Thursday, June 22, 2017

Three Years (or 12, Whatever)

We met in the summer of 2005.
I I immediately noticed the new guy with the blonde ponytail and wanted to make him my friend.  And then we fell in love without meaning to....and I gained my best friend in the whole wide world.
Yesterday--the summer solstice--we marked three years of married life--with Thai food, nice beer, and mini-golf.
Hip-hip-hooray for love, fun, and the blessed life we lead together!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beautifully Lost and Found Again - Silvercloud Campout

"One way to look at it... is that we are all lost, we were already lost the day we were born.  In music, we can become tragically and beautifully lost...and found again."
-- From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo
Matt and I went to a music festival with a couple friends the second weekend of June.  Over the winter Matt had proclaimed that we must go to a music festival this year.  For most of our time together we've attended at least one every year.  It used to be the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Minnesota until that one fell by the wayside.  Then it was the Love Your Mother Earth Festival in Montana until that one bit the big one.  Then we started catching Further as much as we could until they stopped touring and soon festivals had been absent  from the calendar for a couple years.  And we missed it.  Live music is a significant force in our lives, as is getting out camping and exploring nature.  Music festivals are a keen way to marinate in an abundance of music and nature all at the same time.  With friends!
As it happened though Silvercloud Campout started the day after my grandmother died.  It was just about agonizing to go--to choose to leave the family situation in which we were so enmeshed.  I hemmed and hawed about it for a good long while.  Josh almost sounded like he hated to ask when I called, "Um....are we still going to Silvercloud?"
I actually had to be reassured that it was okay to go.  Matt's mom said we should go.  Ryan's wife said we should go.  My dad said we should go.  Ryan was getting better.  Grandma had passed.   They argued that Matt and I needed some good cheer and there was no compelling reason to let our music festival plans fall away.  It was something we'd been looking forward to and planning with our friends for months....
They knew it would do us good.
And it did.
Full moon gazing, dancing in barefeet on the grass, camping out under the stars, laughing until my belly hurt, watching the sunset paint the clouds and the mist sweep across the mountains, wandering the forest spotting the white beargrass blooms gleaming under the moon.
All the music was swell--most of it utterly fantastic.  I can't stop singing the Shook Twins' song Toll Free--and think I might have to run off and buy all their albums.  That funk band from New Orleans was crazy--even if they did think they were freezing to death in the mountains.  The bluegrass was truly top-notch.  I could listen to the Kitchen Dwellers and the Stringdusters all the livelong day.  Or night, as the case may be.
It was pretty fan-foo-goo-tastic to be tired out from good times again, instead of just feeling weary.
It was an all around sweet little festival.  Small and intimate.  Affordably priced from the tickets to the beer.  An attractive venue with spacious camping.  Stellar music and cool art.  Nice people around warm campfires.  I even got a massage from one of the vendors.  There was no recycling and I needed to bring more warm clothes.  Those are my only two complaints--and I've no one but myself to blame for the latter.
This was the third year of Silvercloud Campout, but the first year we managed to hear about it.  I hope it is successful for the organizers because I could really get used to this as our new annual music festival.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five-Spiced Chickpeas

I am a very cookbook oriented person.  (This dovetailing nicely with the fact that  I am a very food oriented person.)  I love pouring over recipes--examining photos, gleaning ideas.  I already have two shelves of cookbooks in our home library.  Of course, that doesn't stop me from checking out loads from the library or requesting review copies from Blogging For Books.  I especially love cookbooks featuring foreign cuisine.  Asian flavors are probably my favorite genre of foods.   Last year I went on a bender of checking out just about every Asian cookbook which I could lay hands on from the public library.  Chinese Five-Spice Powder kept cropping up on my cookbook reading and I'd never tried it.  I asked Matt to pick us up a jar so we could give it a whirl.  Eventually I suspect we'll just make our own, but for now the commercial version has been a good way to get our feet wet with this new seasoning.  And a little goes a long way, really, so this jar will be with a while yet.

Typically Chinese Five-Spice is comprised of star anise, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seed, and cinnamon.  It is a bright, spicy, bold flavor with just a hint of sweetness from the anise and cinnamon.
This recipe is my current favorite of the five-spice concoctions experimented with thus far.  The melange of spices tastes friggin' great and the chickpeas get a swell chewy texture from the roasting.

