Happy 18th Birthday — Have Some Handcuffs

Turning 18 is a milestone in many cultures. Yet, there is nothing celebratory about the way the United States’ current Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are marking the occasion for unaccompanied minor immigrants.

ICE agents are shackling and relocating teens in shelters as soon as they turn 18, according to the Miami New Times. Since April, the report said, at least 14 teens had been taken from the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children on their birthdays — when they become legal adults.

“When they turn 18, it’s basically, ‘Happy birthday,’ and then they slap on handcuffs and take them off to adult detention centers,” Lisa Lehner, an attorney with the nonprofit Americans for Immigrant Justice, told the New Times.

The percentage of kids turning 18 in detention and being turned over to ICE has more than doubled since 2014, according to a report by news site Documented, cited on The Hill. In 2017, 2.4 percent of minor detainees “aged out” and were arrested by ICE, compared to 1 percent in 2014, according to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) numbers quoted by Documented.

Americans for Immigrant Justice has filed suit, but Broward County isn’t the only site of these shelter arrests. Janet Gwilym, the managing attorney of Kids in Need of Defense, said ICE agents regularly show up at shelters at 11:30 p.m. on the eve of detainees’ 18th birthdays. At midnight, agents will shackle the now-adult detainees and take them to jail. 

“I believe it’s a psychological strategy they’re using to try to get them to just give up and go back back home, even if they know they’ll be killed if they go back,” Gwilym said.

There are dramatic differences between the environment in an adult facility and a temporary shelter such as Homestead, the activists noted in news articles. Plus, the government is obligated under what’s known as the Flores settlement to seek the least restrictive environment for minors, including alternate housing like placement with relatives or foster care — and to do it quickly. Instead, the new practice is handcuffs and quick shuttling to prison.

I never thought I’d be writing about immigration issues, but this is not the kind of birthday surprise we should keep quiet about.


Birthday Love from Beyond

This one may make you a little sentimental. After all, it’s about a thoughtful Dad who arranged to have flowers sent to his daughter on her birthday — after his death.

Upon finding out his cancer was fatal, the Dad went to a local florist and prepaid for an annual birthday bouquet. He died when she was 16, but each year until she reached 21 she received flowers and a card.

birthday wish

Image: @sellersbailey Twitter

This year, her 21st birthday, she received the last of her birthday flowers. The Tennessean posted on social media a picture of herself with her Dad and an image of the flowers along with the message: “Miss you so much daddy.”

Birthday wishes continue

The Dad’s final card read: 

“Bailey, this is my last love letter to you until we meet again. I do not want you to shed other tear for me baby girl, for I am in a better place. You are and will always be the most precious jewel I was given.

It is your 21st birthday and I want you to always respect your momma and stay true to yourself.

Be happy and live life to the fullest.

I will still be with you through every milestone, just look around and there I will be.

I love you boo boo and happy birthday!!!!!


And that right there is why I love birthdays. They are an opportunity to take a moment and say the things to each other that we don’t stop and say every day. This Father had another impetus, yes, but we could all benefit from embracing the birthday as that day to openly say what is in our hearts.

birthday flowers

Image: @sellersbailey Twitter

Birthday Goal to Get Behind

Milestone birthdays prompt many different reactions. There are those who plan big parties. Those who try to hide from the date and the attentions of friends. Or others who plan adventurous trips with family to mark a big year.

Recently, a video circulating Facebook was of an “extreme couponer” using her powers of saving on food for good. Lauren Puryear believes that “humans should never have to suffer,” and so she takes her coupon habit seriously enough to serve meals to the homeless in her native New Jersey.

The video shows her buying shelves and shelves of soups and pastas (and apparently storing them in a rented space) before going out onto the streets to provide food to those who need it. She claims to have served 10,000 meals thus far. She states her hope is to serve 30,000 by her 30th birthday!

This woman is not 10, and it is not stated in the video how old she was when she started this campaign. So, it’s safe to say she is setting a high hurdle for herself to reach. She will need to pick up the pace to reach her goal — especially to do so as responsibilities pile up (as they tend to do with each year).

Still, it is impossible to do anything but hope she achieves her goal by her milestone birthday. As she says in the video, “It is our human duty to have some type of love for other people.”

Worst case, if she doesn’t make it by her actual 30th birthday, she can become one of those people who stay 29 for several years in a row — at least until she serves that 30,000th dinner!



