In 2017 I undertook a project called The Joyfulness Project in which I blogged every day, for an entire year, my moments of gratitude.
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to pen down my joyful moments, but last week was so full of joy that I need to spend a moment to express my gratitude to everyone who made it possible.
You see, last week was my birthday week, and I have a love-hate relationship with birthdays. I wrote about it last year in a blog so embarrassingly vulnerable I refuse to hyperlink it, but the fact is I spent the last four birthdays overseas largely because I didn’t want to face the possibility of being forgotten by the people I consider my friends.
Jenny, please get to the Joyful part before we step into traffic.
Yes, sorry. So for three years I spent my birthday in Greece—and if you haven’t visited my blog before or met me for more than four seconds, Greece is my happy place—and the year before that I was in Scotland—my happy place before I discovered Greece—which meant this was going to be the first time in FIVE YEARS I was going to spend my birthday in Rhode Island.
No pressure to make it great or anything.
I figured 32 was simply a milestone I needed to pass through to get to next year’s birthday. A save-the-date kind of birthday. A landmark year because of Jesus and alliteration.* And since I’m already planning for next year, and I am not exactly a “planner” as it is, I thought a quiet celebration with a friend or two was all I could expect.
*Thirty-Three on ______ (can anyone guess where?)
But I was wrong.
Instead, I was bombarded with blessings. “Thirty-Two in Providence” doesn’t have an especially charming ring to it, but it was beyond extraordinary. Here are just a few of the ways my friends and family made this transition particularly special and surprising.
First of all, my parents live on the other side of the country, yet they have never let a holiday go by without sending me a gift in the mail. This year was no different, but before that, I had the joy of seeing them in Maui. And after reading about my longest flight ever, my parents gave me THE BEST birthday present ever, ever ever ever.
They upgraded my return ticket to first class.
I actually wrote a blog about flying in first class, but it’s not published because I benevolently** gave up my seat on the connecting flight from Washington -> Providence which resulted in chaos, and I never finished writing it.
**a flight voucher may have had something to do with it
Dear Mom and Dad, this whole birth-day celebration would not be a thing if it weren’t for you, so thank you for bringing me into this world and giving my friends and me a reason to eat cake and dance. I love you.
On the eve of my birthday, three of my dearest Sanctuary friends joined me at Mare Rooftop, a new restaurant in Providence, to celebrate my last night as a 31 year old. We drank fancy cocktails, talked about Costa Rica, and ate delicious seafood and pizza as the sun set. It was such a sweet way to end one year and begin another.
Long Lost Friends
My friend Alex is a dolphin trainer in Florida (seriously) and we met through a mutual dolphin-training friend (I used to train dolphins, too!). He was the first Rhode Islander to befriend me when I moved. During my first year of living here, he took me to Block Island and onto exclusive “ponds” (that are bigger than New Mexican lakes) and to Aquapalooza; he tried to teach me to waterski, transported me via boats and jetskis, gave me my first Iggy’s doughboy; he and his family even housed my car when I went on vacation overseas that year. But since he moved to Florida, I rarely see him. He happened to catch me the night before my birthday, during a brief visit home, and invited me for a drink. It was so great to catch up with him and reminisce!
Have I mentioned I moved and I have a new roommate? If not, I moved and have a new roommate. And she is absolutely, 100% the most wonderful, selfless, life-giving, beautiful, talented friend and roommate I could have ever asked for. When I returned from Rooftop dining and drinks with Alex, I found this when I opened my bedroom door:
Those brightly colored squares are actually 32 of the things she “loves and values” about me, and when I read them, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.
This girl gets me. I wish everyone could experience what it’s like to have such a roommate. I’m certainly grateful allllll the time. Hashtag, myroommateisbetterthanyours
I do know it’s been stated many times that I have the greatest boss/supervisor in the world. She not only allows me a flexible schedule in order to uphold my many jobs, but she also supports me in all of my travel / food / writing endeavors. She also let me move to Greece for a summer and come back to my position, so I am forever indebted to her.
