we can paddle where monkeys entertain us as we go by. Everyone who visits there comes back with stories about the monkeys.

They must have been hiding in the forest when we went there. Not one of those chattering little buggers was there to wish me a happy birthday. But the trip was wonderful in what it had to offer.

When someone walked by our car with the trailer full of kayaks and the back filled with bikes, he said it look like we were "loaded for fun." He was right.

Biking the Withlacoochee Trail was one of the best parts of my birthday trip. What was once railroad track is now a 46- mile bike trail that offers a scenic, safe and smooth ride. Bikers of all ages and ability levels come there to enjoy nature while they ride.

Because of that extra candle on my figurative birthday cake, I decided I had to push myself to be a bit more physical by biking longer than I could do before. I hit my own personal best ride of a little over 20 miles.

For serious bikers like fitness master Kevin Kolodziejski, that 20-mile ride is equivalent to a leisurely stroll around the block. But for someone like me who is panting after a few miles into the wind, it's an accomplishment.

With every candle I add to my birthday cake, I get more serious about health and fitness. That's because as we age we can no longer take good health for granted. Nor do we take a new day for granted. Or birthdays, for that matter.

My friend Jan and I decided that the older we get, the longer we have to celebrate each birthday. Our new resolve is a birthday celebration is not over when your birth date has come and gone.

April is over, but I am still celebrating my birthday with a different friend each week.

Life is worth celebrating. A birthday just gives me one more reason.

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