Part 2: In Which My Heart Breaks Open To Fill Up With Thanks & Love

From Colleen Attara Studio, artwork filled with love from top to bottom
From Colleen Attara-the gift of knowing I hold the world in my hands & that I can hold more if I give it away. Thank you!

My mother has finally left me speechless-she’s been trying for decades but this time she has finally done it! I’ve written and re-written this over and over again since I started 10 hours ago but I just have to accept that there is no way I can properly get out all that is whirling around in my heart-I’ll just have to start and resign myself to it not being perfect.

A couple months ago my mama (Stephanie) asked me for a list of 30 people from the OMHG community I had built friendships with-but she wouldn’t tell me why! Just making the list made my heart happy since there were so many friends I had made in this journey that I felt loved by. There have been times in my life when the list of people I felt loved me was awfully short so knowing that I’ve built so many strong connections was one of the most affirming things of my year! I had guessed she was going to ask the list to write me emails on my birthday and I was a little bit right…

From my Mama: The gift of always believing in my potential for greatness
From my Mama: The gift of always believing in my potential for greatness. Thank you!

We had just walked in the door all giddy from getting engaged when my mama whisked me to a pile of wrapped presents and made me set up a camera and tripod. She got me all settled an said she had emailed the list of 30 and told them she knew what I would love best for my birthday is the chance to have us celebrate together for real-but since that couldn’t happen to join her in welcoming 30 with me in some way. If everyone had sent me little love notes by email or on the back of napkins I would have been truly thankful and felt so loved. Instead there were the most thoughtful, heartbreakingly beautiful gifts from friends near and far.

From the Oh My! Community: The gift of knowing what I do has value & that I am so loved. Thank you!
From the Oh My! Community: The gift of knowing what I do has value & that I am so loved. Thank you!

If my mama wasn’t there to make me open them all in one swoop I probably would have opened them one by one over weeks-the pile of gifts was overwhelming. But I am thankful she pushed me, it is easy for me to celebrate others and I’ve learned to celebrate myself, but being celebrated by others? A whole different thing! It is hard to accept sometimes that who we are and what we do has value and that the friendships we build mean as much to others as they do to us. With each lovingly wrapped package I opened it felt like I peeled away any lingering doubts that I am loved or that the community we are building here is so much more than virtual. I know without question now it is rooted in the deepest of friendships. After my amazing engagement weekend with Chris I was already so full of joy and love I didn’t think I could possibly contain another drop! But the fabulous thing about love is that just when you feel you are at maximum capacity you break open and make space for more.

Each gift was different but in over half of the cards there were the same exact words: “You are so loved.” I have never felt this to be truer in all my life and that alone is the biggest gift any of us can hope for. Apparently there are still gifts in the mail making the way here-so the birthday celebrating won’t end just yet for me-truly it is all too much goodness for one person to stand.

*Update! Look what arrived the morning after I published this post from Nicole of Three By Sea-how could she have possibly known? The magic just keeps coming!
From Nicole of Three By Sea: Magic, Humor, & the most perfectly timed gift ever. Thank you!
From Nicole of Three By Sea: Magic, Humor, & the most perfectly timed gift ever. Thank you!

I will also be going back again and again to this video of a letter of perfect words, from Lori-Ann of Boreal Trim, read by my mama with oh so much love to my weepy duck face:

Thank you has never seemed so inadequate. I love you comes close but instead I’m looking forward to spending my Christmas vacation creating my own packages of thanks for each one of you to actually do it all justice. Your gifts helped make turning 30 the most memorable and magical birthday ever and I feel filled to overflowing with hope and excitement for the coming year. My biggest dream is that I can give the feeling you gave to me for my birthday back to our community all year long. Each of us deserves to feel celebrated, welcomed, and loved-to have spaces we can visit where we belong and are valued. With that knowledge in our hearts there is no dream too big to attempt and no sorrow too heavy to carry. Thank you all for helping me make this corner of the internet a place we can all come home to. I LOVE YOU! And mama? Nope, sorry, still speechless but thank you, thank you, thank you for the best present of all time.

Now I want to know, since OMHG has given me everything I could possibly want for my birthday what can I & our community do for you this year? How can I help you feel so loved? Tell me in the comments and I will do everything I can to make it happen!



