Forty is Starting to Look Pretty Amazing...

It's a few days away: my fortieth birthday. I've had a year, well, really 40 years to get used to the idea, but turning forty feels big. And, well, it feels old.

This is what 40 looks like.
But I love birthdays and I want to commemorate my forth decade somehow. I was really close to signing
up for the Pole, Pedal, Paddle. Ever since I was a little girl watching athletes ski, bike, paddle and run from the mountain into my home town, I've thought about doing this race. But this year, with winter barely touching Southern California and a two-year-old attached to my leg most days, I decided this wasn't my time. I thought about a trip to the desert with the girls, or a day at the spa, a pub crawl, or a party. And although all of these sounded fun, I just didn't want any of them enough to make them happen.

Then Gloria Steinem turned 80 last month and this article helped me see not only what 40 looks like, but what 80 looks like as a feminist. And hey, it looks pretty good. So many friends are marking this 40th year and you know what, we all look pretty damn good!

So, as David and I celebrated early in Portland over spring break I decided that instead of one big bash, I'd try to work in forty different celebrations. They could be small moments: an ice cream cone, a cupcake, a bowl of kettle corn, a cocktail or bigger treats that might fall in my lap (tickets to a Dodger suite). I'm fortunate to have lots of friends and family and a couple hundred students to help me celebrate, and if I need to I can count Facebook wishes or even book sales (so if you have been thinking about picking up a copy or two of Through Eyes Like Mine or Overdue Apologies this would be a lovely gift for the author). So here they are, my forty fortieth birthday celebrations so far:

1) Salt & Straw ice cream in Portland
2) Birthday dinner with the family in Portland
3) Dinner date at Toro Bravo in Portland
4) Breakfast at Mother's in Portland
5) Breakfast at O'Groats with Hazel
6) Dinner and drinks at Mexico City
7) Dinner from Mao's Kitchen with Parissa and Jeyson
8) Easter/birthday celebration with family in LA
9) Dodger Stadium suite night one
10) Dodger Stadium suite night two
11) Birthday Blog Post
12) Responses to birthday blog post :)
13) Book sales from birthday blog post :)
14) Friday family night birthday celebration
15) Lunch date at Tripel
16) Banana cream pie at Tripel
17) Breakfast at Bru's Wiffle
18) Dodger game #3
19) Dinner and drinks at Mexico City post Dodger game
20) Finishing that chocolate cake from Pit Fire...
21) Birthday morning with Kiara
22) Morning writing at The Grind with Hazel
23) Birthday banner from ESA :)
24) Birthday lunch from Poquito Mas with Mr. Gantt
25) Happy birthday from my fifth period
26) Gustavo's birthday poem for me :)
27) Birthday run on a beautiful day in LA
28) Birthday present from Soaptopia from Kiara
29) Birthday dinner at A-Frame round 1
30) Birthday dinner at A-Frame round 2
31) Birthday gift of new kicks from David
32) Facebook conversations like a big birthday party and getting to give everyone a hug :)
33) Mariah bringing me a cupcake from HotCakes
34) A visit from my parents and oldest brother and sister
35) Super cute Salt & Straw shirt from big sister
36) Surprise birthday party at Louis with friends and family
37) La Paloma from Louis, or their Grapefruit Ricky with tequila instead of gin
38) The salted caramel bread pudding from Louis
39) Surprise birthday gifts from surprise birthday party (I have uh-mazing friends)
40) Teacher appreciation week recognition I'm going to count as birthday gifts

Thanks, everyone who helped make this such a happy birthday, virtually or otherwise. What an amazing way to kick off the next decade. And if you believe, like I do, that you can never do too much birthday, I highly recommend a birthday celebration per year. You deserve it!


Gratitude: Kid Birthday Parties Are Easier Than Labor

My dear friend Randy Hyde has been working on a happiness project that started with his 30 Day Experiment and has evolved into a 545 mile bike ride. He started it after seeing Shawn Anchor's TED Talk where he shares five daily tasks for finding happiness. You'll have to check out Randy's blog for all of the tasks, but one of them is identifying three things you're grateful for. This is one of the easier of the five for me, and after Kiara's second birthday I was feeling particularly grateful.

Kiara gets a kiss from Tavi, and a suburn...
#1 David and I survived the baby part.

Kiara has turned two and we have officially negotiated our first two years as new parents with varying degrees of success. Breastfeeding and sleep training are a distant memory and now it's terrible two toddler tantrums. Yep. Those are so much better than sore nipples and sleep deprivation. Grateful.