And for my birthday, she brought me a Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt cupcake from the Beehive. It was my lunch, and it was delicious.
Just over a year ago I started leading a biweekly writing group, and we call ourselves the Tuesday Tipplers (because we…write, obviously, and we like alliteration). I mayyyy have received a text message that asked HYPOTHETICALLY if I were to eat cake, what kind of cake would I enjoy? so I had my suspicions they might do something.
Not only did we discuss my piece that night (over which they were super gracious and kind), but they also prepared a feast! Spanikopta (GREEK FOOD), cherries and raspberries, chocolate ganache cake, prosecco, and wine.
All of my favorite things!
My Other Boss
I also write for a magazine, and the day after my birthday, my editor wanted to meet to discuss food writing and editing (as I’ve been promoted to Food Editor). We met at Yoleni’s, my favorite Greek restaurant, and although this wasn’t a “gift” to me per say, I still considered it as such because I got to introduce her the wonder that is Yoleni’s.
Now that I think about it, I also went to Yoleni’s on Monday with Jen, my beautiful friend and coworker, and I just found out she used that opportunity to dig up info about my birthday for M-Dogg (see below). So sneaky and well-played! Thanks, Jen, for always adding adventure and kindness to my life.
These are those special people I do life with every Wednesday night. They are part of my Sanctuary family, and another member of our group, Bradley, ALSO has a July 10th birthday. The day after our birthday we met for home group, and they so kindly came bearing gifts of cake (for both of us), cookies (for Brad) and Yoleni’s Greek Yogurt (for me!) HOW WELL THEY KNOW US. ❤
Remember the hashtag? I’m not lying.
I’ve got until December to figure out how I’m going to retaliate for her birthday (I’m accepting ideas. Please email me).
I lead a food tour every Friday, and it’s my favorite thing to do. (You can watch me in action on the Rhode Show.)
Every week I get a new group of people–some local, some travelers–and on this particular week I had such a fun crowd! I asked them to imitate an octopus, and they did. They earned a place on my blog.
One of my dearest friends whom I met in graduate school, Tanvi, came all the way from India just to visit me for my birthday!
(Okay, she may have happened to plan a trip to the States and it coincidentally occurred near my birthday, but I’ll believe what I want to.)
The last time I saw Tanvi, ironically enough, was on my birthday four years ago in Scotland. But this was the first time she’s been to the USA since 2012, and the first time she’s ever been to Providence, and it was such a joy to have her here! She is one of the wisest people I know, and she has walked with me through the most difficult times–she’s even seen me ugly cry. We are sisters, most certainly, as well as friends.
I can’t even describe all the reasons I’m thankful for her this weekend, but I know she knows. Thank you, T!
And then there’s my longest standing friend in Rhode Island, although he lives in Massachusetts, and that’s the notorious M-Dogg. It was his idea to throw me a surprise party, and he organized friends from all areas of my life: Brown, Motif, Sanctuary, Grad School, Greeks, Gym, Neighbors, Pop Up Food Venders, allthefriends. And every person whom I thanked that night, from the party hosts to my roommate to Jen all redirected the praise to M-Dogg.
Last year I dedicated a blog to him for his birthday, and I recommend reading it to get a sense of the kind of person he is. I am so humbled and thankful he wanted my birthday to be so special, and indeed it was the best “surprise” party there ever was! We had Burgundian waffles and cupcakes and music (even Greek music!) and dancing. And best of all, I got to see my favorite people all in one place. It was such an amazing night…I truly do have the best of friends. Love, love, love you all.
There are still so many others I have not addressed, friends who reached out and made the week special for me with text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages, serenades, Greek messages, English messages, gifts, hugs, yia mas’s, and every other kind of expression of love.
Thank you all for being my shining stars…even on the darkest days, you fill my life with light. Here’s to another year of taking the journey together. 🙂