Just over two weeks ago, with the help of her family, I was able to surprise my best friend since third grade for her 40th birthday!
Because, let’s face it…40 is one of the big ones and should be celebrated!
Heather…should be celebrated!
First of all, if you have been reading my blog, you probably have some idea of who Heather is. She is one of my loudest friends. AND…one of my biggest cheerleaders. While she can’t make it to every race, she has been at most of the big ones and the important ones. And when she’s not…she’s tracking me and screaming at me from Minnesota. Because that’s Heather. A ride or die to the end.
So, when the opportunity arose to give her a great 40th birthday…I couldn’t pass it up!
It all started with a plan, hatched by her brother and her parents. The plan was to fly up to Minnesota the Friday of her birthday weekend (her birthday fell on a Saturday)…arriving early so that Chad, her brother, could pick me up at the airport prior to coming by the house. He had told her to take the day off of work because they were going to do something together that day. The night before, Chad and I made the last minute plans for airport pickup (basically I told him when my flight would be there and he sent a picture of his truck…complete with snow in the background!!).
Went to bed early. Got up super early to fit in the last training run for that week. I was taking the rest of the weekend off because it should be all about Heather…and running in January in Minnesota sounds awful. HA! BUT…I didn’t post my usual Instagram stories that morning. I acted like it was my usual rest day and I was sleeping in and just gearing up for a regular work day. I even put on clothes that looked like work clothes. The things we do to surprise our friends.
My roommate got up 2 hours earlier than usual to drive me to the airport. I got there right as security was opening and I could stroll right up because I just had a carry-on with me this time. I killed a lot of time walking the hall (there is only one) connecting the terminals in Louisville…but when my plane was set to board…I was happy to be one of the first groups to get on the plane. I even had an exit row seat so a bit more leg room to boot. And at 6:32 am…the plane pushed back and we took off to Minneapolis!
The flight went fast. We were given drinks (I had water…but coffee was tempting) and Delta has KIND bars (WOOT…GLUTEN FREE!) to snack on. Which was good, because I had eaten breakfast after my run and shower…so around 3:30 am. It turns out, my pilots speed (just kidding…I think we had a tailwind), because we landed in Minneapolis WAY ahead of schedule. Like at least 30 minute early. I got off the plane and called Chad…who was getting his car washed, putting gas in his car, and having to navigate traffic. BUT…I walked the terminal and went down to baggage claim and put on a jacket…and waited for his truck to pull up to pick me up.
He showed up, came around to give me a hug and put my suitcase in the back…and we were off!
Chad came up with the way it would all play out. He would park his truck and while he went inside through the garage (the normal way)…I would wait outside for two minutes…and then ring the doorbell. In his conversation he would then say, “Heather, you better get the door…that’s your birthday present.”
And…that’s what we did.
Never in my life have I been hauled into a house and hugged so hard.
She was so surprised. And that was the whole point. We hauled my luggage inside and she offered me very necessary coffee. Caribou Coffee at that. If you know me…you know I love Caribou Coffee…but all the places nearby that had it turned into Peet’s Coffee. And it’s not the same. Minnesota still has Caribou Coffee.
We sat around the house for a bit…drank coffee…and then she went and got herself ready. And we were off. To The Mall of America.
We did a lot of walking there. OH…and hit up Caribou Coffee for some non-caffeinated goodness. We shopped. We discovered there was a pop-up Third Love store (yes…the bras that are advertised on all the podcasts) so we went and tried those on. She changed out jeans at Macy’s. We just had a good time. OH…and we grabbed lunch at Twin City Grill at the Mall of America. I had a salad. They were prepared to make me a burger with a gluten-free bun…but they didn’t have a vegetarian/vegan option. No Impossible Burger…no Beyond Burger…but I love salads and got their Garden Salad. I asked for no cheese. They left the cheese on. I took a Lactaid…it was fine. Heather got the Baja Burger with the famous (I wish they had been gluten free) Salt ‘N Vinegar Fries.
While we were at the mall, I had called my 98 year old grandpa and left him a message to let him know I was in town and would LOVE to stop by. He was in water aerobics at the time (you read that right…my grandpa is the BEST!), but he called me back and said he’d be home the rest of the afternoon. Heather totally remembered where he lived, which is typical Heather, and got us there without using a GPS. BONUS…my Aunt Jan was home early from work. We settled down in the living room to chat for a bit…and just had a great time getting caught up. I couldn’t stop smiling. I made sure to snap some photos before we had to hit the road back to Heather’s home.
