Last week, I celebrated my 42nd birthday. I no longer focus on the number as a measurement of age, but rather as a milestone of accomplishments. I truly do feel you are only as old as your attitude allows you to be and while I had many good times in my 20s and 30s, I seem to be more confident and outgoing since turning 40.

To celebrate my birthday this year, I planned a visit to my Mankato family for the weekend before my birthday. As my niece Katelyn is currently home studying for her nursing boards, part of my motivation was to spend some time with her before she gets her "real job" that may or may not take her far away from me. The other motivation was simply the fact I am happiest when spending time with my nieces and nephews and the Mankato family is the closest to me. I hope to go south to my sister's home sometime later this spring for a weekend.

I left work early on Friday and drove to Mankato, arriving just in time to pick up my niece from school. It was fun to surprise her and gave us a few moments to talk before arriving at her home and joining the rest of the family. It was a short period of time, but it was precious.

I arrived to a surprise bouquet of pink tulips and a birthday cake on the counter, but the surprises continued all weekend. Annette prepared wonderful family dinners, we played numerous games and watched a movie with my niece making big bowls of hot-buttered popcorn. There were gifts and hugs and kisses and lots of laughs.

As a single person, just having dinner with my brother and his family is a blessing. The simple act of going to church as a family made my heart sing and waking up to the laughter and chatter of my nieces and nephews surely did make me jump out of bed to join them.

Leaving Mankato on Sunday afternoon was hard, because it truly was a welcomed escape from the stress and worries of the "real world." However, another birthday celebration had been planned on Wednesday, the actual day of my birthday, when my friends hosted a dinner at On The Crunchy Side in Harmony, one of my favorite hangouts.

Again, I felt blessed to be sharing my special day with some of my favorite people. My friend, Megan Grebe, organized everything and another friend, Sue Sikkink, baked me a special cake, full of pink frosting roses! It was a wonderful surprise and as I looked around the table and saw my friends surrounding me, I took a moment and once again gave thanks for the blessings surrounding me.

Because my parents were away for my actual birthday, they took me out on Friday night to the Billy Dean concert in Chatfield. It was the last official event of my week-long birthday celebration and it surely was a great finale.

I felt so spoiled by my friends and family and was grateful for the time they spent with me in celebration of yet another birthday. I loved all the gifts I received, but most of all, I loved the opportunity to share time with those I love. Each person in my life is a gift and this birthday served as a great reminder of the blessings I feel because of them.

Thank you all so very much!