7 things my dad has taught me

Today is my dad’s birthday!

me and daddy

I wish I was home with him to celebrate and give him a ginormous hug and bake him a peanut butter chocolate brownie cake, but that will just have to wait another 10 or so days until I’m home again. {We’re planning to celebrate both his birthday and my birthday a little belatedly this year when we’re all together again!}

bday brownies

In the meantime, in honor of this amazing guy’s birthday, I wanted to share with you 7 important lessons I have learned from my dad. I could have listed 707, but for the sake of brevity I kept¬†it simple. ūüôā

7 things my dad has taught me:

1. Find your passion, and follow it.¬†My dad is the reason I became a writer. He is a journalist and author {he will always be my favorite writer!} and when I was growing up, he often wrote his columns from home so he could spend time with my brother and me. I have always loved to read, and soon I began making up my own stories. Dad let me sit on top of the phone book at the kitchen table and type up my stories on his special work computer. I was thrilled — and hooked on writing. I decided then and there that I wanted to grow up to be a writer just like my dad. I couldn’t {and still can’t!} imagine a better job than spending my days bringing characters to life on the page. Dad has been my cheerleader and supporter for as long as I can remember, and my love of writing is intrinsically connected to my relationship with him.¬†Even when I was a kindergartener, he¬†always took my writing seriously. He helped me find my voice. He taught me to talk through ideas, to stretch my limits, to search for the heart of the story, to edit and edit to make every word count, every word shine. He is still my #1 editor, first reader, go-to brainstormer, and biggest fan.

with dad steinbeck reading

At my Steinbeck Fellows reading last year.

Dad taught me that when you find something you love, that doesn’t feel like “work,” that you daydream about and would do for free because you can’t imagine NOT doing¬†it — that is a true blessing, and not to be taken for granted. It can be difficult and scary to pursue your passion, but it is also a privilege. When I am feeling down or doubting myself, Dad is always there to lift me up and remind me that pursuing my passion for writing, through the good times and the bad, is how I honor my gifts and live a rich and meaningful life that makes me happy. Through his example, he has shown me what it means to follow your passion and devote your time to something that matters to you.

2. Little by little, big things happen.¬†My dad has a passion for writing, and he also has a passion for running. He has run at least three miles every single day for the past 11 years, 10 months, and 24 days. Just thinking about that is overwhelming to me, but Dad insists that when you take it one day at a time, it’s easy. Every single day, you simply lace up your running shoes and get out there. {In fact, he swears getting ready to go run is often the hardest part — once he’s out there, he hits his stride and enjoys it, even on those days he didn’t especially feel like running.} Writing, or whatever your goals are, is the same way: just focus on one day at a time. Books are written one word at a time. Businesses are grown¬†one transaction at a time. Relationships are built¬†one phone call at a time. Little by little, big things happen.

Running-Santa-Clarita-Marathon-720x1024

3. Sometimes it’s good to break the rules. I have always been a natural rule-follower. Maybe it’s because I tend to worry, or just have a cautious personality. I never really had a “rebellious” stage, even as a teenager. However, my dad has taught me that it is important to evaluate rules and that sometimes taking a risk is worth it! One of my favorite memories of this is when I was four years old and Dad took me kite-flying at a park for the very first time. I was so excited! My kite had a rainbow design and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The day was windy, perfect for kite-flying, but soon after we got my kite airborne, a strong gust of wind hit. The string snapped and my beautiful rainbow kite sailed off into a nearby barranca! Dad climbed over a tall fence — not fearing the NO TRESPASSING signs — and climbed a tree to rescue my kite. My hero!

me and daddy

4. Stay curious and always keep learning. Dad is one of the most curious people I know. He is always learning new things: reading books, listening to podcasts, watching PBS documentaries, traveling to new places. The older I get, the more I realize how hard it can be to keep an open mind and to constantly keep adjusting your opinions and views based on new information. Dad is a prime example of someone who is always listening and taking in knowledge, and I admire this about him so much. He is joyfully curious, and I think this is also something that keeps him young!

