I have a big birthday coming up in 30 days; the big 4-0.  It’s not something I am dreading but it is a significant milestone and, on the approach to that landing strip, I find it is an appropriate time for some personal reflection.

For those of you who do not know, I have a twin brother and this is the first time in recent years that I will not be seeing him on our birthday as I moved to California this summer.  Additionally, the two of us, who were predicted to be a large baby girl in 1974, were born on our mother’s birthday and it is also the first time in recent memory that I will not be spending our birthday with my mother.

I’ll be honest and admit that I am a sad about this. I am not defining sad as the polar opposite of happy because to me that that is depression and I am certainly not depressed about this.  I simply am going to be missing two people with whom I share a very unique bond. Many of you may think, “Well, at least you won’t have to share your special day with anyone this year,” and I can understand that sentiment. However, the truth is I never minded sharing my birthday with two people I care very much about. So, yes, while I will have the day all to myself, I will be missing my mother and twin brother on August 30th.

Last week I posted something on Facebook seeking suggestions for 40 things I can do over the course of the 30 days leading up to my birthday. I was touched by many of the thoughtful responses to my request and by one in particular; to reflect on 40 things I am grateful for in my life. So, here goes:

  1. I am grateful that I found true love early in life.  I met the woman who I married in my late teens and not a day goes by where I am not thankful Nicole is in my life. Yes we argue and don’t see eye to eye on everything but there is no one I wish to have by my side more than her.
  2. I am grateful for my children Grace, Patrick, and Maggie. I could argue that they should count as 3 things I am grateful for but some of you might consider that cheating so I will only count them as one.  My life changed forever on April 16, 2002 when I instantly fell in love with my 3 babies.  They have inspired every day me since they took their first breaths in the hospital – they had an uphill battle back then being born over two months early. They didn’t quit on me and I’ll never quit on them. Yes the sleepless nights were extremely difficult and I don’t remember much from that first year but if I had to do it all over again there is absolutely nothing I would do differently. Nothing!
  3. I am grateful for my parents, Don and Arlene Carlon. They don’t always understand the decisions I make in life but they also never judge me for them.  Their marriage of close to 60 years is an inspiration for all of us and I love them more than words can say.
  4. I am grateful for my twin brother Jimmy. I was born with a built in best friend and while we don’t see each other too often these days, we always pick up where we left off.  I would do anything for him.
  5. I am grateful that I have an older sister whose primary responsibility when we were younger was taking care of me.  She’s the best big sister anyone could ever ask for and I love her to death.
  6. I am also grateful that I have an older brother who taught me the real important things in life such as how to sneak rum into a movie theatre (Ziploc bag down the pants) and how to speak in gibberish. In all honestly, my older brother has always been my personal hero and I owe more than I could put into words to his guidance and friendship throughout the years.
  7. I am also grateful for my mother in law, Norma Hart, who is by far one of the least judgmental people I have ever met in my life. One of the things I miss most about living in Connecticut is having her in our home as she really did complete our family – and she makes some pretty darn good cookies.
  8. I am grateful for having known my late father in law Gordon Hart.  He was a good Oklahoman who could call bullshit on anybody who deserved it. He could also fix anything you put in front of him. I am nothing like him in that regard as I can barely hang a picture and this is unfortunate as my wife’s frame of reference for what a man is happens to be everything I am not.
  9. I am grateful for getting to know my cousins better. Mick, Susan, and Danny are a fantastic bunch and I love all of their children dearly. My only regret is not getting to know them sooner.
  10. I am grateful that I spent as much time as I did with my grandmother.  She and I had a very special bond and I treasured every minute spent with her.  I even used to watch her “stories” with her and by stories of course I mean soap operas.  I could tell you anything about Cricket, her rock star boyfriend, the various comings and goings of the Spaulding family, and the nefariousness that was Dr John Dixon. Quick story – Grandma used to shave her legs in front of the TV. One day when she got up to go to the bathroom (presumably where one would typically shave their legs) I took her seat and shaved mine because isn’t that what all girls do when they watch soap operas?
  11. I am grateful that I did watch soap operas, particularly prime time soap operas, because they are the inspiration for a new book I am working on called Return to Casa Grande.
  12.  I am grateful for my ability to remember seemingly insignificant events of my life with very specific detail.  Every now and then I will bring up a ‘blast from the past’ to my dad and his response is always, “Oh my God Michael, how do you remember that?”  What can I say, I’m wired differently!
  13.  I am grateful for my dogs Reilly and Murphy because they help make our house a home – even if one of them is a total bonehead and the other has really bad breath.
  14. I am grateful that I am the type of person who sees similarities where other people only see differences as I feel this helps me relate to different types of people and has allowed me to maintain a very broad group of friends.  When we would have parties at my parent’s house in the summer and my friends would come down my older brother would always tell me I had the most random and eclectic group of friends out of anyone he knows. I love that I am a social chameleon (but not a Karma Chameleon).
  15. I am grateful for music as it is the best therapy I could ever experience
  16. I am grateful for the kids I grew up with who remain my core group of friends; Nick, Chris, Rob, and Fabio.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for any of you.
