Tag Archives: birthdays

25 years

Sisters back in the day

Twenty-five years ago today, my baby sister was born. I still remember the day pretty clearly, my parents leaving for the hospital in the middle of the night, the neighbor who stayed with us making pancakes in the morning, going into the forest with my dad to help find the perfect baby bay laurel tree that would become Laurel’s tree.

Six weeks ago my baby sister got married (recap post coming on Monday morning) and moved to Ireland, but before that she worked full time as a legal secretary and volunteered as a CASA. Before that, she traveled to Ireland (where she met the man who she’d eventually marry) after graduating from UC Santa Barbara. My sister is gorgeous and accomplished and wonderful, and we all miss her terribly.

First dance

I used sprigs of bay laurel from her tree in Laurel’s wedding bouquet and in her husband’s boutonniere because I’m sentimental like that. It was a way to tie her new family to her family of origin, a way to bridge her journey from daughter and sister to wife (and maybe, someday, mother). I also made her a wreath of laurel from her tree to wear during the reception, long a symbol of victory. Laurel has been victorious in many of the achievements she’s set out to accomplish so far in her first 25 years on this planet. I have no doubt that she’ll reach every other goal she sets for herself. I love you, Floral, and I hope your new Irish family made your first quarter century celebration a good one.

On Laurel's wedding day

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Mom’s birthday surprise

My mom was born on October 31st. While I’m sure it might have been fun to have a Halloween birthday while she was growing up, my mom basically spent 20-some years with her birthday a complete backburner because Halloween is all about kids: costumes, candy, parties, trick-or-treating. When I was in college, I finally realized that hey, mom should get to have a little bit of celebration that’s just for her, right? So a few times I’d take the bus up from Berkeley, meet her in Santa Rosa, and take her to lunch or to the movies on the weekend closest to Halloween.

This year, I decided to do a birthday surprise. With the help of Google Maps and a friend who commutes to the town where my mom works, I hatched a plan to personally deliver flowers to her school. In my camelback, I brought a glass jar I’d tied with leftover ribbon from my sister’s wedding, and my floral shears. My friend dropped me off at the Trader Joe’s at the north end of town, where I found a few different flowers I thought she’d like. Outside the store, I prepped the flowers, trimmed the stems, and put them in the jar, but left the plastic on the outsides to help protect them. I plopped my ridiculous sun hat (a remnant of sister’s bridal shower) on my head, tuned my ipod to a new audiobook, and walked 5.5 miles to my mom’s school, flowers poking their heads out the top of my bag.

It was a gorgeous fall morning: the air a bit dry and unseasonably warm, reminding me some of Denver. I walked past houses and stores, subdivisions with residences decorated for Halloween, large shrubs and piles of ivy, and vacant lots filled with fennel. I saw dogs, cats, birds, and squirrels, people perambulating with their babies, thirsty lawns. It was a sharp contrast to the audiobook (City of Thieves, about Leningrad during WWII) which was stark, hungry, cold. The sprawling city was warm, full of life and activity. A man peddling Mexican treats rode by on his bicycle. I got blasted with car exhaust. It smelled like blacktop and reality.

When I got to the bus stop right outside the school, I pulled my floral purchases back out of my camelback and spent a few minutes cutting stems and arranging everything to my liking in the glass jar, adding the floral food that had come with one of the bunches of flowers, along with a few bits of ivy and eucalyptus that had called to me during the journey. I walked onto school grounds, looking for the office, and a nice lady told me my mom would be in the gym supervising the holiday pep rally. I walked in, holding the jar of flowers, and my mom was standing right by the door, dressed in a doctor costume.

I think it took her a second for her brain to process what she was seeing (as one does not expect one’s oldest daughter to randomly show up during a pep rally at one’s school), but she gave me a big grin and a hug, and we brought the flowers to her classroom. The gym was full of screaming middle schoolers fueled by sugar and the excitement of getting to do something fun in the middle of the day. I half-expected it to smell like sweat and socks and desperation, which is how I remember my middle school’s gym smelling, and I wondered what the kids who might notice me would think of this strange woman (because I’m obviously not a kid) in the ridiculous hat. Some students and some teachers got up in front of the room to do a macarena contest, and I realized the song was popular before any of the kids were even born. Then I yelled at them to get off my lawn.

