Fifty-Nine Candles of Gratitude

EXACTLY 59 years ago on a sultry July night (4:30 a.m., to be accurate) in the City of Washington, in the Columbia Hospital for Women on NW 25thStreet, my mother gave birth to a six-pound baby girl. My father told friends the baby’s name would be Laura. My mother told the same friends the baby would be Susan. Guess who won?

Soon baby Susan met her six-and-a-half-year-old sister, who wasn’t immediately happy about the intruder, but would quickly become the most loyal and fierce protector, friend, and even caretaker to the baby. Six months later, the baby would meet her other best friend for life, who came into the world on December 31, 1962.

Baby Susan, by all accounts, was not very cute. “Where’d you get that homely baby?” a great aunt commented upon seeing her, noting that the older sister couldn’t have been a cuter baby. (Apparently Susan looked a little like J Edgar Hoover in the early days.) This story would be oft repeated to peals of laughter, so one can only hope that this means baby Susan grew out of her awkwardness eventually.

Small strides were clearly made, but the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly is still magically happening, 59 years later.

All this of course, is just a way of saying that it’s my birthday. Of the immense gratitude I have today, those two women – my sister and my best friend – are at the top of the list. My healthy father, and the healthy relationship I have with my wonderful partner are the source of so much joy for me.

In my view, my 14 ½ years of sobriety has made all the difference in distinguishing the importance of homely-baby comments vs. how I see myself as a whole person, one who is always growing. But instead of growing into a persona I created for myself based on others’ expectations (something I embraced whole-heartedly pre-sobriety), I am just watching how I grow closer and closer to my true self by following my gut, being honest about my own limitations, and embracing imperfection.

A friend and I were walking through my garden this week, and I said, “It’s not perfect.” And she said, “That whole perfection thing is overrated, especially in the garden, but in life, too.” So true! In the recovery world, “Progress, not perfection” is a common refrain.

One of my biggest challenges – one I may never master – is balancing work time vs. play time. But due to it being birthday weekend, I went along with my partner’s request to do whatever I wanted to do this weekend (which meant Friday-Saturday, since if I don’t work this afternoon, I will completely crumble. We leave for Delaware Friday, and I have three deadlines before that). We went out for a fancy and delicious dinner Friday night.

And on Saturday morning, we went to the beach. We took advantage of the foggy weather and the early part of the day to avoid the crowds. And it was lovely. We weren’t there for a long, but it was so peaceful that we promised ourselves we’d go back, work or not. (Though negotiating the crowds on Martha’s Vineyard this summer is pretty much the number one hassle on everyone’s minds.)

Of course, these days I don’t have to go to the beach or go for a walk to find joy. It is right in my own backyard, where I have cultivated it. The seedlings and young plants I worried over for months are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. The flowers are just as beautiful as I imagined they would be. Our first cherry tomatoes and Fairy Tale eggplants and shishito peppers are coming in. The peas have been generous, the beans are proliferating.

There are at least 59 reasons to be grateful just out in that garden, and many many more deep in my soul.

P.S. There will be no blog from me next week while I travel to visit my Dad and sister. See you in August!


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24 thoughts on “Fifty-Nine Candles of Gratitude”

  1. Happy Birthday Sue!! Love your blog. Inspiring always and solid reminder of the joy around us always. My 59th is October. Another fine month for a birthday imho. 🥳 Enjoy DE! Shelly (Wallace) Wiltshire

  2. Best birthday wishes, Susie! I always love your posts and your garden pics are so beautiful! I would also love to hear more about your journey to sobriety. Have a fabulous and safe trip!

  3. Happy Birthday Susie!
    njoy celebrating your birthday with your Dad and sister.

  4. Can’t believe you’ve ever been seen as less than CUTE 🥰. Your cuteness has grown more sophisticated with life’s search and challenges
    but you’ll always be a cutie to me.
    Have a lovely week in true Evans territory. Happy Birthday to you ( and your Dad )and best love to all,

  5. Wishing you a blessed birthday and a joyful visit with your father and sister. I grew up just outside of Allentown, Pa and need to get home for a visit. We live in Fernandina Beach, Florida now and I love being by the ocean, but there are so many things I miss about living up North. Having a productive vegetable garden is one of them!

  6. Hi Shelly (Fellow Dukie!) So nice to hear from you and I love your design inspiration when I see in on social media. Thanks for being in touch. My sister’s birthday is in October (as was my Mom’s) so both July (my dad and me) and October are, as you say, fine Birthday months! Love to you, Susie

  7. Hello Catherine,

    Thank you so much, and yes, there will be bits and pieces of my sobriety journey spilling out along the way! Hope you are having a wonderful summer. Susie

  8. Hi Marie,

    Hope you guys are enjoying a nice summer on the Vineyard (and staying out of the traffic jams-ha!).

    All best to you,

  9. Hi Sheila, I will bring your greetings to Dad of course. And I do of course have many cute photos of Susie, Eliza, Kristin, Betsy and Co. so we can’t have been too bad -ha! Love always, Susie

  10. Hi Patti,

    The ocean is the best — if you can have a little water and a vegetable garden, too, that’s nirvana in my book! I hope you get home for a visit — that’s a long way. Our trek is about 10 hours by the time we dial the ferry in, but I don’t like to go any longer than about 3 months without seeing my Dad, so I’m used to it! Thank you for your kind notes, and all best, Susie

  11. Happy Birthday Susie!! I so love to read your blog and will share this one with my youngest daughter who just returned from a trip to Boston to see friends. Her stay included a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard. I was delighted to hear (and a bit jealous of) her walk out to the lighthouse on her 21st birthday. Also, would love to invite you to check out my foodie + faith project (@feedmeguideme) that I recently launched… definitely in its beginning stages but excited to see where it all goes. Enjoy your travel!!

  12. Happy birthday beautiful!! The best balance is waking up and doing what you want to be doing that day. Sometimes that’s work, sometimes it’s not. Do what you want and love it!


  13. You couldn’t be more right about that, Kharma dear — and fortunately, I do like my work — especially the people I work with! It’s just that there are so many good things to do in this life! Congratulations on your delivery to Syracuse! And thank you, as always…xoxo

  14. Lee, I always love hearing from you and I am especially excited about your new launch. I just followed you on Instagram and will look at the website. Always interested in the faith discussion and will be fascinated to see how you bring food into it. Thank you for the birthday wishes and someday you will get to MV!!! Love Susie

  15. Happy Birthday, Susie! Enjoy your upcoming visit to Delaware with your dad and sister. It’s been a beautiful summer here.

  16. Happy birthday! Regarding your “imperfect garden.” I live next door to a woman whose garden is obsessively perfect. No brown leaves visible, and during fall, not one acorn survives to see the next day. (Urban garden, so I see everything.) A stark contrast to my garden. But I have come to realize, and accept, that I have an “exuberant” garden. And that’s that.

  17. Oh my Gosh Kathy, I can’t imagine a garden like that. If I tried to pick up all the acorns….I love exuberant gardens! Hope you’re well!

  18. I celebrate your presence in my life. Your life’s work enriches my life and now I find these words lift me up.
    Perfectly imperfect; a great attitude.

  19. Happy, happy belated birthday, Susie! You are a magnificent person–may this next trip around the sun bestow upon you riches hardly imaginable!

  20. Lori, you are too kind! Thank you thank you. Life gets better and better and riches are all around! Hope you are well and all best to you! xo Susie

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