How Do You Celebrate? and thank you…

Rachel Cole, Oakland, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

This is my friend Rachel Cole and it was her birthday this weekend. She is a lovely human! and a fantastic coach if you are looking for that sort of thing.

As I move toward my fortieth birthday this November (how on earth is this possible?) I am noting how people celebrate themselves. Do they throw a big party? Do they pretend it’s not their birthday? Do they just let people send them Facebook wishes all day? Do they travel somewhere exotic or have a quiet brunch with friends?

ravioli making is fun and easy, who knew? Canon Digital Rebel XSi

As a life coach, I can’t help but notice how our values are wrapped up in everything we do (including birthdays) and how, when we align ourselves with those values, pure pleasure is possible. Take Rachel for instance. She invited a small group of friends to her home for a birthday brunch. The table was beautifully set with a red polka dotted table cloth and colorful dishes. She was dressed in gorgeous colors and there was a station set up so that her guests could make ravioli. When I arrived, the sangria and homemade pesto were in process. It was pure deliciousness, everything about it.

As I get older, I seem to be making peace with who I actually am. For example, I always think I should have a big party and then never enjoy my own birthday parties! 40 years later, I might consider a different way… I’ve learned that brunch is a better time of day for me, that smaller groups make me happier than large ones, that I don’t like to be the center of attention, that it makes me the happiest when I am offering an experience for all of us to enjoy.

How did you celebrate a big birthday? and what made it truly nourishing? I’ll be filing away your ideas for my big day this year!

Also, I cannot thank you enough for your generous comments and emails regarding my last post. Your words have been a gift and I am letting them soak in slowly. My heart is full. Thank you SO much.

Rachel Cole, Oakland, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

Follow on Facebook Follow on Instagram Follow on Twitter Follow on Pinterest

Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.



  1. tracy carlton

    i was ready to honor all the parts of me when i turned 40, 3 years ago. so i came up with a list that talked to each part. and i also decided to celebrate for much longer than one day, it stretched out into almost 2 months. here’s what i did: BIG tattoo, dinner with my immediate family at a new place i’d always wanted to try, weeked workshop for myself in SF (my fav city), small party with my Framily (friends that are family), massage on the day of, day off of work of course… those are the ones i can remember… i know there are more! have a wonderful celebration of you!!!

  2. LauraC

    For my 35th birthday, I co-hosted an 80s style slumber party with another friend turning 35. We dressed in 80s clothing and got to drink and talk all night without worry of driving home. It was a smaller group of women, lots of close friends. It was a BLAST!
    Two fun games we played:
    * We all had to bring a bad photo of ourselves from the 80s. We all voted on worst picture and that person won some 80s jewelry. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard since.
    * We all had to tell the craziest thing we had ever done in our 35ish years. This was after a LOT of cocktails. One woman was in a high speed car chase in LA trying to outrun the police. Another woman had smoked crack. Every story was crazy and UNEXPECTED but in this way that let us all get to know each other on a new level.

  3. Karen

    I’ve been celebrating all my birthdays (big and little) with a game night. I love game nights!!! Simple, yet awesome.

  4. amanda

    I had a truly rotten 34th birthday so when the big 35 rolled around I was very clear about what I needed and what I wanted. I asked my west coast best friend to be there — he flew from Seattle to Philadelphia without a 2nd thought. I asked my local best friend to host a birthday party for me – a low key afternoon affairs with everyone’s kids and families and that was exactly what I got. It was a great lesson for me to learn that when you take a chance and ask for what you need — you quite often get it.

  5. Marianne

    I turned 50 (!) last June and had a ‘girls only’ party at my house. At first I didn’t want to celebrate but then decided to embrace the fact that I am able to celebrate and organize something I like, a friendly, cosy and colourful party. Since I am single and part of my friends are single I decided on having a ‘girls only’ party. I made a colourful collage as an invitation, which was already a nice little taste maker. I ordered delicious Italian food (wasn’t planning on working in the kitchen all day on my birthday!), installed a buffet in my living room and had everyone serve themselves. It was very informal, some friends knew each other, some didn’t and they all said the same: it’s a great formula and it’s so nice to meet new people. My 2 children were there to help out with drinks and food and I enjoyed it a lot. I wanted to have some friends around to celebrate (and comfort me) and I’m happy I did it this way instead of crying my eyes out for turning 50, which is an even greater shock than 40, I can tell you! hahaha
    Anyway, I’m sure you will have a great birthday, whatever you decide to do. If it comes from the heart, it will be what you want it to be.

  6. Mollie

    For my 35th birthday, I rented a cabin for the weekend in the woods. I invited my good friends and we just chilled for the weekend, enjoyed each others company, ate yummy food, and soaked in the hot tub. It was a gift for myself and my friends. I liked being able to give them a gift as well.