With Dad at a talk by Ken Burns, the legendary documentary filmmaker, at San Jose State University

With Dad at a talk by Ken Burns, the legendary documentary filmmaker, at San Jose State University

5. By giving to others, you give to yourself.¬†Dad has shown me by example that pursuing your passion goes hand-in-hand with sharing your passion with others. One way to do so is¬†to help¬†give access to other people who may not be able to do what they love. For example, my dad — a longtime sports columnist — has held a Holiday Ball Drive for the past 20¬†years and has donated thousands of new sports balls to underprivileged kids. He inspired me to start a Holiday Book Drive to collect books to donate to libraries and youth organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club. He inspired my brother to found a nonprofit organization Give Running that has collected and donated more than 16,000 pairs of shoes to both domestic programs and third-world countries.

me and greg shoes

My dad also gives to others through small, everyday acts of kindness such as picking up litter when he runs at the park, paying the tab for servicemen and women at restaurants, and giving food to the homeless. He lives by The Golden Rule and has taught my brother and me to do the same. More important than giving is the intention and love behind the gesture; we have learned that by helping others, YOU are truly the one who gets the most out of the experience.

6. Take time to savor the ordinary details, and use “the good china” every day!¬†Dad believes in making every day special, and using those special items — “the good china” — in your everyday life. After all, what are you saving it for? Why have it if not to enjoy and get use out of it? He has also taught me to take the time to recognize and appreciate the small details that make life rich and beautiful. Whether it’s a gorgeous sunset, a happy tail-wagging welcome home from a dog, a hot shower, a cold drink, a fresh-baked cookie, a new-to-you book or movie, a soft pillow, a hug from someone you love… close your eyes, savor and enjoy the details. Don’t just rush through your life. Don’t put off happiness until “someday.” Find something to be happy for and grateful for today!

me and dad

7. Love is the most important thing of all. Show AND tell people that you love them.¬†Every morning, I wake up to a text from Dad wishing me a masterpiece day and saying that he loves me. Every night, he sends me a goodnight text saying he loves me and is proud of me. I never get tired of hearing those words. Growing up, he would write notes on napkins for¬†our lunchboxes every single day. Not only did he tell my brother and me he was proud of us, he showed it by hanging up our awards, displaying our report cards and track ribbons, framing our school artwork. Every school performance, athletic event, book signing, academic competition — he has been there. He even drove 5+ hours each way to surprise me and attend my Steinbeck Fellows reading! When I was in college, Dad drove down to L.A. to have lunch with me every single week. He never complained about traffic; he always made it seem like a joy, rearranging his work schedule so we could have our “lunch dates.” He always has time for us and treats¬†our family as his #1 priority. He is the most thoughtful person I know.

with my boys

Above all else, Dad has taught me that love is the most important thing in this life. It is important to both show those you love how much you love them, and to tell them in words, too. Yes, we *know* how much Dad loves us, but we still love hearing him say it.

And now I want to say it to him, though I hope he already knows: Daddy, I love you more than words can express! Thank you for being my sunshine and for brightening my life every day. It is such a blessing to be your daughter. Happy birthday!!

Happy birthday dad

happy birthday céline

roomie party

My dear friend C√©line would have been 27 today. It’s such a strange occasion, the first birthday since her death, because it’s like my brain is still used to May 4th being a joyous day of celebration, and I keep feeling bowled over by these waves of sadness. I miss her a lot.