Five-Spiced Chickpeas
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1/4 C tamari or soy sauce
2 T vegetable oil
4 t Chinese five-spice powder

Toss chickpeas with remaining ingredients until well coated.  
Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer.  
Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes, stirring half way though if you're feeling ambitious. 
Cauliflower pakoras, brown rice with peanut sauce, and five-spiced chickpeas.  Mmmmm-mmmm, good!
The recipe makes plenty because Matt and I tend to nibble them up rather quickly.  A half a batch might be sufficient for some people though.  The flavorful, chewy chickpeas work super as part of a main meal, but also make for splendid snacks at home and on the go.  Not to mention the fact that the recipe s superbly simple and quick to whip up.

Add five-spice powder to the perpetually increasing list of Asian flavors I adore.  Mmmmmmmmm....

Friday, June 16, 2017

The May-June-ish-ness Roller Coaster

Oh........where to begin, where to begin.
My life has been in a bit of chaos these last few weeks.  On May 24th Matt's brother, Ryan, went into cardiac arrest while at home in bed and spent the next two weeks in ICU before being transferred to a patient room and then a rehab center.  Three weeks ago I was terrified he was going to die.  Two weeks ago I was worried his personality, humor, kindness, sarcasm would be lost due to brain damage.  Yesterday he went home.  HOME!  It seems nothing short of miraculous to me.   Don't get me wrong.  He's still got a long hill to climb before he is back to his old self again.  He is frustrated by the gaps in his memory.  Still.  He cracks his same ol' jokes, teases us, can talk at length about beer, loves and remembers his family, friends, and his dog, plays Zilch, listens to the same music he's always liked, and so many other things that seemed light-years from possible just weeks ago....  It has been a remarkable and humbling ride to say the least.
On the evening of June 4th, as Ryan was blowing us away with his dramatic turn for the better, my paternal grandma fell and broke her hip in pretty much the worst way possible.  She was airlifted to the hospital here the next day.  So, Matt and I bounced back and forth between the two hospitals visiting Ryan and Grandma Fran.  Originally the doctors hoped to do surgery on Grandma's hip--pins, screws, etc.  However, further testing showed her vascular system to be essentially shot and the medical team realized she wouldn't survive the surgery--or if she did she'd be in even worse condition than when she went in.  Hospice was called.  Family started driving and flying in.  Grandma waited until everyone who was able to come had arrived.  She waited until the pastor gave her her last holy communion.  Then, just moments after this rite, she slipped away into her final peace.  It was rather beautiful, really, the timing of it all.  She was such a strong woman and she'd been fighting for a long time.  Such strength wrapped up in that tiny, little body.  I'll miss her--the funny stories about my dad as a boy, her beautifully penned letters, her spunk--but I am also thankful she's no longer in pain.  She flat out told us she was ready to go, ready to see her parents again.  That makes it easier, albeit far from easy.
Until this last month I'd never spent any time in the ICU.  I'd hardly spent any time visiting hospital.  Period.  I'd never seen someone intubated.  I'd never seen someone die.  I'd never seen someone almost die.  I'd never seen such fear in the eyes of someone I love.  I'd never witnessed such tranquility as in my Grandmother's very last moments.  I'd never seen such confusion as those first days in the ICU.
Grandma Fran is second from the left in this photo from my cousin's wedding.
What a month!  Gosh the world is crazy and relative like that.  Has it really been less than a month?!  Everything has happened and yet it simultaneously feels like I've been standing still.  Sitting in limbo.  Waiting really is the hardest part.  Hospital time is not the same as time in the larger world.  Sitting around "doing nothing" can really wear a person down.
I've certainly learned a lot since May 24th.  About my family of birth and my family of choice, about medical treatments and hospitals, about the depths of love, about the glorious fragility--the highs and lows--of life and death!  I learned so much.  Much of which I never really expected or wanted to know, but none the less... Throughout the whole thing, even at the bottom, I tried to find the silver linings.  Sometimes it was beyond challenging--just glimmers and hints--but they're always there.  Sometimes it seems like they're there to spite you.  I learned so much about myself.  That was surprising and I'm still trying to process it all.  New lessons make themselves clear daily yet.
And I failed rather miserably in Me-Made-May this year.  Turns out I don't own enough me-made dresses to last a whole month without repeats.  (It wouldn't have really mattered though.  After the 23rd I couldn't be bothered with clothing and just threw something on--Me-Made or otherwise.  I did sew a little something for the first three weeks.  That was a brilliant addition to the challenge.  Overall though it wasn't my best MMM year.  Oh, well.  There is always next year.)