  1. Oh Jess….my house is so quiet. Everyone I love most is asleep. And then in the quiet I walk over to my office and read this post. What a joy to celebrate your birthday. To think about you and play with paper and paint. How is it I can feel so close to someone I have never met in person? Thank you for teaching me about community. I suspected how it worked. Now I know for sure. How can you be so wise at 30? Amazing. So very grateful to be a part of this magic. xoxooxoxooxoxxxx
    ps. what a gift your mama is…

    • Jessika says:

      @Colleen, I really have no words to share how opening your package affected me-the little painting with every single inch covered with words of love healed something in me I didn’t know was still aching. I have always believed in magic but I have truly realized now we can find it through these screens and wires. It is just miraculous that despite how vast our world is and how many billions of us there are we can reach out to connect with the people our heart needs most & build friendships that are so much more than words on a screen. I am thankful for you & am committing now to 2013 being the year we get to hug each other in real time!

  2. Elle says:

    WOW – what a beautiful gift and what an AMAZING Mum you have!!

    Congrats on turning 30, congrats on getting engaged and you are doing such wonderful work you deserve all the love and celebration you received and more!

    Happy birthday xo

    • Jessika says:

      @Elle, I am truly blessed with the best mom of all time. When I was younger I used to wish I had more family since it was always just the two of us but I know now that my mama is equal to an army of relatives. Thank you!

  3. Sarah says:

    Such a beautiful post, and what beautiful gifts and messages. I have to say, I was delighted to finally meet you at the Halifax Crafters market, and although we only chatted for five minutes or so, you radiated warmth, positivity and energy. After reading the post I can see I’m not the only one who has noticed that! You are a truly inspirational person and I hope your recent explosion of happiness is just the start of a long and happy future. Enjoy every moment!

    • Jessika says:

      @Sarah-Thank you! I was delighted to meet you too! And it warms my heart that despite always feeling a bit awkward in crowds of people I managed to radiate goodness, I love to hear this! Let’s plan to meet up for coffee after the holidays, would love to connect more!!!!

  4. Bee says:

    I woke up this morning reading about your ‘Part 1’ WONDERFUL PROPOSAL evening and now I go to sleep after just taking my last peak at my computer only to find your ‘Part 2’ 30TH BIRTHDAY. It is amazing to have these 30 gifts to always fondly remember you milestones with such joy.
    Continue doing what you are doing and maybe give us some tips on how we build such lovely friendships. What a terrific role model you are to us and you inspire me to do better. Fondly, Bee

    • Jessika says:

      @Bee, oh thank you love! I absolutely will do all I can to help share ways we can connect to build strong lovely friendships. Hopefully our new site will help with this too! I am humbled to be thought of as a role model-that feels so grown up! Thank you for all your support over the years Bee, I’m sending you BIIIIG hugs!

  5. Lori-ann, wish you could have been there in person but you were very much there in spirit, your letter was the first thing I gave her and kicked off the moment. Thank you.

    I would have loved to have included the entire ohmyhandmade community in the conspiracy of Jessika’s birthday.

    I simply couldn’t figure out how to do so without Jessika finding out. But the whole community was there in one way or another. You are all such amazing, talented people. It’s an honour and a Joy learning and getting know each of you over time.

  6. Deanna says:

    I’ve only been following OMHG for a few weeks, but I love your site! Yesterday, at work, I read Part 1, and just finished Part 2 (in happy tears for you).

    My job has been very difficult for the last couple of months, and I’ve been struggling with some tough decisions. These two posts are so filled with joy and love that I couldn’t help but be cheered! A great way to start the day – thank you!

    • Jessika says:

      Hi Deanna! Do you feel my big welcoming hugs speeding your way? It is a gift in itself to know that I helped bring some cheer to your rough time, if there is anything I know for sure it is that having a community to support you makes the longest road seem half the struggle. Please let us know if we can support you through your challenging time!

  7. Julie says:

    so beautiful and so well deserved. I know I always say this, and I always say that I say this, but you are amazing. you inspire, you encourage, you love and you give those around you the strength they need to do what they do. I am so thankful to have met you and to call you a friend! thanks again Stephanie for giving us this amazing opportunity. to celebrate such a wonderful and beautiful person. xo

    • Jessika says:

      @Julie ah! I think all of us deserve to feel this celebrated! The only way I’m avoiding feeling all squinchy about all this praise is by plotting ways to show you all how much I adore you! THank you for being my cheerleader from the very start-I’ll never forget reaching out to you and your being so excited. It was the first time I ever felt like I was actually creating something valuable that could connect with others, that was the best gift of all. Hope you can come visit for the WEDDING!

  8. rikrak says:

    yay! you ARE so loved, dearest! so happy for the hugs & cheers that surround you always , wonderful j!

    I love your mom putting this together for you… so dear indeed! and I was honoured to be part of it! thank you.

    you are amazing, jessika, and I mean every word I wrote. thanks for being so wonderful!

