My fortieth birthday is in two weeks. Am I freaking out? Absolutely not. Since I was in high school, I have felt like a forty-year old in my head. Stick me in a coffee shop with the Sunday New York Times or a hefty historical biography and I’m on cloud nine. That was me at 18 and that’s me today…. Still, for whatever reason, it’s an American tradition to make a big deal out of 40th birthdays. So, deal me in.
A few weeks before my 39th birthday, I sent my youngest child off to kindergarten. I called it my Grand Emancipation. In the months since then, I’ve been on a journey to figure out who the hell I am (when I’m not wiping runny noses and going to Mommy and Me music class) and what on earth God wants me to do with my life (I think it’s more than Pinterest inspired chore-charts for my kids and a full BSF schedule for me). I wasn’t one of those moms with a lot of extra help during those years in the trenches, so these have truly been transformative months.
I have learned, for example, that my Micah 6:8 journey is indeed the path that God wants me on….that my faith is best expressed in a life built around love, justice and mercy – particularly to those who need it most. Living with a Trump president. Coming to terms with my own white privilege. Confronting a faith that has been complicit in the face of racism and injustice. These months of wrestling have not been easy. But, questioning (and sometimes discarding) old ideas has been both healthy and liberating. The more I learn, the more confident I am that this – the path of God-inspired social justice – is the right direction.
So, in the midst of all this heavy soul-searching, I’m launching my Forty for Forty campaign. Put simply – it is a list of forty fun activities or treats that I’m proactively pursing in celebration of this milestone birthday. Is it super cheesy? Absolutely. Is the nerd in me totally psyched? You bet. Am I done with justice? No way.
What the hell do I like?
A few days ago, I started making my list. I whizzed through the first 10-15 items. Then, I started running out of ideas. Crap. What the hell do I like to do? Has it been that long since I’ve let loose and had fun? Confession: You know you’ve not engaged in extensive ‘self care’ when you’re struggling to think of more than a dozen things you enjoy doing. As silly as this exercise is, I AM learning a thing or two about myself in the process.
Realizing I needed some inspiration, I googled….’forty things to do for fortieth birthday’. I had no idea whether the internet would come to my rescue or not. Sure enough, there were tons of websites, blogs and even entire books! I doubt that my list (which we will get to eventually!) will appeal to many, but can I just say to Estee Stanley at MyDomaine, you lost me at #4 on your list: Take care of your friends’ kids for the day. Are you serious? That idea is even worse than my daughter’s suggestion that I run a marathon. To both of these, I say, I’m trying to treat myself – not punish myself!
So, back to the drawing board. I clicked on another link, this one for Best Life. Is that a men’s magazine? I’m not even sure, but I needed ideas….ANY ideas that did not include killing myself with exercise or going insane watching other people’s kids (remember, I’m just barely out of the mommy trenches – maybe the idea will appeal more for my 50th….maybe).
As you can see, we barely got past #4 this time, when the dudes at Best Life tossed out ubering a private plane as a legit suggestion. I’m sorry…does that idea come with a winning lottery ticket? And, if I may: THIS, friends, is a perfect example of the aspirational privilege of white men. Anyways, back to the list….
Suffice to say I clicked through many blogs and articles, finding little inspiration. I had no choice but to simply think about what brings ME joy. So, here is what I came up with.
Dayna’s Forty for Forty List
- Eat a Mademoiselle Colette Chocolate Croissant
- Have a nice birthday dinner with husband
- Have tea or coffee with friends
- Schedule a lunch date with a good friend
- Get nails done
- Take a long walk with friends
- Go to a coffee shop, order a grande cappuccino and then just sit and read the Sunday New York Times or a historical biography
- Treat myself to Tinpot ice-cream
- Listen to live music
- Eat Mexican food (Can you ever have too much chips and guac? Seriously.)
