49 Forty-Ninth Birthday Blessings

It was recently my birthday!  On the day, I posted some short musings about how it’s okay that I haven’t done everything that I wanted to this year.  Then I did a review of my last year’s “bucket list” and identified what I’ve done and what I didn’t do, and tried to point out how even though there are things I didn’t do, there were other things that I did do that weren’t on the list in the first place.

Now it’s time to look with gratitude at all the cool stuff that I got.  Because really, I have a lot to be grateful for.  And not just the long term stuff, like great kids, a wonderful wife, relatively good health, and a sense of meaning and purpose to life.  I’m talking short-term, often shallow, good ‘ol fashioned stuff!

Birthday Cake.jpg

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m a “gift” person, or if there’s just a bunch of stuff I want.  Either way, I want to make this list:  49 things I got for my 49th birthday!

Full disclosure, I’m counting things that have come in the month since my birthday, even if they weren’t specifically for my birthday.  Because it’s been so busy since my birthday (as you’ll read) that it all feels like part of the same deal.

1. Birthday socks! 


With bananas on them.  I like bananas, but not in any sort of special way.  I just like to eat them.  But for whatever reason, my daughter saw these and thought, “Those are the socks for dad!”

2. The Flash by Mark Waid, Volume 6

My wife’s sister and her husband gave me a gift card for Amazon Australia, which I pretty promptly used to buy this comic, the latest collection of one of my favorite runs from my young adult-hood.  It’s here and I’m in the midst of reading it and enjoying it.

3. Shazam!:  The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith

Another comic.  My middle daughter wanted to get me one, so we went to the comic shop together.  We considered a few things before I got this, handily re-released I’m sure thanks to the recent Shazam! movie.  Jeff Smith, of course, is a big favorite of mine thanks to Bone.  I’ve read this story before, but not for a loooong time.  It’s a lot of fun, although admittedly pretty weird.

4. Cards from the kids

Even though my girls are now all teenagers, it’s long been a tradition in my home for the kids to do home-made cards for their parents, their friends, and each other, and it still continues.  I’m always blessed by their efforts!

5. Burgers from Grill’d

The first of many food-based items on this list.  On my actual birthday, which was Friday, my wife and went out for an easy dinner out at Grill’d, this chain that serves relatively healthy burgers.  It was a simple little date but really enjoyable, and tasty.

6. A Kylo Ren light-up keychain

Kylo Ren

Sort of a joke gift from my wife, when she saw it going cheap at the post-office.  I’ve actually given it to my kids who needed a keychain, but I still think it’s fun.

7. Exit Escape Game

I like Escape Rooms, and so do many people, apparently, because they’ve started packaging them in little boxes.  I’ve played a few with my children, and some other some others.  This particular brand is my favorite of the two I’ve tried, and my wife & kids bought us another one to try out someday.

8. Code Names – Picture Edition

I also got this version of Code Names, another fun game.  It’s the version with pictures instead of words, which I’ve played before but did not own.  I haven’t played it since we got the new one, but my family did once when I was out and thought it was fun.

9. Outreach fees to India

For a while, if anyone asked what I wanted for my birthday, I replied, “I want my team to get the money they need for our trip to India.”  See, between my birthday and now I’ve actually spent two weeks in India on a media-related missions project.  The mission I work with requires every participant to raise their own finances, so there’s often a lot of prayer and fundraising in the weeks and days before a big trip.  Though I’ve had my money for the trip for a while, many people on my team did not.  But then, thanks to God’s grace and the generosity of many, it all came through…on my birthday no less!  So great.

10.  Indian Food

Palak Paneer

Actually, for a while, I haven’t been a big fan of Indian food for a while, ever since I got a bit sick on another trip there many years ago.  But somehow, this was the trip that sort of redeemed it for me.  I was fed most of the time by an enthusiastic and hospitable family who made many tasty dishes for us, as well as lots of chapati (an Indian wheat bread, and my go-to for something a bit “lower gi” than other bread or white rice, which was often a choice), and I ended up quite enjoying it, even if it’s still a bit spicier than I’m fully comfortable with.

11. Palak Paneer

Got to give a special shout-out to what I think is my favorite Indian dish, palak paneer, which I had two times and enjoyed as often.

12. A shirt…that was too big!

That’s right–my wife bought me a shirt that was too large!  I like the shirt, but the exciting thing is that it was too large, which has almost never happened before.  I’ve been changing my diet quite a bit lately, so I’ve been losing weight.  So that’s very exciting.

13. The same shirt…the right size

So my wife traded it in at the store for one that’s two sizes smaller.  And now I can wear it.  It’s a nice shirt!

14. Jeans

Got some pants that fit as well!

15. The Princess Bride

Princess Bride

The day after my birthday was sort of my family day, and that evening we watched this movie.  I quite like it, and I’d been interested in showing it to my kids for a little while (the younger two had never seen it).  They both got a big kick out of it, and even my wife, who’s never really been a fan, had more fun with it than normal.

16. Chicken satay

That night we also had dinner together–my wife had made tasty chicken satay with brown rice.  Very nice!

