Birthdays are for Celebrating!

happy-birthday-72160_640Often times birthdays are perceived as negative. Growing older is a bad thing. We rail against aging and yet its inevitable. What is not is our attitude toward aging. There are different ways to look at birthdays. My birthday is soon and for the past several years I have used my birthday as a kind of check in with my life. A question I believe each person must ask themselves is where do I want to be next year?

Year in Review

When I look back over my year I try to look honestly at all areas, emotional, physical, spiritual, cognitive, and social. Sometimes these categories interchange and over lap. Sometimes there is more of a focus on one or another as needed. This is how my year has looked.


I tend to look at things as all good or bad. This tends to cause complications and difficulties in my life Getting a promotion and living with adult children has challenged my thinking. Though I am not sure I will ever be completely free of this thought process, I have made success this past year so that react less harshly in the light of this thinking. Small steps.


Up until May of this year, I would run 30 minutes a day, 3X per week. As I look back over my year, find that this isn’t a success because I didn’t continue the habit. Part of my review of the year is to see what I need to change for the next year. So my goal is to begin by walking several days per week as soon as the snow and cold are gone.


I have made great spiritual growth in the questions I have of the universe. Two habits that help are journaling every day and reading. A lot.


Though I haven’t completed any classes in this time period, my other categories have helped the cognitive areas. I try to learn something new every day.


A few years ago I connected with a group of women whom I feel are my closest friends. This past year was spent deepening those relationships and dealing with the ups and downs that come with them. As I look back I am content with where my social life is. I have also discovered, more like had confirmed my need for alone time. Struggling to find the balance is my goal for the next year.


Birthdays are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed. Too often we prefer to skip over the day and don’t want to make a big deal of it. We don’t like the reminders of our age nor do we want to get old. Often there is an expectation of others when it comes to our birthdays. Significant others, siblings, parents, and children are expected to “do something” for our birthdays even when we say we don’t want anything. This can lead to hurt feelings and disappointment. Not to mention the reinforcement of the belief that birthdays are more trouble than they are worth.

I decided many years ago that I wouldn’t be disappointed in my birthday ever again. That was the year that I didn’t get a cake. Cake is a rule for birthday’s. I began taking matters into my own hands.

I give myself a birthday present and plan my own celebration. Sometimes it is simply dinner (with cake) and a present. Last year it was a wall of bookshelves for my library. I have discovered that my family is often relieved with this arrangement. Some may say that this lets them off the hook and enables them to not put any thought into birthday celebrations. Probably. Here is my argument. Who knows me better than me? Who is the one who has to deal with the disappointed and hurt feelings? I refuse to feel bad. Its my birthday after all.

This year I am taking a writing class for my birthday. Yes I will be alone for my birthday. I am okay with that too. I have included my husband by getting a hotel room and we will have a nice dinner. But my birthday will be for me.


I encourage each and every one of you to look back, whether you do it on your birthday, near the beginning of the year or tomorrow. Look over the past year and see what you accomplished and where you’d like to improve.

Most of all, enjoy the birthday cake of your choosing and learn to celebrate you.

The Bells

“Don’t the bells seem loud to you this morning?” I asked the woman standing in my kitchen.

“Not any different than normal.” She answered glancing toward the door.

I finished mixing the herbs she wanted to relieve her headaches. I’d asked her to share a cup of tea but she declined, preferring to stand in my kitchen with her coat still on.

“Same dose as before?” she asked.

“Yes and might I suggest a different hiding place this time. So Harvey doesn’t find them again.”

She kept her head down as she mumbled, “of course.” She handed me my fee and scurried out the door.

I watched her hurry down the street toward the center of town. The bells were a new addition along with a new priest. With a gentle voice belying strength of will, he’d begun a revival of the town’s faith and morals. The bells now governed everything.

I returned to my morning work, mixing the remedies, which the people of this town have learned to rely on. The hours pass as I work steadily.

A knock interrupts my thoughts.

“Hello, Mary. Won’t you come in? Would you like a cup of tea?” Mary is the wife of the storeowner and a frequent visitor in my home.

