Birthday Goal to Get Behind

Milestone birthdays prompt many different reactions. There are those who plan big parties. Those who try to hide from the date and the attentions of friends. Or others who plan adventurous trips with family to mark a big year.

Recently, a video circulating Facebook was of an “extreme couponer” using her powers of saving on food for good. Lauren Puryear believes that “humans should never have to suffer,” and so she takes her coupon habit seriously enough to serve meals to the homeless in her native New Jersey.

The video shows her buying shelves and shelves of soups and pastas (and apparently storing them in a rented space) before going out onto the streets to provide food to those who need it. She claims to have served 10,000 meals thus far. She states her hope is to serve 30,000 by her 30th birthday!

This woman is not 10, and it is not stated in the video how old she was when she started this campaign. So, it’s safe to say she is setting a high hurdle for herself to reach. She will need to pick up the pace to reach her goal — especially to do so as responsibilities pile up (as they tend to do with each year).

Still, it is impossible to do anything but hope she achieves her goal by her milestone birthday. As she says in the video, “It is our human duty to have some type of love for other people.”

Worst case, if she doesn’t make it by her actual 30th birthday, she can become one of those people who stay 29 for several years in a row — at least until she serves that 30,000th dinner!

 

 

What to write in a birthday card

card fir blog.png

Looking on the Hallmark site recently in the hopes of finding some of its archived treasures available for view online, I came across a blog on what to write in a birthday card.

I’m a writer. That’s what I do for a living. Yet, even I’ll admit to struggling sometimes to come up with the personal statement to add in the birthday cards I still love to send (in the mail — as opposed to relying on social media posts).

In putting together their guide, Hallmark’s writers acknowledge a few aspects of writing in a card that make the added personal message more difficult: “the card has already said it all” or you are trying “to keep things short and sweet.”

They go on to offer some interesting tips:

  • Pick the card carefully so that it suits the birthday person in particular, then you can let the printed message and design do the talking for you.
  • Kids love to see their age; so even if the card doesn’t have the exact number write the years old in your personal message.
  • Writing your private nickname for the card recipient instantly personalizes it.

Suggested Personalizations

Nevertheless, some of the examples they offered for what to write did seem laughably obvious:

  • “Happy, happy birthday, [name]!” — because ah, yes, that added “happy” makes all the difference. 
  • “Hope you make your [25th] a birthday to remember!”
  • “[Year] never looked so great!”
  • “Happy Birthday…a little late!”
  • “Happy Birthday, [Mom]. We love you so much!”
  • “Let the b-day fun begin!”
  • “Here’s to you!”
  • “Here’s to a great birthday!”

Hallmark also reminds us that “a warm closing before you signature is like the bow on top of the birthday gift.”

How about a warm closing on a blog…what would that be considered?

With blogging affection…. me.

 

Tolstoy at 80: “No party for me.”

This blog’s regular likely would not expect me saying “no” to a birthday party. So, you can imagine my surprise reading about revered author Leo Tolstoy’s reluctance to be celebrated.

In 1908, as the Russian author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina (and other works) approached his 80th birthday, plans were afoot to organize several big shindigs. There was even talk of erecting a monument, drafting a bill to declare the day a national holiday, and establishing a university in his name to mark the day.

Tolstoy was far from receptive. He wrote to M.A. Stakhovich, a family friend who was spearheading the efforts, rejecting the celebrations. The letter, later published in the “Ogonyok” magazine (1908, No. 14, April 6) and also partly reproduced in many newspapers, stated: “Here is my great request to you…do whatever you can to abolish this jubilee and set me free. I will be very, very grateful to you forever.”

In his diary later that year, he is said to have written, “what must I do? I must go far away from all this, but go where? To God? To death?”

Even though the event was officially cancelled, family members still feared many would come. According to the Tolstoy homestead museum, his daughter offered to hide her father away and “take him to Pirogovo on that day,” while his wife “wanted to block the entrance and have gate wards not to let anyone in on the 28th.”

An 80th to remember

What happened on the actual day varies by the source. A video claiming to show his 1908 birthday sees him in a wagon surrounded by hordes of children. Another source speaks of a brass band and hundreds of people outside his home property until he at least came out to make some grateful remarks.

Yet, the Yasnaya Polyana museum reports there were “not so many people” at the property where Tolstoy lived: “only a few reporters and photographers” and “only family members and friends in the house.” Apparently, the recently ill didn’t even leave the house and worked as usual.

One wonders how much he could have accomplished, though, with the interruption of receiving six hundred telegrams and about one hundred letters. Within a week of the August 28 birthday, several hundred letters and two thousand telegrams signed by fifty thousand people were received.

There were gifts too:

  • a samovar (so very Russian) inscribed with signatures of many admirers
  • 21 pounds of bread
  • one hundred scythes, which were given to local peasants (all except the one he kept for himself in his study)
  • A box of chocolates from St. Petersburg, picturing views of Yasnaya Polyana, for each of the peasant children.

Despite his disinterest in celebrating, Tolstoy was grateful for the outpouring of affection. In a letter in the newspapers he said, “… I ask you to accept this statement of mine as the expression of my sincere gratitude to all the people who expressed their kind feelings to me, for the joy they gave me.”

See, even authors who would rather their big day go unnoticed are moved by the kind feelings that come with birthdays!

The Fury over a Forgotten Birthday

I shared my shameful secret a few weeks ago that I once forgot to call my brother on his birthday. Me, a birthday blogger! The disgrace! The ignominy! The humiliation!

Writing about the topic of making up for a forgotten birthday, I came across many funny memes the angry, ignored birthday celebrant might share if his or her birthday was overlooked. Here are some of the ones I liked best.