  7. Eva

    Wow, such great ideas all around. I’m turning 40 in April and I want to celebrate big time, but I’m not sure what I want to do yet. Y’all are giving me food for thought though!

  8. Shannon

    For my 30th birthday, my (then bf, now husband) threw a Hello Kitty themed surprise party for me. It was amazing, decorations everywhere and he had even made loot bags for everyone.
    For my 35th, I had another Hello Kitty themed birthday, this time I planned it myself.
    This year for my 37th, I’m hosting a week long photo scavenger hunt for my friends who are spread across 3 continents with prizes and everything. I can’t wait!!

  9. Melanie

    Last summer I turned 40 and my older sister took me away for a few days. We both have young children and don’t live near each other so it was nice to spend this time, just the two of us. We met in Newport RI. We went sight seeing, stayed at a fancy hotel, had a spa day, got our tarot cards read, ate lots of yummy food, and watched a movie in our large comfy bed in our hotel. (she got us a couple package because it was a better deal!) My husband kept asking if I wanted a big party, but really I just wanted to spend time with the people I love.

  10. anna

    First of all, I believe in birthday month. Secondly, I like to decide ahead of time what I want for my birthday, and then get it for myself. Then all the other gifts are gravy. Third, I like to spend time with people I enjoy and by myself in beautiful places.
    For my 40th, I had a public gathering with friends at the speakeasy in San Francisco. It was a lot of fun and really no pressure for me or them. They just showed up and drank and laughed and had a good time.
    Then I took myself for a weekend to Mendocino to a bed and breakfast that had a huge tub for soaking in the new year of my life and washing away all the things I didn’t need anymore.
    I walked all over, enjoyed the whales migrating and took myself to delicious meals!
    I hope you plan something just for you!!

  11. Jen

    I celebrated my 40th nearly 5 years ago with a biggish party at my place with a cocktail/lounge theme. I had the small gathering earlier when my girlfriends came around to help me ‘plan’ it. I had help setting up and then tidying up the day after from my friends and I had a blast. I don’t mind being the centre of attention every now and then and I think birthdays are the best day to do it.

  12. nina

    I usually don’t do anything, but I’ve been thinking about it because 50 is my next big one. A trip? A tattoo? No idea.
    I remember a friend’s 40th. She had a tea party just for the girls. There were amazing vintage hats involved. We kind of played dress-up. Fun!

  13. Lene

    I dont know if you know this magazine, and if you do, bare over with me, but I stumbled upon it and it just seemed so very much in tune with what you are writing about in this piece!
    Much love

  14. GailNHB

    Andrea, I think that as much as you will enjoy reading the ways in which many of us have celebrated our big birthdays – I just did my 45th last December – it sounds to me like you are well on your way to knowing exactly what will work for you on your big day. You seem so attuned to your soul, your needs, your family, your life these days – and always. Your heart will guide you to just what you need.
    As for your questions from the other day – you have inspired me to take more photographs, to wear exactly what I love every day, to put on your superhero jewelry and be my own superhero, to get closer to my kids and just look at them, laugh with them, and let my f*cking faucet of love gush all over them… even though they are teenagers. No matter how embarrassed they seem sometimes, I know they love it. They both still sit in my lap sometimes, ask me to scratch their backs, cry with me (son and daughter!). and tell me how glad they are to be my kids. So thanks for helping me to freely live, freely love, and freely curse too. (You and Jen Gray have both inspired me on that front!!!) You are a gift to us all.
    Billboard/Motto: Who needs a billboard? Your life is a billboard: just be who you are right now. What do I want more of? All that you are, sweet woman. Your greatest strength? Being truly honest about who you are and where you are in your life.
    You are a superhero mom, wife, friend, photographer, writer, jewelry-maker, WOMAN! Celebrate you – and don’t wait till your birthday. Start today! In little ways and big ways to celebrate the wonder that is your life. You are soooooooo worth it.

  15. jag

    I *loved* turning 40! I keep saying the 40s are where all the cool kids hang out. 🙂 That’ll change when I turn 50, of course…
    For my 40th, I had a open house for the afternoon. In lieu of gifts, I asked friends to bring a donation for the Snowsuit Fund. I ended up with a box full of mittens and hats and scarves, as well as cash donations.
    I’ll be 46 this coming December and I’ve already started thinking about my 50th. I’m thinking of taking an extended leave from work (3 mos.) and doing whatever the heck I want! As for those in-between birthdays? Every single one is gift to me and I make sure I spend time with the people I love…
    Blessings to you! xox

  16. Puanani Leal

    On the morn of my 40th, in the pregnant pause between sleeping and waking, I heard this, “Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!” WTF? I Googled it, I tried to find the message. Have I been set free? Is it time to shed my hiding place? So much to mull over. So instead, I had big party in the back yard with candles and lanterns and carnival lights. Lots of friends. The best part? We played Hide and Seek ALL NIGHT. The best, was my friend Martin, who is a sculptor, a 6 foot 7 sculptor. Hiding with him was like hiding next to a lighthouse…We always got found.

