Here’s to making 20, something (or, happy birthday, Madison)

stormtrooper madison (2)I had to wait a day to get my favorite birthday present. That was 20 years ago.

Camdyn’s two goals Saturday come in a close second. What kid can score on her dad’s birthday? It’s just Camdyn doing Camdyn things. Hayden’s done it, too. It’s kind of Babe Ruthian to go out and deliver on a day and on a dime.

Sunday, Madison turned 20.

She nearly shared my birthday, did you know that? If her mama’s contractions hadn’t stopped around the time M*A*S*H* comes on TV, this would be a different post. That was 20 years ago now. The girls are rolling through all the milestones, 12, 13, 16, 17, 20 …

To me, 20’s a big deal.

You can already vote and watch rated R movies. You’re a year from ordering beer. At 20, you’re a kid and grownup, in all the right ways. You can sling spirals at work and not fuss over a mortgage or being able to read the damned small print on your mortgage papers.

panthers and stuff 006 (2)
Madison and Camdyn destroying a funnel cake at Festival in the Park a few years ago. (I got some of it.)

Paths, written in pencil

People expect you, though, to have a path.

Hell shit, I’m still looking for mine. I’d say it’s written in pencil, but even then, it’s been erased and rewritten so many times that the paper’s worn thin. Set, reset, set again. Maybe put the pencil down and just pay attention to where you are.

People will make assumptions and have expectations and call into play their own failures and success about where you should be at 20.

Screw ‘em. At 20, or 40 or 60, for that matter, I wouldn’t advise going around telling the general public to go screw itself. But, I’m your dad. In addition to putting brown sugar in your waffles, a job of mine as your dad is some advising.

Sometimes, it’s which barbecue sauce to get.

Other times, it’s things like, avoid leaving an egg salad sandwich in your car in July. Or, steer clear of buying things – anything – from someone who is out of breath. Drink a tall glass of water before you go to bed, and another one first thing in the morning.

While I’m at it …

sisters 2
Yep. That’s her in the middle.

It’s about the stride, not the goal

Write things in your calendar – and stick to them, even when you’d rather skip out and make cheesy scrambled eggs and watch The Office on the couch instead.

Let every course you take in school seep in a bit. You never know where your next hobby – or twist and turn in life – will come from.

Identify your strides, rather than concentrate on your goals. That means, know the things you do and ways you feel that make you so good at your job. Those things are deeper than athletic gear and cash registers. They’re totally transferrable to life.

Pause. Before reacting, before answering. It’ll keep you from having to explain yourself or, at worst, apologize later.

Also, it’s a great place to listen to your heart. It works, for when you choose to buy a car or a crunchy or soft taco. You’ll continually place yourself in conducive environments for the universe to unfurl happiness right into your lap like a fumbled plate of nachos.

Order your Subway toppings one by one. You’ll get more of each that way.

Don’t fool yourself into believing you own any part of the road besides the patch of asphalt on which your four tires sit. Let people in. Slow down. Don’t change lanes in a traffic jam. Go slow in the roundabout so other people can get in, too.

You guys were so tiny.

Serving sizes and shit like that

Will power is so important. Grab a handful of chips. Don’t eat them out of the bag. If you’re on Instagram long enough to have two meals or pee twice, you’re on it too long. Stretch. Toss a ball. Put the phone down and see all the great stuff it can cover up.

Kneel when you talk to kids. Get on their level. Look into their faces.

Call me. Text me. Day or night.

Keep rescuing turtles in the road. I love that you do this. But be careful out there.

Journal. Even if it’s on your phone.

Try not to sleep in the clothes you wore the day before.

Fold your laundry as it comes out of the dryer.

‘This juice will change your life’

Take the trash out of your car, and the empties. Leave the extra sweatshirts and pair of running shoes, though.

Don’t be goaded into high-mileage motor oil, juice sold by your Facebook friends or extended service plans.

Don’t feel guilty about inactivity. Days off seem like perfect times to catch up on chores. They often serve us better if they stay clear of chores.

Never inhale as you eat a beignet. Look out for hot cheese on a pizza. (It’ll burn your chin and roof of your mouth.) Don’t try to stuff an entire tortilla chip sideways in your mouth. If you have extra milk after you finish your cereal, get more cereal.

Most of all …

Stay resilient. A rough shift or tiring week or shit semester can’t last forever.

Stay juvenile. You often act like you’re 10, not 20. And that helps me. Helps me to know you’re really my daughter, and also that when i act 10 at 46, well … it’s probably still unacceptable, but at least I’m not alone. And it shows your heart is still tender and lively.

Stay compassionate. It will serve you so well as a vet tech. You’ll handle every animal like it’s your own, treat every owner like a friend. For good news and bad, you’re the type I’d want to get news about my pet from.

Luckily, this was before the game, not after. Know how I can tell? No blood and grass.

More where that came from

Stay fiery. I see the goalkeeper in you when you tell stories about life. Watching out for your team. Giving them direction. Sliding out at feet and taking names. Only, watch when you slide out on a !@#er. Sometimes you can get a red card for that in life.

