What I really want for my birthday

So, it’s been a rough week. A rough year. Sitting down to write feels like wading through molasses. There is always so much to sift through, that I don’t know whether to voice outrage, frustration, hopes or insights. Do I respond to protests and incomprehensible tweets by world leaders? Or do I let our current global challenges slide to the side and reminisce about the days when we could move around freely? Do I write about my greatest fears for our world or my tentative hope?

Truthfully, I spend a lot of my creative energy these days just trying to do my job – trying to create engaging, meaningful college courses that I teach through a screen – all about weather and climate. This takes place a 5-second walk from where I sleep, and eat, and shower, and think, and live my life. But because of what I teach, what I do each day feels much more meaningful now than ever, even those moments when we delve into the gory mathematical details of directional derivatives and radiative transfer.

But I’m reaching out today because I have a big milestone birthday coming up: the HALF CENTURY MARK. This is a big one right? It’s a big one, but there will be no party, no fancy dinner out, no room full of black balloons and people dancing to greatest hits from the ’80’s. (Don’t buy balloons, anyway. They’re bad for the environment. Not to mention that anything from the 80’s is probably bad for the environment – maybe even the music.)

But there is something that would make this birthday hugely meaningful and special, and I could use your help.

First, I want to say that, in spite of the current state of the world, I am really excited about this next decade of life. I know there are lots of ‘over the hill’ jokes at this point, but I’m inspired by a whole generation of women presently in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and onward, who are redefining what it means to be a woman at a more advanced stage of life. I certainly feel like I’m still on the upslope – and getting stronger as I cycle onward. I am really looking forward to learning and growing and contributing to the world in this next phase of my life. 


This is what it feels like at this stage of life, moving into the future: finding myself more stable on shaky crossings, and always a new piece of the forest to explore.

This also feels like a time to reconnect with old friends and build new friendships — with people of all ages and backgrounds. I want my life to EXPAND from this point – and I do that by learning and connecting with people — by traveling, teaching, writing, sharing.

I wish I could gather with all the people I love in this world, and spend an evening sharing stories, memories, favorite songs and movies.

This is what I really want for my birthday.

How do I do that in the midst of the global pandemic? When we are all locked up in our own little corners of the world?

I’m going to send out a request to the ether: 

Would you please send me a short story or memory about some time we’ve spent together? A photo? Or perhaps pass on your favorite poem, book title, movie or song to help boost spirits through a pandemic winter? Even your favorite RBG quote? Send me something to help me celebrate. Think of it this as an invitation to a virtual birthday party. You can comment below this post, or on social media, or send something by email.

But let’s also help out the U.S. Post Office. Message me (via email or comment) and I’ll send you an address where you can mail me a note, a postcard, a physical piece of paper. You know, the kind we used to send to each other in the 1980’s. And if you don’t remember the 80’s (or don’t admit to remembering the 80’s), you can think of this as a social media post or email, but written down on paper and sent to one of those boxes that line the streets in residential areas to be viewed (usually) by only one person.

To keep the good energy going, and lift each other up, anyone who sends me something via old-fashioned mail will get something in their own mailbox in return (as long as you include your address).

Help me celebrate my birthday and let’s stay connected in this era of general isolation and uncertainty. (And even if you don’t send me anything, go buy some stamps, no matter what country you live in.)

What do you say: Will you help me celebrate 50 turns around the sun?

And by the way, if I don’t know you, I’d still welcome book, song, movie suggestions via a comment!

4 thoughts on “What I really want for my birthday

  1. Can’t believe you’re 50!! Seems like just yesterday that I sat with you and your mom on your front lawn as I tried to figure out how to take care of a newborn. Thanks for your blogs and Happy Birthday.

    Sent from my iPad

    Chuck &/or Judy Gansen



  2. Hi Dr. Shellito!
    I’m sure you don’t remember me. My name is Travis Steele and I was a student of yours between 2005-2010. Anyway, happy birthday!!!
    I would like to recommend some very positive music that has helped me with the crazy times we are living in. It is an album called Horizons by Surfaces. Nearly all of the songs are uplifting and easy to listen to. I moved to Germany last year and have been enjoying adapting to a new way of life with my small family. I’d be happy to send a postcard from 5000mi away, if you are interested. Feel free to email me your address and I’ll send it on over.

    Have a great day!


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