My friend Trish from church, who has been meeting with me every so often to talk about C√©line, recommended that I do something special to commemorate today. She said grieving can often be more difficult if special occasions are just experienced as “a normal day.” So I brainstormed things I could do to honor and celebrate C√©line. Here’s what I came up with:

  • A morning phone date with Holly. I wish we could be together today, and in the future we hope to make it a priority to be together on C√©line’s birthday — it just wasn’t possible this year. Being together on the phone was the next-best thing.

celine me holly

  • Baking cupcakes! Specifically, funfetti cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles. These are what I would make for C√©line if we were together celebrating her birthday today. She always made the best birthday cakes and cream-cheese frosting was a favorite of our apartment in college. We actually referred to our place as “The Cream-Cheese Frosting” when we would have parties!

cupcakes

  • I packed a picnic lunch and met up with Allyn for a walk around the Lafayette Reservoir, one of my favorite places in the Bay Area to soak up nature. I haven’t been hiking since my leg injury in January, so it was be exciting to be back out there on the trails. The Reservoir is somewhere I would have loved to take C√©line if she had visited me here.

Lafayette Reservoir

  • I wore the beautiful bangle bracelets that were hers, that her mom gave me after C√©line’s funeral.

celines bracelets

  • Tonight my aunt Annie and cousin Arianna sweetly took me out to dinner. They have been so great at listening to me talk and tell stories about C√©line. Annie lost her best friend to cancer five years ago, and she has been very understanding and has given me advice about what¬†has helped her grieve, and also keep her friend’s memory alive.

annie arianna my bday

  • I was extra gentle to myself today, taking time to journal, read, listen to music, look at pictures, and go¬†through some of our old emails and messages to each other. My family was also wonderfully supportive, sending me loving text messages and notes throughout the day.

I want to end by sharing a poem my brother sent me written by John O’Donohue. This verse has been so comforting for me, especially today:

“As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime.‚ÄĚ

Happy birthday, dear Céline. I will try to honor your memory not just today, but every single day, with the compassion and kindness and joy that you embodied each day of your much-too-short life.

We miss you. We love you. Always.

Celebrating your 21st birthday... what a fun night that was!

Celebrating your 21st birthday… what a fun night that was!

fabulous friday #45

Happy Friday, everyone! I haven’t felt like doing one of these posts for the past few weeks… but I was thinking today about how Celine was an incredibly fabulous person, and I think she would like the idea of all of us recognizing and celebrating the fabulous things, large and small, that we are loving in our lives each week. So, I am happy to be back this week with a fabulous friday post for you. ūüôā

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Care packages. Tania sent me three books that she thought I would like: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle; Painted Prayers by Jodi Uttal; and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Reading is such a comfort to me, and I am already working my way through these good books.

books from Tania

And my dad sent me a beautiful card:

typewriter card

2. Another book arrived in the mail this week — Every River On Earth, a book that I have a short story in! It’s been at least two years since my piece was accepted for this collection, and it was so exciting to finally hold it in my hands. It is a beautiful book and I am proud and grateful to be a part of it!

Every River on Earth

3. This inspiring post from Nicole at Life Less BS with some concrete tips for achieving any of your goals using a simple, little-by-little approach. I especially liked this quote:

“Change doesn‚Äôt have to be huge in order to be hugely impactful. If you‚Äôre sitting there waiting until you have ‘enough time’ or the ‘right circumstances’ to make a big change, you‚Äôre making it too hard on yourself. Who says¬†big changes are¬†the only way? Who says¬†it has to be all or nothing?”

4. I baked some delicious sunflower butter cookies using this recipe, adding in both dark chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. They turned out great! Definitely a make-again. Plus, they are gluten-free!

sunflower butter cookies

5.¬†Valentine’s Day! This has always been one of my favorite holidays, whether I’ve been single or in a relationship, because it is all about letting the people you love know that you love them. If you’re looking for some sweet, inexpensive Valentine’s gift ideas, here are some ideas! My favorite way to celebrate is with cards. I still have the cards my parents sent me last year up in my room:

valentines

This year, I’m teaching during most of the day, and then Allyn and I are going out to dinner and to a movie. You can bet I already have my outfit all picked out and am going to bake some red velvet crinkle cookies tonight! ūüôā

red velvet cookies

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

a year of living simply: week 3

Hi everyone! Apologies for my delay in posting… I was out of town visiting my friend Holly in Nashville! We had an amazing time, as we always do when we’re together. I just love this girl so dang much!

