Celebrate Your Birthday Well

Today is my birthday.

Birthday Ritual

The year I turned 23, no one knew it was my birthday.

I was on retreat in the mountains of Colorado.  This was before cell phones and before email.  And no one on retreat knew that it was my birthday.  No one had the address, there would be no surprise cake, phone call, card or present.  I woke up and realized it was “my special day.” And it was up to me to celebrate it.

With a blank slate I chose to celebrate it in little ways, quietly.

That day changed my own expectations of a birthday for me.  It was, perhaps, my favorite birthday.  And from the year forward, it would be up to me to choose to celebrate my birthday in a way where I celebrated life well.

In 1997 my mom gave me the book, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  When I came to the reading on December 18, I read, “”Today isn’t my birthday, but it might be yours  . . . ” I resonated with Sarah’s message:  Choose how you will celebrate your birthday, for no one else will be able to celebrate you in the best way because, “no one knows the year you’ve just completed; no one else has lived it.”

Sarah then writes about her birthday ritual. I have adopted and formed my own rituals over the years. It is a time of reflection, pampering and personal gratitude.  That makes a birthday to me.  No expectations of others.

My birthday is a gift and reminder to me to celebrate life.


Christmas Mantel 2012

Christmas Mantel 2012Advent is here.

December is a month to celebrate.  One of our first traditions is to change our mantel.  For the past few years we have been choosing a “theme” for Christmas.

Our theme this year is  . . .

All is Calm

We wanted to have a woodsy mantel, so we chose to bring in some greens, pine cones, and cut logs


And then inspired by Pinterest and curious to see if we could make our own chalkboard, we headed to the White Elephant Outlet, a local shop when unwanted antiques and knick knacks go.  We found a big painting with the frame.  Everything is half off.  We purchased it.  Andrew painted the gold frame white and then painted the glass with chalkboard paint.

It was my turn.

I took inspiration from the above printable.  And designed our chalkboard.  I meticulously copied the letters and then found a snowflake on line that I liked and did my best to pretend to be an artist.


And here we have our Christmas mantel.


What are ways we incorporate the “theme”?

  • We chose an advent reading called, “All is Calm, All is Bright”
  • Our Christmas cards have the saying “All is Calm, All is Bright” on them and we are wishing our friends and family a season that includes moments of calm and moments that are bright
  • We choose presents around the theme, our family will receive presents that are “calm” and/or “bright”
  • We will include it in our annual Christmas Movie
  • We wrap our presents in this theme
  • We give our co-workers fudge with tags from our theme.

Last year our theme was “Joy to the World”

Christmas Mantel 2011

May your winter season be filled with the peace and calm

And may your celebrations be merry and bright!


Linking up to . . .



one project link partySS852700

Intention {Community} Day 26: Stay Connected

…to re-connect with “kids” from my past.


I have worked with teenagers since I was a teen.  I was 18 when I worked at Camp Fireside as a counselor and then directed Ithiel Falls Camp Meeting the following year.

This was my very first cabin of campers ever (they are not teens).

Over the years I have worked with hundreds of teens.  I led church youth groups, taught classes, lived in a group home for chemically addicted teen boys, brought teens overseas, hosted teens overseas, directed drama troupes, led retreats, counseled, worked as a resident director, tutored, and more.

I adore teenagers.

And I so love watching them grown and learn and become.

Some of these students I have worked with have stayed in touch over the years.  Others I am connected to on Facebook.

And sometimes I get to sit with them face to face.

And that is a joy.

I chose long ago to let those students I work with take the lead in our friendship in the years to come.  And I appreciate every update I get, every email, every cup of tea.

This week I made sure to have time for two of my “kids,” both now in their 20’s.

I didn’t take pictures.  I meant to, but honestly, I was wrapped up in hearing about their lives now.  So here they are from days past and today.

I haven’t seen Sarah in years.  She is the same authentic and direct person she was when she was a sophomore in high school.  Today she seems incredibly self-aware and mature.  I adored meeting her for a morning tea.



No student that I have ever worked with has done a better job of staying in touch than Jade.  I met Jade when she was in eighth grade.  She is a remarkable human being and because she has been so in touch we have walked through a good deal of life together.  In the picture on the left she is loving children in Venezuela.  The same trip Andrew and I met on ten years ago.  And on the left she is beaming after her engagement to Jeremie.  They came over for a really nice night of dinner and games this week.

I feel grateful.  I am intentional about embracing opportunities to reunite with “students” from my past.  My life is fuller because of them.

Intention {Work} Day 24: Bring Celebration to Work

 … bring the celebration of fall to my students and co-workers.

It is fall, and I love that and celebrate that whenever I can before the leaves Fall.  So this week Andrew and I agreed that we would join together to bring yummy fall food to work on Wednesday to celebrate fall with our colleagues.

Cole and I stopped at Russel Orchards yesterday and got some cider donuts and apple cider.  Treats for my students and for my co-workers.


Food connects people, and New Englanders seem to love to connect around cider donuts.  Yum.  Bringing in some donuts and cider brought a sense of cheer.  I loved intentionally bringing in a taste of fall.

Intention {Parenting} Day 9: Celebrate

 . . . to celebrate with Cole.

Today is my birthday.  And I have today off.  Cole has today off as well.

I have a couple of plans, but I have some Mama and Colton time.  And I am not sure what we will do exactly, but we are going to celebrate . . .


Today is my birthday.  At age 23 I had a revelation about celebrating my birthday.

Years later Sarah Ban Breathnach articulated my thoughts in her birthday ritual, which I have made my own.

So today when I thought about what I most wanted to do with Cole to celebrate my birthday.  I knew.  I wanted to visit sacred places.  It is the way I love to celebrate life.  I love to get outside into nature.