17-21. More Comics

Thanks to money from my mother, I bought a bunch more comics, though they are still on their way here:

• Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes vol 2–reprinting things like the “Earthwar” story and the “Omega” two parter

• Mister Miracle by Tom King–I’m a little nervous about that one

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang–always enjoy that guy’s work

Astro City:  Aftermaths–the final volume of Kurt Busiek’s long-running series.

The Adventures of the Super-Sons vol 1 by Peter Tomasi–the first half of his recent (and final) year-long series about the sons of Batman and Superman

22. Legion of Super-Heroes

Legion of Super-Heroes 6

In addition to buying the book I mentioned above, there was also very exciting news that broke during this time period about the Legion of Super-Heroes, traditionally my favorite comic book series.  It seems that after several years of being off of DC’s publishing list, a new iteration of the team is on its way, courtesy of “superstar” writer Brian Michael Bendis, and artist Ryan Sook.  Will it be “my” Legion?  Probably not.  Will it be any good?  Nobody knows!  But am I glad that the Legion is being published again in some form or another.  You betcha!

23. Counterpart, season 1

I bought this season of the espionage TV show starring J.K. Simmons.  I’ve seen 80% of it so far, and it’s really gripping and well-written, although it is full of far too much sexual content for me to really relax into watching it.  I’m regularly having to skip bits, etc.

24. Great Wi-Fi

While in India, I stayed at a small hotel that had some of the best wi-fi I have found anywhere in my overseas travels.  It’s only for that reason that I could actually start watching Counterpart, or that I could finish another show on my list…

25. Spider-Man door mat

After I got home from my trip to India, I found that we had a new door mat–one featuring Spider-Man!  Apparently, some friends had bought it for us while my wife was visiting them during my time away.

26. Green Lantern sign

Welcome Home

My kids also made a “welcome home” sign for me, a pretty standard thing to do, but with a Green Lantern ring included into the lettering.  Fun.

27. Umbrella Academy

This is available on Netflix, so I didn’t have to spend any money that I wasn’t already spending, but I managed to finish watching the first season shortly after my birthday while I was on my trip, and enjoyed it quite a bit.  I enjoyed the fact that for all its dark trappings, it actually tells quite a sentimental and family-driven story.

28. Hang-out BBQ

I wasn’t in the mood for a big birthday party or anything, but I had some friends over on the Sunday after my birthday for some BBQ burgers.  The food was tasty and the company was fun.

29. Endeavour Season Six

At that BBQ, I learned that the sixth season of Endeavour has been released.  I really enjoy that show, about the sleuthing efforts of a young Morse and his difficult relationship with his boss, Inspector Fred Thursday.  I’ve seen three out of the four episodes so far, and the quality continues to hold up.

30. New Sofa

Sofa Dismantle

I came home from India to a new sofa!  Our old one has served faithfully for about 14 years, but it was beginning to fall apart.  Then my wife managed to find a really nice second-hand one going for really cheap!  While I was gone, the kids helped my wife dismantled the old sofa, and by the time I returned the new one was already in place.  That’s the best type of change, as far as I’m concerned.

31. Healthy (ish) food!

Coming home, I also found a giant pile of snacks courtesy of my mother.  In the past, she’d have sent me Peanut Butter M&M’s, fudge and the like, but because of my recent efforts at healthier living, this time she gave some money to my wife to pick up some more suitable options like nuts, fruit, avocados, cheese and so on…so good!

32. Smoked Salmon

Along with all the above, there was smoked salmon in the mix.  I give it its own entry because I really love smoked salmon.  Mmmmmm….

33. Christmas-themed Escape Room

Speaking of Escape Rooms (see #6, way up above), the family did an Escape Room together at one of my favorite places, as a birthday event to do together.  It was a family-friendly Christmas-themed room, which I have to say wasn’t as good as the other ones that that place, but still was fun.  And we solved it!

34. Another Escape Room…in the future!

My friend Rod wants to take me to another room at the same place–as we’ve done two there together already, and they just opened a new one.  Actually, the guy who looked after us when I was there with my family actually remembered me from the other times Rod and I have gone, partly because we talked to them for a while but also because he remembers that I’ve done some writing for another Escape Room in town, and he offered me a discount code for whenever we book next!

35. Two Movies / One Day

Godzilla King of the Monsters.jpg

Shortly after returning from India, I went with my family to see Toy Story 4–not the best film in the franchise, but still a pretty good movie.  Then, later that very same night, my friend Rod and I went out and saw Godzilla II:  King of the Monsters–which was both awesome and absolutely terrible at the same time.  Other than double features, I can only think of two other times that I saw two completely different films in the cinema on the same day, so this was, you know, something special.

36. Another Movie…in the future!

Speaking of movies, my friend Josh L (late of our Box Office Blockbuster Tourney) has offered to take me to a movie for my birthday, once we are both back in the country (he left just after I got back).  I don’t know what we’ll see yet, but I’m sure we’ll have a good time together.

37. Whiplash

And speaking of other movies, I also got to see Whiplash on the plane, a film which has for some time been on my “to see” list.  Really enjoyed it.

