Five Random Thoughts About My Birthday


My mom, Leone in her birthday suit, and me. Photo courtesy of Christopher Briscoe.

My mom, Leone in her birthday suit, and me. Photo courtesy of Christopher Briscoe.

I went back to work after the kids went to bed last night and then James and I stayed up … talking (since Mothering is a family magazine, let’s just say we were talking.) Leone woke to nurse around 5:00 a.m. As the sky is turning from pink to blue everyone in the house is still quietly asleep except me. If these thoughts are a bit jumbled and typos abound, you know why.

I have birthdays on the brain, maybe because our oldest turned eleven two weeks ago and today is my birthday.

This is what I’ve been thinking about:

1. Birthday Giving: Inspired my Project Happily Ever After’s I’m Donating My Birthday to Charity (I still can’t read this post without crying), I biked to the post office yesterday, mailed two little white envelopes with checks in them, and gave myself the best birthday present I’ve ever received. Thank you to Alisa Bowman for the inspiration. Athena had the idea before any of us but somehow, after working for several years in non-profit and seeing firsthand how money can be (mis)spent, I started to get cynical about donating to charity. Still, helping someone in need directly—or donating to local non-profits with little or no overhead costs—feels so right. (Our two favorite Oregon charities are FRIENDS OF TREES in Portland and WILDLIFE IMAGES in Grants Pass.) I’m excited that we are starting a family tradition of birthday giving.

2. Once you pass 40 it’s time to start counting backwards: which makes me 39 this year. Next year I’ll be 38. Move over Zora Neale Hurston (she always used to lie about her age), I’m getting younger by the minute.

3. All that selflessness is fine and everything (see #1) but what I really want for my birthday is a clean house, scrubbed top to bottom. Only, in our house three minutes after it’s clean someone spills celery soup on the floor (me), decides to investigate how fountain pens work (Etani), gets creative with scissors and paper and leaves the scraps everywhere (Athena), decides to home roast some green coffee beans and makes a fifth cup of coffee, leaving the French press in the sink and the dirty coffee cup on the counter or in the bathroom (James), or poops on the carpet (Leone). Notice Hesperus is absent from this list. She’s the only one in our family who is truly tidy. I guess I’ll have a clean house when … I go visit hers when she’s a grown-up.

4. It’s fun to bake your own cake. Maybe carrot cake this year? Or spice cake? Not death-by-chocolate tort (that one takes three hours). German chocolate? Lemon?

5. An excuse to be outside: I’m going to try to stay off the Internet today and we’re planning a family hike up Grizzly Peak after work this afternoon. If I can’t have a clean house (#3) at least I can get out of it!

How do you like to celebrate your birthday? What was your best birthday ever?

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26 thoughts on “Five Random Thoughts About My Birthday”

  1. Happy Birthday to one of Mothering’s best writers. You’re great to work with, and one of the most productive and self-motivated people I’ve never actually met! Hope the hike is fabulous. Melissa

  2. Happy birthday! I guess my best birthday ever was 50. We lived in France then, so it was not difficult to motor to Italy. We stayed on a hilltop in Tuscany for five days. We had the daughter of a cousin with us. After my cousin died, the daughter was put in foster care families since the father was abusive. Since the foster care families did not prove ideal (UNDERSTATEMENT!) I invited her to live out the remaining months of her 17th year with us in Europe. She got to go to Italy, too!
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Silent Spring Institute &amp Green Chemistry =-.

  3. My best, most memorable birthday: the year I was training for a December marathon, which got canceled. We were going to my folks’ house in Lake Waccamaw, NC, for Christmas, and when I told my dad (who’s an ultramarathoner) that the marathon had been canceled, he said, “Well, we’ll just have to run one while you’re here.”

    So he and mom decided to hold the First Ever Laurathon on my birthday, the day after Christmas. They sent me an entry form; I made T-shirts (with Christmas angels wearing running shoes). My dad invited runners from the running club in the area (only one showed, and he ended up dropping out after 7 miles). So on my 38th birthday, in rare (for coastal North Carolina) sleet and freezing rain, I ran my first marathon, with my dad around the lake where I was born.

    My husband and son and sister and brother served as mobile aid units, catching up with my dad and me along the way to offer us leftover Christmas Eve punch (which, conveniently, my mom had made with PowerAde, there not being any juice in the house) and Christmas cookies. Daddy and I crossed the finish line (a Christmas ribbon my brother and son stretched across my folks’ driveway) in 4 hours and 50 minutes. Not exactly record time, but I’m guessing it was a whole lot more fun than most first marathons.

    Thanks for asking, Jennifer. Hope you’re having a rich and memorable day today!