Wanting to preserve the last vestiges of my ancient eardrums, I waited outside for my mom to be finished with her duties so we could visit a bit more before I had to leave. As the kids streamed out of the gym in pairs and groups, I noticed an awful lot of the girls dressed in slutwear-type costumes; fuck-me boots and cleavage-baring tops and miniskirts and fishnets. A fair number of the boys were wearing costumes. The special needs kids with one-on-one aides, all of whom were dressed in costumes, came out to watch the spectacle.

We ended up at mom’s house for lunch. The avocado wasn’t very good, but the sandwich was filling, and she gave me a ride to the walking trail so I could head toward downtown where I’d be catching the bus home. My audiobook got progressively more bleak and miserable as the afternoon sunshine made the changing leaves and creek sparkle. People rode by on bicycles, talking on hands-free phone devices (really? on your BIKE?), chickens cackled right as I got to the plot point in the story about the main character needing to find eggs. Which was pretty funny, I had to admit. Once downtown, I continued to walk, in and out of stores, trying to find affordable tea lights for a project I wanted to do last night. I didn’t have much luck, and started to sweat a little in the heat, but then it was finally time to go catch the bus home.

I paid my fare and found a seat, reminded of all the times during my high school and college days I’d taken this exact bus to return to this exact house. The times I ran into people I knew; the times I met new friends (some of whom I still know); the times I wished desperately for a car so I wouldn’t have to sit on this bus ever again. It’s a 30-minute drive via freeway and a 90-minute bus ride, but yesterday it was even longer because part of the route is along a major street that’s undergoing major construction. Also, it passes by both a high school and a junior college, so by the time we were crawling through the morass of machines and traffic, the bus was full of shrieking, laughing teenagers. Some of whom continued to shriek and laugh for most of the rest of the ride. I turned up the volume on my audiobook, thankful I had something to distract me from the gaggle of probably-19ish girls who had to discuss everything in their outside voices for over an hour.

Finally home, I visited my last hope, a tiny drugstore across the street from my house, and managed to locate affordable, unscented tea lights. I cut some yellowish paper into strips, cut out holes, taped them into cylinders. Each was set along the driveway with a tealight inside. I put the blacklight into the porch light fixture, the two little pumpkins on the porch, and hadn’t even managed to finish my ghost before my first trick-or-treaters showed up at 5:30 PM. I’d had all these lofty goals of dressing in some sort of costume to hand out candy, since we were offered no other costume opportunities surrounding the holiday, but didn’t have enough time to even figure out what I’d wear, let alone do makeup, before the kids showed up. I made a ghost out of an ancient bedsheet and a balloon, taping two sharpied eyes and a smiling mouth on the front. At around 6:15 I lit the tealights, struggling with the matches and using way more than I probably should have.

I only got twelve trick-or-treaters. I saw them going to the other houses; perhaps the house on the end of the cul-de-sac was just too scary a proposition, but the faux luminarias were pretty, and my mom got some flowers, and my plans worked the way I’d hoped, so I’d say Halloween 2011 was a success.

"I got a rock."

34 turns around the sun

Oakland Skyline Park, Railroad Revival Tour

In honor of Dan’s birthday, when tickets went on sale for the Railroad Revival Tour (featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford & Sons) back in March, we bought two. Timing-wise, this worked out well because we knew we’d end up in the Bay Area that weekend for The Wedding. We were introduced to OCMS through a friend who runs a radio show in Murfreesboro, TN, and I first became aware of Edward Sharpe when I saw this viral video. And Mumford & Sons is one of those bands that we heard someplace and couldn’t ignore, so we got their album and listened to it a whole bunch of times. So to have all of these bands playing together in the same concert, an outdoor show, right before Dan’s birthday, was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.

It took more than a month for our tickets to arrive in the mail…and when they did, we were blown away. I’d never seen anything like them. Covered in holograms, larger than any other tickets ever, beautifully designed: I knew we’d be in for a treat once it was time to actually go to the show.

I luff them.