me and hol sunshine

Most of yesterday was spent trying to get my life back in order after being away for nearly 3 weeks {visiting my parents in Ventura before my trip to Nashville}… unpacking, laundry-doing, and prepping for the various teaching & tutoring sessions I have this week! Aaaaand perhaps spending some quality time with my sweetheart, who has returned safely from his adventure in Kenya, hooray! I’m so grateful that he had a fantastic trip, and that he is home safe and sound.

allyn kenya with kids

Now… onto this week’s simplicity challenge! Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of¬†clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Last week, the challenge¬†was¬†to ruthlessly unsubscribe to unnecessary emails. I first went through and unsubscribed to the various spam/promotional email lists I’m on that I haven’t bothered to unsubscribe from even though I never open them and am wholly uninterested. That was the easy part.

The harder part for me was unsubscribing from lists that I am genuinely interested in, but simply don’t have time to read. I realized that I have remained subscribed to these emails because I blindly hoped that some mystical future version of me would one day find the time to conscientiously read through them — even though I know¬†that isn’t true, and even though the slow trickle of them piling up and piling up in my inbox stresses me out. I think this relates to the “Fear of Missing Out” phenomenon that is so prevalent in our social-media culture. I think I was worried that if I deleted an email newsletter that I was interested in reading without actually going through and reading it, I would “miss out” on something important. But no, what I was really doing was to open these emails and scroll through, skimming them mindlessly.

So, this week I ruthlessly unsubscribed, choosing to remain subscribed to only those email lists I fully, genuinely¬†*love* to read, the ones that consistently add value to my life. I told myself that if I missed any one of them, I could always resubscribe. But, not surprisingly, I don’t miss any of them. It might sound silly, but the simple act of unsubscribing and taking back a portion of my inbox has made me feel freer and more at peace. Email isn’t as big as a chore as it once was. And that’s a step in the right direction!

workstation

This week reminded me of the whole point of minimalism: clearing away all the stuff that isn’t important makes room for what truly IS¬†important to you.

This week, let’s continue our digital de-cluttering: go through and organize your photos, deleting any unnecessary duplicates or “bad” ones. My photos on my computer are a jumbled mess of random folders, and my photos on my phone are a disaster zone — I never delete any! This week, I want to get these all straightened out.¬†The beginning of the year is the perfect time to organize your photos, so you’ll have a system ready to go for all the photos you’ll take in 2015! ūüôā

I’ll leave you with this insightful post from The Minimalists that I thoroughly enjoyed: “Thomas Jefferson’s 10 Rules for a Good Life”

Questions of the morning:

  • What emails did you unsubscribe from this week? Was it easy, or more difficult than you envisioned?
  • What digital clutter do you struggle with?

merry christmas! mid-week meditation #16

Happy Christmas, everyone! I hope whatever you have in store for today, it is a celebration filled with joy and love!

In that spirit, here is one of my favorite quotes for this Christmas season:

grinch xmas quote

Sending so much happiness your way on this blessed day!

Question of the day:

  • What are you doing to celebrate Christmas?

5 things my brother has taught me {happy birthday, greg!!}

My little brother turns 25 today!!

me and gb kids

I got home yesterday afternoon, and I am so happy I get to be home to celebrate with my fam¬†ūüôā Last night, we had Gramps over for dinner and it was a lovely evening all around. Tonight we are going out for dinner at a restaurant {Greg’s choice!} and I just made a batch of¬†peanut butter cup brownies for dessert.

greg and gramps

Even though he is younger than I am, my brother has always been my role model for living a fulfilling, fun, meaningful, and extraordinary life, rich with the things that truly matter. He is so giving, loving, wise, compassionate, and hilarious. He is my best friend. What a blessing it is to be his sister!

me and gb

My very first memory is the morning he was born 25 years ago today, when I was two and a half. I remember telling my mom, “Call Daddy! Call Daddy!” because my dad was at work and my mom wasn’t feeling very well. {Um, Ma, you were in labor! Haha.} Greg was born a couple weeks early so¬†his birth came as a bit of a surprise.¬†My family jokes that if my mom hadn’t called my dad to come home from work and take her to the hospital, I would have ended up delivering my brother in our living room — he was born that quickly!