  4. I love the idea of giving back for your birthday–though there are plenty of nonmaterial things I want…a day alone with no kids, an extra hour to read, a back rub etc…. For a long time, though, I’ve been asking for (and giving!) items from Heifer International. I’m not sure how well the money is spent, but it seems like such a good concept and my epidemiologist brother-in-law says they’re very legit. I have loved the move away from “stuff” and toward “experiential gifts”…this is one more move in that (right!) direction.

  5. That is such a lovely story Laura. What a wonderful birthday memory. What a nice dad you have, and what nice kids to be your mobile unit. You go girl! I did my first triathlon (a mini) at age 39. Your story inspires me that it’s never NEVER too late to experience new things!

  6. I totally agree about experiential gifts Kimberly. And thank you for buying a heifer for my birthday! Etani gave me a painting and an angel, Hesperus a candle and a chocolate bar, James an immersion blender … Athena’s gift is coming Saturday because she’s working on it. They are all lovely and perfect presents. But the heifer may be the best one of all!

  7. A birthday in Tuscany sounds so romantic and perfect Alexandra. I feel glad for your cousin’s daughter that she was able to spend some time with you in Europe. What is she doing now?

  8. Thank you Melissa! I feel very honored and proud to be part of the Mothering team, and I really appreciate these kind words. We’ll meet sometime soon in real life!

  9. A great birthday memory I have was when I was turning 21 and on a bike trip from Pensacola, FL to Key West. We stopped in Naples to stay a few days and there was an amazing anti-war protest going on. All of the protesters were elders. They were so beautiful and inspirational! Every town we stopped in on that trip had voices crying out against attacking Iraq. Florida is not known for it’s anti-war sentiment, and this showed me first hand how many people truly were against using military force in Iraq.

    I think I need to take more initiative in my birthday celebrations. I always wait for someone to throw me a party….which never happens! This year I should plan my own day.

  10. Happy birthday, Jennifer! You and Alisa are both inspiring me. Thank you! (p.s. love the picture of you, your mom and baby.)

  11. Happy Birthday dear Jennifer! What a wonderful way to celebrate your birthday. I find as I get older that there is less that I need and more that I want to give, so I understand.

    My very best birthday was probably right after I became a mother for the first time. I had waited so long to have a baby and he was finally here and in my arms and just about two weeks old (just like how your eldest was born right before your birthday) and he was the best birthday present I could ever ever have. There was nothing else I could possibly ask for.
    .-= Christine@OrigamiMommy´s last blog ..Home birth in Japan =-.

  12. Happy birthday, Jennifer! I think my most memorable birthday was my 40th, just a few years ago. My two boys and I hiked with a homeschool group into a secluded valley right on the ocean. And then up the other side (can you hear me puffing?) through a muddy rainforest until we reached the top and the overlook into a second valley. While we were at the top, the kids picked strawberry guava and lilikoi, growing wild. It was just wonderful.
    .-= Kris Bordessa´s last blog ..Being Party to a Chant =-.

  13. I hope you had a great birthday. A clean house is a great gift. I just spilled this orange drink (hard to explain what it was) all over the walls and floor of my kitchen. I was so frustrated that I wiped it up with a bathroom towel and just left the stickiness for another time. So I’m with you.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Find Your Calling =-.

  14. Happy Birthday, Jennifer. I hope you get the clean house wish for your birthday. That is a luxury with young kids running around. The picture of three generations is wonderful. I’m glad that you included it in the post. I hope the hike was a good one.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Searching for Paradise in Montana =-.

  15. happy birthday, Jennifer, and good wishes for the year ahead..that is a lovely photo. thank you for including it.

    two years ago, I followed a bit of intuition and sent short notes to several friends I knew I would not be seeing, recalling a memory of friendship and inviting them each to do something nice for themselves to help me mark the day. I did not suggest that they write back about this, and did not really expect that they would. though I

  16. Happy Birthday, Jennifer! That’s so sweet of you and Alisa to make donations in honor of your birthday. I did something similar when my father died (only I made a donation in his name to the research foundation that investigates the rare neurological disorder he had). Hope you’re enjoying some downtime with family!

  17. My parents usually give me money for my birthday with the clear instructions that I am supposed to spend it on “me” for something I “want”, not something we “need” as a family. These instructions always seems very strange to me. For one, they are indicative of problems in our society that we have, and often fulfill, too many commercial wants. I think I live very happy on a day-to-day basis and this is because I don’t want much – my old clothes and furniture are just fine, the library is full of books, etc. I always have a hard time spending this money. This year I bought myself a membership & donation to the Cyclist’s Union. (This is an organization in Toronto that advocates for cyclists). It makes me feel great to belong to and support this organization! My parents don’t quite get it why I would choose to spend my birthday money on this … but they are glad it makes me happy.

  18. Thank you so much for choosing Friends of Trees as one of your favorite charities! What a great family tradition for birthdays. I hope you had a happy one and that you and your family — and others in the community — enjoy the trees you’ve made it possible for us to plant.

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