And the garden hasn't even hardly been planted.   (And we're fine with that.  We'll just hit Farmer's Market more this year.  We DID manage to find time to harvest our swell crop of strawberries though--before the birds did!  We actually planted the potatoes in the dark because we just couldn't find enough hours in the day to get it done during the daylight hours. )

And the yard is a jungle and the house messy with laundry, dishes, and rugs very much in need of a vacuuming.  (And we're fine with that, too.  All of the sudden a tidy house really isn't that big a deal...so long as we've got clean underpants its all good.)

And the cats are beside themselves with missing us, feeling quite abandoned, I am sure.  (And we've missed them, too!  A purring kitty is salve for the soul at the end of a trying day.)

And I experienced physical and emotional exhaustion like I'd never known in my life.  (And impressed myself with how well I could take it and keep going!  One never knows what they can do until they have to, I guess.)

And I've felt love and support like I'd never known either.  (Where would I be without my friends, family, and colleagues?!?!  I hate to even think of it.)
Today we lay my grandmother's earthly remains to rest in the very town where she was born.  Today Ryan is back home with his family.  The highs and lows of emotion still continue, now seemingly in some strange sort of universal balance.  Its all good though.   Love always comes with a cost.  And is always worth the price.
I love you, Ryan.  I love you, Grandma.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Newbery Award Challenge - 1940's