- Visit an art gallery or museum
- Get my hair done – maybe even try a new style
- Plan a spa day/get a massage
- Watch one of my favorite movies
- Spend an entire day in PJ’s
- Get a realllllly good, dense chocolate cake – like a flourless chocolate cake
- Look through all my photo books
- Buy a new lip gloss
- Go to the movie theater while the kids are at school
- Drink a really good red wine
- Take a bubble bath
- Enjoy my favorite Asian dishes
- Eat Chicago style pizza
- Spend an entire afternoon reading
- Drink a root beer float
- Enjoy a super long Skype chat with my Irish BFF
- Go to a bookstore without a ‘to buy’ or ‘to do’ list – just look at books (maybe buy a few)
- Yelp ‘best eggs Benedict’ and then go eat it
- Give myself permission to do NO CLEANING on my birthday
- Try a new food
- Update my will (I know, it sounds morbid but it’s truly reassuring to know your life, family, estate, etc., are in order)
- Reassess and possibly change where I give my time and money
- Take a family photo (okay, like the will, not so high up on the ‘fun factor’ but still something that’s worth it in the long-haul)
- Make plans to see friends who live further away
- Write down blessings
- Create a bucket list – things I want to do in my next 40 years
- Take time from all the spa days and indulgences to go to the homeless shelter, remembering that I am always so happy when I spend time there
Spend a weekend away with my hubby See Hamilton Write a birthday blog post
Sure It’s Grand
In the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Abraham Lincoln changed the federal legal status via executive order of more than 3 million enslaved people in the designated areas of the South from slave to free. For many abolitionists it was cause for “grand emancipation jubilee.” Frederick Douglass even called it a ‘death blow’ to the slaveholding rebellion. But, the devil is in the details, which headlines and tweets often miss. And, a quick review of our Civil War unit from American History class reminds us that ‘grand’ is far from ‘complete’ or ‘total’. In fact, the 1963 Proclamation applied only to the 10 states still rebelling – it did not cover nearly half a million slaves in border states. Other states under Union control, namely, Tennessee, as well as most of Virginia, West Virginia and Louisiana were exempted. Though African-Americans gained the constitutional right to vote in 1870 via the 15th Amendment, the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, allowed Southern states to effectively disenfranchise black voters. Thus, it wasn’t until 1965 – just 12 years before I was born – for full participation to be guaranteed with passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
So, what the hell is a civil war history lesson doing in the middle of my otherwise lighthearted blog post about my 40th birthday? Well, once a history buff, always a history buff. That’s why I love to use witty phrases like ‘Grand Emancipation’ – which connect my life to fascinating historical topics. But, here’s the problem: this last year of studying racism and bias has taught me that it’s only through the lens of my white privilege that I can casually employ euphemisms like, ‘Grand Emancipation’ to describe my transition from ‘stay at home suburban mom’ to ‘still stay at home suburban mom….with more time’.
If you are one of the millions of African-Americans in our country, not only is it highly probable that you remember FINALLY getting the right to vote, just 52 years ago, but it is almost certain that you still live with the remnants of America’s ‘original sin’ which lives on in the form of daily encounters with racism, bias and privilege.
Who’s Rescuing Who?
Yesterday, I finished a book titled, Rescuing Jesus, How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism. And, it is true…..the margins are where revival will happen. The trenches are where the holy ghost is alive and well. And, it is in loving the least that we are most likely to see God at work. In the pages of books written by an Asian woman and in the lyrics of rap songs sung by a black man, I am rediscovering Jesus and with it, a whole new view of the gospel. One of my favorite songs to blast in my minivan, as I run around town, is Tell the World.
Now, I’mma tell the world, tell the world, tell ’em
I’mma tell it everywhere I go
Tell the world, tell ’em
Yeah, I’m a billboard
Tell the world, tell ’em
And I’m broadcastin’ like a radio
Tell the world, you ought to know
I’m brand new
I’ve been thinking a lot about that….. What does my billboard say? What does my life say about my faith? There is indeed much about me that is largely the same – from that 18 year old me in the senior portrait, to the nearly 40 year old me now. I still love history and coffee shops. I still love chocolate and root beer floats. I still love Ralph Lauren (I know, I know, so very preppy but I now also have a Black Lives Matter hoodie – progress!).
The line from Tell the World, I’m brand new, references a verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Folks who knew me back in high school probably would have described me as ‘nice’. God, I hope that’s largely still true. But, what’s also true is that (to borrow a phrase from Lynne Hybels) nice girls don’t change the world. And, nice is not a spiritual gift or heavenly calling. And, in my next 40 years, I pray God would continue remaking me. I want to be the kind of person who not only knows the past history of racism but is presently working to tear down organizations and institutions that perpetuate systemic injustice. I want to ruthlessly look at my own attitudes and assumptions, figuring out both where my privilege gives me a platform for helping others, as well as where I can learn from the oppressed and marginalized.
American culture offers a tradition 40th birthday celebrations that includes everything from private airplane rides to big birthday bashes to running marathons or watching your friends’ kids (well, according to one blog). Americans weren’t the first to give special attention to the number 40. As I wrote in my Lent post, 40 has special significance in the Bible, occurring 146 times and generally referring to periods of trial or testing. Another confession: I think eating my favorite foods and hanging out with my favorite people sounds much more appealing! But, I also know that a life limited to superficial niceness is no life at all. So, if trial and testing mean leaning more intentionally into the life God created me for – I say, bring it! Forty, here I come….holding my ‘Micah 6:8 Mission’ in one hand and my cheesy ‘Forty for Forty’ list in the other.
With this blog post now published, I’ve officially crossed off an item from the list. And, my husband justifiably argued for the inclusion of our SF weekend (last month) on the Forty for Forty list – it was pretty awesome. You can read a bit about that weekend away, along with some other reflections on Year One of my Micah 6:8 life, here.