A few days before the concert, I got an email listing more information about the concert. We given directions to the venue, an outdoor park at the Oakland docks (where all the shipyard cranes are), and were told that there’d be free shuttles from West Oakland BART so we could park there and not have to deal with parking around the venue. We were also given a long list of things we could bring, and a much longer list of things we couldn’t bring. Including outside food & drink, aka water. This was the only restriction that really bothered me, and I figured I could get away with a couple of energy bars and bringing in an empty water bottle I could refill at a drinking fountain, which I learned there were inside the park.

Oakland cranes look like dinosaurs

On the day of the show, we drove south, leaving later than we’d hoped, but still made it to West Oakland BART in reasonable time to catch a shuttle. Plus, we got free parking! The shuttle dropped us off at the entrance to the venue, which was great, until we saw the line of people waiting to get in. It stretched nearly a mile (I know, because I checked my pedometer when we got to the end of it). It was the longest I’ve ever had to wait to get into any sort of event, and while the line moved, the first band started at least 15 minutes before we even made it inside. Something tells me that because the venue had only recently started hosting concerts, because the entrance (and later, exit) shenanigans were a complete clusterfuck. Luckily, once we got to the front of the line, I got no grief over my water bottle, and nobody found the energy bars. Which was good, because we didn’t want to have to pay for water or overpriced concert food.

This train is bound for glory. And makes steam engine noises.

But once we were really inside, the energy was great. I had to pee, of course, having just driven an hour and 45 minutes, sat on a bus for 10, and waited in line for 45ish, but as soon as that was taken care of we wandered around a bit exploring, and then we found a spot to stand to watch Old Crow Medicine Show do the last 20 minutes of their set. Even though we weren’t anywhere near the stage, they sounded great and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. I remarked to Dan that it was obvious the 20 and 30-something hipsters had a uniform; we were all wearing jeans and t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. I saw a few hippie skirts and a few more interesting outfits, but for the most part we all looked exactly the same. Even the kids who were there looked just like us.

What is up with tight jeans/load in pants? It's not attractive AT ALL. /old

When they finished up, and people around us wandered off to get beer or food or whatever, Dan and I found a different spot that was closer to the stage and not in direct line of the speakers. It was next to the fence, right on the bay, which turned out to be a great spot to take pictures of the San Francisco skyline and the sunset.

San Francisco skyline at sunset

Lovely.

We tried to get the skyline in the background. It...did not work.

We spent most of Edward Sharpe’s set (they, too were great, with amazing energy) here, while I silently fumed that people were using the space right next to us as a walkway, and they NEVER STOPPED MOVING. I hate being in that spot. So for the end of the set, we moved into the crowd, finding a spot that seemed more out of the path of Moving People. They played my favorite song at the very end, which happened right as the sun was going down. Beautiful.

Then came the Long Wait. It seriously seemed like the down time between ES&TMZ and Mumford & Sons was half an hour or more. Considering the venue had a 10 PM noise curfew, this kind of annoyed me. But I felt better once they finally came on the stage, and the entire crowd of 7,000 people danced, sang along, and gave thumbs up to the whole set. The best part was at the end, when they brought out the musicians from all of the bands plus some other people who weren’t members of any of the groups, and they all played a couple of songs together. It rocked.

* * * * * * *

Dan’s actual birthday was Thursday (the 28th). He slept in that morning, while I tried to think of something fun and interesting we could do. I knew we had to do our weekly grocery shopping in Santa Rosa, but I figured we could find something else to make the day more celebratory. When Dan got up, I proposed a couple of options and he decided we should go to the beach. After fortifying ourselves with picnic supplies, we headed west. The ocean is no more than 25 miles away from us, as the crow flies, but it’s across several sets of coastal hills and there aren’t many easy ways to get there. We opted for the most direct route, Skaggs Springs Road, which was absolutely beautiful but also kind of vomit-inducing because of its twists and turns. I think I was only ever on that road once before, and I must have blocked out the memory. But again, absolutely beautiful, and totally worth the slight carsickness to see what must be some of the last undeveloped open space in Sonoma County.

