Kat’s official tips for having a great birthday

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I think we sometimes forget, especially when we have been adults for a while and we forget to play, that our birthday is supposed to be a celebration of ourselves and the fact that we are still alive. Remember when you were a child and everyone would gather and celebrate you? Why do we give that up as we age?

I recommend you don’t. And so, in case you are out of practice, I hereby give you some official tips for making it a great day. Of course, you can tweak them. Because it’s your day, it’s all about you!

These are in no particular order, although I wrote them chronologically based on my birthday this year. All of these tips would be good to fit into other days as well. But only if you want to have a good day. Or a good life.

  • Stay up until midnight, so you get to experience the first minute of your birthday. Be glad that you made it.
  • Sing happy birthday to yourself before you go to sleep. (I even told me how much I love me.)
  • Turn off the alarm and sleep until your body says it’s ready to get out of bed.
  • Snuggle with a German shepherd (or other animal of your choice).
  • Thank God for giving you another birthday. (A lot of people on the planet won’t get one this year.)
  • Hang around the house in your pajamas doing something you just want to do. (For me, that was reading and surfing the Internet.)
  • Eat something healthy first thing in the morning, because you know you’re going to eat things that are not so much later. (I had some of my favorite yogurt.)
  • Go out to breakfast with your dad (or other loved one) and have chocolate chip pancakes made from scratch.
  • Do something nice for someone else. (I helped my dad with some chores, because he still can’t lift much after his surgery.)
  • Take a drive in a vehicle you love. (I had to take Optimus because of the snow and salt. This was the first birthday I’ve had when I didn’t get to drive Cam. Sigh.)
  • Listen to some music you love, really loud. (For me, this included The Beatles, Ultravox, Billy Squier, Journey, Queensryche, A3, Smashing Pumpkins, Supernova and Kristian Leontiou.)
  • Throughout the day, look around for beauty. Really experience it, admire it and enjoy it.
  • Go around and pick up free presents for your birthday. (A lot of businesses will give you something if you ask. Other places have birthday clubs, where you automatically get something on your special day. This year, I got a free pastry, a free makeup kit, a free ice cream sundae and a free cocktail. I still have free popcorn and a free lunch coming.)
  • Get out with a group of friends, the more the merrier.
  • Have a really tasty meal that includes dessert.
  • Seek out and destroy some cake. (This isn’t a suggestion. It’s mandatory. If you haven’t been eating cake on your birthday, you’ve been doing it wrong.)
  • Go to a theater and marvel at how gorgeous Ryan Gosling is for two hours. (You might choose someone else to ogle. It’s your birthday, so it’s your choice.)
  • Laugh. A lot. Every chance you get.
  • Figure out your catchphrase. (You should have some statement that sums up the day and makes you instantly recall a joyous moment you had at some point during the day or evening. Again, if you’re not finishing your birthday with a catchphrase, you might be doing it wrong.)
  • Have a cupcake and a cocktail before bed. (If you don’t eat sugar, see cake rule above. If you don’t drink, have some kind of treat that you don’t often that you really enjoy. Savor it.)
  • Have additional snuggle session with above German shepherd (or other animal) before bed. (This is optional, but I highly recommend it.)
  • Fall asleep at whatever time you please, knowing you truly celebrated you and being alive.

It’s all true: I go to Star Trek conventions and I love them

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“Oh, you’re one of those people,” a woman said to me when I told her I was heading to the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas for my vacation earlier this month.

What does “those people” even mean? Before I could even open my mouth to reply, she asked, “You dress up in weird costumes and stuff?”

I didn’t even stop to think about whether I cared what she thought and answered.

“Well, I do have a lovely pair of Vulcan ears,” I replied. “And then I have different T-shirts and jewelry for every day.”

I thought she was going to faint. But I doubt if she even knew what I was talking about when I mentioned those ears.

Confession time: I’ve been going to this multiday convention for several years and I love it. And I’ve been to many others. And I absolutely love Star Trek. I love every series, every movie (yes, even that one you think sucks), every character (well, maybe not Kai Winn, who was so evil) and every costume and alien race. OK, not every race. Some of those in Voyager and Deep Space 9 were scary as hell. (Hirogen or Vidiians anyone?)

The funny thing is this. People dress up and go to all kinds of things – football games, auto races, costume parties, charity functions – but I bet no one ever says to any of them, “Oh, you’re one of those people.”

Why is it that people can spend money on costumes and clothing and memorabilia for sports teams and they’re perfectly normal, but when we Star Trek fans do it we’re weirdos?

The first time I went to the Las Vegas convention, I went by myself. My friends couldn’t believe I was doing that.

“But you won’t know anyone there,” they told me again and again.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

See, that first year, I met a ton of people and I made friends that I kept in touch with all year. Being outgoing doesn’t hurt. But even if I hadn’t been, I bet I still would’ve made friends. And in each year since, I’ve made even more friends.

I truly love my Star Trek friends. They are a wonderful, sometimes wild and sometimes wacky bunch. But they’re also well-read, well-educated and know more about having a good life than many other people I have met in my years on the planet.

I’ve met many celebrities and some of them have become friends as well. I know, hard to believe, huh? In what other fandom does that happen?

True Star Trek fans care about the same things I do – science fiction, the environment, love, kindness, respect, diversity, exploration, inquisitiveness, education, and not only tolerance but acceptance and even celebration of the things that make us all different.

