Dear G‑d,

Thank you for everything. After fifty years of living, longing, loving and learning, I have finally realized and internalized why celebrating a birthday is truly important and must be celebrated.

For most of my adult life I held to the belief that I was best maintaining my humility and developing modesty by not making a big deal about my birthday and keeping the attention showered upon me at a minimum. Over the last decade, I have had a change of heart and this last birthday I felt so alive with celebration.

The fact that my eyes open in the morning is the iceberg, but its also just the tipWatching an increasing number of my peers and family become ill and suffer in various ways, my sensitivity to and appreciation for all the gorgeous details of life began to grow. I was watching my gratitude for being alive bloom, like sights of a spring morning. I actually began embracing the idea and practice of celebrating. What struck me with a blow was that by ignoring the countless opportunities for celebration, I was actually robbing others of their chance to celebrate special occasions and the beauty of life.

The fact that my eyes open in the morning is the iceberg, but its also just the tip. My eyes can feast on the winter frost and the wind-blown trees, the magnificent colors that decorate the outdoors. My ears can delight in the rush hour trains in the distance and the music of the creatures that fly. My nose is alive as it draws in another sacred breath and smells the bagels toasting, the coffee dripping and endless other things.

I get out of bed and within a few feet, the creaks are gone and my step gets lively. We have clean running water and smooth wooden floors, electricity and gas to temper the air that fills our home on those extreme days. These are just a small but great menu of reasons to celebrate.

I don't have to look far for the countless blessings; reasons to plug in, light up and celebrate the joys of being alive. My husband is a good to the core, loyal man, with an unparalleled sense of humor, solid work ethic and deep devotion to his family. My son is challenged in his health but every day becoming stronger and more aware of the virtues of respecting life on many levels, and grows in his practice and appreciation of moral responsible living. I can barely count the gratitudes just related to celebrating my love for them.

My parents are still alive, I have an amazing caring sister and circle of friends, and an especially warm, close knit community. I have the means to shop for a breathtaking array of foods and the freedom to pray in my home or a variety of enriching spaces throughout my neighborhood. My home is a place of security and warmth, love and laughter, respect and cooperation

I'm alive. I ask myself, "How am I going to use my time to make the most out of my day?" with so many opportunities to create, connect, build, love and nourish right beneath my feet. I am a painter and my home is filled with the abstractions of line and color that bring beauty and conversation. I am a teacher and students come to the studio in my home where I instruct them about the practice of yoga.

Recently, I took on a new responsibility of teaching some of the principles and practice within Jewish philosophy. We learn about refining our positive character so that we can live with a self awareness of our goodness, our wholeness. I am graced with outstanding mentors and teachers in all areas of life where I climb on board to learn about excitement to live and share what I learn and who I am. I am a Jewish woman yearning to be a homerunner, where at any given moment I see myself weaving a colorful, eternal tapestry of life and love, value and purpose, through all my actions and speech.

I’ve come to see that everything everywhere is a chance to choose to celebrate lifeI've come to see that everything everywhere is a chance to choose to celebrate life; from what looks small and ordinary to the monumental occasions that are part and parcel of one's birthright. From sharing a majestic holiday meal with family and friends, to washing the dirty dishes and linens, and unpacking the endless delicious groceries, to every conversation with my son, time with our friends, sitting around the kitchen table, a drive to the market, anytime, anyplace, there are countless reasons to celebrate being alive. A love for life can be found in choosing to see the ordinary as a gift, and make the most out of every present moment.

A birthday is the day we were born, and a profound reason to celebrate. But we don't have to wait for the Hallmark moments to connect to celebration. We are brought to planet earth for a relatively short period of time. In the early years it seems like life will last forever. At times, it can be pretty confusing. Who am I? What is my purpose? What makes me, me? What makes me special? What do I have to offer that will make the world a better place? What do I want to accomplish today? How can I be a better mother, a better friend? Will the world be a better place because I was in it?

These are the kinds of questions we all ask, and at times, wish they would go away. We face these daunting questions when we're 16 and 28, 45 and 60, and they keep us on our toes, make us strive for becoming better. Birthdays by their very nature, have a built in unique energy that teaches us to look at ourselves in a particularly thoughtful way. Each time we face these questions our lenses are shaped in a slightly different way. Why is that? Is it that once we begin to lose people we love, or experience strife, our own purpose and mortality becomes more striking and present? We lose the innocence and ease? Is it because when we hear about people being struck with an incurable illness, or experiences family disharmony and marital discord we feel vulnerable and take a closer look with a new mindset and heartbeat?

We are faced with an infinite scope of fascinating things to question, with just as much to discover, and as we journey down one path or another, along the way, we miraculously mature into moral, responsible people. Countless mistakes will be made so that we have the opportunities to learn what we are meant to know. We may even catch a glimpse now and again that we actually have an impact on others.

Every interaction, every relationship, every situation we live makes its mark; on ourselves and others. If we watch and listen closely for signals, we may eventually stumble upon what we love, and see where our strengths lie, what works and what we need to do differently. In these lessons lie the deepest and most compelling reasons for a celebration for living.

As long as we are breathing, the signs are everywhere. But are we looking? Our job is to pay close attention so we will see the connection between our choices and what results.

Next time you are in a supermarket, say hello to the cashier person. They all wear name tags. If you see a person struggling, offer him a hand. If you think of a friend you haven't called in a while, seize the moment. How do you know it will come again?

Will the world be a better place because I was in it?Don't hold back from telling your spouse how much you love him when you wake up in the morning, or telling your children how proud you feel that they speak pleasantly and are helpful to their friends. Ask for help when you need it so you can teach others that it is a strength to ask for help when we need it. Nobody gets extra rewards for martyrdom!

Listen with sensitive attention when someone is speaking to you. Don't we all want to feel like we are cared for and heard? Every moment matters and every birthday is a celebration of you and your unique life force. Walk in that direction with a vision that you can really make a positive difference and know that life is meant to celebrate while you are living.