Pacific Coat

Once at the coast, we headed south and stopped at Goat Rock beach, where my cousin had a birthday party when we were kids and my sister nearly got washed out to sea. Our intention was to eat our picnic on the beach itself; however, when we got there, the Northern California coast struck again, and it was so windy we were getting free sandblast facials. Which don’t feel very good, even if my toes did enjoy their freedom in the sand. We relocated to the other side of the bluffs, next to the parking lot, and pulled out our picnic. I was disappointed that the MexiCoke I’d bought was warm (I was hoping drinking something fizzy would settle my stomach a bit), and Dan had a root beer, which isn’t as bad when warm. We had just started to eat our wraps when a lady from the parking lot approached and asked if we had jumper cables. Dan, ever gallant, went to our car and drove over to theirs and detangled the cables and gave them a jump, while I ate my wrap and watched the goings-on.

The water was very blue that day.

Meanwhile, an aggressive seagull took advantage of my few seconds’ inattention and picked up Dan’s wrap and dropped it in the sand. I shooed it away, but at least half of Dan’s lunch was no longer edible. I’m sure the seagull had that MO down pat – the humans will leave all the food for you if you drop it in the sand. We refused to give in to terrorism, and Dan did his best with what he had, while I gave him some of my wrap, and we huddled in the wind, the asshole seagull just waiting for us to throw food at him. I hate it when people feed wildlife, because it’s not only bad for the wildlife, but makes enjoying the outdoors suck more for the rest of us. It’s not the first time we’ve encountered an animal used to being fed by people, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The culprit.

Once we’d run out of food to eat and warm root beer to drink, we got back in the car and drove east through Jenner, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Guerneville, Forestville. The river towns always look so funky to me, people living in houses on hillsides surrounded by huge redwoods. While beautiful, this part of the county seems entirely too dark to me. I don’t think I’d like being surrounded by massive trees all the time. We did our shopping, and thanks to Carissa’s help I found a good recipe for General Tso’s chicken, which I modified to fit the ingredients I had. Aside from crispy rice and slightly overdone broccoli, dinner turned out pretty well. I think Dan had a good birthday.

Bellefleur, part 2: Or, what I did for my birthday

I think that pretty much every year since I’ve started this blog, I’ve written some sort of maudlin post about my birthday and it’s all deep and meaningful or whiny or whatever. Last year’s birthday was pretty bad, and I decided a few weeks in advance that I was going to have a better day this year. So on March 1, along with several other people on a message board I read, I started a 100 Mile March. I planned to run, walk, or cycle 100 miles during the month of March. It sounded daunting at first, but doing the math it would only be an average of 3-ish miles per day. Which is totally do-able! It’s not like we’ve been sedentary since we’ve been here; we’ve done tons of bike rides and I’ve done lots of walks and walk-runs, and I knew if the weather cooperated I could make it. Going 100 miles was something to add structure to my day and to my time, and a goal to work toward, and something that might help me feel like less of a useless slug.

Several days into my plan, after motivation had me running, walking, and/or riding my bike every day, I realized that maybe I could do 100 miles by my birthday, as our bike rides were long enough and frequent enough that they began to add up. I kept track of my mileage, measuring the walks/runs I did with a pedometer and the bike rides using an online running map. I had completed 93.3 miles by March 11th, the day before my wine cave job, which left me three days to complete the remaining 6.7 miles. After the 20 mile bike ride on the 11th, giving blood, and six hours on my feet the next day doing the flowers, I was pretty wiped out, so Saturday the 12th was the first day of March I didn’t do any intentional exercise.

The next day, I spent the day and evening in Santa Rosa with my mom and her boyfriend. After discussing several options for how to enjoy our day, we settled on lunch in Graton and roller skating (!). Yes! My mom took me roller skating for my 32nd birthday. I had my pedometer on all day, in case we had decided to go for a walk, and also wore it during the roller skating to see if it would track my mileage (but it totally didn’t work right, of course). I had lots of fun on the skates, watching kids of all ages and adults either fly, stumble, or dance around the rink. My mom had fun, too, though I think she got tired more easily than I did. It had been at least ten years since I’d been on roller skates, so if nothing else it was a chance for me to see how comfortable I felt and how much work I’d need to get up to the level I’d need to be to try out for Roller Derby.

