Keep Calm, You’re Only 40.

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated a milestone birthday that some call the big 4-0. It’s at times like this when it’s easy to look back and think about everything that’s changed in the past decade. At 30, I was expecting my first child. We lived in Portland but were yet to move into our own home. I’d been at my job for about a year and was starting to feel comfortable living in Portland. I hadn’t yet discovered my love for photography.

Wow – a lot can change in 10 years. Now I find myself with two great kids, a house that I love in a city that has become my second home and rediscovering my love of photography and starting my own business after leaving a job I loved after 11 years (well, I loved about 10.5 of those years).

I also find myself married for 16 years to a man who can apparently still surprise me even though I thought I had him all figured out.


Note: most of the photos in this post – the most colorful ones – were taken by my good friend and very talented photographer, Jeff Hopper. Yes, my husband even thought to arrange a photographer and I am so thankful that Jeff was able to capture everything, even though I continue to feel extremely uncomfortable on the other side of the camera.

But let me back up a little. This moment was just the end of a couple of epic days of birthday celebrations all arranged by my wonderful husband who, I’m sure, will be cashing in on this for years to come.

Kei had planned to play golf on Sunday (my actual birthday) so I wasn’t feeling great about the prospect of a good birthday. Oh, don’t get me wrong, my parents were in town which was lovely, but I wasn’t expecting much after 16 years of low key birthdays. While I’d hinted – ok, told, Kei that I wouldn’t be opposed to a huge blowout, my expectations were low.

On Saturday we went out for brunch at Salty’s between soccer games. Samuel loved it so much that he asked to go back for his birthday and the chocolate fountain even made him forget that we’d forced him to wear jeans and a collared shirt. I think I may have to rent a chocolate fountain for his birthday next year…

On my birthday I was blindfolded and led downstairs to a breakfast of french toast and bacon cooked by two boys (with some help, I’m sure). I was then told to dress “nicely” for a secret lunch date. My dad was tasked with babysitting while I was blindfolded again and led out to a car for mystery drive with, I found out shortly, my wonderful friend Jennifer and her mother. Jen then took me on a London tour of Portland to make up a  little bit for the fact that I wasn’t able to accompany her on her own 40th birthday trip the previous year. Our London tour included a drive across the Hawthorn (London) bridge which was closed so we made do with the Broadway bridge. Then we headed to the OSU tram (London Eye) – which was also closed… But, thankfully, The Heathman was open for business and we enjoyed a wonderful lunch after having the door opened for us by a Beefeater. Our adventure ended with a walk through Powells and a little window shopping. Jen really outdid herself and made my birthday more special than I could have imagined.

But, it wasn’t over yet. Mum, Dad, Kei and I dropped the boys with friends before heading to the Portland City Grill for dinner. After a wonderful meal I was blindfolded again for, what I thought, was going to be a special dessert date with the kids. Instead, I found myself stepping inside a karaoke room to shouts of “Surprise!” from a large group of friends who represented all corners of my life. From work, baby groups (nine years ago!), soccer, the neighborhood and just the most wonderful people that make up my life here in Portland.

After asking where my kids were (their babysitters were at the party) and confirming that they were ok, everyone sang Happy Birthday with the Beatles and my husband kicked things off by serenading me with one of the most romantic songs ever written.

I’m still trying to get my head around all the planning that went into making sure everything was such a surprise – and all the lies my friends told me in the lead up to the big event. I had coffee with one work friend and lunch with another just two days previously and neither of them mentioned a thing. And then I found out that they were all invited about a month before the party. The lies had been going on for quite some time. Well played, my friends.

And, of course, I am now a little frightened by the level of deception that my husband is capable of, while also impressed by the amount of organization and planning that went into such an epic weekend. It was a wonderful surprise and a truly memorable gift.

So, I leave you with some karaoke photos taken by my friend, Jeff Hopper. As you can see, we had a terrible time… Cheers!

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