One more decade of Newbery winners down.  Seven more to go.  I got all long-winded in my assessment of this decade.  Overall I enjoyed them though and I think that is why.  I especially enjoyed the titles from Adam of the Road on through the end of the decade.  I've been lobbying Matt to read Johnny Tremain for the last two months (since he never has before).  I even brought it home for him from the library.  But so far, no luck.  The 21 Balloons was pretty dang fantastic, especially for a book I'd never even heard of before.
1940 - Daniel Boone by James Daughtery
This book is, as one would quite rightly expect, the biography of the American frontiersman Daniel Boone.  Daniel Boone was certainly brave and strong in all the standard sense of those words, but all in all I found the book problematic in its one-sidedness.  I tried to keep in mind the period of time the book was about.  I tried to keep in mind the period of time in which the book was written.  Still.  The language used about the Indians was just terrible. Things like, "infestation," "red dogs," and "prowling Indian varmints."  There was no acknowledgement in the text that the natives were having their land and way of life taken from them.   It is all presented as though they were just being unreasonable and "interfering" with the settling of the land in a civilized manner.  I guess, in an act of karma, after helping settle the frontier Daniel Boone doesn't end up owning any land himself until towards the very end of his life.  The book, of course, portrays this as a great injustice to a man who worked so hard to tame the land.  I found it to be rather fitting, myself.  To be clear, I like historical accounts of our founding fathers and explorers.  They did amazing things and helped shape the way we live today.  Our history is important.  I like it to be honest though, too, not just glowing praise.  I didn't find that to be the case here.
1941 - Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry
This is the story of a Polynesian boy named Mafatu who, after being traumatized by his mother's death at sea, becomes cripplingly fearful, especially about the ocean.  For a Polynesian male this is an egregious way of living and he is mocked relentlessly--and teased for doing "women's work" of building nets and tools instead of fishing, like a man.  Eventually Mafatu attempts to prove himself and ends up on an essentially deserted island.  No one lives on the island, but it is the sacred offering place of cannibals from another nearby island.  Mafatu proves himself much braver than even he thought through a handful of different encounters on the island--and the skills he acquired at his "women's work" are incredibly valuable to him in his isolation.  In time he goes home to his people--including his proud father--who all treat him much better now that he has proven himself brave like a man should be.  It was a charming little story, albeit steeped in some very rigid gender lines.  It is a tale that emphasizes the all too commonly perpetuated belief that men must prove themselves through act of danger and bravery before truly entering the ranks of manhood.
1942 - The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
The Matchlock Gun is a story about settlers in early America--before America was a country, actually.  It is based on a true story.  Believing attacks by the French and Indians are eminent Edward's dad and his militia friends head to cut them off, leaving Edward to help his mother care for the house and his younger sister, Trudy.  Somehow the attackers get past the guard and Edward and his mother hatch a scheme to defend themselves with a family heirloom--the matchlock gun twice as tall as Edward.  By obeying his elders and showing bravery in the face of fear Edward kills attacking Indians and saves his family.  It was a super quick read, if not all that spectacular.  It did have some very quaint metaphors and events, which appealed to me.  Things like, how Mama's hands had a "clean buttery smell," or how when young Trudy needs distracted so Edward and Mama can save the day she is put on her parent's bed with "a doll made out of a handkerchief...a large lump of maple sugar and some silver spoons."  I like the simple and folksy like that.
1943 - Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  It had just enough drama to keep me engaged and wanting to flip through the pages and was chock full of new-to-me words. I'd definitely rank it as one of my favorites thus far.  The tale follows Adam, son of Roger the Minstrel, from one adventure (or misadventure) to another across medieval England.  Adam loses his dog and gets separated from his father and spends much of the book trying to reconnect with them.  I must confess it was a mind-boggling prospect for me--imagine just wandering the country from village to village asking passersby if they've seen your lost family?!  To someone used to email, phones, GPS, photographs, news broadcasts, the internet, police stations, and all the other modern trappings of keeping tabs on people I cannot hardly imagine.   Of course, Adam is a much more self-reliant and assured youth than I would have been at the same age.  He also "played the oyster" by turning his misfortune into a wonderful, epic story he could preform for people in his profession as a minstrel.  I quite adored that expression--playing the oyster.  Adam is smart, savvy boy on the border of manhood.  He meets people from all ranks of life and had a broad range of life experiences which serve him well on his journey--though which also give him pause to wonder about how the world works.  While serving a private court he is confused when a girl beloved by his friend, Simon, must marry someone else--someone she doesn't love and whom doesn't love her.  It is explained to Adam that, "It doesn't matter what she'd rather do...She's only a girl.  She's got to do what she's told."  In all the songs and tales Adam knows the premise is frequently one of devotion and honor towards a fair maiden and bravery in the face of danger to win her attentions, admiration, or love.  And yet, in reality, Adam learns, it doesn't matter if the girl is won over or not since she has no say in the matter.  I loved how this made no sense to Adam.  I quite enjoyed this glimpse at life in medieval England.  It seems a hard life and a beautiful one.  It is a life of hard work, but there were moments of art and music, too.  The rich could pay for a minstrel to sing through the carriage window to relieve the tedium of travel.  The poor could listen to them perform on street corners.  Everyone was working hard to get their daily bread, but they still took time to strap shoulder bones to their feet and go ice skating, too.  I like that.  I certainly think a happy life is one with a balance in work and leisure.  Too much of one or the other and things get askew.   For those with a language obsession like my own here are some of the new or fantastic words I jotted down while reading:  fabliaux (a tale told in meter which is usually a bit humorously lewd), almonry (a place where alms are distributed), neatherd (cow or oxen herd), surcoat (a loose robe worn over armor), cotte (a medieval outer garment), Candlemas (a Christian holiday), lavabo (a ritual washbasin) , comfit (a candy containing a nut or see covered in sweetener), coif (close-fitting cap), haircloth (a stiff cloth made or horsehair woven with either linen or cotton), portmanteau (a large bag or suitcase, usually leather, which opens into two equal parts), palfrey (a type of riding horse highly valued in the middle ages), wyvers (a legendary reptilian creature especially common in heraldry), tiltyard (a place where jousts occur).  And there were so many more.
1944 - Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
I totally dig Johnny Tremain.  It is an excellent book.  I remember reading it for the first time when I was a 5th grader.  We received extra credit if we spent a school day with our hand taped together in a facsimile of Johnny's injured hand.  The experience left quite a vivid impression on me, even all these years later.   I considered skipping past Johnny Tremain in my Newbery challenge since I've read in several times already and, as recently as 2015.  However, since I enjoy it so thoroughly I decided to just revisit it again.  It is a fantastic story about the talented, but proud and arrogant Johnny Tremain who through a series of trials, friendships, scandals, and world events learns to be a more thoughtful, kind, and all together better person.  The development of his character is a really strong component of the story.  Set in Boston just prior to the Revolutionary War the book is scattered with historical figures, such as John Hancock and Paul Revere, and Johnny gets swept up in the fight against British rule.  It is a compelling and relateable (albeit fictionalized) account of this dramatic period in American history.  I highly recommend it.