  17. Leslie

    Honestly I don’t remember how I celebrated my 40th birthday but I celebrated my 60th in style. April 16, 2011 my best friend (for 50 years..yup 50!) and I decided we need to celebrate our 60th birthdays and 50th year of bff in style. We were not sure what that ‘style’ was going to be but we were going to do something different – dare to do something different. And we did. Off to the Blue Mountains in Jamaica for a yoga retreat in the jungle in a rasta village, seeing sites that the tourist does not see, staying a very rustic (VERY rustic) ‘lodge’ for the week – no a/c, no screens, no hot running water, surrounded by 8 people we didn’t know and we became a jungle family by the end of the week. Oh, on my birthday, having escaped so I would not be the centre of attention, my best friend decorated the outdoor dining room, organized a cake, and a celebration for our last night. Bliss.

  18. Kathy

    I hit the big five-oh this year. My husband and I took a group of friends out to a local jazz club for dancing and drinks – the band dedicated a song to me – “Too Old To Die Young” – and even though I wanted to crawl under the table and blow away, I managed to get up and shake my stuff in front of a room full of people. The following weekend I slipped off to Cape Cod with a few close girlfriends. We cruised the gift shops and galleries photographing our “muses” (mine was an action hero) in all sorts of crazy poses, and then we all bought the perfect bra (it’s called the Coobie – and I highly recommend it.) The gift I gave myself was to book my spot at Squam this September. I am jumping into the exciting unknown.

  19. andrea

    For my 40th: we went sailing – and what was meant to be a sunny gentle fun day turned into quite an adventure …. small craft advisory, black skies, wind whipping my chips into my glass of red wine on angel island, one perfectly placed wave off the bow that totally drenched only one person. My 50th: WOW, it was just so much fun. Usually don’t feel comfortable with placing demands on people (like if you want to celebrate my birthday w/me you need to spend money and a weekend at the sonoma mission inn. Truth is, I got them a great deal, and it was SO memorable. As much fun as our wedding, and very meaningful. And all of us around one old recycled piece of a bridge-became-table at El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma. Epic.

  20. Kate

    For my 30th birthday I invited my 3 best girlfriends over and had fondue (cheese, then chocolate.) My awesome hubby made all of the fondue for us and acted as waiter. It was filled with deliciousness and good conversation and good wine. One of my favorite birthdays ever.

  21. Stephanie

    My yoga instructor just celebrated her 40th on Sunday. She invited any and all friends and students to join her for 40 sun salutations in a park near a lake in our town. It was such a bright, special way to celebrate her!

  22. Miriam Daniel

    I LOOVVVED my 40th! I had been on bedrest for about 8 weeks. I was wanting to do something extraordinary, but what? I go this crazy idea that I wanted to get my huge pregnant belly a henna tattoo. I invited 4 wiser older women. They all brought yummy food. The henna artist came to my house and worked her magic on my belly and my friends’ hands. I felt so loved and nourished. I gave away big girl goodie bags with candles and lip glosses and chocolates. Less than 3 weeks later my precious son was born. (I still feel so good when I look at photos of my belly that evening!)

  23. Lucille

    Pretty apropos post. I turn 45 in a few weeks. I don’t know what I’ll do or if I’ll do anything, but that seems so…. dull. My sister turned 40 last month and my mother will turn 65 in December and it just seems to me that 2011 should be celebrated somehow special given these milestone birthdays. Everyone just seems to be isolated in their own little worlds. I have to take a chance… It was nice reading everyone’s ideas!

