Birthday Party – 33

Does it seem like a long time for everyone else, or just me?

It’s been less than two weeks, but for some reason…

Okay, let’s dive right in. I hosted my 33rd party in downtown St. Paul. My plan was simple. Everyone meet up and then we’ll bar hop. While hopping to and fro, I devised a “photo hunt”. That’s what I’ve been calling it, but maybe there’s a real name. At any rate, I created a list of challenges for my friends to complete and they had to photo themselves doing the challenge and then text me the photo for credit. They worked in teams, assigned by me, but could use anyone to get a challenge done.

I spent so much time searching for ideas and creating the list of challenges. I really wanted it to be diverse and fun, but also I was trying to find challenges that I thought everyone would enjoy. From the feedback, I’d say it was successful. Rather than detail the whole night, I’m going to just publish the pictures of the challenges.

Let’s begin with the people who came, my beautiful friends and family.

It was so great to have such a high turnout. I know people were freaked out by the idea of this, and many didn’t understand what I was planning, until that very night. Still, they came and they participated (most of them!) and it was terrific. It also left me with so many pictures of the people I love, that was the best present I got that night, without question.

One of the rules was that a team member must appear in the photo, because obviously I want my friends in the pictures, not just random snapshots. One challenge was “take a picture of a mustache” and I got so many pictures of strangers with mustaches. Weird. Plus, two different teams sent me the same picture of these two old guys with mustaches. How funny is that! But, I did get:


The guy on the left is Ben, who was on a team. (Yes, he has a real mustache under there, I jazzed it up for fun). The other guy is Greg, who is a former employer of mine and now owns a pizza restaurant in St. Paul. We stopped there during the evening and someone used him for this challenge, so I counted it.

This challenge had them finding a coaster that carried a name of a beer that I drink: I got a couple more pictures, but just of coasters…no people! I also, somehow ended up with a coaster in my bra at the end of the night. Not sure how. Tom used me as his model for this, which is good, it’s nice to be included! I gave him a bonus point, because I was hardly asked to be in any challenge photos!

This challenge had contestant drinking a margarita, which I don’t think any of my friends actually drink. Yes, Elena is in there twice. Two teams sent me a picture of her drinking that margarita. And, unless I’m mistaken, Frodo then borrowed Elena’s margarita. So that’s 4 photos, 3 people, and 2 margaritas.

One fun challenge was “a team member holding a ball” because there usually aren’t balls in bars, so it was fun to watch them be creative.

That bottom photo? Mindy and Tom. Exactly what you’re thinking. Definitely bonus points for that.

“Entire team standing on chairs” was one I thought would get me more creativity, but I got the same picture from each team…in the same bar.

The top left? Niki and Ben. You’ll notice how it looks as though he is cupping her breast? He’s not. But it looks like it, so I gave them a bonus point (first bonus of the night, actually) because they are brother and sister.

“Have a team member eat something” turned out to be more clever than I expected.

Chad was in a pizza joint and ordered a single piece of pepperoni (not a slice of pizza–just a pepperoni). Elena ate a life saver. Niki chose to eat Frodo’s ear (bonus!) and Kelly, bless her, chugged ketchup straight from the bottle.

“A teammate on someone’s shoulders” was another one I envisioned differently.

Chad and Kelly partnered up, from different teams. I’m impressed that tiny Elena can hold Niki and she is standing up. The top right is Tom and Mindy, who were going for difficulty points. Tom has Mindy on his shoulders, while moonwalking down a yellow line. Three challenges in one. Awesome. Bonus points.

“Team member with an animal”

Not too many completed this. The reason I am in there is that while we were arriving and trying to find a parking spot, this random guy was walking down the street and he was wearing skinny jeans and this ratty t-shirt a ball cap, converse and had massive tattoos. He was an anomaly. We actually talked about him in the car. Then, we arrived at the last bar of the night and he was the bartender! So I asked for a picture and realized later that he had an elephant on his shirt and I counted it.

The bottom photo I’ll discuss later in detail, but the ladies are wearing animal print. I counted that for Tom and Mindy and gave them a bonus point for creativity. (see a pattern here?)

As it turns out, this is actually pretty impossible with a camera phone. I wanted a photo of them in the air while jumping. Not one person could accomplish this. But the pictures are funny.

“Team members taking a shot”

How funny is that top picture? My parents wouldn’t take shots, but my dad came up with this idea. Bonus! The one of me and Chad was late in the evening, but I gave them another point for it.