Her parents wanted to go out to eat so Heather recalled seeing some gluten-free options at one of their favorite places, Tavern 4 & 5. I got their Grilled Tofu Healthy Bowl (gluten free meant NO plum sauce). So it was a bowl of quinoa, “power” greens salad, fresh steamed chef’s choice of vegetable from the local farmers, and the protein – in my case the Tofu. Heather got one too…which is how we knew the original plate that came out to me came with the plum sauce…so we had to send it back and have it remade…which they did. And the food was delicious.
We returned back to the house…and Heather made this ginger drink with gluten free vodka and we went down to the basement where she started me on some of her favorite Hallmark Christmas movies. This bit of information will come in play later. I had been up since 1:30 that morning…and I was starting to drift off…so I went to my room, posted my Instagram stories I saved until Heather knew I was there…and went to sleep.
The following morning, I woke up to use the bathroom….play on my phone…go back to sleep…and then finally emerge.
It was decided, by the birthday girl herself, that we (Heather, me, Chad, Chelsea (her
sister-in-law), and the three kiddliewinks) would all meet up at a local ice skating rink (it’s Minnesota and outside, mind you!) to skate for maybe an hour on the big day. I was a bit nervous about it. First of all, I hadn’t been on the ice for 10 years (the last time I skated was on top of a department store in Dublin, Ireland). Secondly, I would be using rental skates. Third…I’m a marathon runner and while I’m sort of in a down season at the moment…for years I have avoided situations where I might do any sort of damage to myself accidentally.
I figured, if nothing else, I could stick close to the wall, get a feel for the ice…and maybe make a round or five before heading to the warming house and just hanging until everyone else was done.
After a delicious “build-your-own” omlette breakfast, compliments of Heather’s mom…we started to layer up and get ready to head out to the ice rink we would be skating at that day. We would be meting Chad, Chelsea, and the kids there.
We all set out and I very timidly stepped out onto the ice. And my first thought was, “Man…if I get hurt, Daniel is going to kill me!” Daniel, for any new readers, is my running coach. BUT…I slowly minced my way around the patchy ice, slowly being able to find a bit more of a glide and getting a bit more comfortable with it. Heather and I took a few photos after my second or third trip around…and then she took off with my camera to film a lap.
And that’s when things went terribly wrong.
I came skating around a turn and found her laying on the ice gripping her arm. She was hurting. BAD! She told her nephew to go get Chad and soon, Chad was on his way…getting her up off the ice and having her sit down so he could assess everything. Heather has an amazing family to support and love on her. Honestly. Chad helped her skate off the ice. When the medical staff came running and saying they called an ambulance, he had them call that off…there were plenty of us there who could take her to urgent care. He got her settled into the warming building and helped get her out of her hoodie. He had her move her arm. And all of this had to have been super painful for Heather. And she gritted her teeth and did it. A staff medial member came over with a sheet to inquire about the accident, which Chelsea went ahead and took from him and filled out with a little help from Heather.
Chelsea also went up to the snack bar to get a water and a Powerade for Heather to have to drink. I went with her and gave her a little hug. It was just not the birthday celebration any of us were anticipating that morning. We did pack up everything while Chad went to go grab Heather’s car. We carried everything out, got Heather into the passenger seat, and Chad drove Heather and I to Urgent Care. He dropped us off at the front door so he could park the car, and I walked her in, got her insurance card and ID out, filled out the paperwork, and returned it just a moment before she was called back. Chad joined us right then. Good timing.
The nurse had her up on the table to start with…but after sitting there for a long amount of time, and having Chad move to block the mirror so she couldn’t see her elbow, Heather eventually worked her way down to the chair. They did bring in an ice pack and some pain meds for her, which she took and I helped hold the ice pack for her.
The doctor came in to take a look at it and just sort of give a surface inspection of it. He ordered X-Rays, but we needed to wait for the pain meds to kick in. So, we did that. And about 20 minutes later, they came and got her to take her back for the X-Rays. Chad and I chilled in the exam room until they brought her back. She made herself comfortable in the chair again and we awaited the doctor again. He came in shortly after and pulled up the images…starting with the back of her arm. It didn’t look bad at that angle. THEN…he flipped to the side view.
