10 Years Later

10 years ago, I had my first surprise birthday party. Up until that year, I had always been very involved in planning my birthday and making it exactly the way I wanted. A month or two before I turned 17, my friends and family began asking what I wanted to do, and to every one of them, I replied “nothing”.

Sixteen was a very hard year. Maybe the hardest of my entire life. I haven’t really talked about it on here, but shortly after I turned 16, my best friend took her own life. It was not something my 16 year old self was at all prepared to deal with or knew how to handle. Less than a year later, and exactly one month before I turned 17, an other close friend took his life as well. The last thing I was in the mood to do was celebrate. I agreed to a small dinner with my family and my two closest friends (Bethany and Jason–the two that are still my best friends ten years later) at my favorite restaurant–Avanti.

That evening I arrived at dinner, and my jaw almost hit the floor. An entire long table in our own private area filled with friends and family. I had never let the control of my special day go long enough to let anyone surprise me (just pretend to be surprised by that, okay? ;) ), but here when I least expected it and thought I didn’t want it, was everyone I loved in one place here to surprise me–and they did! I had absolutely no idea. I was overwhelmed. I realized in that moment, that even in sorrow and life’s most challenging times, there can be joy, and it is okay to let yourself feel happy, even when your current situation is, well, not.

I looked around the table and saw the effort that my dad had gone to make me feel happy again, and I looked at all of the support and people there who loved me. My friend Charity hadn’t been able to find a ride, so she called a cab to take her 20 miles to be there to celebrate my birthday. Where do friends like that even come from?!

When my dad started to ask about my birthday this year, I was honestly hesitant to go back to Avanti (where I have been every single birthday since then, with the exception of while I was at UI), because to be 100% honest, Italian food kind of stresses me out. Then he said “But it’s the 10 year anniversary of your special surprise party!” And I remembered that incredible night–I couldn’t resist.

This year, in the theme of keeping things small and being able to spend time with more individual, smaller groups, my Avanti dinner consisted of my dad, Hermano, Janie, my grandma, Steve and me. Steve, Hermano and I showed up to a table with balloons on top (including Tigger, and purple and green–my dad definitely remembers details of what people like). We sat down and ordered some drinks while waiting for my dad, grandma and Janie to arrive.

One of my favorite things about Avanti is that they always encourage Hermano to play their piano!

They have a professional that they hire to play on the weekends, but both him and the manager are always asking Hermano to play and making comments about his improvements! Sometimes, I can even be convinced to sing with him. Today, after the rest of the family arrived, we decided to do Coldplay’s Fix You together. By the time we got near the end, all of the memories of my birthday 10 years ago, as well as the friends I was missing flooded back and I started to feel a little emotional–not necessarily in a bad way, I was just caught a little off guard.

I will never forget what my friends and family did for me that year, but it doesn’t always feel quite so fresh, and it was a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am, and how much I have to be thankful for.

This year started out a little bit stressful, but it got better really quickly. Of course, Hermano making fun of our dad helped get me out of the cranky mood I started in.

If you don't know my dad, this will make absolutely no sense. Sorry. If you, do...it's funny, yes?

After hours and hours of waiting pretty soon, my dad, grandma and Janie arrived.

I had no idea what I wanted to order. I wanted pasta, but I figured I needed protein and blah blah blah. I don’t even remember the last time I ordered pasta at a restaurant, but I did. Avanti has the BEST gnocchi. Seriously, they melt in your mouth! I ended up ordering a half order of gnocchi in rosa sauce and a side of roasted veggies in spicy red sauce topped with gorgonzola cheese. Everything was amazing,

I have two plates. I like to have more than one of things :)

I couldn’t finish my pasta because I knew I had to save room for dessert!

For as long as I can remember, my dad has given me the same birthday cake. He asked me years ago what kind of cake I wanted and I replied “Marble cheesecake with an oreo crust.” I am a girl who knows what I like. It is out of this world and it’s been my annual cake ever since.

"I wish...."

You wanna know what’s in that delicious martini glass? White chocolate mint martini. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds.

After we ate, I opened presents–can you believe I am still getting presents?!

Thanks dad!

YAY!! Compression socks! Thanks Janie!

After presents, we had some fun were completely ridiculous with the balloon clip. We’re really mature in my family.

Yup, that's what I get forever and ever. Excellent choice, self.

Balloon clips are dangerous. They should come with a warning.

Example 2.

My favorite.

It definitely would not have felt right this year without our annual dinner, and I am so grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had this year to spend time with people close to me. Thanks dad for always making me feel super special this time of year! I am a lucky girl!




Birthday Celebration Part 1

Hi friends. Guess what? I’m officially getting old. As of Monday, I have joined the late 20s club. Waaahhhh. Good thing I have awesome people in my life who make getting old fun ;) But seriously, I LOVE birthdays! They are a huge deal in my family, and every year I look forward to it and drag on the celebrations as long as possible. This year my celebration began on Saturday….with a BIKE!!!!!