“Olivia and a neon sign”

I wanted a team member and Olivia and a neon sign…came close. The one of Chad and me was an accident, but I counted it, and it is the second after the picture of us taking a shot above (before and after, if you will)…yikes.

“Reenact the Abbey Road album cover”

Turns out, not many of my friends knew what this meant. This was EASY…all you needed was four people. And I guess no one thought to Google it.

The actual cover looks like this:

(courtesy Google images)

and these were the only TWO who even tried it.


They are both good tries and got the points, even though I don’t know why the one on the right (Dad, Mom, Kelly, and Mark) looks like they’re doing the Robot across the street.

“Walk the yellow line” (and try not to get killed)  was another challenge. I didn’t realize that streets in the city don’t have yellow lines. Whoops. Suburb girl here. Still, two teams managed to find one to walk…


Tom–as you saw earlier

and my Mom, who was certainly creative in her solution–that was also proposed by my dad, I believe. I wish he would have participated more, because he is certainly creative.


These are just some random snapshots of challenges. I didn’t have enough good ones of each to create a collage, so I did this. Starting at the top left:

Hats: was supposed to be a team member with a strange hat on. This was the ONLY one that qualified. I got lots of pics of strangers wearing a weird hat.

Gift: Amy and Elena gave me a car. I didn’t count it because I couldn’t keep it…but it was still funny.

In common: find someone else in the group you have something in common with. Mindy and Kelly. I’m guessing here, but Mindy has a child in 2nd grade and Kelly teaches 2nd grade?

Photo of the clock at 11:11pm: ONLY one who had people in it. Muffy’s eyes and the top of Tom’s head.

Chug a beer with a stranger: I didn’t get many of these, but this was funny because he was our waiter at the first bar–and this was while he was working!

An interesting group photo: I didn’t get many of these, which made me sad. I love group pictures. I got one, actually. This was Chad trying to get the group himself, while in the picture. It makes me laugh.

Two of my favorite challenges were based solely on results.

The first was ” a photo of a team member with a celebrity” and I LOVED the creativity of this.


It was also the most results I got. I actually added Elena, because she is a celebrity to me. Tom and Mindy used Greg, as he was our boss when the three of us met, which sort of makes him a celebrity. Frodo said, “I don’t know how anyone could find a celebrity” and my dad said, “I’m a celebrity to her, I’m her dad” which is how I got that. It’s not true, but it IS funny. What is funnier is that Elena used Frodo himself, because we call him that as he looks like Frodo Baggins. Self portrait, maybe, Frods?

For sure some of my favorite photos.

This last set was based on sheer humor. Not that many photos, surprisingly, but a lot of creativity.


Kelly is a pro at looking passed out. My sister is funny because she’d been there for 10 minutes…and already passed out.

Ben’s is also funny. Who passes out on a newspaper machine? With a lit cigarette in their mouth?

The large one on the right is Frodo. He stole a lampshade off of a working lamp in a building, then went into a public bathroom and laid on the floor for this. Possibly the best photo of the night. I’d say top five, for sure!

That covered the majority of interesting picture challenges. I did have some video challenges, but I am having trouble getting them to load. That might have to just be a separate post.

I do, however, have a bunch of photos I want to share, whether they were challenges or not.

These two were teammates. Unfortunately, they only did like three challenges before giving up. However, they did send me this, not as a challenge, but just to…make me laugh? It worked. They went into the bathroom and changed clothes. He’s wearing hers and she’s wearing hers. They even switched glasses. Imagine if all that humor were channeled into the game!

Likewise, this was not for a challenge. My mother took a picture of herself using the toilet and text it to me. I love it!

Someone took this. I thought, the moment I saw it, that it looked like an old time photo, you know, where people never smile? Obviously, my mom and I are smiling, but perhaps it is the poses? Or my dad’s hands, folded on his lap? I put it in sepia to enhance the connection…either way, I love it.

I spontaneously kissed her and her partner, Amy, made me do it again for a picture. And it is one of my favorites of us!

I actually took this one. I was being silly, resulting in the laughter, but these are my GW peeps. My gang. I love this group of people. I was honored Niki came up from Madison for my birthday.


And this. There are a scant few photos of the three of us and I wish there were more. They are two of my favorite people in the world. I was so happy they were able to make it to the party, and if you hadn’t guessed by the bonus points alone, they were the winners of the evenings festivities. No surprise there, they are the perfect pair. Next year I might separate them and see how they fare?

