Yesterday we celebrated my birthday. Even though we have a sizable property, I knew deep down that I wanted to be outdoors in the mountains somewhere instead of blowing out candles indoors. After having a scrumptious breakfast at The Original Pancake House, which is known for their Dutch Baby, sourdough French toast, and oven-baked omelets, we took a trip down to Mt. Rainier National Park.
This cairn looks like a bountiful, beautiful stone woman. 
We originally visited Rainier on our honeymoon to Washington State, and we have made a point of visiting it every year that we have lived here. We check the website frequently to monitor road and weather conditions, and we usually make a trip up during the height of summer. Even though our favorite Paradise Road was closed (due to a lot of snow), we were able to walk new trails. We even built our first cairn.

Jeff even braved the rocks so that he could walk along this log bridge. It is very stable and wide, though a wheelchair will not fit on it. This picture marks a major rehabilitation milestone for Jeff. Just a year ago, Jeff was unable to maintain his balance on his own, and he was still predominantly using crutches or a wheelchair for mobility. Now, he walks with a cane regularly. He recognizes his limits and uses additional supports when needed, but overall, he is less prone to falling and challenges himself more often to improve his balance and increase his stamina and endurance.
Doesn't this driftwood look like a dog wanting his belly scratched? 
There are two reasons why I consider celebration an important part of rehabilitation. Jeff and I live far from most of our immediate and extended kin, and we often find ourselves celebrating less and less. This is especially true of holidays that tend to offer more activity and enrichment for children. We alternate visiting our respective sides of the family, though, and try to do so around holidays or major events. As a clinician, I also know how important rituals and traditions are in people's lives. This is part of the reason why we visit Rainier once a year.
Birthday kisses are the best present! 
Education, training, and life experience have taught me about the importance of rituals and traditions. Celebration plays a critical function for humanity, because it allows us to mark milestones, highlight anniversaries, and praise accomplishment and effort. In Narrative Therapy, it is understood that we highlight certain events as important while omitting others, and this creates the story that we share with others and tell ourselves. Rituals, traditions, and ceremonies often hold significant place-markers in these narratives, though we may also highlight something a person once said or how we felt during a particular event.

Jeff didn't like the clown noses.
For us, celebrating birthdays are important. It marks another year that we have spent together, but it is also a day that we do a lot of reflecting out loud together. We talk about how far we have come as individuals and where we want to go, as well as dreams and plans for ourselves as a couple. We express appreciation for one another and express our gratitude for the loyalty and love we have shared throughout the year. John and Julie Gottman, relationship researchers and experts that reside right here in the Pacific Northwest, have found that acts and expressions of fondness and admiration are critical components to successful marriages.
We first saw this dam on our honeymoon and were unable to locate it again until  this trip. 
Even though the event or location may change each year, these activities remain the same. Fondness and admiration play a large role in our daily lives, and we feel that setting aside time for it on our birthdays makes it all the more special. For us, birthdays signify a culmination of personal and relational accomplishment, change, and growth. This acknowledgment and honoring of one another is meaningful and just as celebratory as blowing out sparkling candles or eating creamy frosting, though those things can be memorable in their own right.

I included pictures from the Ex-Nihilo Metal Sculpture Park in my post today to highlight a beautiful feature of the Pacific Northwest. Daniel Klennert is the artist, and his website, Recycled Spirits of Iron, showcases even more of his great works. Jeff and I have always been in such a hurry to get to the mountain and start exploring that we sped by these remarkable sculptures in a blur of metal and evergreen.
Depending on your personal preference or religion, celebrating holidays or birthdays may look very different. One of the ways you can practice the art of celebration is during National Rehabilitation Awareness Week (NRAW), which was begun by National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation in 1976 and occurs during every third week of September.

"Since 1976, National Rehabilitation Awareness Week has been celebrated annually across the United States. This observance, falling on the third week of every September, promotes the value of rehabilitation, highlights the capabilities of people with disabilities, salutes the professionals who provide services to this community, and renews our commitment to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Rehabilitation helps minimize physical or cognitive disabilities and restore those affected by potentially disabling disease or traumatic injury to health and productivity" (Brain Injury Association of America, 2012). 

Celebrations do not necessarily have to occur on specific days, either. It is equally important to celebrate during those little moments that offer meaning or new insight. I call this giving credit where credit is due. In my work with clients, I find that people are often more capable of acknowledging change or accomplishment in others than in themselves. It is important to celebrate yourself and take pride in something new or remarkable you have done, even if it is in the quiet of your own mind. It can be just as powerful to self-reflect and celebrate ourselves with positive self-talk and a congratulatory present to ourselves as it is to walk across a graduating stage or mark a relative's 80th birthday. So get out there, and celebrate yourself today. You deserve it, trust me. Better yet, trust yourself.