Posts Tagged ‘Birthdays’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Having just concluded most of my birthday celebrations (an additional birthday brunch scheduled for tomorrow and a birthday trip planned at the end of March), it seems as though I have successfully stretched my birthday celebrations from a day to a week, to a full month.

Ah, but Isn’t life always worth celebrating (my life especially, it seems)?

As a self-proclaimed celebration aficionado, I have hit upon yet another “teachable moment” and intend to continue to make the world a better place, not just by being in it (duh) but by sharing what I have learned and encouraging everyone to celebrate life and themselves as often as possible. Thus, I shall share my successful celebration strategies.

Make a “birthday wish list”

The list should include activities and ingredients for a good time. Share it with those closest to you. My list this year








When brilliant, observant, and attentive friend Kris gave me flowers, I was thrilled, but he reminded me that he was just helping me check items off my birthday list.

Know great people

I have often thanked the sun and moon and stars for what I have deemed my incredible “Friend Karma” (my ability to meet, befriend, and build relationships with truly tremendous people). Having good friends is particularly wonderful on birthdays. This year, my birthday celebrations began with a dinner of sushi at Wasabi and a night of classy cocktails at Scofflaw. Then, I spent a magnificent night dancing at Slippery Slope with many friends; we formed a circle of awesomeness and sexiness rarely seen outside of 1970’s era discotheques. In short: Dine, Drink, Dance.

Get out there

Since moving to Chicago, I have included a “birthday trip” to my celebration schedule, an excellent addition if ever there was one, an idea that I learned from a former student at Columbia. His name was possibly Conner Johnson (can’t recall precisely). He himself had a list of brilliant birthday trips that began after a disappointing 15th birthday party. He determined to have much more fun on his 16th birthday, so he completed a road trip from California to Chicago via route 66 with his dad. Can you imagine? Suitably inspired, I added a birthday getaway to my celebration schedule. As a result, I have given myself the enormous and irreplaceable gift of fond memories of time spent with friends! I have travelled to Boston with Hanna and Leah, hannaleah

New Orleans with Leah, Bill, Kait & Alex.

Visited Kait & Alex in San Francisco.


This year, I’ll be hitting the road with Kris to see St. Louis. Following my bliss, every step of the way.

Be delighted by surprises

Good surprises in life are fairly rare, so I am thrilled to report that my lovely family (one marvelous mother, four fabulous sisters, and two terrific brothers) decided that I deserved a great gift this year: a new bicycle! The fun of bicycle shopping and selection coupled with the promise of faster and fancier biking throughout my neighborhood and beyond surpasses just about every other (material) birthday wish I can imagine. The fact that my ideal birthday gift today (at my age) is essentially the same as when I was ten years old seems a remarkably good sign.

Cheers, as always, to another year wiser!


By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Our first 21 years of life are stacked with milestone birthdays, like:

16 (Driving!)
18 (Voting! Oh, and smoking, and armed services, and such.)
21 (Drinking and Gambling! responsibly….)

Today I turned 32, meaning those milestones have long since passed.

Through my mid-20s, one of several reasons why I fell out of love with birthdays is that the milestones are mostly gone. Well, except for when I turn 35 and run for President. And 65 when I collect social security. And 100 when I get my face on a Smucker’s jar courtesy of a then 148-year-old Willard Scott.

Coming in 2082!  Thanks in advance to Willard Scott.

Coming in 2082! Thanks in advance to Willard Scott.

Last year, I changed my thinking. I wrote on The Flaneur’s Turtle about making my birthday special by running my first half-marathon on my 31st birthday. By any normal standards, 31 is not a milestone birthday, but I made it one. I don’t remember what I did on many of my birthdays, but long after my face is on the Smucker’s jar, I will always remember where I was and what I did on my 31st.

Thus, as we get older, the milestones aren’t gone; they’ve evolved.

It is like assigning an essay in an English class. If I limit a class to a single prompt for an essay, many students will find that boring and will be displeased with the limited options. However, there will be little confusion about what is expected of them. The final products will be solid but unspectacular, because I haven’t allowed them the opportunity to do something unique.

On the other hand, if I give a class freedom to select their own topics, many students will be stymied by having unlimited options. Some of the papers will be a mess; yet, others will be brilliant and unique, and those papers wouldn’t exist had I dictated the topic.

The regular milestone birthdays are the essay prompt: we know exactly what we’re expected to do on birthdays like our 21st. The entire event is already prescribed for us. And though many people think their 21st birthday of getting trashed was THE definitive, unique 21st birthday – I’m sorry to say it wasn’t.