  24. Catherine Just

    My 40th I was newly pregnant and had a huge party in our backyard. I learned that I too am not into having big parties for myself. The best part was that we hired a psychic to do 15 minutes reading for everyone. The worst part was that we had her in a different part of the house so we couldn’t see how long she was going – and she went LONG which meant paying her LOTS more money than she quoted. If I did that again I would set up her table outside near the party and have an iphone alarm go off every 15 minutes so I could keep her on schedule and our packet books in check.
    I’m coming up on my 43rd birthday in a few weeks and I was just wondering what to do. I want to fly out and see my best friend who just started chemotherapy. I want to lay in bed and watch sex and the city dvd’s with her while we eat familiar foods, laugh, and lounge. I want to get a massage, go stay in a cabin with my family in some wooded place, or visit the Manzanita house again with the gals from my first photo workshop that I am still in touch with. I want to take a self portrait. A bubble bath with candles. A reading from an energy healer I’ve been learning about. I remember reading on someone’s blog that for her husband’s 40th birthday she gave him 40 wrapped gifts. hmmm. Maybe I need to give myself 43 gifts! I each day for 43 days! hmmmmmmm.
    I do love the idea of having a small brunch – making food together and all of that but then I feel a little sad because I am new to this city so I don’t have my tribe yet here. Looking forward to hearing what your birthday plans look like and how you felt about it all.

  25. Annie

    I am turning 35 in a few days. I told my husband that piercing my nose again was a quarter plus ten life crisis :-). I am heading out to dinner and drinks with my the hubs and a few friends.

  26. Sarah Ford

    I know that I am not a ‘big party’ person and never have been. Even my wedding was small which is what we wanted.
    Its my 40th next April and I mentioned to the ‘other half’ that I would like to hire the whole of a friend’s bistro for the evening, located on the quay in Padstow and invite 30 close friends and family to spend an evening of fabulous food, good wine, lots of laughs and knowing my friends, they will bring their fiddles, accordians and guitars, so lots of music too.
    I mentioned it again the other day and he’s already booked the restaurant, bless him. Am really looking forward to it!
    My mid to late 30’s have been a revelation in that I am comfortable with me, who I am, and what I have to say (finally). I live by the adages “those who mind, dont matter and those who matter, dont mind” and “thoughts become things, choose the good ones”. I know women of my age who have yet to get to this point and I keep telling them, its just the best place to be.

  27. lori

    I just celebrated my 40th and this celebration was so different than those in past years, because I decided not to put any expectations on the day and just let it unfold. No hurt feelings if friends forget, no big deal if I choose not to have a cake…I wanted this birthday to celebrate my life and where I am now and the lovely family I am surrounded by that makes everyday more beautiful. So this birthday I asked my boys what they would like to do for fun. They all voted to go to the deepest lake around and take a flying leap into the water, from a rope swing. We had so much fun!
    I hope your birthday is just as beautiful 🙂

  28. Sugar Creek Farm

    My best friend from high school has her birthday exactly a week before mine, so we celebrate the big ones together. When we turned 30, she was living in San Francisco (I still live in our hometown in Iowa) so I flew out there & we threw ourselves a party. We turned 40 last November. She lives in NYC now, so I flew out there & we threw ourselves a party 🙂

  29. marilee pittman

    When I turned 37 I was feeling sorry for myself that no one was planning a birthday party for me. Then a light bulb went off and I had the bright idea to plan my own birthday. I rented a hotel room and invited all my friends to an “open house”. It was the best birthday ever 🙂

  30. Denis Hennington

    Blasphemy! ; ) Merely kidding. Ive read equivalent things on many other blogs. I’m going to carry your word for this. Keep solid! the companion.

  31. Lindy Gruger Hanson

    For my 30th, I had a small party at a hotel in downtown Seattle with a group of my close friends. It was a blast. For my 40th, I lived in New York City and my best friend flew to NY and she and another friend of mine, went out on the town. Stayed up till 5 a.m. I have lots of good memories from that one and it sure was fun! For my 50th, I went out for an intimate dinner with my sweetheart and I think that Birthday was the best one yet! Getting older really is the best!

Ready for your next creative adventure?

Download the Mondo Beyondo dream generator!

Latest from the blog

CSP #82: We Should Get Together with Kat Vellos

CSP #82: We Should Get Together with Kat Vellos

Listen in to this great conversation about adult friendship with expert Kat Vellos! Kat Vellos is a trusted expert on the power of cultivating meaningful friendships. She’s a speaker and author of the book, We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better...

read more

self guided e-courses

Choosing Ease

30 days of ease, joy and cultivating wonder

I believe that when I’m creating from a place of ease and buoyancy I am actually in flow – in alignment with myself and the Universe.

Capture the Magic

Rock your camera-phone - and discover that beauty and joy are everywhere.

The very best camera is the one that’s with you! I’ll show you how to get on your own path of joy and delight while learning photography skills along the way.

mondo beyondo

What does your heart truly want in 2020? 

What if you could name your dreams and desires for 2020 and create a plan to make them reality?


Get your FREE guide to experiencing more wonder + joy!

Hop on my mailing list to get weekly-ish inspiration, updates and your free downloadable PDF: 9 ways to experience more wonder right now. I'm so glad you're here!

You have Successfully Subscribed!