We all winced a little and went…”OOOOOH!” It was a VERY obvious break. Very obvious. But it was a clean break…not a shatter…so that was the good news. The doctor went to see if his surgeon had called back, because this would definitely entail surgery. When he did return with the news…surgery was necessary…but not that day. It could wait until after the weekend and they would split her up and give her a prescription to help with the pain…and she would have a surgical consult on Monday morning.
Heather was very worried about what this would mean for her and her job as far as being able to do it. Chad and I told her not to worry about that right now. He went to pull the car around and I went to help her get out to the car safely, in the process dropping my phone at least 3 times. It made her laugh…a little. We then made our way to Walgreens to pick up the prescription and a cast protector so that she could take a shower. And then…we went home.
THE OTHER SURPRISE
As if having a broken elbow on your birthday wasn’t enough of a shock to the system…the next element of Operation Heather Turns 40 was announced…just so that she would know what was coming. All the family and friends who could be there were coming that evening to celebrate. So, Heather went to settle into a bed to chill and get a feel for the splint and the occasional bolt of pain that would hit. We started upstairs, but eventually made our way downstairs, letting her get comfortable on her own bed, stacking up pillows as needed and making sure she was set. I settled in on the other side and we watched a lot of Laura Osnes Videos. And maybe another Hallmark Movie. Perhaps. I don’t remember. If you don’t know who Laura Osnes is…you were like me, but prepare to look into her. She’s amazing. She’s a Broadway star…she was in the musical Cinderella, Bonnie & Clyde, and others. And her voice is AMAZING. She’s very talented. It’s what Heather needed…until we needed to get her ready for the party.
I helped her change her shirt. Her mom helped her curl her hair and do her makeup. And when she was ready…we got her upstairs and got her settled on the couch with her arm propped. Everyone arrived. It was a great time. Everyone got to have time with Heather and I got to meet SO many people who told me that they had heard a lot about me or seen my photo on Facebook. I was having a good time. Between Chelsea and I, we were making sure Heather had food, cake, and something to drink. Chelsea was even kind enough to pick up a gluten-free cake for me to have as well so I could be part of the celebration. Told you…her family is amazing. AND…even though I’m a vegetarian, they had PLENTY of options for me to choose from as well. I hadn’t eaten lunch that day (I was going to have a salad once Heather got settled in…but I totally didn’t get around to it and by the time I remembered it was party time anyway), so I feasted on LOTS of veggies, a potato, and some chips with a plant-based dip. It was awesome. And…of course…cake.
Gifts were opened. Lots of different discussions were happening. And Heather was smiling. And after all she had gone through that day…that’s the best thing ever!
As the party was winding down and everyone started to leave, I got Heather downstairs and settled in and went to go take a shower. We watched a Hallmark Christmas Movie until she started to fade. I set her up with a cowbell to ring if she needed me and made sure she had water, her medicine, and whatever else nearby. She never rang the bell all night.
TIME TO GO
Sunday morning was really laid back. I woke up around 5 and Heather woke up when she heard me moving around. I went to keep her company for a bit. She dozed in and out as we watched a few more Hallmark Movies…until she needed to get up. We went upstairs where I brewed coffee and her mom made us a breakfast out of leftovers. I made sure I had my stuff packed after I changed out of my pajamas.
Heather went to go take a shower and I helped out by sorting her laundry for laundry day. I moved everything into the laundry room and then went back upstairs to hang out for a little bit. Her mom made an early dinner for me and soon they were packing up the car and taking me to the airport. There were absolutely NO lines at security, so I had some time to walk the terminals, get some chocolate, buy some local treats, and grab my last cup of (decaf) Caribou Coffee.
I boarded the flight and headed home at 8:30 pm. I got into Louisville before midnight and Cathy was there to pick me up and drive us home.
This was definitely not the trip any of us envisioned when we plotted it all out…but Heather sure does know how to keep things interesting, right?
For the record, she had a successful surgery where they inserted a pin. This week, she was put in a removable splint and has started physical therapy. AND…she has finally gotten out of the house to go out to eat. She’s well on her way to a full recovery.
But…I did tell her that we need a do-over for sure!