So today Cole and I visited three of my favorite places on the North Shore.

First we went to Tuck’s Point, where Andrew and I were going to get married (but alas it rained) and Cole loved discovering this sacred place.

Next we headed to Singing Beach, where Andrew and I went on our first date and where he proposed.

Our last stop was a place I knew Cole would love: Norman’s Woe.  We “hiked” out to the rocks and then climbed around.  Cole was in heaven and it brought me great joy and peace.

It was a lovely day.  And I felt loved from the souffle that greeted me in the morning to the molton lava cake tonight.

And all the way in between.

Hoping my little man will continue to enjoy celebrating by adventuring out.

Summer 2012 Week 6 {Olympic Adventures} : Mini-Olympics

The athletes arrived on the field, carrying torches, wearing Olympic crowns

The first order of business was to run (and climb) with the olympic torch – to begin the games).

The opening event was the 100 meter dash

Will was a clear winner.  He then let Colton run alone, so Colton was also a clear winner.

On to the hurdles, that were so much fun the boys just jumped back and forth across them.

The final event was the Javelin Throw

And then it was on to an Olympic Lunch

And then we had our Olympic Ceremony.  Each of the boys received a medal.

What a wonderful time we had!

Great thanks to Jade and the boys.  She showed up, and we figured out the couple of projects we could do while the boys played.  We went for a walk, set it up down town.

Happy Olympics!

Summer 2012 Week 1 {Birthday Week} – Reflection

We had a great birthday week.  We enjoy celebrating (when I turned 40 I made a whole month of it).  We were intentional throughout the week and there are some things we did not blog about.

Things We Did Not Blog About

  1. We gave Colton a sandbox for his birthday.  Andrew built it and Colton adores it and  is asking all the time to play in it.
  2. We both went into Cole’s room his birthday morning carrying 3 balloons and singing.  It was a celebration to start the day (no pics).
  3. We went to two other wonderful birthday parties leading up to Cole’s birthday so he was prepped (3a was cousin Oliver’s “Animal Tracking Party” and 3b was Christopher’s “Lightening McQueen Party).
  4. We actually had two birthday parties for Cole on his birthday: 1 for toddlers and the other for friends and family.  We prepared for four, we thought the first was going to be inside, then it was nice out.  We prepared the second one for outside and then it poured.  The first party was all about Colton and his friends, the second was more laid back and a time to appreciate the adults that have supported our little guy (4a the guests made a page in a smash book for Cole about where they thought he should visit, 4b he got lots of wonderful presents from wonderful people).
  5. We had a surprise visitor between the two parties!  The Music Man saw balloons at our house and came to play Cole a happy birthday song.  Cole is smitten with the guitar, and this master of it. It was amazing – a big thanks to Brian Doser!
  6. At the 5:00 pm start of party # 2 a torrential downpour let loose, soaking our guests followed by the electricity going out.  Everyone was amazingly flexible, we are so grateful.
  7. We took out 5 books from the library on planes.  I thought I might blog about them, none of them were very good.  We have books at home about airplanes that we like better.

Things We Wish We Had Thought of . . . 

After most things Andrew and I debrief, reflect on what we would change and what we did well.  Thought I would share that here, and that way it is writing for us to refer back to . . . .

  1. I wish that we had budgeted.  Andrew and I have been budgeting monthly, we pay all of our bills before the first of the month.  But we did not specifically have a budget for Cole’s birthday.  My old mindset feels if I put a budget on things, that I will feel restricted.  But what I recognized this time is that I just felt terribly whenever I spent money.  There is a joy in having a budget, and spending that money that was set aside already for just that.
  2. I wish we had a list of pictures that we wanted to take and made sure that that happened.  I am finding that this is something that I want to get into the habit of doing.  The truth is that my list would not be very long and it would get done if I were more intentional.  The two pictures that I wish we had are the three of us the day of the party and one of the cupcakes.  And with three years of birthday parites, this has been an issue every year.  Thank goodness for friends who said that we should pose together year one . . . but since then we have not been intentional and the dessert does not get it’s due – the past parties we got pictures of the cake and cupcakes in the box, but never displayed.  In addition, I do wish we were more intentional about getting pictures of every person at the party.  The photo booth was great, but more candids would be on my list too.
  3. Lastly, we skipped a step we usually do when we host . . . listing out the food we are serving.  It has been helpful in the past, and poor Andrew was setting out all the food while I was with our guests (each adult guest had put a page in a book for Cole about where they think he should travel to).  And the pasta salad nor the potato salad made it to the table (though we had two easy go-tos for the rest of the week).

Things We are Glad We Did . . . 

  1. We did a little each day leading up to the party, that meant we put up clouds and Cole was thrilled, we hung paper airplanes and he enjoyed those each morning.  Decorating a bit leading up to the party meant less to do right before and it meant that we felt festive throughout the week.
  2. We set aside a specific place for things we were going to use for the party.  I actually used some plastic drawers and labeled them with what was in them.  It took very little time and it meant that leading up to the day of the party I could grab a drawer, work on a project, and then put it away.  The day before the project I cleared all the drawers and we were ready to go.
  3. We asked for help.  I have learned that when I have more than half a dozen people over, I feel as if I am taking care of details instead of actually being present with our guests.  So when my friend Lisa offered to help, I accepted.  And inspired, I also asked on of my students for help, Olivia.  They were amazing, taking care of the details, putting together lunch trays, wrangling toddlers.  I did get to talk with our guests, and be with our little guy, and it was wonderful.

So our first week of summer is complete . . . We are well on our way to 10 intentional weeks of summer.

During Birthday Week We . . .