    • Jessika says:

      @ Ms RikRak you never fail to fill my heart right up with happiness & cheer-THANK YOU! I am so so so thankful I connected with you when I first started this adventure-you taught me how I could squish sweetness and light into my words and make them feel like a hug. I absolutely completely adore you! We are so close-let’s make visits happen this year so I can squish you for real <3

    • Jessika says:

      @Joy I love you so! Thank you for the gift but mostly for being the one to teach me about how the connections we make online can grow into sustaining friendships. I have loved knowing you through your pregnancy & then growing closer when le bebe was born. For years now you’ve popped into my life with hugs and smiles at exactly the right time, I am so thankful for your little notes when a kiddo is sick or when I’ve had some big news. Meeting you in NYC was one of the best presents I’ve ever had-it felt like we had known each other forever! And we are going to:)

  9. You really are loved, jessika. The community here and in our heart circles around you. You are our centre, our grounding, our heartbeat in this online community. And now we are making connections with each other. How beautiful. How perfect. Thank you for that. xoxo

    • Jessika says:

      @Tania Do I ever feel it! For so much of my life I thought caring so much for other people was a liability-my bureaucratic non-profit jobs didn’t help with that (I know you’ll relate!), I am so thankful to have this space where that love is not only received but reciprocated. Watching those relationships then ripple outward to develop a life all of their own and collaborations + new opportunities arising is the most beautiful thing of all. I’m so thankful you were there with me!

  10. Nanako says:

    I love how your mom reached out her hand into the community and a thread of love wove through us to bring each and every birthday wish to you. What a beautiful celebration of both your birthday and the thriving community you’ve created here! I enjoyed reading your post and seeing all the handmade creations people created with you in mind. A big hug to you and to your lovely mother! xoxo Nanako

    • Jessika says:

      @Nanako-everything I learned about community my mama taught me! When I was growing up our lives were filled with the most extraordinary and diverse friends & she welcomed everyone into our lives be they a woman in tears on a street corner or a seriously disabled youth-with the same warmth and respect. The fact that she reached into our community and brought you together to be with us on my birthday was the most amazing gift she has ever given me…aside from life, that is a big one! Huge hugs back to you! I think we need to plan some mutual sea side village exploring this year?

  11. Andrea says:

    My heart is swelling for you Jess! You are so deserving of these wonderful events the last few days.

    The note Steph read off in the video couldn’t have said it better. I am grateful to have been involved in the surprise, but even more so for knowing you. <3

    • Jessika says:

      @Andrea-I am so blessed to have a local friend in this group of celebrators, I thank all my lucky stars I randomly decided to search for letterpress in Halifax many moons ago! I can’t wait to have a home to hang your beautiful gift in but more importantly to invite you to & feed you all sorts of deliciousness. Giant hugs!

      @Lesley-It does feel like we’ve known each other forever! There would have been no #omhg chats & no explosion of community if I hadn’t been so inspired to want to have tea with you & Julie & Lisa + friends
      Can you believe that was almost 2 years ago? I know that life has gotten busy & you’ve focused in on family (I think this is such a brave & beautiful decision) but I feel like you are always still present in my life & I am grateful for this! Now Canada needs to take the hint from all the US folks flying me all over creation & bring me home to play with you!

  12. Lesley says:

    Oh yay! Jess, I echo everyone’s words here in saying how inspiring, wonderful, and nurturing you are. It feels like I’ve “known” you forever and yet we still have yet to meet face to face! You are a cheerleader of community, and have built such an amazing one here. Many hugs to you! It was an honour to be a part of your big week 🙂 xoxo

  13. Coral says:

    Such a beautiful gift – well done to everyone involved for keeping the secret! I often say I want my creative business to make me feel “full to overflowing”. So wonderful to hear those words from you in this post. Some say online friendships don’t have true meaning or connection – I think this beautiful gesture proves those people wrong.

  14. Tilly says:

    Wow. What an absolutely overwhelmingly amazing gift. A strong reminder that material things are all very well, but knowing that you are so appreciated, that you have generated so much joy in others, is perhaps the greatest gift of all. And something that we should all aspire to do. Happy birthday!

  15. Marisa says:

    So happy to have been a small part of this celebration of YOU! You’re such a wonderful cheerleader and supporter of all of us, glad we had a chance to send some of that love back your way! What a wonderful way to kick off a new year (and decade) of creative adventures and soaring successes!

  16. Francesca says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful way to celebrate your birthday! First the engagement and then this? WOW… You deserve every gram of love you get dear Jessika, you give so much to the creatives community. And Stephanie, you rock!!!

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