Birthday Gift

While it is true that Kelly gave me the best gift this year, I’m not entirely sure it tops what I gave myself.

For most of my life, I wished I had a musical ability. I’d love to be a good singer or play an instrument or something. I played the alto saxophone in band in elementary school. I never really liked it. A couple years later my parents offered me actual cash to take piano lessons, and I refused (fyi, I’d totally take that offer NOW, Mom and Dad….). I wish now that I hadn’t refused.

For the past few years I’ve been thinking about the guitar. I’ve never really talked about it much. I mentioned it to Elena. She plays the guitar. I play with hers when it’s out and I’m there. But I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know how. I started to think how it would be cool if I learned to play it. Unlike the piano, guitars are portable. I could take it with me to my parent’s house for Christmas and strum carols. Or whatever. I don’t know. It doesn’t really have a purpose, it is just a skill I’d like to have.

Finally, for my 35th birthday, I decided to do it. No more thinking about it. Thinking doesn’t accomplish anything. Eventually you just have to take action.

I called Elena one Saturday afternoon (March 22, one week after my birthday) and asked her if she’d go with me to buy a guitar. She was shocked, to say the least, but rallied and I headed out to pick her up. We drove down to Capitol Guitars in St. Paul. I had researched online and liked them for lessons and they sold new and used guitars.

A nice young man talked me through some different things, because I had zero idea what I was doing. I know nothing about guitars. I didn’t even know how to hold it, for pete’s sake. But he helped and explained. Then, he looked at me and said, “I think that’s your guitar, I’ve got a good vibe about it.” That very nearly sold me. I love things like that and often trust a good vibe or gut reaction. Then he offered a double blind test. I closed my eyes and held one guitar, then it was switched to a different one. The two I was debating between. I got to use senses other than my eyes to see how the guitar felt to me, how it sounded to me. And I chose.

I blindly chose the guitar that gave him a good vibe. It’s as though it was fated. And it is a used guitar, which makes it cheaper, yes, but also gives it some soul. Someone loved it before me and it was used to making music before I came along.

As I was holding it and getting used to the idea and fully committing myself to this massive purchase, I had Elena take a photo of me.


That is the only photo in existence of me with my guitar, who still needs a name.

While I was doing that, the young man went to his computer to research my guitar. When I came to purchase it, he told me that the mother-of-pearl inlay on the fret board of my guitar is in a pattern called the Tree of Life. If I hadn’t been convinced before, this tipped it. The Tree of Life, it’s so poetic and everlasting and beautiful. As it should be.

Capitol Guitars also threw in one free lesson, some free picks, free stickers, and, in my case, a free guitar case. They didn’t have in stock the one they said they would sell me, so they gave me a different one, for free. Very cool, impressed me, for sure.

Last night, April 1, I went back to CG, for my first lesson. My teacher’s name is Joe, and he was kind enough to tell me he is 25….next week. Damn, I’m taking lessons from a kid. But he’s smart and nice, and he’s been playing guitar since he was 7 years old, teaching since he was 16.

I was incredibly nervous for my first lesson. I haven’t had a lesson since God knows when…and I had no idea what to expect. Joe was prepared for my beginner status and started me off with some very very basics. By the time I left, 30 minutes later, I learned three new chords and a strum pattern to practice. I’m actually learning the intro to Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.

Joe was great about explaining things to me and helping me understand, but also at putting me at ease and encouraging me. I liked him a lot, and it sold me on continuing my lessons with him. I go back next week. In the meantime, it’s practice, practice, practice for me. My fingertips on my left hand are numb. Mostly. Not completely. I wish they would go numb completely so they didn’t bug me so much. Guitaring is hard on your fingertips. That’s something I didn’t know.

But I’m learning. And it feels good. I’m excited to go home and practice tonight. Maybe once I learn a whole song I’ll play for you. Hopefully it won’t be too long.

That’s my gift to myself this year. The gift of music and the gift of learning.

Thirty Five – Part V

Yep, five separate posts just to detail all my celebrations. Anyone else think I’m a little overboard? No? Me neither.