In the years I’ve been going to the convention, I’ve met more people like myself than anywhere else on the planet. These people are my tribe and I don’t care what anyone thinks about “those people.”

We take funny photos, we dance, we laugh, we have a few cocktails (OK, maybe some people have more than a few), we reminisce, we dress up, we hug (there’s a lot of hugging), we have intense discussions and we support each other’s love for the vision of a better world – one without hate or greed (not to be confused with acquisition) or hunger or caring about a person’s race or gender. We respect each other’s opinions and beliefs. We agree to disagree and we go on caring about one another.

If that makes us weirdos, so be it. I’m all in. And I already bought my ticket for next year. To my Trek friends, I can hardly wait to see you again. To the rest of you, I encourage you to go out and find your tribe, whoever “those people” are.

Do you have a favorite Star Trek or convention memory? Share it with me. And if something in this post speaks to you, please share it with others.

We can drown out the hate with love

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The day of the Orlando shooting, mere hours after 49 people lost their lives, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page, “Someone please tell me how I explain this day to my gay child.”

My reply was immediate and required little thought:

“Just make sure he knows he’s loved, and there is a lot more love in the world than hate. Unfortunately, hate gets more attention.”

It’s hard to focus on the good when the bad is way past what we can understand. It feels wrong to state the obvious, that these mass shootings are getting out of hand.

I don’t know why this phenomenon continues to grow. I don’t understand why anyone would think that because someone’s feelings have been hurt, because someone has broken up with someone, because someone has lost a job, because someone has had a hard life that loading one or more guns and heading to a public place to shoot as many people as possible is any kind of solution to their problems.

I worry that the media publicizing these tragedies as much as they do can encourage people to continue the pattern to get their 15 minutes of fame, so to speak. But having been a member of the media for my career until last year, I know that the media can’t just ignore these events either.

I don’t know that taking guns away from gun owners is the answer. There are millions of people, including myself, who own guns who have never shot anything but targets.

I don’t know that changing politicians is the answer, because none of them on either side of the political aisle has stopped the carnage yet.

I know that blaming entire groups of people or cultures and going after them isn’t the answer. There are good and bad people in every single race, color, gender, religion or creed (or lack of one).

I don’t know what the answer is. And I don’t know that anyone else does either. But here is what I do know.

The negative can be stronger than the positive. Brain studies have shown that it takes seven positive comments to drown out one negative comment. So the negative gets more attention, at least in the beginning. But the negative, the hate, can be drowned out.

And every person can make a difference. One of my favorite parables is about a boy trying to save a bunch of starfish that are lying on a beach where they are drying up and dying. I’ll give you the short version.

The boy is walking along and gently tossing each one of them into the ocean. A man comes up to the boy and asks what he’s doing, and the boy explains that the starfish will die without water and he is saving them.

“But you’re just one boy,” the man says. “Think of all of the other starfish all over the world on other beaches. You can’t save them all. You can’t make a difference.”

The boy thinks for a minute and then picks up another starfish and tosses it into the water.

“I made a big difference to that one,” he says.

My point is that we have to start somewhere, and we can start with ourselves. Make a pact with yourself to make no more disparaging remarks about people who are different from you or who live their lives differently than you live. No more hatred to people because they live or believe or choose something you don’t understand. No more.

Just for today, love others, no matter who they are and no matter their circumstances. It’s easy. Give someone a smile. Hold open a door. Lend a helping hand. Cook a meal. Loan a book. Send a message. Make a phone call. Hug someone. Pat someone on the back. Do a good deed.

Now, do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

One day at a time, one person at a time, we can make the world a better place.

It’s time to stop the hate. Do your part. Drown out the hate with love.

You never know who’s watching and learning from you

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I was just at a CVS drug store with my 71-year-old dad, who asked me to come and help him do some shopping. He had a kind of long list and was going to use a credit card for the first time.

Now to those of us who have been using cards forever, that sounds like no big deal. But my dad has always been a cash-only kind of guy. He recently got the card, and he decided to try it out on this list of vitamins and medicine, which can get pricey really quick.

I hunted down the majority of the things he needed while he picked out one or two items. When we got to the register, I showed him how to slide the card through the machine. No luck there; it’s one of those newer chip cards. I could tell from the sigh he let out that he would’ve given up right then, when the message said, “Insert card below.”

But I then showed him how to put it into the reader and wait for it to approve the purchase. I then handed him the electronic “pen” and showed him where and how to sign. He paused after writing his first name and I knew what he was thinking.

“The signature won’t look just like yours,” I said gently, before he then continued to sign.

He put the pen back in the holder and I smiled and said, “See, that’s all there is to it.”

We headed for his car and I put his bags in the trunk. Before we left the lot, he asked me if I gotten an item we had put to the side because he wanted to pay cash for something. I headed back into the store to retrieve and pay for it.

An older woman was coming out of the store and said to me, “That was wonderful. I just told my grandkids to watch you, because I thought your patience was a beautiful thing to see.”

“I just love my dad,” I said, and thanked her for the compliment.

I grinned from ear to ear. I was just helping my dad do something he didn’t understand. But I made this woman’s day and taught her grandchildren a lesson in patience, she said.

That goes to show you never know who’s watching you and what they are learning from you. What are you teaching people today?