Stay generous. You make those around you want to give, too. Of your words, your company, your gifts. You were one helluva kid with two badass parents. Your parents are still quite badass, and you’ve turned out to be one helluva young woman, too.

Find your spirituality. Sit with friends or alone and with God. Call Him (or Her) what you will. Keep nurturing this place.

Don’t take my word for it. Go, and fail. I still do. Just, don’t go crazy with the credit cards. Most mistakes – tattoos and credit excluded – will fade away. Interest and ink tend to stay around and churn up regret.

Stay close. When you’re here, there’s a completeness I can’t describe, for all of us. Life will pull us this direction and that. May your path back always stay clear, may your phone battery stay charged, and may you always want your spot in my passenger seat.

I’ll have snacks. If I run out, we’ll stop for some.

Pop’s treat.

Happy birthday, Madison. We love you.

celebi quote 20s


  1. 15andmeowing says:

    Happy Belated Birthday to you and your beautiful daughter. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you, Ellen. I’m counting down the hours until it’s feeding time. Hope your Thanksgiving is awesome, too.

  2. Kathy G. says:

    What a beautiful tribute to an awesome-sounding young lady.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Kathy – she’s something else!

  3. Happiest of birthdays to your beautiful daughter and you!! And Happy Thanksgiving!! 😊

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Courtney! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

  4. stomperdad says:

    Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we have to grow up. Some excellent fatherly advice here. So much so that there’s no way to pick out a best piece. Live by it all…

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Amen to that, bro. I wouldn’t know how to grow up if I wanted to. Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Lyn says:

    Happy birthday to you both. May your year ahead be blessed with love, joy, peace and contentment.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Lyn! If I could have those four gifts, I’d love it – and I’d try and pay them forward too.

  6. blondie63 says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones! Hugz Lisa and Lucy Goosey

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Lisa and Looce. Same to you.

  7. Beautiful post, Eli! Happy belated birthday to you both. (•‾⌣‾•)ʃ4? (ὅ ◡ ὅ )ʃ20

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Pat! We had a blast.

  8. Beth says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to your daughter! I hope she had the happiest birthday!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you, Beth. I miss your place! We had burgers and fries together for her birthday. She seemed pretty happy!

  9. This is such a beautiful post Eli – for a very beautiful young lady.
    “People expect you to have a path…put the pencil down and just pay attention to where you are..” this
    and on….this is brilliant. I love this post so much Eli. This applies not just to your daughter but to all young adults…heck even adults. Things I wish I knew.
    Sigh. Just brilliant.
    Happy Birthday Madison (and congrats on the two goals Camdyn!)

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks so much, Kimberly – for someone who writes beautiful posts to say that means a lot.

      Glad you found brilliance in the “pencil down” portion – too often, we’re so wrapped up in making plans that we miss out on the day. I’ve been formulating this post in my head (and heart) for a while.

      You’re right: We all can learn a bit from this, can’t we? Don’t worry that you didn’t know some things at earlier parts in right. You know, now. There’s brilliance in that.

      We had a great birthday … and Camdyn really impressed a lot of people!

  10. Nicola Young says:

    Aw, feel all emotional reading this. You must be very proud. Some great advice here, plus some rather unusual tips!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you felt the emotion, Nikki. I am so proud of the young woman she’s become. Sometimes, advice is about life, and other times, it’s about toppings on your sub sandwich.

  11. ksbeth says:

    happy birthday to the 2 of you, both special people. i recently celebrated mine as well, i think november is a special month, lots of good people born during this time of year )

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks so much, Beth. I do remember you being a November baby. It’s nine months after valentine’s day.

  12. Anthea says:

    This is such a beautifully written post. Belated Happy Birthday to you and your daughter.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Anthea! We had a helluva birthday weekend.

  13. I hope she reads this and then re-reads it and reads it again in a few years. What a sweet and smart post. I love the idea of writing your plans in pencil. My grandfather told me to always have a plan but to not be afraid to change my plan. It’s advice that has served me well. 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I found myself needing some of that advice, Courtney. Thanks for your kind words! Plans in pencil allow us to roll with the changes we have no control over, and shift gears if we change our minds, right?

      Looking forward to reading more of you.

  14. This was beautiful, Eli. So honest and straight from the heart. And as lucky as you may feel to have Madison as a daughter, she’s just as lucky to have you as her dad. 🙂 I hope she had a fantastic 20th birthday. (Now that I think about it, I don’t really remember what I did on my 20th…)

    Do you know if she has read this post yet?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Sara. I wanted to give her something significant on her 20th! You’re sweet to say she’s lucky – I do feel grateful that I’m her dad, if that makes sense.

      She had to work, but we had a wonderful dinner that night, and she got ice cream. What could be better?

      She has read it. She hasn’t said much, but has mentioned it once or twice.

  15. Love this! So hard to believe she’s 20. “I remember when,” as they say. I still have the framed photo she sent me when she was about 10. A great read!

    Miss you guys!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Bryan! Well, she still behaves as the kid we knew and loved, and that helps. I love having her close. Miss you too!

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