Anyway, it makes perfect sense to me that my first memory is the morning Greg was born… because before then, I was just waiting for my best friend to come into the world ‚̧

me and greg summer

In honor of the amazing impact my brother has had on my life, and on countless other lives, during his quarter-century on this Earth so far,¬†I present to you…

5 things my brother has taught me:

1. Hard work is its own reward; savor the process. Greg is an incredibly hard worker. Just one example: he made it onto the USC track team as a walk-on, and impressed everyone so much with his diligent work ethic and enthusiasm day in, day out, that he ended up being Team Captain his senior year, and an Assistant Coach the year after he graduated. He would be the first to tell you that he was far from the most naturally talented runner on the team. His consistent hard work was what made him a strong runner.

Trojan_Invite_2011

But even more than his amazing work ethic, Greg inspires me by the joy he gets not from results, but from the process of working hard on something that matters to you. When I was sloughing through the muddy middle of my novel, he wrote me this in an email:

Creativity — and all of life — sometimes is like a fallow field that looks like things are slow on the surface, but in reality all that effort is building up richly for next big explosion of energy that everyone else sees and that you’ve known is a continuation of all the consistent hard work and dedication you pour into your craft every day. Keep taking it one step at a time and don’t let any sense of rush or worry take away from the excitement of all the progress you are making on these great gifts that you have already done such work creating to this point.

2. Seize life’s adventures fearlessly.¬†I can be a fearful person, a worrier, a homebody. Greg inspires me to move past my tendency to fret or worry, and to cultivate my sense of adventure. He makes me think of the phrase carpe diem¬†{“Seize the day!”} or of Thoreau’s advice to “suck the marrow out of life.” He has traveled to Mali and Ghana in Africa; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Vietnam; China; Europe; and numerous cities across the U.S. — and he brings back once-in-a-lifetime stories from all his travels. I want to travel with him to Africa one day!

greg camel

3. Find joy in little moments, every day.¬†Greg is a goofball. He makes me laugh all the time. He is the type of person who seeks out joy and creates joy, in little moments, every single day — whether that means having an impromptu dance party, or telling a funny story, or wearing a silly outfit to a football tailgate, or simply taking the time to notice and appreciate a beautiful sunset.

greg dancing julie's wedding

Greg dancing at my cousin Julie’s wedding.

4. Invest in relationships and experiences, not material things. Greg has such a wide network of friends; he is always reaching out and connecting with people. He is a great listener. He always builds people up. We talk on the phone pretty much every night, and no matter how busy he is with schoolwork or final exams, he always makes time to talk to me. He lets the people in his life know that they are important to him.

me and greg little

5.¬†The best gifts are those you give to others.¬†Greg is selfless, always thinking of others ahead of himself — and he has shown me that the act of giving is a beautiful gift you can give yourself. In high school he started a nonprofit organization called Give Running that has donated more than 16,000 pairs of shoes to disadvantaged youth around the globe. He is passionate about The Girl Effect, blogging frequently about it for the Huffington Post. For Christmas this year, he made a donation to Embrace, an organization that helps serve “preemie” babies in third-world countries, in my honor. He is so thoughtful, kind, and authentically generous. He makes me want to be a better person. He inspires me to strive to be the best version of myself.

greg with chief

Happy birthday, Gregburn! You may be taller than I am, but you will always be my little brother. I love you unconditionally!

me and gb at deck

a year of Wooden: week 39

Happy Tuesday, friends! My arm is SORE from getting my flu shot yesterday! Other than that, it’s a fairly quiet day around here: working, eating yummy food, going to yoga class tonight. What are you up to today?