Speaking of Tom…

This is a photo of Tom with five hookers. Okay, I don’t really know that they are hookers…for sure. But we were walking down the street and following these girls, not one of whom looked old enough to drink. Their shorts were so short and tight that they were wedged up in their buttcracks. No lie. Mindy and I were miming our disgust with these girls, get a little self-respect, hmm? Then I had a brilliant thought. I told Mindy, “5 bonus points if you get a picture of your husband with all five strippers” (yes, I was using strippers and hookers interchangeably, then and now) and she was game. She sprinted down the street and caught up to them, just in time to overhear them saying, “we need to find ourselves a white man” which was her cue. She offered them her husband…for one picture.


And while we are STILL talking about Tom, he also features in one of my favorite photos of the night. I don’t know how it happened, I might even have taken it, but it is so completely awesome I can hardly contain myself.

That’s right. That is Tom and my MOTHER. He’s rarely that animated in photos (but he should be, could he possibly look any more fun?) and I think it is odd that I have a picture of the two of them. I lovelovelove it.

Lastly, someone did organize the group photo, which is how I got this, my all-time favorite photo of the evening.


Thank you to everyone for coming. It was an incredible night and oh-so-much fun. I have a ton of memories (yes, even some that I didn’t blog here!) and am delighted at another birthday of being spoiled by the people I love most. Thank you all so much. Love you!

Happiest birthday to me. Helluva way to kick off 33!

(p.s. remember my post about picnik? every single photo was edited there and all collages were created there…I’m really, really going to miss it)

My Birthday

Well, it’s almost hard to know where to begin, so many awesome things happened on my birthday. For those who are waiting breathlessly for information on the bash, that is not this post. This post deals directly with my actual birthday, March 15.

Let’s start with waking up. I set my alarm to wake me up to the note “Happy Birthday!” which is a terrific way to start the day.

Next up, my special “surprise”. I was leaving for work and I opened my garage. The first thing I saw was a balloon in the bush between my house and my neighbor’s. I wondered how Donna knew it was my birthday. Then I stepped outside.

Isn’t that adorable? Balloons everywhere, and this is the close up of the front door.

Who doesn’t love a present on their doorstep?

This was done by Kelly and her children. She had called me early that morning, while I was in the shower, so I assumed she’d been there to decorate. I knew right away who it was from. Later, when I talked to her, she said she had done it at 7pm the night before! I didn’t notice until the next morning.

When I got to work, students were yelling “Happy Birthday” while I was still in the parking lot. I’d had a sign up all week, so it was no surprise that people knew it was my day.

I was surprised to show up and the first thing I saw on my desk was this:


Next to that awesome sign, is a full cake. No kidding. A whole cake! A student made it for me.

I also got this from a coworker:

And this from several coworkers:

Clearly, I’m a spoiled girl. The edible fruit was delicious! Everything was just ripe enough and full of flavor. The coworkers who gave it to me also sang to me in the library.

By this point, between the tiara, the sign, the balloon and the cake on my desk, I was getting wishes upon wishes. Being the anal retentive person I can be, I grabbed a post it note and started keeping track.  I know, but I was curious. Who doesn’t wonder about that stuff? No one? Really? Just me then. Fine.

But I know that by the end of the day, I was wished “Happy Birthday” by 107 different people and 25 2nd graders sang me the birthday song over the phone. That is very special.

After I had lunch, I decided to cut into that cake.


Those are kit-kats lining the edge and M&Ms all over it. Inside was a two layer chocolate cake, with chocolate butter cream frosting with fudge chips between the layers. The outer frosting was chocolate cream cheese frosting. So delicious, but almost too chocolatey, even for me! (I did say almost…) I could have used a glass of milk with it, but there was none to be had. And I gave a piece to everyone who came into the library. Students now LOVE my birthday!

My cousin Sara sent me a video of her children singing “Happy Birthday” to me, she also did this last year. I wouldn’t have thought it could get much cuter than last year’s video, but I was wrong. They are so adorable and at the end they run up and kiss the camera. I’d actually post it for you, but I don’t know how Sara would feel about it, so I’ll let her decide.

At the end of my day, I went to my mom and dad’s for the rest of the celebration. I got to meet the newest baby at daycare, Hayden, who is only three months. It’s been a long time since I’ve held a baby! My grandma was there and was her usual cheerful self. Em and Chad came for dinner, with Arionna. And Elena joined us as well. It was Ario’s first time meeting Elena and she eventually warmed up to her and started calling her Leena, which was darling.

My mom made a version of chicken kiev for dinner, which was very good, but the chicken was HUGE! It was so much food. She also did a rice pilaf (sorry, mom, not my favorite–) and tasty asparagus.