#2 Kiara is an extremely nice kid.

She played with her friends at her birthday party, and even though her mom forgot to apply sunscreen, she barely complained about her sunburn. Grateful.

Note to self:
Cupcakes means you don't need a cake.
#3 Planning a birthday party is so much better than going into labor.

Planning kid birthday parties isn't easy. There is the food and the cake and entertainment. There are the comparisons I cannot help myself from making to the wide variety of friend birthday celebrations we attend. We tried to keep it simple, but in the end it was still a lot of work. But I wouldn't trade this for labor. Nope. So much easier. Grateful.

If anyone has any hints for simple kid parties, David and I would love to hear them.


Books! Books! Books! First Ten for 2014

I'm trying to read 50 books this year and I'm a little behind, but pretty close to on pace. I'll post my thoughts every ten books so I can get some blog posts out of all this reading.

The first 5 books I read this year are by Avi, a young adult writer who visited our campus in January in conjunction with the UCLA history department. His books move quickly and have strong plots so it was a nice way to start the year. 

Something Upstairs by Avi: An interesting supernatural element based in realistic fiction/nonfiction. A fun way to explore a historical time period and suspend disbelief.  

Hard Gold by Avi: A journey west in search for gold and a lost family member drives the plot of this book. The use of primary source documents is great and it takes me back to the little time I’ve spent in Colorado. 

Crispin by Avi: This is my favorite of the Avi books. It has a compelling plot and taught me a great deal about medieval England.

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi: Again, Avi succeeds with plot, but the voice of the female narrator is a bit uneven as well as his handling of her African ally.  

Nothing But the Truth by Avi: An interesting format reveals how a classroom power struggle can get out of hand and how easily the truth can be misconstrued.

Several students recommended Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and somehow it ended up in my Christmas stocking! Thanks, Mom. But I finished it last year so it didn't make this list. It did, however, lead me to another Rowell book.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Even though I like Eleanor and Park better, I love how Rowell captures the discomfort of going away to college. I could just picture Levi sitting in front of my dorm room at U of O like I sometimes found Heath, Jessica Goodwin’s friend. I'm still not sure how I feel about her handling of bipolar, but really enjoyed the sister/twin and writing musings. Fanfic has never been my thing, but she has me curious. She has an incredible website too.

I wanted to read these next two titles before their movies come out. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed: False started this book on the Kindle preview over a year ago, then found the paperback for cheap and devoured it in a week. Strong CNF storytelling and all of life is a journey, right? It made me want to hike the PCT even though I hate to camp.  

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:  This is a page-turner. I liked it better when I was in it than when I finished it. The unlikeable characters made me want this book out of my house and made me an extremely irritable wife for the whole week while I read it.   

I feel kind of bad about counting these next two as two, but they are beautiful and I reread them cover to cover for at least two weeks and they still wait for me at my bedside to help me get in a little meditation.
Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe Part I by Yumi Sakugawa

Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe Part I and II by Yumi Sakugawa 

These little graphic novels are a perfect way for me to meditate. The illustrations are lovely and the act of turning the pages and taking in each assignment from the universe helps ground me. Her other books are lovely as well. You can find them here.

So my next ten will have more writers of color. I realized after looking at my list that I'm solid when it comes to reading women, but right now my 2014 is pretty white. I plan to make my next ten more diverse.



First Quarter Progress Report for 2014

A while back, poet Kima Jones asked on twitter about those new year's resolutions. She was calling me out. That woman is all about accountability and she gets it done. I needed to come clean. I started the year with an ambitious set of goals but now, as the first quarter closes I'm ready to check in with those goals and my progress.

Writing: Finish high school memoir draft (50,000 words) and revise YA novel: Rice Paper Superheroes.

Progress: Still drafting the high school memoir: 23,000 words. Not quite halfway there. I need to write, people

Reading: Read and write short annotations for 50 books in the year.

Progress: Doing ok on this one although I was ahead of the game at the start of March and am now behind. Still, I've finished 10 and am halfway through two more. I should be at 12  by now. Spring break should help me catch up.

Publishing: Submit work at least once a month and publish one blog post per week.

Progress: Only submitted one piece to CNF, close on the blogs. One, maybe two weeks behind. I need to get my work out there. This is the scary one for me, always, but it is one of those risks I have to make myself take.

Fitness: Run 500 miles in the year.

Progress: Just over 100 miles. I should be at 125.

So, my conclusion here at my quarterly progress report is this: I'm behind but I can still reach my goals.

I can do this.

Here we go.