Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Happiest Birthday

I kind of hate birthdays. Every year, I have a tendency to have a melt-down around my birthday. This year was no exception. I feel like I have had some really crummy ones, that sometimes people I love forget about it, or just generally awful events tend to coincide with the weeks/days before I turn a year older. And even when they don't, I still get so ornery and mopey around my birthday. It's been like this for at least the last several years, but I can trace the beginning of feeling this way back to when I was in high school. In the weeks or month before my birthday, I look forward to it. I like cake. I like presents. I like when my friends and family call. Birthdays are great!

Until four or five days before...and then I get gloomy and mean.

This year was no exception.

The day before my birthday, I melted down. I cried to Rob about how I hate my birthday, everything and every one that has anything to do with it, and I that I didn't even want people to wish me a happy birthday; I just wanted to crawl in a hole and forget the whole day.

And then I had a realization. It isn't my birthday. It's me.

Every year around my birthday, I get the birthday blues. I always thought I was feeling bad FOR myself, but I realized I feel bad ABOUT myself. Even though I don't struggle the rest of the year with this thought, there is something about being another year older that makes me feel like I have fallen short; I look at myself, at my life, and I basically feel...worthless. I feel like I am another year older and I haven't done anything meaningful or important. It's kind of hard to write it out like that, to realize that deep down, that's why I hate turning another year older, but really, I heard it in my head and I felt it in my heart, and I knew that the anger wasn't about what someone had done or about something that had happened. It was about me, and the fact that I didn't think I was worth celebrating.

That's kind of depressing, right? And maybe not normal (I don't a lot of people feel this way?), but definitely not the type of person I want to be.

So I decided to change my mind. I think this has been a long time coming. The past few months, I have been thinking about doing something meaningful for my birthday, and finally came up with a plan. But I realized I could easily do more, and that when you feel bad for yourself, the best thing you can do is go out and do kind things for others.

So, I did register for that 5K, and even had a little extra to add to the donation.
(Look! Here's me, "running"!)

 But more significantly, I got done crying, wiped off the smeared mascara and walked into the kitchen and started making cookies and brainstorming. And I think I created a new tradition for myself and my family.

That night I made 4 dozen cookies. The next morning, we got up and we went to spread some love.

Our family delivered cookies to the police station, where we were invited to give them to the Chief of Police, who nearly came to tears, telling us that the day before had been one of the worst ever, and that he couldn't express how grateful it was to know that some people were actually appreciative of the work they do. (They gave the kids badge stickers and a ride in the display car.)

We went to fire station, where we handed cookies off to the fire fighters and the kids were given a tour of the station with a look/climb around the ladder truck.

We went to the library and gave them to the librarians.

We took people treats AND animal treats to the local animal shelter where the kids got to happily play with the dogs.

Then we went to Walmart to get a dozen balloons, where we left 3 plastic bags of quarters taped to the soda machines for people to find and enjoy a free soda.

We took the balloons to one of the local nursing homes, where we made some new friends and spread a little cheer. (It was so AMAZING to see my sweet daughter giving hugs, holding hands, and talking to the residents. I was so worried that she would be too shy or would be frightened, but she commented on how much she loved it and all the "nice grandmas and grandpas.")

I had to go to work after that, but after work, we went "camping." The kids have been asking to go camping for ages now, and with all they do to fill me with joy, I figured one awesome birthday present would be to return the favor. It was really cold, so I chickened out and we took the kids home once the fire died and we all got sleepy, but it was once of those moments I want to tuck away in some place for safe keeping and never, ever lose; a moment I wish I could freeze for all time and play back again and again and again.

We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and watched the colors of the fire. The kids told us campfire stories: Squirrel's was about a little princess who shared her name who went camping in the woods and was afraid of everything, so her mommy stayed with her. And THEN when a bear jumped out to scare them, they realized it was only DADDY! (Insert shrieks and giggles.)

Little Bird's was about a little monster (who also shared his name) and a little ghost that came to play with him everyday, until a big ghost came and put the little ghost in the garbage can! (Insert raucous laughter.) Luckily, his friend came and got the little ghost back out of the garbage can and they played more.

As I sat there by the fire, with Squirrel snuggled in my lap and Little Bird in Rob's, listening to my children weave tales (complete with conflict and character development), watching the purples, oranges, and yellows of the flames run into each other, I realized that these amazing children were another year older too. That every year, time will move on, and these beautiful little people are my accomplishment. These sweet hands delivering cookies, stroking the veins on the hands of the elderly, their darling mouths telling stories and filling the cold air with laughter, the eyes that shone at me with love and affection and pride for their work that day, those are the things that reflect my worth back to me.

And so, this is how I know that in the past year, I have accomplished something important and that I am not only someone myself, but I am creating beautiful little someones who can someday go on and do the same.

Pretty much the best birthday in the history of the world.

Peace and love,



  1. I hate the run up to my birthday too. My family of origin doesn't do celebrations well, and I have often felt left out as a child. Birthdays were always a let down. Sometimes I've wondered if that feeling comes from the deep exhaustion my mother and I felt at the time of my birth (72 hour labour+instrument delivery).
    This year I tried really hard to celebrate turning 40, by having a 'late for an important date- Alice in Wonderland themed party'.
    Almost no one came :(
    None of my in-laws turned up, only some of my local siblings and their families came, the others didn't even bother to tell me they weren't coming. I think my feeling of un-loved-ness was pretty justified...
    I think you are onto something though with the recognition that your feeling is about yourself, not how others view you, and I'm going to be doing some more self reflection in that direction. Thankyou!

  2. Oh, Kierra. I stinking love this post - this story - and you. My first instinct when I read the sentence "I feel like I am another year older and I haven't done anything meaningful or important." was to jump right in and defend you. But the rest of the post was exactly what you needed. What an incredible blessing you and your family were to SO many people. Major kudos to you for setting aside the insecurity and fear we humans struggle with in order to bless others.

    On a side note - I think your life is incredibly meaningful, and you do important things everyday. You raise your children, and you work. You balance a life that could easily spin out of control, and manage to be a crafty person, a master seamstress, and one who impresses me with your use of the written language.

    Anyway, I love and miss you very much. And I'm so glad I get to be a tiny part of your incredibly meaningful life...from a cyberspace. :) Happy Belated Birthday!

  3. Coolest birthday celebration EVER! Seriously, I LOVE IT! And just so you know, your life and the things that you do are meaningful and important to SO many of us! I know that my life has been incredibly enriched because I am blessed to know you!

  4. Stumbled onto your blog this morning while googling the Thoreau pumpkin quote. Very much enjoying reading it. I love your style, warmth and openess. Contrary to your side bar, you ARE "much too good" at lots of things, writing being one of them :)


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