She made me a birthday cake–my own special bunny cake, but, of course, the picture is on my actual camera, not my phone, so I can’t post it until tomorrow (when I upload it). The cake was delicious and perhaps the most moist cake I’ve ever had.


My niece was in a bit of a mood all evening and wouldn’t take pictures, she just wanted to be held and cuddled.

This was the best picture we got together on my birthday:


After dinner, she asked me to take her outside and we stood on the deck and looked at the stars. I forced her to take another picture. She just wasn’t in the mood.

I stood us under the porch light to get that, you can see she’s ready for bed…and she will not smile. However, as I carried her out to the car, I pulled her Nuk out of her mouth and said, “I love you” and she gave me a kiss and said “I love you” and then, I asked her to say the thing she’d been practicing ALL DAY and wouldn’t say to me all night and she finally said, “Happy birfday!” in her little voice and it was about the cutest thing ever.

Then, after everyone left, my parents, Lainie, and I went out to the garage to play trivia and open presents. Lane bought me a bottle of Crown, which I love. She bought me one last year as well, but that one didn’t survive the night. This one didn’t get opened, so I still have some! She also bought me new rings. I don’t have a pic of the purple one, but I happen to be wearing the blue one today, and I wore it on party night and I think everyone at the party commented on it. Want to see it? Of course you do.

(and yes, I made the face expressly for the photo, I get tired of just smiling all the time) Also, yes, it really is that big, it is not a trick or an illusion.

My mom made me a new scarf in the most gorgeous purple you’ve ever seen. Know what’s funny? I own about a dozen scarves and this is the ONLY purple one I have! Kelly’s kids got me a ceramic heart keepsake box, an awesome red pen with a pinwheel on top, which I love and is now at work with me, I’ve been using it all day. It makes me happy. What’s that? You want to SEE it? Well, of course I’ll take a picture.

hee hee.

They also gave me this “hat” but it didn’t fit me, it was too small, so I made Elena wear it.

Then we played trivia until 1am and I had to go home because I had to work in the morning, but not before Zack came home and entertained us with his humor and personality. I also have a birthday photo of Zack and I, but it’s on my camera. I guess I wasn’t as prepared as I thought to write this blog. Ah well, it will just be that much more enjoyable when I update it tomorrow.

(Isn’t that nice? I think he and I always take nice photos together, it’s not my favorite–that was from my 31st, or maybe my 30th..I only get photos with Zack on my birthday.)

It was a wonderful birthday, and I was so happy to spend it with the people I love most in the world! Thank you all for making my birthday so special!

This Was The Year…

It’s so hard to come up with different ways to celebrate year after year. I was uninspired to do a photo montage or a list of things about me or just a recap after the fact, like I’ve done in years past. Then, I kept thinking “year after year” and I thought about all the years of my life. Not just my birthday, but this happy and remarkable life that I’ve lived. I wanted to record it, to put pen to paper (so to speak) and detail some of my best memories. I will warn you (Mark) that this will be very long. As I’m typing this intro, it is already the longest blog I’ve ever written and I still have five years left to record. But, I break it up into manageable bits, so you don’t have to read it all today. If you’re curious, bookmark it and come back to it. I bet you’ve always wondered what I liked about the first grade…

Happy Birthday to me and all the years of my life!

2012– This was the year of the unbeleiveable birthday weather. Somehow, the weather is paying me back for all the years it was cold and snowy on my birthday by letting it roll into the 70s. Each year, for as long as I can remember, I tried to NOT wear a coat on my birthday. In March, in Minnesota, it’s rare. It is usually cold, often snowing, a few years I was able to get by without one (the year I turned 30–but it was cold, I just rallied and drank a lot) but mostly, the weather is still winter. Not this year, this year it is SPRING! As a matter of fact, for the first time in my life, I slept with all the windows in my house open last night. I turned 33 to fresh, crisp air. What a wonderful feeling.


Also, last night, my last night of being 32, I sat out in my yard, in a t-shirt, and watched the sun set. It was a gorgeous evening.

And there is zero snow on the ground! Happy Birthday to me.

2011– This was the year of the epic birthday party. It went from 7pm to 7am. I’ve had a lot of great birthdays, but this one was by far the most legendary.

2010– This was the year I bought a house. 31 years old and single and I own a home. This was a very big year for me. I also *broke* my foot.

That’s the very first time I ever unlocked my house.

This was also the year I became an auntie, again!, to this pretty little girl.


2009– This was the year I turned 30 years old. My family and friends threw me a gangster themed party, people were in costumes! It was terrific.