The festivities came to a close on the night of my actual birthday. I had sent an email to all my friends, asking them to meet me out for drinks at RayJs. RayJs used to be my bar, but I so rarely go out anymore that it has now become a thrill. My sister took care of reserving tables for us, right in the party area, near the dartboards. And she decorated with balloons.

My family was there, Kelly and Mark, Elena (my chauffeur), Niki, Frodo, and the Amys. It was a great turnout. Most of the rest of this post will be photo heavy.

Me with my sister.

Kelly and me, wearing the same shirt.


With my mommy.

Brother Zack (yep, he works there now!)

Family photo. I do love this. We don’t do these nearly often enough. So thank you to whomever suggested it (Kel, was it you? I think you took the photo…but I don’t remember, actually).

Lane and me. (And yes, many of these seem a little blurry, the lighting in there is horrible for photos, plus my new camera is a lot harder to use than my old one).

Ooh, how I love this photo. From L-R Niki, Amy Blonde, Amy Red, Me, Frodo. My GW peeps.

This was so dorky/cute. I was sitting at the table and my dad came up and put his arm around my mom and then HE said, “take a picture of us”. He NEVER says that. That could possibly have been the first time in his 60 years he has ever said that. So, I did and he dorked out, as usual.


Elena took a selfie, which cracked me up. Still does, actually. When I was uploading, I didn’t remember she did that and I laughed out loud.

Yet another shot of the people whose job it was to turn me into adult. Explains a lot, right?

I think Lane took this. Wow, I look drunk there. I was, I assume, but I really look it.

My mom, with me and Kel, I really like this shot, too. It’s so cute. The last one of the three of us I believe was at my 30th.

Yep, five years ago.
Me, Mom, and Kelly

And we end with the greatest gift of all. Kelly was the big winner this year, which is saying something because I got some seriously amazing gifts this year. But I actually gasped so loud in the busy, loud, crowded restaurant, that strangers were turning around to see what happened. True story.

I still get giddy when I look at this.


Yes, it’s true, she got me a wine glass etched with Christian Kane’s FACE. I’m blown away. She and I might have to start a no gift policy because I don’t know how she will ever top this. Unless she actually gets me Christian Kane. Hmm…maybe we’ll keep the gifts in place, just in case. Also, I swore there was a picture of her and I where I was holding up the glass so you could see it, but I can’t find it. Anyone have it on a cell phone maybe?

And that’s all she wrote. Weeks of celebrating, ushering me into the back half of my 30s. Thank you so much to all my friends and family who turned out to celebrate with me. Love you all more than I could possibly express. And I’m pretty good with words.

Oh, and Mark, I did kick your ass at trivia. Deal with it.

Happy 35th to me!

Thirty Five – Part IV

Can you believe it is my actual birthday already?

For this day, I decided to have lunch with my family. My mom was making her famous corned beef and cabbage, which she makes for St. Patty’s day, but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it on the holiday, so my birthday it was. Simon was going to be there to celebrate, and I invited Kelly and the kids to join us.

Lunch was excellent, as always. The kids were a bit thrown by the food, it was not food any of them are used to eating, but they still did well. Then we did some presents. Victoria, Christian, and Brecken got me a beautiful purple watch. I haven’t worn a watch in years, so it was surprising, but I also don’t have one, so it was great. I’ve worn it far more than I expected to!

My amazing mother MADE me beautiful wine glasses. She hand painted them in different colors. They are so me. If I had seen them in a store, I would have probably bought them.
My sister and her family got me a gorgeous silver bracelet from Stella and Dot. It, too, went perfect with my planned evening outfit.

Then, of course, I wanted photos with the kids for my birthday, like last year.
Me Kids Edit

And since they were there, I wanted pictures with Kelly’s kids as well. I don’t know if I have any of me with all three of her kids…but I do now.
(Notice B and I coordinated the rocking striped look!)

And I love this photo, me with my only niece…and Simon in the background.

My sister took this of Brecken because very little is as cute as a baby sucking its thumb. I’ve said this to Kelly over and over again and how much I wanted a pic of him sucking his thumb. But she had never given me one, for whatever reason. I think she thought she had. Anyway, that comment got me an addition to my birthday present.

My birthday cake (the second one!).

What I enjoy about that photo is the two lonely sippy cups in the picture.

