Tag Archives: Birthday

40 Reasons to Be Grateful

SONY DSCJuly 3, 2013

Today is the 10 year anniversary of my 30th birthday.  Or is it the 19th anniversary of my 21st birthday?  I had dinner with a colleague last weekend.  She said, “You’re turning 36, right?” You do the math, but if anyone asks, I’ll probably tell you that I’m 29 again! 

Ten years ago, a very wise woman reminded me, “Birthdays ending in zero signify life changing moments … Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s here! Take stock of where you are and where you’ve been, so that you can begin to see where you’re going.”

Today I took the day off work to do some of my favorite things – Mass, Spiritual Direction, lunch with my goddaughter (and her amazing mom!), worked out at the gym, dinner with another best friend … and now laundry and packing to leave for Silent Retreat. 

For the past several weeks, leading up to today, I’ve been showered with gifts and surrounded by love.  (And there are a few more celebrations yet to come!)  And I am grateful.

  1. For my amazing parents who love me (and my siblings and our nieces/nephews) more than I will ever know or imagine.
  2. Spending an entire weekend in Nebraska with everyone there together, loads of laughs, lots of memories shared, and new experiences created.
  3. Angel food cake with fluffy white frosting.
  4. Celebrating my birthday 2 weeks early with the other six summer birthdays in our family.
  5. A breakfast meeting with someone who is sure to become an important mentor in my life, especially after she shared her own experience of turning 40.
  6. Discovering some of the best new restaurants in Chicago (including the ones right in my neighborhood!)
  7. Having friends who enjoy checking out new restaurants!
  8. A home to call my own in a city that I love.
  9. Free Starbuck’s Coffee
  10. Mass this morning in one of Chicago’s most beautiful sanctuary spaces.
  11. Kaia time (my god daughter).  Seeing Kaia light up with a smile when I walked into the room.  Watching Kaia laugh at raindrops falling from tree branches.  Kaia making funny faces while sucking on a slice of lemon.
  12. Dark chocolate sea salt carmel gelato from Paciugo.  OK … anything from Paciugo!
  13. Birthday greetings from some of my favorite students – past and present.
  14. Inheriting my mom’s green thumb and love of plants. And although I will never out-do my mom, I did plant four new hostas in my front yard!
  15. Grateful for the incredible women in my life … the most important of whom are my mom and my sisters.
  16. Ten years ago today, I was in Nicaragua for the first time with some amazing people!  My life has forever been changed for the better because of the people, experiences, and opportunities that have come from this one trip.
  17. Grateful to be of service to others – physically and financially.
  18. The chance to connect good people with important causes.
  19. Friends who really value time spent together in prayer … even at the risk of being interrupted by a well-meaning waiter.
  20. Surprise cupcakes, candles, and a card at the book club event where I was invited to present last week.
  21. Grateful that God has given me enough words to fill two books, and blessed for every invitation to lead a discussion about them.
  22. Birthday wishes from Facebook friends from around the world, some of whom have known me the entirety of these last 40 years.
  23. I’m especially grateful for those friends whom I have known for less amount of time, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever.
  24. A spiritual director who is kind beyond measure and wise beyond years!
  25. Birthday messages from ALL of my siblings.
  26. Grateful to be a part of doing creative, collaborative, and “innovative” work.
  27. The potential for new opportunities on the horizon … for writing, for mentoring, for ministry.
  28. For the freedom to discern where God is inviting me to use my gifts.
  29. Coupons for free birthday treats at all my favorite stores and restaurants
  30. For friends who openly share their joys and struggles.
  31. Amazon Gift Cards (thanks Mom!) and the love of books.
  32. Making time to get to the gym and having the energy for a really good workout.
  33. I am especially grateful for the incredible staff at the fitness center and how they continue to inspire me!  Today’s bit of wisdom from Jesse our cycling/spin instructor, “Don’t be afraid of the big gears!”
  34. To be at a place where I can truly appreciate the past decade with all its milestones and moments of celebration.
  35. And despite its less-then-pretty moments, I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned (as painful as they were!)
  36. An email message from the dental office that said, “We hope you have many reasons to smile today!”  Yes, I do!
  37. Fresh cut flowers, especially big yellow sunflowers, from a dear friend.
  38. Red Wine. Caesar Salad. Pasta. Chocolate Mouse. A birthday dinner worth every last bite! And a great conversation partner to share it.
  39.  A week away on silent retreat to soak in all the gratitude and love!
  40.  And hopeful anticipation of what the next ten years have in store.
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Beating the Birthday Blues

