“Being, rather than acting, can also be challenging” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Denise Pelletier by © Lori Maloney

“Denise and I met in 2010 on a photography workshop; flash forward to this Fall when I discovered that she would be one of my subjects for The Project!  I’m sure this is the umpteenth time I’ve written this, but…I LOVE how my path is crossing with so many people I’ve met over the years!  Denise is a really interesting woman for many reasons, not least of which is how she’s turned a tragedy into something really positive: a number of years ago Denise was in a terrible accident, one the docs didn’t think she’d survive; she now advocates, through public speaking and a new children’s book, the importance of helmet safety.  She launched her book the same week as our shoot, it all felt really kismet – a great ‘cherry on top’ experience after all the hard work she’d put into the book!” – Lori M

Image © Lori Maloney

An Interview with Denise

Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?

A. My mother passed away in 2010 after a long battle with cancer and this happened just two weeks before a milestone birthday. I was overcome with grief and was in no mood to celebrate. I didn’t even have the energy to give it much thought. A group of great friends planned a surprise getaway to the mountains and whisked me away to celebrate with a weekend of hiking, dining, dancing and laughter. I will never forget this gesture of kindness of friends coming together to help me in a time of great need. While it didn’t take away from my sense of loss and sadness in my Mom’s passing, it did help me to see that there was some light at the end of the tunnel, even if it felt it was a long ways off.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. This was another milestone birthday where I was newly separated. I was not feeling too positive about anything in life at that particular moment. I am seeing a pattern in milestone birthdays here, let’s hope the pattern has been broken!

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that most surprised you?

A. Two live lobsters were flown in from Maine! Included in the cooler was a package of shrimp, chowder and strawberry cheesecake along with the lobster bib and cracker!

Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist on eating during your birthday celebration?

A. As a little girl I was always about the cake! My mom used to bake an angel food cake and top it with a sugary icing. I’d blow out the candles and cut up the pieces, eager to see which piece would have the most coins in it! Yes, I realize I’ve just dated myself!

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. I came close to losing my life in a terrible accident and now feel every day of my life is a gift. I wake up each and every day feeling blessed to have the opportunity to create new memories and have new experiences. I celebrate life every day not just once a year.

Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?

A. None that come to mind.