Many take the guilt trip humor option:

 

 

Others look to invoke fear:

This one is also pretty great:

Still, my personal favorite is this one:

4 Tips to Make Forgetting Birthdays Better

My big brother’s birthday is tomorrow. His gift should already have arrived. I am writing about him in this blog. I am clearly aware that the big day is January 28th. He’s my brother. How could I forget?

Only one year I did. Almost. I only remembered that I had not yet called in to wish him “Happy Birthday” as midnight encroached. I was, as you can easily imagine considering the fact that I blog about birthdays, absolutely mortified. Who knows what various work and life timing had interfered with my calling earlier in the day — surely, I meant to. Yet, I’d forgotten. And now it was too late to call…

So, my brother woke up the next day to a flurry of late night communications from me via email and on his work voice mail. When I reached him in person the next day to apologize in earnest he laughed heartily. He’d fully enjoyed my self-flagellation in my several “appalled at myself” messages — as any one would revel in the rare repentance of a sibling.

Thinking about this shameful slip-up years later, it occurred to me that I ought to offer some helpful tips to make forgetting a birthday go better. Learning from experience is part of how we grow, right?

4 Tips to Make Forgetting a Birthday Better

  1. Apologize. Pretending it didn’t happen is not going to make up for the oversight. Instead, be upfront about your mistake and your regrets that you didn’t fully fete the friend, family member, or colleague celebrating his or her special day.
  2. Employ humor. Wander down the card aisles and you’ll see many options for “belated birthday” greetings. You’ll be hard pressed, though, to find one that is sappy about the gaffe. Instead, these cards tend to be hilariously penitent while still reminding the celebrant how much you love and appreciate them.
  3. Get creative. There is actually a thorough wikiHow devoted to this topic. Among its creative suggestions are:
    • make a jigsaw puzzle apology
    • offer I’m sorry coupons
    • develop a scavenger hunt
    • go on the air to apologize (for those of use who have a radio show or the patience to dial and dial again until the radio station takes our call).
  4. Be there in person. Sharing your time with the birthday individual, even after the fact, can quickly turn the tide. After all, if you take the person for coffee (and cake) or a birthday lunch, you’re likely to spend more time together than you might have on the actual day.

In looking online to see what people are saying about this topic, I also came across a lot of hilarious memes that the person whose birthday is forgotten can use. I’ll share those with you in another blog next month….that is, unless I forget.

 

4 Latin American Ways to Honor Birthdays

Thanks to an article in Latina magazine, I can now share with you some of the unique ways in which those of Latin American heritage celebrate birthdays. Or, as someone would say in Portuguese, aniversário. 

Peru is on my list of places to go for birthday celebrations. Apparently the birthday celebrant gets to indulge in un torta de chocolate (chocolate cake). Others might eat pastel peruviano, a crusty bread filled with raisins. However, just as at home I prefer my pie and cake without ice cream, I’d probably defer from an accompanying scoop of helado lucuma, an ice cream made with the lucuma fruit, native to Peru and Ecuador.

I could handle Colombia — as long as the typical egg was cracked over my head early in the day, before I was dolled up for a night out of festivities.

I’ll steer clear of Mexico, though. Apparently they like to sing LAS MAÑANITAS and then push the person’s face into the cake. What a waste of a perfectly good cake! Sounds a little like the smash cakes I wrote about for one-year-old’s birthdays here in North America. On the flip side, I wouldn’t have minded going when I was 15 — having a Quinceañera Celebration would have been fun! Although it looks as if you still get your face smashed into the cake:

Latin Birthday traditions

Photo credit: amslerPIX via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

I’m also going to give Argentina and Brazil a miss on my birthday. I don’t have any interest in having my ears pulled, thank you very much. This also means I’ll be steering clear of Hungary (where they also have this tradition).

Interestingly, there was no mention of the piñata though! Maybe it’s like spaghetti (which we associate with Italy, but isn’t actually from there?).

What country would you want to travel to for your birthday? Imagine you could go anywhere in the world…

 

Don’t Blame the Birthday! Just Don’t Binge.

Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 2.24.25 PM.png

Cake at work gluttony.

The Telegraph started the new year with the article: “Office ‘cake culture’ is fueling obesity crisis and treats should be swapped for hugs.” The article surveys expert opinions on the trend of bringing cakes in for birthdays and sharing sweet treats for other special events:

  • The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) warns the growing trend is contributing to poor oral health and the obesity epidemic.
  • The National Obesity Forum’s Tam Fry told the paper, “You may not know who in the office is secretly dieting in which case they won’t appreciate your gesture…If you want to give them anything, give them a smile, a hug or both!”

But let’s heed these warnings with restraint, right? Yes, it makes sense to avoid cakes becoming a daily occurrence at work. Plus, it’s a good idea to make healthier choices to substitute for sugary sweet consumption. Finally, moderation is the key to all dieting and weight management success.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t need to mean banning birthday celebrations. I’ve written in the past about organizations that shy away from feting employees in the office, and offered suggestions of good ways to recognize employees turning another year older. Still, I’m not going to get behind a cake ban. I just can’t do it. Heck, we even used to give our dog a ground beef cake decorated with dog bone candles. To me, birthdays demand cake recognition.

Plus, this science article didn’t even consider the fact that some people don’t want a hug. There are many of us in the world who are uncomfortable with physical affection from people we don’t know well. Consider also the fact that there are probably some faiths (thanks HR awareness raising of past posts) where it would be insulting for a coworker to hug a fellow coworker of the opposite sex.

So, clearly, cakes or their alternatives are the best answer.

Related reading:

Hug me. It’s My Birthday

Birthday Baking or “No Bake” Goodness

10 Reasons not to work on a birthday