Now it’s¬†time for¬†this week’s¬†year of Wooden¬†challenge… and a new month means a new focus!

a year of wooden

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books
  • February:¬†Make friendship a fine art
  • March:¬†Help others
  • April:¬†Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May:¬†Be true to yourself
  • June:¬†Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September:¬†Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October:¬†Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November:¬†Pray for guidance.

But before we move on to November,¬†let’s wrap up our October challenge: Make friendship a fine art, focusing on new friendships.

Last week’s challenge was¬†to nurture and celebrate one of the new friendships you created this past month.¬†I reached out to Allyson and made plans to get together again next week after I teach in Fremont. And I also¬†made a new friend, Stephanie, at the Asante Africa dinner on Sunday night, so I’m hoping to get together with her sometime in the near future!

are you my friend

Now, moving on to the month of November! Our¬†challenge for this month comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

This week’s challenge is to think of an issue in your life that causes you worry or stress. Each night this week, pray on this issue. Ask God or the universe or whatever you believe for guidance. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings.¬†

prayer quote Wooden

Question for the day:

  • What friendships did you nurture in the month of October?
  • Do you believe in the power of prayer?

a year of Wooden: week 38

Hi there, everyone! Hope you’re having a great morning! On my agenda for today: run a few errands, finally get a flu shot, go to the gym, and bake something yummy. Tonight I’m going to Dana’s house to watch the World Series game! GO, GIANTS, GO!!

Before I hop in the car and head out, time for¬†this week’s¬†year of Wooden¬†challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books
  • February:¬†Make friendship a fine art
  • March:¬†Help others
  • April:¬†Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May:¬†Be true to yourself
  • June:¬†Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September:¬†Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October:¬†Make friendship a fine art {new friends}

Our October challenge is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re focusing on nurturing new friendships.

Last week’s challenge was to¬†ask a stranger¬†out on a “friend date” like Rachel Bertsche does in her book MWF Seeking BFF. I exchanged numbers with a new woman at church in the hopes of meeting up for coffee sometime. Also, I am slowly trying to become friends with my favorite yoga instructor. We chatted for a bit after class this week, and I definitely feel like she’s someone I’d love hanging out with! But it felt too soon/too pushy to suggest getting together outside of yoga class. I’m going to play it cool and keep building momentum, and maybe in a couple weeks I’ll feel better about asking her out on a friend date! ūüôā

are you my friend

This week’s challenge is to nurture and celebrate one of the new friendships you’ve created this month! Send a note, card or email to your new friend or acquaintance. Invite them to do something else together. Tell them why you think they’re awesome and why you’re happy to know them. As Coach¬†Wooden used to say…

to have a friend quote

Question for the day:

  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

27 birthday gratitudes

me with bday sundae

Hi, friends! I’ve been working on this post slowly over the past couple weeks, ever since my birthday — which has seemed to stretch out for quite a while because I’ve gotten to spend time with my loved ones and celebrate my birthday belatedly with different circles of people. Now, I think things have fully calmed down and I can unequivocally think of myself as 27 years old! ūüôā

20140529_204736

This birthday, more than any other before that I can remember, has left me SO filled with gratitude. So, in the spirit of this month’s year of Wooden challenge, and as a companion piece to my 27 acts of kindness for my 27th birthday, here are my…

27 birthday gratitudes!

