I grew up with huge, family-oriented birthday parties, my birthday in particular because it always fell around Easter time. My mom and my sister planned thee funniest backyard games where us kids ended up with cracked eggs in our hands, soaked shirts from water balloons, or stickers on our faces just because. It was a time of no shame and just plain, simple fun. Not every year was like that, but I always remembered how my parents made it a point to celebrate my birthday. Blessed is an understatement.

Since I’ve been in California for school, I haven’t had the privilege to have those childhood birthday celebrations anymore. So slowly but surely, I’ve been creating my own little celebrations with a different kind of family. I like to call them, Mafia, a group of friends from House of Grace. A year ago the Mafia threw a Hawaiian theme surprise birthday party for me. My friend (top right in the black shirt, the one with the bromance stare to the guy in the green, Hawaiian shirt) was the one who brought me to the party making me think that we were making a detour before my birthday dinner. I’ve never had a surprise party before. Typically, I would be the one behind the scenes planning and screaming SURPRISE instead of being the one walking into a room wondering why the lights are off. I was definitely overwhelmed with love and their companionship overflowed my homesick heart.

“Friends are family members you choose.”

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