37 things on my 37th birthday

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Whenever anyone asks my age, the number catches me by surprise.

I don't mind growing older though. Each year is a chance to love and learn more. I am grateful for every breath - knowing that each one could be my last.

I'm writing out this list to preserve this moment in time (and because I wish I could read a list like this for all of my friends).

Thirty-seven things can't begin to describe a person, but this is a start.

  1. I love being married to Tim Sheaffer. Seventeen years in and they have been the best seventeen of my life.
  2. I love being a mother. It brings me deep and real joy to get to know these four incredible human beings. They are outstanding people. I really am the lucky one.
  3. Home is one of my favorite places to be. Home is anywhere I am with the people I love (it's true), but I am daily grateful for our brick house. I love reading in the library next to the fireplace, watching our kids run around the backyard, and standing outside under our covered porch as Tim grills up one of his many master dishes.
  4. I sing almost every week, "Let's go, go, go - on an adventure!" If a trip is proposed, I leap. New Mexico, New York, Notting Hill, New Zealand, Norway - I want to see the whole wide wonderful world.
  5. Writing is like breathing for me. My kids know this too. Often, I burrow myself in my office and click-click-click at the keys. Stories, poems, article ideas, bits of prose and research - they all constantly float through my brain.
  6. Whenever I head out the door, I typically bring my bullet journal, a pen, and a book. Always prepared for the inevitable moments in life where "waiting" is required.
  7. Each year, I set a reading goal. My average in this season of my life is about 50 books per year (not including picture books that I read aloud to my children - which would put me up into the thousands). I am an eclectic reader, often alternating back-and-forth between fiction and non-fiction.
  8. I don't watch TV. If you reference a show or an actor, I will probably not know what you are talking about. We have no cable and no antenna. We do have a TV (handed down to us by a generous aunt & uncle), but it is strictly reserved for family movie nights. This is a chosen way of living that both Tim & I agree on. We want to be hiking, reading, discussing, baking, drawing - not staring at a motionless box, which whispers (and sometimes shouts) messages we mostly don't agree with.
  9. I started running when my oldest child (who is now 12) was a baby. I make it out the door at least twice a week for a 3-mile-ish run with a friend. Often, I also meet up with another friend for a longer run on the weekend.
  10. Five years ago, I ran my first half-marathon in 2:13:44. It was exhilarating and hard-earned. I have no interest in running a full marathon, but I would like to do another half.
  11. I graduated with my undergrad degree in two years and had my masters by the time I was twenty-two. I had GOALS a-plenty (and still do), but mostly I just really love to learn. Put me in a lecture hall or in a conference seat with a notebook and a pen. If I could go back in time, I'd probably pursue a PhD or go to medical school. In fact, one "problem" I had all throughout school was that I loved it all - every subject, every career path. I hope in heaven we can try lots of different things.
  12. When people ask if I am an "extrovert" or an "introvert," I always say I'm somewhere right "in the middle." Every personality test I have taken has confirmed this. I love people and parties and public speaking, but I also rely on rest and reflection and reading a good book in solitude. I am technically an ENFJ, but I appreciate the quiet.
  13. I have learned that I am not very good at replying to things on-the-fly. I need time to think things through. In group conversations, I tend to listen more than I speak. I think of witty quips and interesting tidbits - after the fact. This is partly why emails appeal to me more than phone calls.
  14. I never text and drive. This is a habit I have intentionally fostered. I typically zip my phone away in my wristlet and don't even blink when the phone "dings." It can wait.
  15. I am disciplined when it comes to social media. Minutes are what make up a life and, for the most part, I don't want to whittle away mine on a phone. I took the Facebook app off my phone years ago and it's a sigh of relief for my brain.
  16. I believe in being kind. I believe in gentle answers and unexpected gifts. I believe in smiling at strangers and saying compliments out loud. I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.
  17. Someday I would like to buy a postal scale to keep in my office so that I can send out packages to people whenever I want. I like writing and receiving letters via the good-old-fashioned USPS - and I'd like to do more of it.
  18. I have given birth four times (three in the water) and I count those days as some of the most miraculous of my life. The fear and pain were great, but the endings? Surreal. What an indescribable wonder to hold a slippery, sweet baby in your arms for the first time!
