I decided not to do anything in particular for my birthday, because there have been many family and social events with a few more coming up, and it’s the busy season at work– keeping one day unequivocally clear with nothing on the calendar seemed like a really nice thing to do. Plus it’s still a pandemic, plus unlike much of the rest of the country, my area is spending the weekend under an “atmospheric river” with impressively heavy rains.

(Terms I never heard until a few years ago: Super Moon, Atmospheric River, Heat Dome. Have any faded away? Maybe Pineapple Express?)

Turns out, “What are you doing for your birthday?” is the question that everyone asks! (Because they care, and I appreciate it, I hasten to add.) I should have pinned down a more graceful way to explain– it’s not that I want to do nothing, necessarily, it’s that I want to decide hour by hour, spur of the moment, which necessarily cuts out tickets and plans and travel.

Anyway, I had a good birthday and feel very loved. One of the spur-of-the-moment projects was rearranging the bookshelves so the sheet music is within reach of the piano, instead of high overhead. Not something that would be a birthday plan, but satisfying. There is a large stack of surplus music which will need a supplemental shelf, because sheet music is something that never seems to get weeded or gotten rid of, right? I still have some with my mom’s and aunt’s names on it from when they were kids, stuff like this:

cover of novelty sheet music Chickery Chick, with 1940s style illustration and lettering

In the evening Sanguinity and I watched To All the Boys: Always and Forever, but we conked out early and have about 45 minutes left, and are puzzled about how they will be filled? I mean, Lara Jean’s clearly going to go to [redacted] and it will or won’t work out, but we won’t find out by the end of the movie, so…? There was lengthy and loving coverage of the senior trip to New York City (Lara Jean lives in Portland but you wouldn’t know it, idk maybe it’s Lake Oswego or something). I did get to go to New York in high school for a music thing, but this “senior trip” phenomenon, does that really happen? seems expensive! Then again, costs and financial aid are never discussed in Lara Jean’s college plans.

Also around: hummingbirds, dal from our new hand-me-down Instant Pot, Sang fending off the invasive geranium that’s taking over the yard, listening to audiobooks of Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series.

fifties achieved!

Holly backyard selfie smiling with red hoodie

…well, by achieved I mean reached. I took the day off work to mooch around and think about life, which I have done, largely in the back yard. It’s a good day. And sanguinity’s going to pick up Thai food and ice cream for us this evening.

A Happy Series of Events

  • Shellynoir leaves Sang and me six tall IKEA bookcases when she moves to Brooklyn. They take up a whole wall of the living room. But
  • for several years they are mostly empty, because it is vexing to figure out how to attach them to the wall so they won’t kill us in an earthquake.
    • old-school lathe and plaster wall in which it is difficult to find studs
    • baseboard that keeps the shelves from standing quite flush with the wall. It doesn’t seem right to remove and saw up the baseboard for shelving if it’s not built-ins. But!
  • for my birthday, Sang Does The Thing!
    • buys boards to affix to the wall, solving the baseboard gap problem, and even paints them to match the wall, with paint the previous owner left behind for us in the basement in 1996
    • gets toggle bolts to fasten the boards to the wall, even though making 5/8″ holes in the plaster is unnerving
    • fastens the bookcases to the boards with L brackets.
  • We go to IKEA for a few extra shelves. And breakfast.

IKEA breakfast with eggs, sausage, pancakes, potatoes, and jam. Cup of coffee and juice box behind plate.

Two dollars! excluding coffee and elderflower drink.

Things that now have a designated place on the living room shelves:

  • current household files
  • shoe box of correspondence to be saved
  • my university library books
  • my TBR that are not library books
  • my borrowed-from-individuals books
  • footstool that Bookherd made
  • art supplies TBD – colored pencils and sketchpads?
  • picture books
  • OED, Oregon road atlas, Sunset Garden Book, Chinuk Wawa dictionary, and a few other reference books
  • the globe
  • comics
  • poetry
  • coffee table books
  • empty shelf for the kitty
  • Legos, Zoob, K’Nex
  • games
  • art and photos from friends
  • pop-up books
  • Sang’s research project books, mostly from university library
  • Sang’s Holmesiana
  • yoga mat, foam roller, rollout-stick

Now, in addition, the mostly-fiction in the other room won’t be so overstuffed, and shelving will be easier there too. I am very, very pleased.


pink rose

backyard rose

Sanguinity and I caught the bus to happy hour at The Delta after work yesterday. They’re in a sweet spot lately. After the incredible early nineties (oh, the biscuits, oh, the breakfasts, but the cook would literally sit and read a book until he felt like cooking), they got really popular, and dropped some of the best things off their menu, and better not even think about going there on weekends. Now when I say I’m going to the Delta, my co-workers look puzzled and say, “oh, is that on…Mississippi?” It’s still doing fine, they just have time to do things right again. When the waitress overheard that it was my birthday, she brought house-made ice cream and a cookie. We were so full for the walk home and the rest of the night.