The other night, I attended an impromptu birthday dinner with a friend.  Her family was out of town and I had a rare evening off, so we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at our favorite restaurant.  Midway through dinner, she raised a characteristic concern of many single people.

What do you do when you find yourself in that “funky” space?  We’ve all been there.  Whether it is a significant birthday spent alone, a bit of post-holiday blues, or a bad day at work that sends us into the throws of a pity party.  Why me?  Why am I still single?  Why can’t I find someone?  Haven’t we all blamed a bad day on our lack of a significant other?  My married friends would be the first to say that marriage is not a cure for loneliness, nor does a relationship exempt us from the blahs. 

My single friend admitted spending a better part of the day in a funk and was finding it particularly difficult to take joy in the kind words of strangers, friends, and co-workers who bid her a happy birthday.  “How do you do it?” she asked.  “How does being single not depress you?” 

I was a bit stumped for big insights.  I try to live in the moment, take joy in everyday simplicities, and be kind to myself as much as possible.  Every day is a day worth celebrating!  I’ve learned to place a little less hype on any one particular day even birthdays, holidays, or special anniversaries.  Sure, I make plans to spend the holidays with family and enjoy a celebratory night out with friends.  But as much as possible, I try to let go of the results and not force the day to be spectacular.  Our best days and most significant moments in life are usually not planned in advance. The day is not a failure if I don’t walk away feeling blissfully aglow.

Gratitude in all things, big and small, goes a long way toward a sense of contentment in life.  I was particularly grateful to be spending that day with my friend, celebrating her birthday, and catching up on our way too busy lives.  I have to admit, though, my answer to her question felt somewhat trite … until today. 

For reasons that are too personal to disclose in a public blog, I found myself in that funky space. It had nothing to do with being single, but I often wonder if I would feel less alone in my daily struggles if there was a significant other in the picture.  As the day draws near the end, it’s worth pausing to ask “How did I make it through the day?”  And would my experience today somehow change the answer I gave the other night. 

Someone recently told me that if you need to throw a pity party, it should last no more than 10 minutes.  Give yourself permission to have a good, long cry, then pick yourself up and get on with your day. Luckily, I had the morning off work which allowed me to dilly dally around the house a little more than usual.  As much as I wanted to ignore my own honey-do list, the laundry absolutely could not wait another day!  In between trips to the laundry room I spent a little more time than usual sitting in my favorite chair, writing in my journal, and reflecting on how I got here.  As much as possible, I tried to stay busy without completely neglecting my own emotions.  It is what 12-step followers refer to as “acting as if” or “fake it until you make it”.   

At the end of the day, as difficult as the day was, I lift up a prayer of gratitude.  As I paid attention and consciously tried to live in the moment throughout the day, there are many things for which to give thanks.  I am grateful for the kindness of a co-worker, a long conversation with one of my students, and hearing someone affirm, “you’re really good at what you do.”  I am reminded that there will be good days and bad days, average days and extraordinary days.  My single status doesn’t cause them to occur or increase their frequency.

It is a real blessing when our best days coincide with a birthday or other special event. Gratitude puts our difficult days into perspective and makes those special days even more memorable.  And for the record, I’m feeling much better tonight than when I reluctantly rolled out of bed this morning. 

I wish you happy and healthy days, today and always. 

“For I will refresh the weary soul; every soul that languishes I will replenish.”  (Jeremiah 31: 25)

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