  19. New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday. Fresh starts, new possibilities, exciting opportunities just around the bend.
  20. Some of my goals include writing a book or two, freelancing for one or two organizations/causes I care about, traveling internationally with my family, learning how to cook effortlessly for a crowd, and continuing to develop close relationships with my kids through every stage of their lives.
  21. I am pro-life in the not-political, but fully comprehensive way. I am pro-babies and pro-families and pro-helping people in hard spots. I think loving children (including the tiniest children who don't yet have a voice) is among the most important things we can do.
  22. I wear the same thing almost every day. Intentionally. Eventually, I'd like to perfect my "uniform" so that I can look professional and put-together without having to think about my clothes. I don't consider myself to be a particularly"fashionable" person and I avoid malls.
  23. When our two oldest kids were young, we RV'd around the USA for a year and interviewed 40 non-profit executive directors. We volunteered at soup kitchens, clothing banks, and shelters. It was a hard year, but transformative and wonderful too.
  24. We're thinking about getting an RV again and I surprised myself by being the one to suggest it. This time, however, we WON'T be going for a year - just small adventures. And, everyone knows, I love adventures.
  25. I appreciate good food and love trying new restaurants. That being said, we mostly eat at home because restaurants often disappoint (not to mention they are crazy-expensive for a family of six). My favorite foods include: salad, salmon, scones, dark chocolate, and homemade bread just out of the oven. I also recently had a lovely lobster bisque soup, which I am still thinking about.
  26. I enjoy quality coffee (black) and try to drink copious amounts of water, but rarely drink other beverages of any kind. On special occasions, I will occasionally have a 1/2 glass of wine or a mimosa.
  27. Many years ago I wrote down that I want to "make money to give money." I am so happy to be immersed in the entrepreneurial life. I have more business ideas than I can take action on and I love the work that I do.
  28. If I had to choose another career, however, I would probably want to be a naturopath, a pediatrician, a professor, or a mayor.
  29. With four kids and a business, my schedule is full - but I am pretty good at creating boundaries, savoring moments, and saying "yes" to things I prioritize. For example, I look back at each my children's babyhoods with very few regrets. I held them, rocked them, sang to them, let them sleep right on my chest. Even now, I am known to say "yes" to ice cream, to neighborhood walks, to living room dance parties, to reading just one more chapter.
  30. That reminds me. I read books aloud to my kids every day - typically with voices. Several years ago, I had a contract with a local thrift store to put on a monthly themed storytime. That was fun.
  31. I don't buy things (without massive amounts of research and thoughtfulness). One time, I wanted to buy a pair of shoes. I asked friends for opinions. I researched the colors, the level of support, the return policy. I emailed the company with questions. Three YEARS later, I bought them. You know that person who wanders around Target and puts random items in her cart? Definitely not me. I only go to Target if I have to and I typically buy only what is on my list - which includes items I have carefully researched. Ha!
  32. As my kids get older and I am able to have real conversations without the tug of a toddler's hand (I'm not quite there yet), I hope to spend more time cultivating a few key friendships. It has surprised me that friendship can be complicated when you "grow up" and have a big family, but I really would like to make room for mentors, mentees, and other women to share life with.
  33. On every birthday/holiday, I typically only ask for one of two things: a family photo or time to write. Other than that, I'm just as happy as can be to spend the day doing beautiful-ordinary things with my family.
  34. One of my favorite things to do with my family is go hiking. We all like rambling over boulders, climbing higher, standing still in the grandeur of nature, and remembering how small our problems really are.
  35. It's okay with me if you can't stand running and you wander the aisles at Target for fun. As Dr. Seuss put it - life is a "balancing act" and each person has a unique way of doing that. I am not one to brashly cast my opinions out to the masses because I know (boy, do I know) that each person has a story.
  36. Today and every day, I am humbled and brought to my knees by the boundless and inexplicable love of God. Jesus is real. He loves me. He loves you.
  37. Growing older is a gift. Aside from the ailments of the body, I look forward to each new year. The best is yet to be.

Feel free to leave a comment. I read and cherish every one.

Love from,

Stephanie

37 things on my 37th birthday 1
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