And then after everyone had left, it was just me and my mom and Simon hanging out. I asked for a photo with my little buddy because he’s getting so big and we don’t really do that anymore. And that is another treasure from my birthday experience.

(and you can see my new purple watch in that picture)

So the rest of the afternoon was just chatting, talking, and hanging out. It was so relaxed and low key, I absolutely loved it.

Boy, even writing about all my celebrations is exhausting….imagine how I felt living them!

Thirty Five – Part III

This part was my celebration with Elena. She and I had very special plans. Back when I was in grad school, living by myself in DC, I met this girl who was obsessed with the show Veronica Mars. I had never seen it, but had an excess of time on my hands (I didn’t work while living in DC) so I checked it out. I quickly understood why she liked it so much. It’s a smart and savvy show. Unfortunately, it was cancelled, abruptly after the third season and left wide open with no actual conclusion. They always talked about one day doing a VM movie, but as the years passed….

Well, after a record setting kickstarter campaign, they funded it last year and released it to limited theaters just in time for my birthday this year. Last year, after the campaign, I added VM to my tv dates with Lane and she rushed to complete the series just in time for the movie release.

We had to go to an AMC theater to see it. There is one of those about 2 minutes from her house…Roseville, but I don’t like that theater and it is so expensive. I browsed online to find that the Coon Rapids AMC was offering discount tickets to the show, along with DreamLounger and reserved seating. Um, hallelujah? We bought tickets and I reserved two seats for us.

We decided to go to dinner at this place called Patricks? Billys? I seriously cannot remember the name of it. Anyway, it was in the city of Anoka and we were off on an adventure.

Oh, look at that. Apparently Billy’s. And now I remember thinking we should take a photo of ourselves just so I could remember that. I’m so smart.

And then it was off to Coon Rapids to the theater. And they had those crazy new touch screen pop dispensers. I honestly was stymied by it. I couldn’t figure out how to get pop from that machine. Luckily the girls using the machine next to me were kind enough to teach me. Crazy machines. So high tech. And slightly annoying to pay like $5 for a 16 oz pop that I have to serve myself. Basically paying for the cup.

And here we are in front of the theater marquee. It’s harder to read than I thought it would be.

Then in our dream loungers.

Yes, we’re pretending to sleep…and yes, she is peeking.

And the movie.


It was awesome. Can’t recall the last time I had so much fun at a movie. Knowing every person in there was a fan of the show…we all loved it already. It was a little like seeing a movie with all your friends…everyone in there. We were talking and chatting with strangers. Cheering for the movie to begin. Applauding when it was over. Crazy. And fun.

Elena and I (and many others) actually GASPED loudly when Logan first appeared on screen. It was priceless. A wonderful way to celebrate my birthday.

And then when we got back to her house, I got loads of gifts. A beautiful necklace that she MADE for me. This was weird, because as I was driving to her house that day, I was planning my outfit for my actual birthday and worrying because I didn’t think I had the right necklace for it. Then she gave me one…and it was perfect. And she had no idea what I was wearing. She’s a little psychic like that. She did the exact same thing a few years ago…got me the perfect necklace for a birthday outfit. How does she always know?

She also got me a wall hanging for my entry way that is so incredibly perfect I couldn’t have picked better myself. And beautiful decorative plates that still need a home, I’m working on that. And black lentils…which was just funny. But the best was she filled the bottoms of the gift bags with candy. I never thought of that, but what a great way to make a gift extra special.

It was a terrific and memorable way to continue ringing in my birthday.


Thirty Five – Part II

During the week of my birthday, I had several lovely surprises. A community partner at work came in and brought me these beautiful flowers. I actually just threw them out on Sunday. They lasted over two weeks! I had to refill the vase of water twice…these were some amazingly fresh flowers.

I like the second photo because you can see the new clock Elena bought me for Christmas. The most perfect clock in the entire world…so incredibly glad I waited for the right item.

A coworker brought me a birthday gift of a water feature. It’s a little fountain that sits on my desk. It is beautiful and tranquil, the only flaw? It’s a huge battery suck. It eats through an entire set of batteries in about 40 hours. Yep, needs new batteries every WEEK. So now it sits on my desk without being on and I still enjoy it.