1945 - Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
I liked Rabbit Hill.  It was a quaint little animal story.  Just the sort I would have loved and read over and over had I discovered it as a girl.  It reminded me of an American version of Watership Down in many ways, but without all the warfare and tyranny.  There is even a little map of the area in both books!  I mean even the setting isn't that far removed--though instead of a "down" the story takes place on a hill.  Both center around rabbits with humanized traits.  For example, Mother Rabbit stirs a pot of soup and Little Georgie wears a knapsack.  The story follows the excitement stirred up when "New Folk" move into the house on Rabbit Hill.  They plant a big garden and refuse to poison, trap, or otherwise harm the animals that live on the hill with them--much to the consternation of the neighbors.  They love animals and admire St. Francis of Assisi.  In the end, the animals and humans realize there is enough to go around for everyone and live in harmony together.  Even the skunk and fox stop raiding the chicken coop because the cook always leaves fried chicken and other yummy garbage scraps for them. It is a bit too-perfect (and unrealistic from a biological point of view) of an ending, but oh, what a sweet one.  There was one point of linguistic interest for me.  The skunk loves "garbidge," which I learned is an antiquated spelling of the word that dates back to the 1600s (according to the Oxford English Dictionary).  Father Rabbit is a more refined, southern gentleman and when he used the word it was always "garbage."  I thought that was an interesting point of class distinction.
1946 - Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
I got a lot of enjoyment out of Strawberry Girl, a sort of Little House on the prairie story, but set in the early 1900s in the untamed landscape of Florida.  The story's main drama comes in the form of a feud between neighbors--The Boyers who are new to the area and the Slaters who've been on the land for a couple generations already.  Through telling the story the reader is exposed to some of the language and customs from the poor-white, rural "Cracker" culture of the time, which I thought was an interesting contrast and parallel to the frontier stories from the west.  Unsurprisingly I was quite taken with the language of the book--the conversational dialect was rather fascinating:  "Hits" instead of "It is," "book-larnin'" instead of "book learning," "shore," instead of "sure," or "purty" instead of "pretty."  [As an aside, I can remember my sister, Sarah, teasing me for saying "shore" while playing Barbies in the basement of our childhood home.  It is so strange sometimes what the brain saves clearly like that.]  The story has a happy ending though there is sure a lot of meanness in it--retaliatory poisoning of livestock, arson, threatening notes, drunks neglecting their children, etc.  There is a Christian element in that the antagonist of the story is redeemed and finds a new way of life through the purchase of a Bible, a traveling minister, and demonstrations of goodwill and charity from his neighbors.  There were loads of fantastically named characters throughout.  Folks like Shoestring and Zephy Slater, Dovey and Bihu Boyer, Kessie Cook, Rofelia Marsh, or Azuloy, the orphan.  As with the Little House books my favorite parts were the glimpses of how people lived during that time and place--the day The Boyer family and their neighbors crush the sugar cane harvest, boil down syrup to use for the year, and have a candy-pull for the kids or the process by which the strawberries are harvest, packed, and shipped to the hungry "Yankees" up north.
1947 - Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
Miss Hickory is a funny, quaint, rather adorable story in which the protagonist is a doll made of a twig with a hickory nut for a head.  It is a story of self-discovery and embracing change and growth.  Miss Hickory's world is turned upside down when her human neighbors move to town for the winter leaving her to fend for herself with the squirrels and pheasants and such.  She is a bit stubborn and judgmental, that Miss Hickory, but she is good deep down and ultimately sees the error in that.  It is a very homey, earthy, old-fashioned sort of story.  Of course, that all appeals to me quite a bit.  I just about cackled with glee when Robin reclaims his nest and insults Miss Hickory with a derisive, "Cow-Bird!"  (For a brief overview of cowbirds see this post.)  I couldn't wait to share that one with Matt.  I also happened to read it at just the right time in that Matt and I were invited to walk through a local apple orchard as it was in peak bloom.  The very next day I was pleased to read the orchard descriptions in Miss Hickory and it all tied together in a seamless, delightful bow of synchronicity.  I had another meaningful coincidence with the term "redd-up/out," which my blog friend, Margo, used in a post about clutter and tidying up and which I then read less than 20 minutes later in Miss Hickory.  I'd never heard this term before--it is quite regional--so to run across it twice in such rapid succession delighted me.  And because I am, well, me and must know more this sent me running for the Oxford English Dictionary.  Redd-up" is considered a regional American expression, chiefly northern. It is Scotch in origin, but also used by the Northern Irish. The earliest recorded use of "redd-up" is from 1880.  "Red" or "redd" without the "up" is even older (earliest citations being from the late 1400s) and again, chiefly Scottish. It still meant "An act or the action of clearing away, removing, or tidying up," but could also be the "act of clearing the throat." The OED says use of this word is quite rare while "redd-up" is still common--at least regionally--in the northeastern parts of the country.
1948 - The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois
This was one another of my favorite Newbery reads so far.  The 21 Balloons is a fanciful adventure story that brought to mind Gulliver's Travels in its amusing absurdity.  Professor Sherman leaves San Francisco in a lightwight house suspended from a large hydrogen-filled balloon.  His trip doesn't go according to plan and he soon finds himself on the island of Krakatoa--which isn't uninhabited as is commonly thought.  On the island are 20 families and a diamond mine.  It seems clear to me that William Pene du Bois was mechanically minded--and a fan of balloons.  The people of Krakatoa have invented all sorts of convenience gadgets and the author helpfully included sketches of many of them.  This includes things like a bed with a continuous sheet which--when cranked around--end up in the basement running through the wash before being cranked back around to the topside of the bed again.  Bingo, bango--clean sheets every day.  They've set up an elaborate and yet functional "restaurant form of government" in which each family only has to work on day a month.  Of course, they're the richest people in the world on account of their diamond mine.  That helps.  As with everything though the mine comes with its own set of problems, too.  It was a fun, fast, enjoyable read which, like I said, I'd never even heard of before starting my Newbery reading.
1949 - King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
I've enjoyed horse stories since I was a little girl.  I don't even know how many times I must have read Black Beauty.  Apparently this Marguerite Henry must really, really love horses--animals in general, but horses specifically.  She's written something like 15 or more books on them.  King of the Wind is her only Newbery Award winner.  This book is about a strong Arabian horse, Sham, and the small, mute boy, Agba, who loves and cares for him.  Sham is given as from the Sultan's stables.  Agba, the horseboy, goes with wherever Sham goes--for better or worse.  Sham is continually undervalued by the Europeans because he is small, fiery, and has an usually high crest.  He is sold and bartered from one place to another as a beast of burden.  Only Agba knows he is the best horse around, but since he is mute he has limited abilities to express this fact.  Eventually--after many a trial (and one whipping scene that was so upsetting that I had to take a little break from reading) Sham's merit is realized and he gets to start living the good life.  With that the bloodline of the Goldolphin Arabian is born.  I don't know basically anything about horse racing, but apparently the Goldolphin Arabian's heirs would win race after race and Sham became one of the fathers of a new breed of modern thoroughbred racehorse.  It was a nice story, a mixture of misfortune and triumph, history and fiction.
Follow the links for my reviews of the 1920's and 1930's Newbery winners.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Joy and Affirmation of Another Birthday