All other birthdays are like having no prompt: there are no directions and nothing is determined for us. It may not be easy to find something special and unique to do that day, and the possibility for failure is there. However, there is also the potential for doing something special that goes well beyond the predetermined paths of our traditional milestone birthdays.

For this birthday, I have spread my celebrations around. I once again ran the half-marathon, and a few days before that, I performed on-stage at a Live Lit venue for the first time doing a creative nonfiction/humor piece.

For me, “special” means a challenge, a new experience, a victory, and I will continue to seek out ways to make my birthdays special even though they are not milestones and no predetermined path has been set for me.

At least until 2017 when I am set to start my Presidential campaign.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~ C. S. Lewis

Perhaps getting older is like everything else: it gets easier the more you do it.

Ten years ago I stressed more about growing older than I currently do thanks to a cheerful acceptance of the inevitable. Another Imagebirthday is approaching and the only thing that is troubling me this year, at this age, is that I wasn’t able to go on a weekend birthday trip getaway (or, rather, I elected to save for a longer trip in the summer).

There are tremendous benefits to getting older; the two key ones are, in my estimation

Alpha: Understand and accept yourself

Omega: No longer wasting time

ImageSome of the other glorious things about getting older include:

Spending time with children.

Knowing the words to old songs, and unabashedly singing along.

Loving a myriad of magnificent, beautiful people (and counting).

Welcoming the surprises life can bring, and awaiting the next with anticipation.

Thanks to the tiny bits of wisdom I have garnered over the years, I know what to do and what not to do, to some degree, better now than I did before. For instance, beige is not my color (beige clothes make me look naked, truth). A miniskirt was never my best look, so I feel fine relinquishing that costume of youth. I’ve also discovered I look terrific in a wrap dress, and I wear a signature perfume that smells divine only on me.

ImageI have accepted my own personal version of crazy; I practice punctuality and don’t like to stay up late; happily those personal tics correspond well with aging, so eventually, it won’t be odd that I arrive promptly and want to go home at 10:00pm. In fact, if I stay awake past 10:00pm in 30 years, that’ll seem like a real accomplishment, much like it did 30 years ago.

I will continue to develop my relationship with myself in the coming years. Indeed, it has been said that “the most profound relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves.” The fact that this sentiment emanated from the 20th century actress and meditation guru Shirley MacLaine should encourage your acceptance of its veracity, since she’s lived a lot (if you get that reference, you are my age, or older—hello, fellow traveler!)

While I hope to age well, I do have a central regret: I should have started saving money when I was younger, not for retirement, but for the amount I spend on moisturizers. The one aspect of aging I do not want to have to gracefully accept is wrinkles. There is no way to avoid them; they are a key demarcation of age. To wrinkles I say, “yuck, oftentimes with an ‘ef’.”

Nevertheless, I am happy to celebrate my birthday in late February day after day, often lasting a week, or even into March—why not? I Imagecan think of limitless fun things to do, and I know enough people whom I can invite, so I take advantage of that serendipity.

Aging without growing old arises from enjoying life. Years ago, I was a bartender at an Irish pub in Cleveland, Ohio. Opening night was New Year’s Eve. I went to the hair salon before my shift, mostly to make a good impression on my new customers. I was the youngest woman in the beauty parlor by at least two decades when the stylist asked who wanted glitter sprayed into their hair. Thinking it too girlish, I immediately said, “No.”

The much older woman next to me looked up with a grin and said, “I never pass up a chance to sparkle!” In that moment, she was younger than me, and I opted for the glitter after all.

When young, we are all more sensitive to what people think. When older, we care more about what we ourselves think, and therein resides the wonderful freedom to be exactly who we want to be.

Though youth is often associated with impetuous choices, age brings certainty of purpose. Someday becomes right away, the sooner the better. I have wanted to travel to the Pacific Northwest for the past three years. This winter, I bought my ticket for a trip in July.

At my age, I know if I want to make things happen, I have to act fast. After all, Time’s a wasting.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Everyone has a personal answer to what makes a birthday special.

For some, it’s going to dinner with family. For others, it’s taking a vacation or getting the perfect present. Or maybe it’s a raucous party followed by waking up next to a stranger and a stack of inappropriate Polaroid pictures, leading you to ask one very important question: “Where did I find a Polaroid camera?”

Sunday, May 5 is my 31st birthday, and I have something different planned.

