Celebrating my 41st with a Full Heart

My birthday falls just about two weeks after Christmas, in the cold season of hunkering down and getting back to work after the holidays. As a child, I often wished for a summer birthday so that I could have a swimming party to celebrate. Sometimes my birthday felt anti-climactic. And sometimes my expectations were just wrong: “You should make a big deal out of me! It’s my BIRTHDAY!”

Last year, I planned my birthday celebration…a gathering of women near and dear to me who all convened at a funky little coffee shop called Stardust to chat and laugh and eat. And I enjoyed the company of each and every one. This year, I wanted to do more. “Yes” to the gathering of friends. But also to more of an adventure. No more pining for a swimming party (I live in Florida now; we’ve been swimming in January before) and no more wondering how my birthday might “turn out.”

So I organized two events I’d been longing to do for a while. The first:  a Soapy Saturday volunteering at Clean the World with friends. For about three hours, two friends and I sorted soaps, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion (almost all at least partially used) that had been donated by area hotels. These items are then re-purposed for use in homeless shelters in the U.S. as well as to be sent to developing nations to promote health and hygiene.

Sorting tables for amenities at Clean the World, Orlando.
Sorting tables for amenities at Clean the World, Orlando.
Buckets to hold soap, lotion, shampoo, etc. at Clean the World
Buckets to hold soap, lotion, shampoo, etc. at Clean the World
Birthday girl with her plastic work gloves on.
Birthday girl with her plastic work gloves on.
Boxes of items waiting to be sorted at the warehouse of Clean the World.
Boxes of items waiting to be sorted at the warehouse of Clean the World.

We stood on squishy mats and wore our plastic gloves and listened to the radio while we tossed bottle after bottle of sticky, gooey hotel amenities. And I had the greatest morning. We finished our shift (along with about 50 teens from the community) and then I presented a little gift to my friends who’d joined me for the morning. A kind of grown-up version of a take-home goody bag.

Although I don’t like to paint per se, I love chalkboard paint and love slapping it on almost anything flat and stationary. Maybe because I love words and messages and communication–and chalkboards allow for communicating words and messages. So I found an idea on Pinterest (where else, right?) to spray paint old picture frames and then add chalkboard paint to the glass inside the frame to create a little chalkboard. I hit Goodwill with my 6-year-old and found a number of frames to do the trick. Some spray paint, some chalk (gathered up in plastic wrap and tied with a ribbon), a few days to paint, dry, paint again…and these are the results:

Chalkboard craft with chalk
Chalkboard craft with chalk
Wooden frame, white spray paint, chalkboard paint, and a few sticks of chalk.
Wooden frame, white spray paint, chalkboard paint, and a few sticks of chalk.

The chalkboard paint looks a little smeary in places, but I think it will still be fine as a writing surface. It was a delight to surprise my friends with these handmade gifts.

Later that night, I completed another experience I’d wanted to have for a long while:  nighttime kayaking to observe bioluminescing comb jellies. I’d planned this as the “family” celebration of my birthday. The wind blew cold, and I paddled harder than I’d ever paddled in my life. My first born was disappointed that no finger mullets jumped into his kayak as they did in mine, although I could have done without that myself–particularly when one pesky little fellow flipped himself under my seat. I lifted up my bottom and asked my husband to paddle over and get it out from under me. Thankfully, he obliged. We saw fewer comb jellies than I’d anticipated, but the view of the nighttime sky took my breath away. No light pollution, and the sky was encrusted with stars.

Our family waiting to start our nighttime kayak trip.
Our family waiting to start our nighttime kayak trip.

All in all, volunteering with friends in the morning and then enjoying being on the water in the cold dark with family at night made for a delicious way to celebrate turning 41. With the gift of experiences more than presents.

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4 thoughts on “Celebrating my 41st with a Full Heart

  1. It was a privilege to “work” alongside you on your birthday Allison! We should do that again.

    My little chalkboard is in the kitchen for when the children come and ask how to spell a word, I ask them to write it on the board first and then we correct it if needed. A fun & easy way to learn.

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  2. What a fun way to celebrate your birthday! My birthday in relation to Christmas is in reverse. It’s two weeks before Christmas. I love the way you celebrated yours. You inspire me with your commitment to service, and I think the nighttime kayaking sounds like fun. I’ve heard of it before and would love to do it someday. I’ll have to get info about it from you.

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    1. Susan, I DO hope you get to do the kayak trip someday–it’s fun with a group, I think. There’s a summer option for nighttime kayaking, which would certainly be warmer than doing it in January.

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