I sorta wish that every day was my birthday.

(Not really.  I know it wouldn't be as special if it was an everyday thing.)
Still.  Every year I wish it was my birthday just a little bit longer than that magical 24 hour window.

(Ask Matt.  He'll tell you I am the master at birthday extension.)
I love how gall dang nice everyone is when it is your birthday.  There was so much love flung at me from every direction yesterday.  Beaming through cellphone towers.  Bounced into my inbox.  Enveloping my body in hugs and smiles.
"Happy birthday, Beth! I know it will be a wonder and a delight, because that's your default position, but I hope it's an extra helping!"
"Happy birthday to my favorite little sister! You may be my only little sister, but even if I had two, you'd probably still be my favorite!! I love you!"
 "Happy birthday Beth, i sure adore you!"
"Happy birthday to one of the neatest women I know! You light up a room."
"Happy birthday to my dear laughing partner-book worm-self sufficient-red headed-nature loving-easy smiling-critter cuddling- hot water dolphin HIPPIE BETH. My life is so much better with you in it!! Love ya."
"Wishing you a wonderful sunny day filled with laughter, love, and great mug of beer."
"I hope your day is as fabulous as you are!"
"Happy Birthday dear friend!! Hope your day is amazing! you deserve the best! Here's to many more fun adventures together. Love you!!  p.s. your birthday letter is going to be late :( i forgot to get stamps."
"happy birthday, I hope that your next trip around the sun is twice as lovely, and requires no pants!"
"Happppy Birthday beautiful! Best wish to you today and always!"
I re-read through the messages on my Facebook wall this morning.  My heart (and likely my ego) swelled.  It makes me want to capture this level of love, support, encouragement, affirmation, appreciation for every other day of the year.  It struck me that it is just like how Earth Day shouldn't be just one day--it should be part of every day.  I want to make certain that I'm loving on people every single day.  To let them know how awesome I think they are.  How they make my life--my world--a better place to be just by virtue of their existence.  To let them know how deeply I know them and support and care for them.  There is no reason to keep that to myself until their birthday.  That is something I can do more of right now.  Every single day.
So thanks, friends, for that revelation.  And double thanks for all the love yesterday--and always.  It really means the world to me.
All photos from our recent birthday kick-off at Diamond Butte Lookout in SE Montana.