Super, awesome, amazing birthday present!!!

I’d been really wanting one ever since Steve got his, so Steve, Bethany, Jason and Nacho all chipped in and got me one for my birthday!!!

"Look!! I have a bike!!!"

But let me tell you, the last time I had actually been on a bike was probably at least 15 years ago, so I was a little scared. I tested out a couple in their parking lot, and didn’t die–a good sign! This one felt significantly better, and I liked that I could feel the road underneath me, so I went with it. Within an hour, Steve and I were on our bikes, taking our first ride to my mom’s house. I was super nervous and yelled at him multiple times, but I guess because he was being nice for my birthday, he just kept being nice, and was the perfect teacher!

We made it safely to my mom’s where she was hosting a family birthday dinner.

That's my family. We like dinner.

I ♥ mi Hermano!

Even when he tries to eat my head

It's true, my dad does have a very....interesting...fashion sense ;)

Then it was time for more presents!! YAY!! I LOVE presents…not just for the reasons you would think, but I love seeing what people choose to give me. So often, I receive these incredible and thoughtful gifts and they always mean the world to me. Anyone can go out and buy a present, but the people in my life do it with thought and care, and that’s the part that really means a lot to me!

My mom says this book is basically 50/50, but with young people. I can't wait to read it!


After all the present opening, it was time for dessert!! I knew I was getting a cake the next day and an other one later this week (yeah, healthy living, blah blah blah, CAKE!), so I suggested we all go out for gelato instead of having more cake. Ice cream is my favorite anyway. We went to Gelato 64 and I had a super delicious birthday treat!


It was so wonderful to spend some time with the family and celebrate with the people responsible for my being alive in the first place! Special thanks to my mama for hosting such a fabulous and amazing night!!!


Clementine’s First Birthday

Can you believe it??? Our little Clementine turned 1 yesterday! It seems like just yesterday that Amelia announced on facebook that her family would be giving away mini dachshunds. We got her when she was just 8 weeks old and could hardly walk around the house, and now she is practically a grown up. That little wiener brings so much joy to our home and I honestly don’t know how we ever got along without her. Winston is so much happier too! He was really jealous when she first arrived, but now he LOVES having a playmate and an other puppy to snuggle with.

Is it silly to feel happy that your kids get along so well when your kids have fur? Whatever, it totally warms my heart!

Clemmie’s day started out with a birthday treat.

"Mom!!!! You said treat, you said treat!!! Where is it?!?!" Also, I think in a contest for longest tail, Clementine would win. Look at that thing!


Or two…

"I shake."

And a nice walk.

"Brother!!! Wait for me! It's not fair, I have really short legs."

"If I ruled the walks, they would be fast and no one would tell me not to bark at the big dogs. I can take them, just you wait and see!"

To really get the most out of her special day, Clementine did what she loves most: lots of digging, barking at strangers, playing with her brother, searching for food crumbs, and taking every single one of her toys outside to play with.

Happy birthday to my favorite girl puppy! The most annoying, stubborn and difficult to train dog possibly on Earth, but also one of the sweetest, most fun and loving dogs I have ever met. I love you Clemmie Boo!!!

The Day After

Oh my gosh, I still cannot get over what a whirlwind Sunday was, and the amazing kindness and support I felt from family, friends, and readers (oh my gosh it makes me feel like a real, legit blogger to say “readers”–sometimes I can’t believe anyone out there actually reads my little old blog :) ). Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart to everyone for recognizing my accomplishment, and making me feel so deserving of all of the celebrating that ensued!

By the time I got home Sunday evening, it was as if everything caught up with me all at once. That sickness I’d been fighting off, the toll 13 miles had taken on my legs, and the realization that this huge thing I had been focused on and training for was over. I crashed…hard. I hardly slept because I felt so sick and then woke up feeling fever-y and achy from head to toe. Not fun. I was determined to try to have a good day, because I had the day off, and honestly, I wanted to celebrate more! We had plans to meet Hank, Charlie and Hermano for breakfast, and so Hank kindly picked us all up and we headed to La Grande Orange.

On the way, there was this cuteness.

I don't know why, but dogs sticking their heads out of car windows always makes me smile, and never stops being cute. That little guy is having his day made right there!

I had heard of La Grande Orange, but never been there until I had a meeting there last week. Unfortunately, I had eaten at home before I left that time and as soon as I got there I regretted it! Not only was the place packed with cool nick knacks to buy, but every single thing coming from the kitchen looked delicious! They have breakfast, lunch sandwiches and salads, and even an attached pizza section! I did make sure to try something from their coffee station, and that’s when I was hooked. Sugar free almond soy latte. The best coffee I have had. In my life. Ever. You better believe that I made sure to order it again this time!