Then I stopped by my sister’s house to drop off a balloon for the kids. I got a cute photo of me and them in their jammies as an early birthday gift. And Arionna asked me what I was wearing to her birthday party, which was two weeks after mine. I asked what she wanted me to wear. “A red dress.” More on that later.

Then Kelly had requested to take me out to birthday lunch on Thursday. She was on spring break and was putting the kids in daycare to have a free day for mom. I decided to take a half day at work and join her for the afternoon. We met for lunch, then went and did some shopping. I got new shoes at DSW. These ones here. In the orange. We also hit Lane Bryant so I could get a new shirt for my birthday. Kelly got one, too. Actually, the exact same shirt, but in different colors. It was an amazing afternoon.

This second photo is me driving home after my shopping afternoon. I text this photo to my cousin in Alabama. Sara and company think 60 degrees is cold. I captioned the photo “it is 48 degrees. Driving with sunroof open and windows down, wearing a t shirt. Thought you’d get a kick out of it.” She did. (And Sara, notice how I’m not chastising you for NOT sending me my very favorite birthday video this year….)

As a matter of fact, considering how low key this week was, it was the perfect way to celebrate a big birthday.

And that covers the miscellany. And yes, this is two full posts before we’ve even reached my actual birthday.

Thirty Five – Part I

Well, it’s official, I’m 35. I’m feeling pretty good about this year. The festivities for this year were unusual. We began the week prior with a birthday dinner. Tom and Mindy hosted, Elena, Niki, and Finn were the other guests.

Mindy made an amazing meal, tarragon chicken with harissa sauce and braised black lentils.


It was as beautiful as it was delicious.



Me with the little lads. Lewie was determined not to look, though you can clearly tell he IS smiling. Finn and Clay were much more cooperative.

Here’s a shot of the adults:



Clay was kind enough to take these for us.

Then he asked if he could take some more.

Here’s just the ladies:


Yes, we look a little weird….

My amazing birthday cake that Mindy made and Lewie decorated.

Then Clay took this one of Finn and me, one of my favorite birthday photos.

Then we wanted a better ladies pic, so we enlisted Tom to help us out.

After that, it was game time, we just sat around and chatted and played board games. I love that Clay is big enough to play adult trivia games, but is still little boy enough to sit on his daddy’s lap.


It was an amazing experience, full of laughter, friends, good food, good drink, and shots of whiskey. What more could a girl ask for?

***Edited to ADD*** I cannot believe I forgot to mention this as it was my favorite part of the night. Clayton, just shy of 10 years old, plays the trombone at school. He was chosen for the trombone because he has the longest arms. Anyway, I knew he played, but he would never play for me. But that day, for my birthday, he had gone online and printed the sheet music for Happy Birthday and then, in front of audience, never having played it before, he played the song for me. He did amazing. Then he played it again and everyone sang along. It was so special to me, I don’t want to forget it. I wanted to record it, but I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I just sat and listened and enjoyed. Thanks, Clay! I loved that gift from you.

Birthday Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom!

As always, I love you very much and wish you the very best of birthdays. I’ll see you at the movie tonight and we’ll have a celebration for just us, but this is a brief recap of how we celebrated with everyone else.

After the great Pesto Disaster of 2014, we settled on Sausage and Spinach pasta bake, Crockpot White Bean Soup, and bread. I thought lunch was terrific, even Arionna ate well!

She was also a big help in opening your presents….of course.

This little guy wasn’t much of a help in anything, but he’s nice to look at, so we keep him around.
And, of course, the day wasn’t complete without a shot of you, cuddling Emmy’s kids.

Remember last year?
Things have changed….just a little!
And the rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and talking and cuddling on the couch and reading books, talk about a perfect day!
Then, a few days later, on your actual birthday, I met up with you after work to see the movie of your choice The Monuments Men.
You liked it immensely, I thought it was just okay. The two women in the theater thought it was the funniest movie they’ve ever seen, judging from the way they cackled throughout.
Most importantly, we got to be together…and eat junk food.
I hope you had a wonderful day (sorry to be a day late with the post….having internet at home is somehow making my life harder!).
I love you bunches and bunches, as you well know. Even if you are 57…wait, 59….wait…I’m so confused!