“Brenna, I’m sorry I can’t stay. William has become suspicious of my walks and has ordered me to return quickly. I hope you have more of my tea. I am nearly out.”

“Certainly, I will get you some. Surely William wouldn’t begrudge you a cup of tea to warm you on this cold day.” I stepped into my workroom to get her remedy. “The water is already heated.”

The bells began ringing, just as loud as before, for the mid-afternoon prayers. Mary started and reached for the door.

“My goodness, Mary, you are jumpy today.”

She gave me a slight smile but didn’t look up. “William was insistent that I be home before prayers today. So I will have to pass on the tea.”

I paused before giving her the package. “Thank you so much Brenna. This has been a big help.” Mary slipped a few coins into my hand and walked out the door.

Again, I watched a woman hurry away from my home and wondered at the bells. The air felt strange today with a stillness that seemed out of place. There were few sounds coming from the village.

I continued my work pausing only near suppertime. Vespers would be called soon and I wanted to be ready. The soup I’d begun earlier was now ready. I looked forward to a tranquil evening.

The soup had been ladled and set at the table. I had just picked up a loaf of bread when the evening prayer bell rung. I stopped, for those bells were louder than ever. Setting the bread near my soup I went to my door and looked out. There were no sounds except for the echo through the valley. Turning back to shut the door, I heard something else. Voices loud and harsh were coming from the church. I stood for a moment longer and listened. They appeared to be moving closer. A pit formed in my stomach and I couldn’t move. They weren’t far away now. A name was shouted among that babble. Brenna. God help them.

They were coming for me and the priest was leading them.



Daily Journaling

writer-605764_1280One of my favorite ways to wake my brain up each morning is to begin my day (after coffee, of course) is to sit down with an old school composition notebook and a fountain pen with purple ink. I light a candle, take a sip of coffee and begin. Though I don’t have a definite goal and I no longer time myself, I generally aim for three pages. It’s as if I am skimming the crud from my previous day off before beginning my creative work. I have built a ritual into my work but that isn’t necessary. If you’ve never used a journal in this way here are some guidelines to use until you’ve built the habit:

1.  Use a timer, either a kitchen timer or this online one ( ) for 5-30 minutes depending on how much time you have. I encourage people to start at 5 minutes and work their way up to more.

2.  Use a good, fast moving pen. There is nothing worse than trying to write and find yourself with a pen that sputters.

3.  Start the timer, put the pen to paper and begin. Once the pen goes down, the writing continues until the timer goes off.

If in the middle of your free write, your brain suddenly goes blank, write “I don’t know what to write…” over and over until your brain kicks back in if only to stop the inaneness of repeating yourself. The words will come back. Trust the process.

4.  Don’t stop to edit in the middle of the write.

It drives your inner critic crazy not to be able to correct that word or sentence and is a good thing. Our inner critics have too much power over our words anyway.

5.  When the timer goes off, I strongly recommend that you not go back and read what you’ve written right away.

I believe the purpose of this type of writing is to wade through the junk that is usually clunking around in your brain clearing the way for whatever else you have in mind for that day. You can go back after a few weeks, when you’ve given yourself some space and read what you have written, if you must. For my first words of the day journal, I don’t go back and read them. Most of the time there is nothing in them that is helpful except to see how much I’ve grown. If if find an idea that strikes me, I tend to use in for my other daily habit – writing 500 words, but that is another post.

Some hints:

Free writing cuts out the inner critic.

Topics abound everywhere. I suggest beginning with how you are feeling at this moment or what you had for dinner last night. It is possible to begin creating lists of topics or finding them on-line. Try free writing with the same topic every day for the week and see where that leads your writing.

This is a warm up, brain dump or any other word you’d like to call it and is not necessarily open for publication. My journal contains my private thoughts and normally isn’t fit for human consumption.

Free writing is a good way to work through writers block.

While I strongly encourage using a pen with paper, old school style, it is possible to use a computer. I would suggest trying both to see what works. Each way has its own benefits so don’t worry if one doesn’t work for you. This is an exercise that will help you grow both in your writing and personally.