I got too excited and drank too much of it before this picture (I couldn't help myself), but it isn't just delicious, it's like a work of art! They make pretty leaves and designs in the foam which is perfectly steamed and thick, not bubbly!

The croque madame. It was delicious, but honestly, I probably would have actually enjoyed the oatrmeal I almost got even more. I just really like sweet breakfast!

The commuter sandwich. I kinda also wish I would have ordered this. Those english muffins look ridiculous!

Steve never orders breakfast food. He's so weird. But I must say, this sandwich was delicious!

After we ate, I convinced the boys to order from the coffee bar, and I’m pretty sure they fell as much in love with it as I did! It’s a good thing this place is a 20 minute drive, because not only was my latte almost $5, but a latte is also like 4x the calories on my nice little drip coffees topped with steamed soy at The Bux.

I felt bad, but after breakfast, all I wanted to do was go home and lay on the couch. I felt terrible, and I was more than a little grumpy about it. Poor Steve. Seriously, poor, poor, Steve–why does he put up with me?! I was in rare form for most of the afternoon. Crabby, complaining, and literally whining like a 3 year old that he couldn’t magically make me feel better and announcing that not making me better made him annoying. In case you haven’t at this point decided that I’m a lunatic and stopped reading my blog forever, let me openly admit that I don’t do sick well. Sick combined + sore + a little sad = I suck. I’m not proud of the fact that I am sometimes an a hole, but I aim for 99% a hole free behavior, and at least some of the time ;)

In an attempt to cure my sickness (or at least the mental part), Steve hung up my now 2 (!) race medals on either side of my new race bib holder that was an AMAZING holiday present from Hermano! Seriously. he totally rocked the present giving this year!

Now every single that comes into my home can see what I've done!! Not that I like to brag about myself or anything...

My first medal

My favorite (so far!) medal

I remember telling a friend of mine that I had never won anything before. So many people win awards in school, or lots of my friends have won voice competitions, or AriZoni awards, but not me. At the end of that summer, my friend Diane made me an award for being awesome at my job. It was one of the most sweet and thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me. That was in August of ’09 and you better believe I still have that baby! But now I have 2 medals for things that I accomplished on my very own. Sure, I didn’t win in the literal sense of the word (my sister in law asked if I won and I thought it was super cute :) ), but I did win in a figurative sense. I won the accomplishment, the satisfaction, the happiness, and the gains that have come in my life because of running. I’ve met new friends, been reunited with old friends, gained confidence, and found a healthy outlet for my hyper-focused brain, all while discovering that I am capable of more than I ever knew. Maybe some day race medals won’t be a huge deal to me, but right now, they actually mean a whole lot in this little world I live in :)

La Grande Orange Grocery on Urbanspoon

Celebrations and Such

How do you celebrate running your first half marathon? Well, with lots and lots of food and beer, obviously. ;) After the race, we headed over to Chompies for brunch. I figured I should celebrate with my people, you know. Actually, it was just one of the few breakfast places close to home with a full bar, and I LOVE their food! I enjoyed a fantastic celebratory brunch with my dad, Hermano, Hank, Charlie, my mom, Steve, Kara, Mona, Nicole, Carolyn and Lance. It was after noon by the time we got seated and breakfast had been at 5:30, so most of us were ready for some food! Although, my stomach never felt quite right yesterday and while I usually feel ravenous the day after a long run, I just felt kind of blech and not even that into food all day long which was a total bummer! Regardless, the company was fab and I was just happy to be out celebrating!

Team lava--these ladies totally rocked their relay! I am so proud of them and their awesome times and PRs!!!

Kara didn't even know she got a medal when she signed up--she was totally stoked about this added bonus!

I totally planned on ordering a celebratory glass of champagne, but ended up sticking with water, eating a whole wheat blueberry pancake with an egg and turkey sausage. No pictures of the food, but it was delicious as always. After we ate, Steve took some awesome post race photos for us!

Singles of everyone




Obviously, I take my post race photos very seriously.

And lots of pictures of people together. I’m so descriptive.

Team lava!

Not very fast (except, you were), but pretty damn hot

Blog friends, turned super amazing real life friends!

Running buddies!!!

Hermano e Hermana

+ el padre

We went home after breakfast for some much needed relaxation, but before we knew it, it was time for food celebration part 2 at The Yard House! There must have been about 20 of us that got together to celebrate the run and drink delicious beer!

A yard of delicious dark, sweet beer!

Don't worry, I didn't drink both of those myself. Kara and I split them, although the second one was more like 80% her, 20% me. I was just ready for bed haha.

There is no doubt that January 15 2012 will go down as one of the happiest days in my life! It doesn’t get much better than big accomplishments and big celebration!