Normally, my birthday and I don’t get along much. It all started with the trauma of my 8th birthday when my parents bought me a cassette stereo instead of a TurboGrafx-16. I’ve had recurring 16-bit nightmares ever since.

See that smiling boy on the box? That wasn't me. I was denied the chance to enjoy the TurboGrafx-16's limited catalog of awful games.

See that smiling boy on the box? That wasn’t me. I was denied the chance to enjoy the TurboGrafx-16’s limited catalog of awful games.

Truly, though, I do have too many bad birthday memories. I now approach the day with caution rather than excitement, and I consider it a rousing success if I make it through my entire birthday without feeling utterly depressed. Consequently, I now react to birthday candles the same way Frankenstein does to torches.

Therefore, I made a proactive decision to make my birthday fun, challenging, and memorable this year by running the First Midwest Bank Half-Marathon.

I’ve run plenty of races, but never a half-marathon, because 13.1 miles is a long way. Put it in perspective: if the nearest grocery store to your house was 13.1 miles away, you’d either move or start a farm.

I’ve been thinking about this race for a while. So, a month ago, I decided to test myself to see if I could run this distance. I went to the gym, jumped on a treadmill, pumped up my Running playlist, and I took off…and pulled up short at 6.5 miles. I tried again a week later, pushing myself to 10 miles. A vast improvement, but still more than three miles short.

I thought that was the end of the discussion.

But a few Sundays ago while watching Celebrity Apprentice and eating Cocoa Puffs, I reexamined the race’s website with my birthday in mind. I weighed the pros and cons of running this race:

1. It will be a great accomplishment.
2. It’s something I want to do.
3. It will make for a special birthday.
4. Women will be impressed by a half-marathon. (Because a full marathon is just showy and self-important).

1. I may collapse in exhaustion short of the finish line and neighborhood children will run out of their homes to point and laugh while their parents take video with their iPhones to post on Facebook. And I will cry, but I’ll be too dehydrated to form tears (ie: ocular dry heaves). The footage will go viral, I’ll be on Tosh.0, and David Letterman will invite me to do a Top 10 List of “Why ‘Big Guys’ Shouldn’t Run.”

Despite the cons and the lack of evidence that I could legitimately run an entire half-marathon, I also considered that not signing up would result in spending my entire birthday depressed about this failed opportunity. Thus, another crappy birthday.

So, I signed up.

And then I sent nervous, whiny texts to everyone I know. Everyone said, “You’ll do great!” but I know what they were really thinking.

The next morning, fueled by one part determination and one part paranoia, I decided I had to prove I could run this distance.

Can you spot the deer, the Bigfoot, or the Blair Witch in this picture?

Can you spot the deer, the Bigfoot, or the Blair Witch in this picture?

I headed outside in beautiful weather and ran, and ran, and ran. Given the rural-ish setting of my home, I ran past farm fields, past horses, past cows and chickens, past wild wandering pheasants (all of whom were very unimpressed with me – pheasants are jerks), past a deer I tried to take a picture of, past Bigfoot, and possibly past the Blair Witch. And 2 hours and 19 minutes later, I ran an entire 13.1 miles. (That would put me in the top 68% of runners based on last year’s finishing times. Yes, I’m that obsessively competitive.)

Now, with only days to go, I have a new attitude, a new confidence, and a new pair of shiny red running shoes.

...if only I were running the race on a yellow brick road.

…if only I were running the race on a yellow brick road.

Some people may think it’s insane to want to wake up at 5:30am on my birthday in order to go through hours of self-inflicted physical torture. (For others, torture might be your thing. Whatever floats your boat.)

This brings me to both my original idea and a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reference. There is a great episode in which Will tries to make Geoffrey’s birthday special by getting him a date and taking him to a club. When it all goes poorly, Geoffrey explains to Will, “For you, birthdays are a time to paint the town red, but for me, it’s a time of reflection.”

Just as we all have different tastes and perspectives, we all have different outlooks on what will make our own birthday special. Birthdays are sold as “our day” when we can do and have whatever we want. However, we’ve all at some point had to spend our birthdays pleasing others or letting them down, because people too often want us to celebrate our birthday the way they would want to celebrate their own. (I know am I am guilty of having done that to others, and it’s wrong.)

So, it is up to us to determine what will make our birthday special, and we must also respect the wishes of our friends and loved ones on their birthdays so they can have their own special day. And after a lot of hand-wringing, cocoa puffs, and Celebrity Apprentice, I decided 13.1 miles would make my 31st special.