1. The cards I received in the mail from my mom, my dad, and Gramps that I opened up while lying in bed the morning of my birthday. It made me feel so loved that, even though I was going to see them in less than a week, they went through the trouble of mailing me birthday cards so I could open them on my actual birthday. And their written messages were very sweet!

birthday cards

2. My grandma snuck into my room while I was in the shower and left me a flower and a card from her and Grandpap.

flower from grandma

3. Greg was out of the country in China, but he made a birthday video for me before he embarked on his trip! It was a huge surprise to wake up to an email from him in my inbox, not to mention this amazing video that I will treasure always. Wow! I can’t imagine a more loving and supportive brother, and I am so beyond blessed to be his sister.

me and gb at the deck

me and greg walking

{Greg got me that cute purse for my birthday, too! It’s from a market in Thailand.}

4. I received dozens of text messages throughout the day from lots of friends, former classmates, and relatives. Such a treat to hear from people I care about who are scattered far and wide but still remembered me on my birthday!

5. I also received phone calls throughout the day from friends and family, which was wonderful.

6. And so many thoughtful Facebook messages/posts! It made me smile throughout the day to get Facebook notifications on my phone. I made myself wait until the end of the day to read through them all, and it warmed my heart immensely. Perhaps my favorite thing about Facebook is how it enables you to keep in touch with people from all different parts and times of your life, and nothing showcases this more than on your birthday.

7. My friend Lauren sent me these gorgeous flowers!

laur flowers

8. Janet and Chidelia also sent me gifts and cards from far away {Wisconsin and North Dakota}… I miss them both and it was so kind of them to take the time to send me something on my birthday!

9. Speaking of¬†thoughtful gifts, Allyn spoiled me with a few — including a mix CD that I have been listening to in my car nonstop since he left — and this cute card. He didn’t even know when he got it that I have a thing for adorable owls. {I have an owl-printed apron, an owl-decorated coffee mug, and some owl-embellished stationary!}

card from Al

10. Allyn also took me to the California Academy of Sciences for the day, which is located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I had never been there before and I loved the various exhibits, particularly the rainforest dome and the planetarium show!

academy of sciences me with trex

On an unrelated note, I could not stop taking pictures of butterflies. I have more than a dozen on my phone!

butterflies

11. After the California Academy of Sciences, Allyn and I headed back to my grandparents’ house where¬†my grandma held a birthday dinner for me! She made a fancy¬†salad and baked ziti and Grandpap grilled chicken. Annie and Arianna came over and it was lovely to visit out on the porch in the sunshine before the meal.

annie arianna my bday gpap grilling

12. Arianna helped me bake and frost my funfetti cake! Allyn and Bianca did a pro job with sprinkles distribution.

20140529_204012

al and bianca

13. My aunt Mary and cousins Makena and Bianca joined us for dessert, and as we did back in January for Arianna’s birthday, everyone went around the table and shared one word they would use to describe the birthday girl — in this case, me! Their words were so heartfelt and beautiful and I got teary-eyed listening to such loving tributes. I am a lucky girl!

14. As if that around-the-table tribute wasn’t enough, my aunts and uncles also gave me gifts and cards. I especially cherish the card from Arianna — every time I read it, I feel about ten feet tall. She’s a kind and gentle soul!

me and arianna

15. The day after my birthday, my dear car Charley had a little temper-tantrum. Something was wrong with the alarm system and it kept going off while I was driving — blaring noise, windshield wipers going, lights blinking. It was crazy! Luckily I was able to get Charley towed to the dealership and the concerned tow-truck driver insisted on waiting with me until my ride showed up. My grandparents came to the rescue, and my grandma let me borrow her car to drive to my birthday party and work the next day.

charley!

Something else to be grateful for: Charley is up and running again smoothly now!