38. Japanese Time Travel

I posted elsewhere about this but another airplane movie viewing choice was Cafe Funiceli Funicelo, a Japanese Time Travel Supernatural Fantasy Emotional Drama.  It was flawed but still pretty good, and now happily occupies the #2 spot on my list of best Japanese Time Travel Supernatural Fantasy Emotional Drama films that I’ve seen, after Orange.  (For clarity’s sake, Summer Time Machine Blues is not on that list, instead being on my list of Best Japanese Time Travel Science Fiction Slapstick Comedy movies.

39. Krypton, season 2

With some of that same birthday money that I mentioned previously, I bought Season 2 of Krypton.  Once upon a time, I laughed this show off as a joke, but I still went ahead and watched Season 1 and was overall pleasantly surprised (although I didn’t realize until then that Kryptonians had all the same regional accents that British people do).  So now I’ve bought a “season pass” for the second year on the soon-to-be-defunct iTunes, and am looking forward to finding the time to have a look.

40. Movie Making I:  I Ain’t Your Caffeine Monster


Filmmaking is one of my main things, but sometimes there are long stretches where I don’t do it very much.  These last few weeks have not been one of them!  It started just a couple of days after my birthday, with a small project that I’ve been kicking around for a while (in a larger form, actually, but I made it smaller) about a guy who starts talking to his coffee cup.  Or more accurately, whose coffee cup starts talking to him.  We shot it all on one evening and the results are in a rough cut at the moment–hopefully moving forward soon!

41. Movie Making II:  Lost in Spaces reshoots

The previous film project I worked on was back in January, a fun movie that was for the staff retreat of the missionary organization that I work with.  I wanted to put it out on Youtube, but it’s been delayed due to complications over one scene where our actors sing a song that we actually don’t have permission to use.  Getting permission proved not workable, so after a lot of delay we finally reshot the troublesome bit, the night before I went overseas to India.  So now that I’m back, re-editing is in process.

42. Movie Making III:  Untitled in India

It doesn’t have a name yet, but the trip to India was about making a film as well, to share the gospel message in one of the local languages.  We were a small team, but we had great local help and the project went really well and was a lot of fun to work on.

43. Lost Luggage

So, on the way to our filming location in India we had a brief layover in Hong Kong, and then an overnight in Delhi.  I told the airport check-in people in Perth that we wanted to get our bags in Delhi, and through some confluence of errors, they ended up only tagging them to Hong Kong.  The result–we arrived in Delhi with three out of four team members having no luggage!  We did our overnight and then went on to our local city.  And in the middle of the day after that, our baggage was delivered to the local airport.  So why is this on my list of things I’m thankful for?  Because we were anticipating some big “extra baggage” fees for our domestic flight (their limits are a lot stricter than the international carrier), and due to this whole snafu, we didn’t end up incurring those!  So, our delayed baggage actually ended up saving us money.


44. Lost Luggage, part II

Of course, it wasn’t convenient to go two nights without our luggage.  But fortunately, one of my friends had bought some cheap t-shirts at a local op-shop for everyone in the group, to give to us as a surprise.  She brought them in her carry on luggage, which meant that we all had a clean shirt to wear after that first overnight.  The shirt has a Thai flag on it, as well as a tiger and the year 1917 in Roman numerals.  Amusingly, we’ve heard since that it actually has political overtones, so now I’m a bit reluctant to wear it.  But at the time, it was a life saver!

45. Sold!

For a few months now, my in-laws have had their house on the market, intending to sell it and to move in to a smaller but still nice place that they are building.  When I got back from India, I found out that their house had sold!  Good news!

46. My birthday table

At my missions community, when it’s your birthday they set up a special table for you at dinner and bake you a cake.  I had mine a few days after my actual birthday (because we don’t have dinner there together every day) and invited my family and three good friends to join me (the table seats eight people).  It was a nice time, and I even had a small piece of cake (a treat because I’ve been avoiding most sugar recently).

47. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Well, I guess that movie in the future with Josh probably won’t be Spider-Man: Far From Home (aka Marvel Super-Heroes part 22) as it turns out that my children and I are going to see it tonight!  Hopefully, I’ll love it…

48. Reactions

…Well, now it’s the next day and I’ve seen Spider-Man, and overall I quite enjoyed it.  There were two post-credit scenes, with the first one being quite cool and featuring a surprise appearance by a very welcome character and actor.  The other one featured a “twist” which I thought was ludicrous, and kind of annoying.

49. My family

Ben thru the ages redo_3.jpg

When all is said and done, it’s still my family that are the biggest blessing of all.  In spite of the difficulties (and there are difficulties) and the conflicts (and there are conflicts), my wife and three daughters (all teenagers now!) are the greatest source of richness, joy, inspiration and fun that I have ever known in my mortal existence.




6 thoughts on “49 Forty-Ninth Birthday Blessings

  1. Bruce and Kara:
    Well, I’ve always thought it helpful to know the difference between “Supernatural Fantasy Emotional Drama” and “Science Fiction Slapstick Comedy”!

  2. Kenneth T:
    Umbrella Academy is only one season long so far, but it’s my understanding that they’re working on a second one.

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