On her 57th birthday, she is celebrating life, with new ways for 2016


COOPER, Iowa, Jan. 14, 2016 — I turn 57 today. And if you know me well, you know that means I’ve been eating chocolate “wacky” cake since Sunday – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It means I’ll be making a second cake to finish the week because, yes, I share it with Chuck.

He asked me how many chocolate wacky cakes I think I’ve made over my lifetime. I’ve been making these cakes for at least the last 25 birthdays, two per week, makes it 50 for my birthdays alone. But I’ve made the cake for others, too. And I think I was making this recipe long before it became a birthday tradition.

And even though I take some grief for this, I started my week-long birthday celebrations eons ago. Seven days of celebrating. I mean, really, if you can’t celebrate your own life, what’s to celebrate?

And this birthday I’m especially grateful to be celebrating my life.

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Here is Carla (left) with “Grandma Eddie Olsen’s girls,” as they were calling themselves, at Carla’s birthday dinner gathering at Maxie’s in West Des Moines on Wednesday night, Jan. 13.   So, left to right, are Grandma Eddie’s granddaughters Carla Offenburger and Tammie Amsbaugh; daughters Sue Burt and Karen Wiles, and granddaughters Steffanie Wiles-Jeffrey and Chris Woods. All live in the Des Moines area.

My 56th year was filled with blessings – over and over.   A wonderful, supportive family; friends I treasure; a new granddaughter; great trips taken with Chuck; access to more books than I can read, and good health. Oh wait a minute.

O.K., so I went through a tough battle with my adenoid cystic carcinoma, which was no picnic for sure. But hey, I came through it a few pounds lighter and with a smaller liver. But I am here to greet the cancer again when she rears her ugly head at me sometime in the future. And honestly, perhaps this second battle brought more blessings than anything throughout the year. It certainly piled on the gratitude.

It’s hard not to argue that an illness of such magnitude makes you appreciate a whole lot about what you take for granted most of the time. Things like the expertise of those in the medical profession; support of friends and family; a good employer who provides the benefits and personal support to be off work for 2-plus months, and a spouse who deserves sainthood. We don’t think about these blessings in our normal daily routines – but you sure do when you are sick, very sick.

I’m not going to dwell on my 56th year. If you need to get caught up on all of that stuff, you can check out our archives on this site. I want to focus on turning 57 – and celebrating.

My 57th year is going to be filled with good health. And fun. And friends. And family. And trips. And good books. And more granddaughter time. And more of what is good and right, and less of what isn’t. I’m going to focus on being grateful for my many blessings and paying it forward in ways that perhaps I’ve been neglecting in years past.

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Carla and little Audrey Offenburger in Ohio back in November. One of Carla’s “new ways” for 2016 and beyond is “more granddaughter time.”

Be ready for a new me!

What do I hope for in my 57th year?

I want to give away more and keep less.

I want to love harder.

I want to ride my bike more with Chuck – short little rides in many places.

I want to visit friends and family who don’t live nearby.

I want to garden more.

I want to quilt more.

I want to read more.

I want my hair to turn the wonderful gray that my mother and younger sister have!

All this really means that I’m going to have to focus on the difference between yes and no.

And most of the time I need to say no to myself: “No, you don’t need new shoes.” “No, you don’t need to eat that!” “No, you don’t need to waste your time on that.” No. No. No.

And I have to say yes, when it means I’m giving up myself for what others might need.

This might all sound like New Year’s resolutions. But for me, they are New Life resolutions. This is what happens when you spend weeks on end recovering from major surgery, thankful to be able to think about anything. You think about how you could do things better.

And in my 57th year, which I’m extremely grateful for, I’m going to do better.

Hold me to it, please.

I hope whatever birthday year it is for you in 2016, that you spend it appreciating your many blessings.

Now, let’s celebrate! Happy birthday to me!

You can write the columnist at carla@Offenburger.com or comment using the handy form below here.

2 thoughts on “On her 57th birthday, she is celebrating life, with new ways for 2016

  1. Your inspirational comments are icing on the cake! Reading your blog keeps others going and uplifted! As cancer survivors, we can tell others what we have learned and the challenges we have faced. You are showing the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful, productive, and even inspiring. I have taken my experiences as an opportunity to learn what I need to learn, appreciate every little thing, and to see the world from a different perspective. Keep the joy, peace, and laughter!

    Kristie Hurley, Jefferson IA

  2. Re all the “saying no, I don’t need to eat that” in the coming year…I’m so glad you made an exception for Wacky cake on your birthday. Birthdays are an excellent reason to celebrate! Savor every day this next year, my dear.

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