I noticed that the pedometer wasn’t accurately tracking my distance (I didn’t expect it to do so, of course), so I asked one of the employees of the skating rink if she knew the circumference of the track. I kept a mental tally of the number of times I skated around the rink, and if I knew the distance around I could get a better approximation of the miles I’d gone on four wheels. She asked the manager, who informed her that he only knew the length and width of the rink, not the circumference. I thanked her and went back out for a few more laps.

At that point, I had been skating for over an hour, and while my left hip area (and by hip area I mean deep butt cheek muscle) was getting pretty sore from taking the curves in the same direction over and over again, I was feeling far more confident in my balance. So as I rounded the last curve on the last lap before my exit plan, I thought about the math I might need to do in order to figure out my mileage and not about what my feet and body were doing. And ten feet before my planned graceful exit from the roller rink, I ended up tripping and falling on my hands and knees. Right in front of everybody. Because it’s a normal and dignified for a 32-year-old woman to do.

My knees were pretty bruised up, and I broke a blood vessel in the meat of my hand, but mostly I was just a little unsettled because of how HARD I had fallen. I guess being up on the wheels of the skates, plus the surface of the rink, plus being 32 all added up to me feeling jarred. If I do end up trying out for derby someday, I think I’ll need to practice falling safely for a while first.

I got home from my day with mom and a friend helped me find a link to figure out the circumference of an ellipse. Armed with the length and width, and the number of laps I’d skated, I was able to guesstimate that I’d skated 2.5 miles, and walked one. Which left me with 3.2 miles left toward my 100 miles-by-my-birthday goal.

Monday the 14th I turned 32. As it turns out, I estimated pretty closely the amount of flowers I’d need to do the wine cave job, but there were a few flowers left over, especially the flowers I had bought to make the large arrangement. So rather than keep all the leftovers or throw them out, I decided to make a few arrangements with what remained and give them to various friends here in town. I made a large bouquet for my friend Heather, who has been in and out of the hospital with some pretty scary health issues the past several months. I made two small nosegays for her daughters. I made a different arrangement for my friend Cadi, who lent me clothing to wear for my job interview. And I made an arrangement to use as a centerpiece on our dinner table, because we’d asked a couple of other friends to come over for my birthday dinner. Dan ran an errand in Healdsburg and delivered Cadi’s arrangement while I walked to Heather’s house holding a large bouquet in a jar of water in one hand and a smaller jar holding two little ones in the other. My arms were pretty tired by the time I got there! Heather liked her flowers and Natty and Paigey liked theirs quite a bit, so that made me feel good that I was able to make pretty things for them. (I also made an arrangement from the leftovers from my trial centerpieces back in February, though I never blogged about it, and brought it to the girls while Heather was in the hospital.)

For Cadi

For Cadi

After visiting with Heather and her family a little while, I walked home. It was 3.5 miles roundtrip, so I completed my goal of 100 miles by my birthday, and was able to do nice things for other people as well.

For Heather

For Natalie

Wee bouquet

We had tasty homemade Indian food for dinner, and enjoyed our company, and when they were ready to go I offered the dinner centerpiece to Karen for her to take home, which I don’t think she was expecting. I’ve decided it’s fun to surprise people with flowers, and I’m glad that it was the theme of my birthday this year.

For Paige

And only a few peanut shells fell on us from above


My toes matched the field

Dan needed to have a good birthday, so I did what I could to plan one. A few weeks ago I bought him a new razor, something he’s been wanting for a while. I looked into and procured tickets to a Rockies game. I took yesterday off and we went out for breakfast, got Quizno’s sandwiches and peanuts, and headed off to the ballpark to watch a really high scoring game that went into the 10th inning. While I was unable to completely hide my boredom and displeasure with the hard, uncomfortable seats, I managed to watch most of (and even get into a bit) the game.

Straw Hat is back out for the season!

Nice mountains.


Rockpile = $4 tickets, no shade


After the game, we walked home and I cleaned the kitchen and made chicken parmagiana for dinner. I also baked a chocolate cake.

It seems like he had a pretty good birthday.