Reed is 100 and I am 41

I shared my birthday this year with Reed College, which put on its 100th Anniversary reunion celebration this weekend. I actually set foot on campus three times yesterday. My run in the morning was through the canyon, where quite a few older alumni were walking in ones and twos on the trails. Just since I was a student in 1992 there have been a lot of improvements and added trails, so I gave directions more than once. They all seemed like people I would like.

Sang and I did a walk-through in the early afternoon to see what was going on. A small Ferris wheel, tethered ballon, and ring-toss stalls were set up on the lawn with a few art projects; families were playing on the grass and the vibe was low-key picnic. All very…nice. Why do alumni not set up the naked slip and slide? Why is all the music so very inoffensive? It kind of depresses me how sanitized alumni events are compared to what goes on when the students are actually there. It feels a little fake, like a simulacrum of Reed.

We went back for the fireworks, where we met up with our friend N and also finally ran into people we knew from our freshman dorm. Up til then neither of us had recognized anyone. The fireworks at Reed are awesome! I hadn’t attended for years and forgot how close up they are. I kept being surprised I wasn’t showered with burnt paper, as I have been at Reed fireworks in the past. It was fifteen minutes, but a very full fifteen minutes. I was lying on the ground and could feel all the thumps as they went up. I am grateful that I haven’t been traumatized by anything explosive and can thoroughly enjoy fireworks. As a bonus, the dog has lost enough hearing so they don’t traumatize him anymore either! (He was at home, of course–but he used to hear them going off at Reed or the waterfront before they had even registered in my awareness.)

I also happened to read yesterday about two kidlit writers whose work didn’t take off until they were about my age. That’s always encouraging. The first was E. Nesbit, who published various things from age fifteen on, but suddenly around age 40 took quite a different tack and came out with her classic children’s stories. I found this out as I finished off The Enchanted Castle yesterday. To my commenter who recommended it after I was so disappointed by The Treasure Seekers, thank you so much! I felt wholly different about the authorial asides in this one. They didn’t seem condescending at all. I liked the book.

The other author is Patrice Kindl– I looked her up after seeing on the children’s literature listserv that she has a new title coming out soon. Owl in Love was her first book, published when she was in her early forties. It is wonderful and I want to read it again soon, but The Woman in the Wall is even closer to my heart, because I am shy and because its matter-of-fact surrealism suits me exactly.

Birthday Weekend

My forties are pretty great so far. I took the day off work Friday and went to breakfast at Bar Carlo with Sanguinity and LeBoyfriend. Breakfast sandwich on brioche with avocado and egg, yum! We walked home by way of the dollar store so Sang could get birthday candles. LeB and I did the Friday NYT crossword while she got started on cake. The crossword was perfectly calibrated for us– we didn’t think we’d finish it, but then we did. How’s that for a narrative that’s boring to read but satisfying to live!

LeBoyfriend caught a bus back to his part of the city, and I headed out for a ten-mile run. My idea was to do 10 miles each day for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then a one-shot 30-miler next weekend. As it turns out, Friday’s run at the college track was awesome, but Saturday’s was cut to seven miles for knee pain and Sunday was three miles out of time crunch and conservatism about the knee. At this point, I’m feeling fatalistic about the 50-miler. Whatever happens will happen, and there’s no point in pushing an injury in an attempt to train. I’ll still try for a good long run (and/or walk) next weekend.

The cake was a flourless chocolate number baked in ramekins and muffin cups. It had a souffle thing going on, very puffy but falling after it came out of the oven, leaving a chocolate meringue-like crust on top. Perhaps not county fair material but SO GOOD. Rich. Buttery. Dark. Chocolate. And I successfully blew out my candles, thank you. I didn’t wish for what I thought I would. But I will say no more. (I have the hardest time not discussing birthday wishes!)

On yesterday’s run I saw two large turtles in the Reed Canyon, sunning on a log, as well as a mallard pair with a very late brood of two tiny beeps. This morning on a dog walk, Sang and I watched a woodpecker (flicker, probably) go to town on a telephone pole. Can you imagine those incredible neck muscles! (say I of the fragile neck that needs daily yoga to avoid pain).

Also, fifteen minutes from now I will have met my writing time quota for this week. (I started counting on Friday, my birthday, and gave myself a head start with hours from earlier in the week. But still.) It’s a big jump. A big, big jump, and I do worry how it will cut into other parts of my life. But I’m already feeling a freedom and expansiveness because now there will be time to work on more of the ideas I’d have given up on before. I can take time to really fix things, and think about them. I’m revising a story with a deadline of June 30, and I can actually try different things without panic. I have time to tinker. Having plenty of time and plenty of work both, now that’s happiness.

Finishing off the weekend with another birthday celebration, Evan’s belated birthday sushi! I need to figure out the laundry situation too. The kitchen is in sore need of attention, and it’s so much more pleasant when Sang and I can tackle it together while reading aloud, but I guess that might have to be another day.

I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend too.