Destination Birthday Trend Sounds Great!

It’s time to fully embrace the destination birthday. I regularly schedule travel around my birthday as I can better justify the expense as a birthday present to me. But only once so far have I embarked on a milestone birthday celebration with a friend — we went to Miami and loved basking in the sun and drinking mojitos.

Destination birthday

The mojitos are looking a little low in the glass there…

Yet “more people are choosing to celebrate their big birthdays and anniversaries far from home—inviting everyone along for a blowout trip,” according to The Wall Street Journal. 

It’s a great idea that I am happy to get on board with.

Milestone birthdays cause anxiety in some (or worse) while others take greater risks and embrace adventure. Clearly, the ones who decide to travel ambitiously are in the latter camp.

A full 75% of adults 45 and over have taken, or plan to take, one of these “celebration vacations,” according to AARP research released this year, cited by the WSJ.

Part of the appeal is that spending quality time with one another somewhere different is more about valuing each other’s company than it is about buying gifts. Of course, the WSJ reporter (who went to Napa to celebrate a birthday) does concede this can be costly.

Still, there are some great ideas shared in the article:

  • A woman invited 15 of her friends (who didn’t all know one another yet) to stay in six-bedroom villa she rented in Jamaica to mark her 50th.
  • A Canadian man joined five buddies from high school on a motorcycling Italian tour for his 50th.
  • Another group of duffers played famous golf courses in Scotland to celebrate 50.
  • A tour operator invited 80 people to join her 50th fete in the Peruvian Andes, complete with an optional cruise up the Amazon.
  • 15 coffee lovers traveled the Colombian countryside for coffee tastings, salsa dancing and a bamboo river-raft float.

The thorough article rounds out with advice for the etiquette of this kind of birthday event — e.g. no gifts needed. But, fair warning if you do invite me along to your destination birthday, I was too busy already imagining where I might travel on my next milestone birthday to read the rules too carefully.

Where would you go? Would you travel with family or friends or both?

P.S. Apologies to anyone who read this already when I inadvertently published it and then made a big mess of it’s url history. Now, for it to appear on the actual blog (not just in people’s email) I am reposting. 

Downhill good or downhill bad?

Do you have any friends who have remained 29 or 39 for many, many birthdays? There’s an inclination among some to avoid the milestone birthdays. What do we have against the zero’s? Whenever asked, my Dad said he was “zero” for my entire childhood.

In an Indianapolis Star article, a mental health counselor notes how people can choose to ignore the negative aspects of milestone birthdays. The idea that “it’s all downhill from here.” Instead, make the choice to look at the milestone as a time to celebrate accomplishments and get motivated to do something new, different, or challenging.

Did you know most of us make our biggest decisions in the year leading up to the milestone birthday?bungee-jumping-1

A study published last month by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences noted that the transition year to the new decade is when most people step back and re-evaluate.

For instance, Science of Us coverage of their work noted that there were 950,000 men aged 29, 39, 49 or 59 among the more than 8 million male users of a dating site designed for people seeking affairs (I’m not providing that link!). They said this was 18% more than would be expected by chance. They found similarly among women but not as strong.

Alter and Hershfield also note there are more suicides in a -9 year. Additionally, there’s research suggesting people train harder and get faster times in a marathon run the year before they turn 30 or 40.

Share below! What has a milestone birthday or its approach prompted you to do in answering the “What Am I Doing with My Life” question.

Single on your 30th? Have a Pepper Person!

If you are single on your birthday and that bothers you, don’t live in Denmark. As if turning 30 isn’t a traumatic enough experience, there’s an added level of anxiety-inducing fun among the Danish.

According to Brian Dahl’s site about Danish getaways, a bachelor at 30 is a pebersvend (or “pepper man”) while the unmarried female of the same age is a pebermø (“pepper maid”).

Just in case your neighbors are unaware of your solo status, its a tradition to put a big pepper mill in front of the home of the birthday guy or gal. No, we’re not talking a little pepper grinder someone might use in a restaurant to spice up your entree. This is made out of “something like 2 or 3 old oil drums filled with concrete and decorated with a big number 30.”

Here’s one version I found on Flickr: Pebermø

Or a male version also from Flickr:

Pebersvend på lars tyndskid's

These are even bigger than Dahl led me to imagine! And North Americans thought a cake with a big 30 on top was a tough reminder.