I'm 27! I can't believe it. I feel old and young at the same time. Yold. Yes, I feel yold. I love blended words if you didn't know (chocoholic, smog, spork, grapple, sexcapade, guitarthritis, freegal, and the like). Also, this song was apparently #1 on July 7, 1987. Heart and I go way back. Maybe that's why I love this song, so much. Perfect "belting in the car, and I don't give a damn if you're watching" song. Oh, and it used to be the ringtone on my flip phone.
26 treated me well. It was full of new books to read, new physical challenges, a switch to continual positive body image, maintaining relationships with just ever lovingly people, getting more settled into my condo, and growing more confident in my career. And most importantly, a change in confidence and opinion of myself, that opened me up to a world of positivity, ability, appreciation, and love. Here's to hoping 27 is even greater! It's amazing to me how relieved I feel almost all the time. I've been awakened.
I am typically neutral, lukewarm at best, about my birthday. It's usually just a day, to me. But in my new phase of life that is embracing how awesome I am and NOT trying to fly under the radar all the time, I am happy to celebrate a day of me. I am all about new experiences and challenging myself, but still comfortably. I chose to organize a community service event and then head to Findlay Market and Washington Park in the afternoon.
The place I chose is called Lighthouse Youth Services and they are based in Cincinnati, OH. I didn't realize how expansive their services reached. Last year, as in 2013, I worked on MLK day, which has always held a special place in my heart. (I've been known to geek out and drag my sister around her current city of Atlanta looking at historical sites, or to give speeches in college). That day, a resident made me cry, and I felt like such a failure. I then vowed to not work on MLK day from there on out, but to keep it as a day of service. For this year, a friend had told me about an Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sponsored event that focused on making care packages for homeless youth and teens, particularly those in the LGBTQ community. It was a fun day, I was mistaken for a lesbian by an old grad school professor, and reconnected with a college friend.
This time around, all the information I got ahead of time is that we would be helping to prepare a farmer's market and maybe meet some of the youth that receive benefit from LYS. I invited a whole bunch of people (another insecurity I had to face...that I was putting people out by merely FB inviting them to an event), and only about 4-5 people had gotten back to me. Ended up being 9 people. A motley crue of my cousins, friends from grade school, high school, college, and grad school, and former work friends.
The coordinator explained that the school that the market benefitted served at risk youth, and offered a consistent place for them to go to school vs the norm of being shuffled around and also their schools being shuffled around. My heart swelled when I heard that. It's a low paying pipe dream of mine to do something more "non-profit"-y with my life and career. Right now, I am driven by student loans and a comfortable lifestyle. Still love my job, it's just a different focus at this point in my life, right now.
We ended up picking eggs from the chickens in the homemade chicken coop, weeding the plots (it's organized in a way that people can come and pick their own vegetables and herbs), moving some dirt, and harvesting basil. I held a chicken, ate a fresh paper, and I had great joy watching my friends and family dedicate some of their time. It's a passion I want to share with others, and I am glad these people were able to share it with me. It's so much easier to want to do kind things when you have friends next to you.
Steve, the coordinator, even made me a dirt cake (gummy worms, fake flowers, and all) and kale smoothies. A really joyful morning, and it ended up being a beautiful day. I got a few different shades of brown and a little burned on my shoulders, but it was totally worth it.
Yep, a real chicken! I clearly enjoyed it. Not sure about her, though. And Kate's creepy eyeing in the back.
Friends hard at work, weeding in the garden.
Dirt! I was fooled at first, but quickly realized they were oreos. Okay, not that quickly, but I did realize it.
Group shot. From left to right: Kate (we go way back to grade school), Elizabeth (we sat right next to each other for 2 years in grad school and I lived in her basement for over a year), Amanda (one of my closest friends who came in town from Bowling Green, OH to spend the weekend with me), Seve (the coordinator), myself, Betsy (a high school friend that I just recently reconnected with and who I didn't realize I missed), Amanda (or Chanda Bear, my cousin and former roommate), Tracie (my cousin, and Amanda's sister; we are the ultimate foodies in the family), and Ryan (Amanda's (new) husband and friend I've gotten to know over the past few years)
Findlay Market is always fun, even if it is hella crowded. Enjoyed organic cashew chicken salad, brown rice and sweet potato salad, blue cheese cole slaw, bubble tea, and a paneer wrap. Followed by a visit to Washington Park, where there is a water pad, giant jenga, and food trucks. Totally loved watching my niece and nephew play in the water, timidly and shrieking with laughter. Also had the most freaking delicious ice cream waffle sandwich. Marty's Waffles...perfection.
A full day in the sun followed by tacos at Tacocracy in Northside (also freaking excellent...duck, short rib and mac n cheese, curry chicken and paneer, homemade guac and queso) and of course, ice cream at Aglamesis afterward. So much Cincinnati, so little time. It was truly a beautiful day, in all senses of the word, and I was surrounded by those near and dear to me.
Not only did I have great experiences that day, but I was bestowed with beautiful gifts. Amanda painted me 2 paintings. One entitled, "Thy Body a Temple." It speaks for itself, and she said she was inspired to paint in based on my new relationship with my body.
How freaking talented is she?
And she also recreated a picture I took in Beijing 8 years ago. And it's beautiful. Elizabeth gave me a lovely inscribed necklace that states, "Stronger...than yesterday." It's a Crossfit thing, but it also happens to be a Britney Spears lyric. Which I love!
Isn't it gorgeous? I am absolutely in love with it.
Perfect gifts. Other people were also kind to me for my birthday, too. A slew of things including an Ariel shirt, an "It's a Small World After All" Chinese doll, a homemade snuggly owl blanket, and I think I'll use my money to buy a Harry Potter LEGO set.
I took my actual birth date off, and was invited to lunch by my cousins, Tracie and Amanda. They are my closest cousins, and just like having a couple more sisters. We were essentially being punked by the Vietnamese restaurants in Cincinnati (first one said, closed "7/4-7/13," the second said, "Closed all summer," and before we went to the third one, their phone message said, "We serve lunch Thursday through Friday." We ended up eating at Yardhouse at The Banks, and had a nice view of the river and KY. I got roped into a dinner with people I don't even know, by my parents (I don't want to talk about it), but then spent the rest of the evening scrapbooking in solitude. I'm so grateful for that day, and felt ZERO guilt for taking a vacation day.
Lastly, my coworkers made me these adorable red, white, and blue strawberries and got me a card. How sweet? I'm okay with being acknowledged these days, and in the best ways possible.
This image was found on pinterest, but this is what they looked like.
It really would be selfish to ask for more, wouldn't it? But I will quote this great Josh Radnor film, "Happythankyoumoreplease."
P.S. So sorry for the weird formatting. I'll never write in Word first!
P.S. So sorry for the weird formatting. I'll never write in Word first!