16. That evening, some dear friends joined me at an ice cream parlor to celebrate my birthday! Even with my car fiasco, I was only five minutes late. We stayed for nearly three hours, sharing lots of stories and laughter and, of course, enjoying delectable ice cream!

bday friends

me and al bday creamery

17. These sweet friends sneakily paid for my sundae! I got the chocolate-peanut butter special: chocolate ice cream, peanut butter Oreos {did not even know those existed!} and Reeses. Plus a candle!

bday candle

18. The card Dana gave me was particularly special, since this is our first year as friends! She found a journal entry she’d written last September, when she learned through this very blog that I was moving up to the Bay Area, and was wondering whether she should reach out to me. Well, she did, and I am SO grateful for it! She included an excerpt from the journal entry in her card and it gave me goosebumps. She also gave me this beautiful wooden sign — I love its message! Dana, my life is so much richer with you in it!

birthday sign

me and dana my bday

19. Allyson and Henry drove all the way to Walnut Creek from Fremont in Friday traffic to come to my party, and they brought me a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers to boot!

20. Allyn’s family made me feel very special — his mom sent me an incredibly nice birthday card, and his dad and stepmom Laurel gave me this pretty sunflower stationary. Laurel also baked delicious mini chocolate lava cakes as a surprise dessert and they all sang happy birthday. I was very touched!

sunflower stationary

21. The Wednesday after my birthday, I got to fly home for a few days to celebrate my birthday and my dad’s birthday, and also enjoy a few days with Greg before he left for his summer internship in D.C. Dad surprised me at the airport with sunflowers! {Haha, are you sensing a common theme here? I ‚̧ sunflowers!}

sunflowers

22. I loved all the gifts my parents gave me, including a night out at a local play, but probably the one I’m most excited about is a Magic Bullet blender! I forgot to take a picture of it, but it will no doubt be getting a LOT of use and popping up on the blog quite a bit! Hello, summer smoothies!

23. Gramps took me and Greg out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Andria’s. Their grilled fish sandwich is my fave!

me and Gramps at Andrias

24. Erica drove all the way out to Ventura to see me after she got off work on Thursday evening. It was such a quick visit home, I was not sure if I would be able to see her, so it was an extra-special treat. And the birthday muffins she made me were the bomb!

cinnamon muffins

25. Dana donated blood at her work’s blood drive for my birthday! It was her first time donating blood and she confessed it was a little frightening {and she felt a little faint at one point!} but she bravely did it and I am so honored by the gesture. Plus, it’s wonderful to know that others will be helped by her donation!

dana donating blood

26. Holly’s entire visit was a ginormous birthday gift to me! Not only did she fly out to see me, she also got me a T.Swift birthday card and two terrific devotional/meditation books and a super-cute pair of flats… all wrapped in High School Musical wrapping paper, of course! That’s pretty much our friendship in a nutshell: deep conversations + Disney movies aimed for 12-year-olds. ūüôā

gift from holly

me and holly lombard st

27. Thanks to all of YOU for your blog comments and for doing random acts of kindness to celebrate my birthday! You made my special day even more special.

I used a random number generator to select the winner of my birthday giveaway {an autographed copy of my book¬†3 a.m.: a collection of short stories} and the winner is… Annanori!

giveaway winner

Email me at dallaswoodburn<at> gmail <dot> com and we’ll get your book to you!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What were some highlights of your most recent birthday?

my birthday wish + giveaway

Hi, friends, and happy Thursday! My 27th birthday is a week from today, and during the next week I’m planning to celebrate by doing 27 random acts of kindness! I’m really excited about it and will be sharing highlights and photos from all the acts of kindness next week, so stay tuned.

my birthday wish

In the meantime, I’d love to invite you to join in on the kindness! Just like last year, I’d love if you would create a random acts of kindness chain with me. To participate all you have to do is perform an act of kindness in the next week, and then leave a comment below sharing what you did.

On Friday, May 30, I’ll randomly select one winner from all the comments to receive a personally autographed copy of my collection of short stories, 3 a.m.

3 a.m. book cover

I’m so excited to hear about all the love and kindness you spread in the world this week! Looking for ideas of random acts of kindness? Here are 52 of them!

Questions of the day:

  • Have you ever participated in a kindness chain before?
  • What are your favorite ways to celebrate your birthday?