2008– This was the year….What is up with 2008? Didn’t I do anything? I can buy not having a memory from 1982, but to not have a single thing to talk about from four years ago? This is weird. I went through my online photo albums to see if I was forgetting something…nada. Surely something interesting happened to me this year. Or maybe the interesting thing is that 12 months passed without anything of note happening? A ha! I thought of something, after rereading the whole thing. How about a parallel to when I was one? This was the year that we elected our nation’s first black president!

2007– This was the year I graduated from Library school and moved home from DC. I also spent seven months unemployed, doing odd jobs to get by. When I finally got a library job (in July) it was for 8 hours per week. And they had the nerve to ask me to sign a one year contract. Ballsy. Then I got a second one and started working four jobs on a regular basis. Good times. This was also the year that I became an auntie for the first time, to this charming fellow:


Look at how little he was! And finally, this was the year (December, but it counts!) that I started blogging.

2006– This was the year I was offered a FT librarian job in Berkeley, NJ. I turned it down because I wanted to move home after graduation, not to New Jersey. It was also the year I traveled to Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Dover, DE, and Charlottesville, VA on my own time. Most notably, I traveled to the Czech Republic to study abroad and to Austria for some adventures. This was definitely a year of travel for me. I also got an internship at a public library in Hennepin County, working with my mentor. Gee, 2006 was a pretty big year for me!


Interior of the National Library of Austria

2005– This was the year I moved. A huge year for me, I moved from the home I’d always known, halfway across the country to live in our nation’s capital. I attended grad school at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington DC. I lived for two years in a convent, three blocks from campus. There were actual novitiates at the convent, but mostly it was used as a boarding house for women. I had a curfew (10pm Sun-Thurs, 12am Fri/Sat) which was bizarre to me, it was the only time in my life I had a curfew. My parents never even gave me a curfew in high school (I was the good kid). I did live in the heart of DC and managed to take advantage of that as often as possible. I visited most of the museums, I traveled up and down the coast, I went to events at the Capitol, (Rosa Parks funeral, the swearing in of a new Supreme Court Justice) I learned how to live by myself. It was a huge adjustment, but one I am so glad I made. If I had never lived outside MN, I would have always wondered. Now I know. I was meant to live here, but leaving once in a while is good for me.

2004– This was the year I switched jobs again. After four successful years at Awada’s, it was time to move on. I just graduated from college and I needed a change. My sister and I took a trip to Mexico and partied like rockstars, but this is STILL before I went digital, so all my photos from Mexico are home in an album. When we returned, I job hunted and found myself working for Great Waters Brewing Co. It was a change to go from a suburban restaurant to a city pub, but it was a fun change. And it was that job that made friends with Niki, Peter, Amy, Frodo, and Niki. I was there when Niki and Peter got married later that same year. And also when Amy met Joe, they’ll be getting married later this year. photo

I know that’s a bad photo, but we’re not that in to pictures. It’s the only group photo I have.

2003– This was the year that I discovered the cult universe of Joss Whedon, when someone recommended I watch Angel. While the show is terrific, no doubt, it will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the place I first saw Christian Kane. And, well,

that obsession led me to this photo, eight years later.

2002– This was the year that Mindy and I went to Grand Old Days, we wandered around, drunk as skunks; we were at the Mick Sterling concert and we had to pee. The line was soooooo long, there was no way we would make it if we waited. Actually no physical way. We would have wet ourselves. In the spirit of that, we found an empty janitorial closet, we went inside, drained our 12 oz plastic cups of beer and refilled them with our urine. Yep, we peed in plastic cups, in a janitor’s closet. Of course, the problem with the brilliance of this plan is that the bladder holds more than that. Sure enough, pretty soon our cups were full and we were just outright peeing on the floor. I should probably feel worse about that than I do. It’s weird that these are back-to-back memories of Mindy. She and I spend a lot of time together back then–no kids, no spouses, no houses, just freedom and beer. The good ol’ days!

2001– This was  the year that Mindy and I road tripped to Denver to visit Justin, who had moved out there. I, once again, don’t have pictures from this part of my life in digital format. Someday, my friends, someday. But what I remember about that trip is that my white mustang broke on the way there and the entire car filled with smoke. We thought it was fine, but then on the way home, it actually broke down, in North Platte, Nebraska, on a Sunday. We were stranded, because nothing was open in the booming metropolis of North Platte. We ended up staying overnight in a motel and getting the car fixed the next day. That trip was also when we saw the great bird migration, and if you ask me when you’re at my house, I’ll show you the picture and tell you all about it. It’s pretty incredible.

2000– This was the year I turned 21 years old and Kelly jumped me, tearing the MCL in my left knee.