  17. I am grateful that someone very close to me is getting the help they need in a 12-step program. Not a day goes by where I don’t say a little prayer for them.
  18. I am grateful for my sense of humor even though it oftentimes gets me into trouble, particularly with my wife.
  19. I am grateful that my parents raised me with religion and I am equally grateful that while I am a person of faith I do not judge others for holding different beliefs, or none at all.
  20. I am grateful that I am a centrist and that I don’t see the world in black and white.
  21. I am grateful that I am happy but never satisfied. I am not happy that this gets in the way of me being able to relax but deep down inside I know that I can always do something better and this drive keeps me motivated.
  22. I am grateful for all the mistakes I have made in life because the lessons I learned through my mistakes could never have been learned anywhere else.
  23. Similarly, I am grateful for all the teachers I have had in life including; Mrs. McManus (Kindergarten), Sister Peter Marie (First grade), Mrs. Colgiavanni (second grade), Mrs. Gorlach (third grade), Sr. Dorothy (4th grade – and favorite teacher), Mrs. Kuzma (Fifth grade), Mrs. Kelly (6th grade), Mr. Laversa, Mrs., Wilson, and Mrs. Johnson, (7th grade), and Mrs. Gullo, Mr. O’Connor, and Mrs. Handel (8th Grade).
  24. I am grateful that my parents sent my to Stamford/Trinity Catholic high school where I met the teachers who would change my life including Mrs. Corsaut (Music and Theatre), Mr. Kriz (English – he taught me how to write) and Mr. Bourcier who, aside from teaching me French, taught me the importance of volunteer work and giving back to the community.
  25.  I am grateful that I am not turning 50 in 30 days because that would mean I would have to come up with 25 more things to be grateful for instead of 15.
  26. I am grateful that I have been able to put my talents to use in my professional career as this means my career brings me more than just a paycheck, it brings me a sense of personal satisfaction.
  27. I am grateful for the baby who is crying on the airplane as I write this as he reminds me of my three when they were small.  While those days were challenging, I miss them.
  28. I am grateful for Ken Volpe for his patience in teaching me the guitar.  I am also grateful that he is proof that good will always conquer evil.
  29. I am grateful that Nick Cappiello left his video camera over at my house when I was 16. This not only led to the creation of the characters Mike Slammer and Bona but to my interest in movie making which I have parlayed into a nice little side business.
  30. I am grateful for my persistence; I won’t stop working at something until it is done.  Now this is sometimes a benefit to those around me but it is also a curse as I simply wont rest until whatever I am working on is completed.
  31. I am grateful for my friend Joe Indusi. If it is possible that my parents had another child that they hid from us I would not be surprised to find that it is Joe Indusi – he’s my partner in crime in the video business and feel as if we are kindred spirits.
  32. I am grateful that instead of playing baseball during my sophomore year in high school that I signed up for the spring musical.  That spring I feel as if I hatched out of my shell and started coming into my own.
  33. I am grateful that I brought a bottle of wine in to the theatre when I saw the Hangover 2 with a friend.  It was the only positive thing about that movie.
  34. I am grateful that I had the chance to say goodbye to my grandmother on the day that she died.  She went into a coma when I was at school and I was told not to expect her to be awake when I went into her room.  I went into her room, sat down next to her, held her hand, and she opened her eyes and smiled at me.  She told me she was waiting for me, that she loved me, and then she went back to sleep.  She died later that evening. It was a Tuesday.
  35. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and meet new people as part of my job.  While I can honestly say that I hate to be away from my family, I do welcome having new experiences and the fact that I am away from home frequently helps me appreciate being home that much more.
  36. I am grateful for all those people who have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I will be the first to admit I am not an explorer by nature and rarely throw caution to the wind.  That said, whenever I do, I am always thankful for it.  Riding motor scooters in the rain throughout Paris comes to mind – thank you for that Nick Nyhan.
  37. I am grateful for the people who have hurt me in life – those who have shown me that not everyone has my best interests at heart. I am also grateful for my willingness to forgive anyone who asks me for forgiveness.
  38. I am grateful that there is no smoking on the airplane on which I am a passenger right now but I have to wonder, why do they still put no smoking signs on airplanes? We all know that you can’t smoke anywhere, let alone on a plane. Perhaps that real estate should be devoted to, say, a sticker that suggests no talking loudly on your cell phone before we take off and after we land.  Can one of you design a sticker to that effect? I’d be grateful.
  39. I am grateful for all of those normal, well adjusted, and unselfish human beings who choose to cut their nails in the privacy of their own home vs. in public places.  Its gross people, just gross.
  40. I am grateful for each and every one of you who are reading this right now.  Chances are we haven’t spoken in a while yet our connection has remained strong over the years.  Know that I value your friendship, your kindness, and your presence in my life.

For the first half of my life I, felt as if I was always waiting for my real life to begin.  I was always searching for something else whether that be personally or professionally while I chased some form of external satisfaction.  Reflecting on my life, however, I have come to realize that the wait is over. My real life began the moment I was born and is evident in the experiences I’ve had up until this point.  I have learned that it is okay to pause, take a deep breath, and allow myself to feel some sense of satisfaction about where I’ve been, who I am, and where I am going.

The front nine is over and I believe that I have shot better than par.  Here’s to seeing what the back nine has in store. As I play the back nine I will keep in mind that wrinkles only go where the smiles have been; I can’t wait to get all wrinkly.