One of my college professors gave us some of the best advice I've ever heard, and even more applicable to maintaining mental health when living as an expat: she told about an elderly friend of hers who for every birthday baked a whole bunch of cakes and invited all of her friends and then gave them gifts. She said she herself wasn't very good at remembering birthdays (except her own) but she always felt disappointed when her birthdays passed without much noticed. So she started throwing her own parties - and enjoyed every birthday after that. I think that's the best philosophy I've heard - and if you were here I'd bake cakes for you and give you gifts to thank you for being such great friends to me.
But as you are not here, I simply took that philosophy and combined it with another anticipated birthday of another staff member and the last day of our Japanese intern and the excuse of staving off Friday the 13th jinxes to arrange a semi-surprise post-staff meeting party. There were flowers (left over from a stakeholder forum the day before), fruit (some left from the forum, others fresh-bought), snacks, cakes (yes, there is a fine bakery just across the street from our office specializing in fancy cakes - heads above the quality of Madagascar cake) with candles, and even presents - rather than receiving, I (and Tomoko) gave presents to the staff in honor of the day.
And so the afternoon passed joyfully (I say Tomoko and I did a 90% good job of selecting gifts from the tourist shops in Hanoi for our staff members, and the cakes were loved by all), and all left to celebrate the weekend, leaving me in peace to enjoy my own little bit of downtime.
So today I'll use my birthday (and a half!) to 1) remember my mom and what she had to go through on this day - thank you for giving up your Easter dinner for me! and 2) count all my friends and blessings that I have already been honored with in the first 28 years of my life, and there have been many, and finally 3) look forward to all the adventures yet to come. Thank you all for your support in getting me to where I am. I could never have dreamed it before, but now, I can't imagine anything more right. Yet, the most joyful part is the number 3 - and that I can be thankful that there is still room in my life for me to have had a wish over the candles on my cake. What would the fun of life be if there was no room left for wishing?