(Isn’t it weird that we have a photo of the exact moment it happened?)

That one accident changed me and put me on a new path. I changed jobs, majors, and friends. My life went a totally new direction, but one I’m pretty happy about.

(I look particularly happy, right? And I took that picture just for this blog!)

This was also the year I became close friends with Tomphoto

and Mindy


and Justin


who have helped shape me for many years, and who I hope will always be there, by my side, as my friends, giving me advice, helping me celebrate, convincing me that I’m still the kind of girl who takes shots, and always, always reminding me that in order to have a great friend, you have to be a great friend.

1999– This was the year I got my first apartment. I lived in the basement of a house in St. Cloud, with three roommates. Katie Oldakowski, Sean Malloy, and Ryan…dammit! (Longwell? Is that right? Something like that? Katie will know, I’ll ask her) (okay, so I am bugged I can’t remember Ryan’s last name. I just googled Ryan Longwell to see if that’s right and turns out, he’s  the kicker for the Vikings. I don’t know how that information got in my head, but definitely NOT my former roommate). Oh, and let’s not forget the snake. The girl who lived there before me, got sent overseas, she was in the military, which is how the room became open, but she had to leave her SNAKE behind and it lived with me. Good thing I am not afraid of snakes, all thanks to Mr. Klingberger, my elementary science teacher, and the boa constrictor he kept in class that he would take out and place around student’s necks, for special occasions, it was an honor to wear the snake in that class. What I didn’t like was that the snake ate live white mice and I was expected to feed it. Um, no. I made the boys feed it, in return for letting it live with me. This was also the year I dropped out of college. (I did NOT flunk out, no matter how my sister remembers it) I ended up moving back home because I was broke and getting my first FT job as an administrative assistant for Dayton’s Corporate Travel. M-F, 9-5. I was a corporate stooge. That cured me quick and I went back to school.

1998– This was the year I moved to St. Cloud. I started my freshman year of college. I remember my parents drove me up there, unloaded my stuff and then my dad said, “Okay, we have to go, be good.” And gave me a hug and they left. It was like 10am. I was so scared and sad and all alone to unpack. I wanted them to stay, to take me out to lunch, to drive around this strange new town I was living in. My mom told me later that she cried because she wanted to stay, too. It was also the year I met a new best friend, Jason. We met in the “smoking pit” outside of Shoemaker Hall, or Shoe, as it was called. We met because we were both smoking and I was gesturing wildly and bumped my cigarette against his shirt and it caught fire. How do you not love a girl who sets you on fire? Right, Jason? And since this was well before I went digital, I don’t have any photos of him. That’s annoying, because I probably have 100 photos of us together, we used to take pictures together all.the.time. Like for fun. If we were hanging out, we’d grab the camera and do these crazy poses, just to do it. But they are all physical and at home. But, we are still friends and don’t see each other nearly often enough. But our lunches do help ease the pain.

1997– This was the year, I graduated from high school. I was so young as I set out in the world to become a pilot.

I wanted to fly the planes and travel the world. In the fifteen years since, I’ve taken many different roads–always by car–but I’ve seen a bit of the world. If I could go back and chat with her as she was about to finish high school, I’d tell her “don’t worry, you’ll be just fine. You’ll make some mistakes and you’ll feel pretty bad about some of them, but overall, you make great choices and are a wonderful person. Your life has been pretty terrific so far and we have high hopes for the years yet to come.”

1996– This was the year that I finally learned not to judge by first impressions. The year before, in choir, I sat behind this red haired girl, clearly very smart. She never looked my way, responded to my comments, or laughed at my jokes, in short, she ignored me. I hated her. Then, the next year, we ended up with English and French together. Perhaps it was a bond over the evil Madame Hicks, who hated me and went out of her way to be mean to me, but more likely it was the clever and creative Mr. Zabel’s advanced English that forced our friendship. We were paired on a project, our collaborative ideas earned us an A, and I realized that she is a strange and wonderful friend, plus she’s funny. I learned a lot from her that year, and I still learn from her, each year as we become better friends. Who would have known that she’d go on to become my best friend?photo

1995– This was the year I learned to drive a car. My dad tried to teach me to drive his old blue pickup and that went, well, disastrously springs to mind. But my mother stepped in and in a few brief tries in my junior high parking lot, I was cruising along like a natural. Then, on the drive home, I misjudged my speed when turning left and overshoot our street, landing the truck in the neighbor’s yard. Later that summer, we took a family road trip to Florida. I’d been a driver for three months and really, really, wanted to test my skills. I begged for the entire length of the country. (His ability to ignore is super-human) He finally conceded and handed over the keys, just as we’re about to drive across Lake Ponchatrain (Louisiana) and its “white knuckled” bridge. This was the scariest bridge in the world.

Uphill and it looks like you’re going to drive off the edge of the world. We were in a full-size conversion van and the wind was buffeting it so hard it was actually swaying from side to side and my arms ached from holding the wheel so tight to keep it in one lane. It was, frankly, terrifying.  I drove across one bridge (granted, the bridge is almost 30 miles long) and refused to drive the rest of the trip. To this day, he swears he didn’t know it would be that bad. I’m still not sure I believe him.

1994– This was the year I started high school! 10th grade. I felt so grown up. Also, so very lost. They had just build this huge new school and it seemed very overwhelming. Back then, it was carpeted and everything was shiny and new. This was also the year I gave up my crush on Rob Shanley and moved on to Josh Lohmer, who was so cute and such a nice guy, I was able to carry that single crush right up until graduation. (Okay, truth? A small part of me still has a crush on him).

1993– This was the year I “graduated” from junior high. We got to have a grad dance, it was on the Jonathan Paddleford riverboat. I wore a dress (my confirmation dress) and really, really, really hoped that Rob Shanley would ask me to dance. He did not. In fact, no one but the teachers actually danced. The dance floor was tiny and we were all more excited about the fact that we had minimal supervision. There were chaperones, sure, but they didn’t hover, we were on a boat! How much trouble could we get in? I remember my friends, Ryan, Greg and Mike Coleman (they were twins), Rob, another boy whose name I cannot remember, were hanging out and the boys had a spitting contest over the side of the boat. I also remember we ran around the boat trying to find things we could throw over the side, but interesting things, like plastic cups. Man, we were so cool.

1992– This was the year I was in the eighth grade. Two things stand out about this year. For Halloween, I dressed as a nun. Unfortunately for me, a teacher (not even one of MY teachers, but a young, handsome, popular teacher) came dressed as a priest. All day at school, people were making fun of me for dressing up with my “boyfriend”. Now, of course, I find it humorous that at the age of 13, none of those kids knew that priests and nuns don’t date. Also that year, was the acquittal of the 4 LA police officers who were on trial for savagely beating Rodney King. The acquittal sparked riots across LA and many other parts of the country. Heidi Novak, a friend of mine, organized a sit-in at school, for us to protest. It was my first and only participation in a protest. Of course, the administration found out and we were stopped about 30 seconds into our rally, but I think it still counts.

1991– This was the year I started junior high. It was one mile from the house, but the bus ride lasted 45 minutes. That annoyed me to no end. I remember my very first day, I had a new wardrobe, a green blouse with a ruffle collar, like a pirate shirt, and cream colored stirrup pants. I was so in love with that outfit and that morning, while eating breakfast, I spilled milk on the shirt. My mom made me change the shirt. I don’t even know what I wore instead, just that I was so sad. She even did laundry that day and washed the shirt so that I could wear it the next day, but I was still heartbroken.

1990– This was the year my family moved from the big, bad city to a beautiful house in the country, the place I still call

I switched schools, to Mrs. Miller’s class. This is probably TMI, but this is also the year I got my period for the first time, which I remember distinctly because we went on a class trip and stayed overnight in these cabins. I ended up with my period and I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so I used toilet paper until I got home and I cried to my mom about it and she said, “you should have told your teacher.” Yes, I should have. Sometimes it is hard being a girl. This was also the year I met my friend Ryan Monson, who would end up taking me to the prom my senior year. Even though we were the best of friends and saw each other every single day, he still called me on the phone and asked me formally. He also used to buy me white roses for my birthday every year (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, for sure…might have tapered off after that).

1989– This was the year of the Exxon Valdez oil spill it monopolized much of our learning that year. I think 10 is too young to talk about lawsuits, endangered animal deaths and that oil does not come out of water. Also, this is the year I met Kelly. She had just moved to the area and we were both in Mrs. Krupich’s class. It’s hard to believe that I’ve had the same friend for 23 years. It’s been a lot of changes, but that day in 5th grade, something in me must have recognized something in her, that same something that connects us and makes us friends. photo

(Obviously, that is not from the 5th grade, that is from my high school graduation party in 1997)

1988– This was the year of fourth grade. I cannot, for the life of me, remember my 4th grade teacher’s name. That’s very strange. I also don’t remember kindergarten or first grade, but those are more explainable. I also have no awesome stories for this year, so this will be particularly short.

1987– This was the year of third grade. It was the only time until junior high that I had a male teacher. Mr. Boesel. We also went to the MN Zoo this year and both of my parents chaperoned. That was weird, I don’t remember my dad ever chaperoning anything, but he did on that trip and the boys in my class, friends of mine, were fighting to be in his group. I ended up with my mom (shocker). Also, one day in class, a boy asked Mr. Boesel, how do you spell judge? Which is pretty hard for third graders–and I spelled it perfectly before Mr. B could say anything. He was impressed enough that he nominated me for the school spelling bee, which I did not win until the 5th grade. That year, my brother Nick won (6th grade) and my brother Zack won (3rd grade) we all got identical t-shirts that said “Parkway Elementary Spelling Bee Champion” on them. I think they were gold with maroon letters. When we wore them home, my dad decided to surprise my mom, so he sat the three of us on the couch in our shirts and put a blanket over us, pulled up to our chins. When she came home, she immediately thought we were all sick, then we threw off the blanket and jumped up and yelled surprise. Can you imagine getting home from work and thinking that somehow all your kids got sick? Somewhere, my mom has a picture of the three of us in our shirts…

1986– This was the year  Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet album came out, forever changing and defining my musical tastes. But, I promise it was years (YEARS!) later before I understood all the ramifications of that title…

And may I just say,God bless the 80s and the awesome-beyond-belief hair! It’s almost impressive in its sheer volume.

1985– This was the year I started first grade. Again, not a lot of memories of first grade, but I do remember I was chosen to be interviewed by a newspaper. I don’t know why. There was an article about me and a picture of me in my first grade class. In the article I said I loved roller skating, which cracks me up. My Gramma Conway cut that article out of the paper and it hung on the corkboard in her basement for my whole life, until she died in 1998. I don’t know what happened to that article, it’s probably in a box somewhere, but that stands out as my strongest memory for this year. I also remember that I got stubborn and wouldn’t let my mother brush my long hair. She kept threatening to cut it all off if I didn’t take care of it–I did not and she followed through. That is why, in my 2nd grade school picture I have a bowl cut. Very classy. Perhaps the root of my dislike of haircuts, who knows? But I grew my hair out again after second grade, kept it long until my senior year and then cut it a week before my senior pictures, and those are the only two photos of me with short hair. Go figure.

1984-This was the year I started kindergarten. I don’t honestly remember much about kindergarten except that I went to Parkway Elementary and my brother, Nick, and I walked six blocks, by ourselves to get there. It was a different world back then.

1983-This was the year, my fourth, that the fourth child in my family was born, my favorite sister, Emily.


that is, hands down, one of my favorite photos of her.

and we’d grow up to be these wonderful sisters. Pretty lucky, I guess.

1982– This was the year…that nothing happened? (Actually, I can’t remember that far back and I couldn’t find any particularly fun facts to put here…so, zilch)

1981-This was the year, my second, I received my second brother, Zack.


(apparently I have yet to upload any pictures of him as a young boy, I just stumbled across this, the photo is originally of my grandfather, I cropped it to reveal my brothers–Zack in front, Nick in back)

And he would grow up to be:


and, also, my favorite brother.

1980– This was the year we got a new president (Jimmy Carter was president when I was born), I’m told I was just glued to the election results that fall.


1979– This was the year I was born at 5:00pm. The very beginning of an excellent life, now 33 years in the making. It is also interesting to note that I was born on a Thursday (“Thursdays’ child has far to go” boy, do I ever!) and that today, the day of the massive memory blog, is also a Thursday. Perhaps that helped my inspiration.


I do believe that was taken slightly after my birth… that’s my grandfather, and if I’m not off my rocker, that was Christmas Day 1982 (so I was three).

1976– This was the year my parents married, making this blog possible. Thanks, Mom and Dad. photo

44BC– This was the year Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his best friend, Brutus, creating fodder for Shakespeare to immortalize the popular expression, “beware the Ides of March“. I just wanted to throw that out there, as it happens every year on this day, someone says “your birthday is the Ides of March” and almost no one knows what it means. Technically, it means middle. There is an ides in all months with 31 days. The usage has become nearly extinct. The only reason that people still talk about the Ides of March is because of Julius Caesar being murdered that day and Shakespeare writing about it. I really feel like I’ve blogged this particular fact before, but I cannot find it, so there. A brief little TYNKYNK for you on my actual birthday!

Happy Birthday to ME!!!

Okay, if you actually read this, all the way through to the end, be impressed you’ve managed my longest blog at 4,650 words. (More than 500 words longer than the previous record holder at 3,933 words.) Congrats!