Daily Post: Nothin’ But a Good Time

Beach, South Coast, my husband
Beach, South Coast, my husband

I get tomorrow all to myself? You mean, I don’t have to make lunches? I don’t have to rouse the kiddo? I don’t have to wish the husband off to a good day? I don’t have to answer texts from friends? I don’t have to check my email for volunteer obligations? I don’t have to go to work? I don’t have to take the kiddo to school? I don’t have to…

Tomorrow, I could just focus on me?

I think the day would start something like this. The night before, I would turn the alarm off. No one is around (temporarily) to rouse me, so I don’t wake up any earlier than I have to. Maybe the first time my eyes open is 8am. Maybe it’s 6am, like when my alarm would go off, but I don’t get up until 8am. Maybe I even stay in bed a little longer. So, I wake up. I stretch. I swing my feet off the bed. I snuggle on my Adissage and shuffle out of my room, holding my water and my phone.

I shuffle through the door, down our short hall, over the floor heater, onto the carpet, round the corner, into the kitchen. Magically, my kitchen is sparkling, so all I have to do is make coffee. I measure out five cups of water, rinse the gold cone filter, and scoop out five heaping mounds of beans into the grinder.

Beach, Lincoln City
Beach, Lincoln City

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-shake-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20. Bang on the counter. Flip it over. Bang with the hand. Swoop, pull off the top. Swoosh, dump the grinds into the filter, in the coffee pot. Grab the little brush, sweep the remnants into the pot. Tap the “1-4 cup” button, turn it on, walk away.

Maybe I’m ambitious and I take a shower. Maybe, because no one has taken the hot water, and there’s no agenda, I shave my legs. Then it’s allergy pills. Lotion the face. Shuffle off to the bedroom. Pick my comfiest jeans and a t-shirt. Grab my trusty sweatshirt. Slip on the gray mary janes, and I head back to the kitchen.

I grab the bowl, and I fry myself two eggs. Toast. Grab my book. And, I read while mopping up the yolk and sipping on my coffee. Dishes in the dishwasher, brush my teeth, and then it’s upstairs to write … and ponder, and browse.

Yummy Breakfast, Florence, Oregon
Yummy Breakfast, Florence, Oregon

I begin to get restless, so I do something I never do. I go out for a walk. We’ve walked around the park, so often now, I decide to wander the neighborhood. My phone is charged, so I pop in my earphones, and just walk, and ponder, and watch.

This takes me until about noon, and I begin to get hungry. So, I continue on my walk to the sandwich shop that opened where the coffee shop was and then the nifty breakfast shop that had an untimely end. The sandwich shop has been here for a few years now, and I’ve always wanted to try it.

After enjoying my leisurely lunch, I am getting sleepy – so I walk home, and I take an afternoon nap. About the time I wake up, it’s dinner time. Now that I have had the whole day to myself, I crave company. So, I go out with some girlfriends I haven’t seen in a while. We venture to another side of town and have a Swedish dinner followed by some time in the Finnish sauna.

The eventful, pondering day ends with glowing skin, delicious food, and lots to write about for the next day.

I can’t wait to make this day a reality.

Waterfall, California
Waterfall, California

 

Daily Post (1/4): Quote me

IMG 6152

Levi shovels mulch with another volunteer at the first Beach and Riverside Cleanup of 2013.

The post is named, “Quote me.” Ironically, over the years, I have developed a few catch phrases, but I first wanted to start with famous other people whose quotes resonate truth, for me.

Quote them

“Liberty of any kind is never lost all at once.” ~ David Hume

I discovered this quote while studying at James Madison College, a residentiary college at Michigan State University. We were actually reading Hume. I don’t, unfortunately, remember much aside from this quote of his. But, I consider what has happened in my life time. Seat belt laws strengthen. Laws around my body ebb and flow, with the current ebb being more restrictions. We redefine and define rules, like allowing marriage, to restrict fewer and fewer people. We layer more laws in the name of safety to protect ourselves for the common good.

None of these things happened over night. Little by little, we stopped paying attention, and the politicians added more because someone asked them to. Someone who perhaps doesn’t value individual freedom as I do.

I value individual freedom highest. I trust that, generally, we are smart enough to figure out what we need to do for survival. When we consider sustainability and a better collective future for our children, we don’t need to restrict our freedom further, rather, we need to work on building our communities so we each value sustainability more or less the same.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Many of these liberties we give up, like allowing seat belts and not wearing them to be a ticketable offense, are in the name of safety. We are so vetted in our culture of fear, that we fear other people are too stupid to do the right thing. Instead of making the harder, longer term investment in people, we feel it’d be easier to simply tell them what is right and what is wrong. But, who is this other to judge, really? Instead of taking a look at that question, we continue to make laws in the name of safety forgoing true community development.

“Occasionally the tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

I learned about Jefferson’s thoughts while studying some of our founders’ thoughts in round 2 of going to school (Fall 2000, Michigan State University). We discussed how Jefferson wanted a sort of uprising to keep the government on top under control. We discussed how certain laws in their purity were more in line with his thinking and vision for our United States. And, though I abhor the thought of war every twenty years (the timeline we discussed in 2000), I like the idea of complacency being shaken to its core. Consider our government today with our frustrations in their inability to get a long. Perhaps that frustration would be shaken into something better when their positions were less secure?

All said – those are three of my favorite quotes when considering philosophy of our society. I prefer, however, a more in-depth community building attempt, which is why I have found myself saying the following three things, repeatedly over the years.

Concentric Circles of Participation
Where do you fall in the concentric circles of participation theory? Does your participation changes with the organization you serve?

Quote me

“Doers Discretion”

I belong to and have belonged to many paid and volunteer organizations. In each, we have a lot of things we want to do. In each I’ve felt with flexible and micro managers. The latter being the most difficult to work with. Never wanting to aspire to be something I hate, I consider the alternative. For most things, there are more than one way to do thing. So, why would we get so tied up in a thing, an instruction? Or, if the instruction is so important, why didn’t we lay that out when we passed on a task? So, in delegating, I think it’s important to honor the things the other person can bring to the task and give them the discretion to do.

“Grace of Space”

In an organization, people come and go. In a volunteer organization, you need people coming, more than you need them going, if the organization is going to function. Volunteering, you are honored to have someone give their time to your cause – whether its counseling people on a hotline, delivering food to those who need it, or sorting first aid supplies in advance of the next crisis. Time is so precious. We all participate in our daily balancing acts, juggling our obligations of family, friends, personal needs, work, and then, where is time for fun? So, in the midst of all that, someone is gracing your space with their presence in order to further your cause – the first thought should be on of gratitude. How lucky we are to work with a diversity of individuals who bring varied skills and interests to the things precious to us.

A very simple way to honor the time one spends with our organization is to grant them grace to leave, when they need to. Then, when their time shifts and they can come back, you welcome them with open arms.

“Concentric Circles of Participation”

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? The 80/20 rule suggests that 20% of your work will yield 80% of your results. For example, maybe you have a few large funders in your non-profit whose gifts yield 80% of the organization’s funds, yet they only represent 20% of your total donors. In volunteer run clubs, I have found that about 20% of the members do about 80% of the work. They are the ones doing the heavy lifting, organizing logistics, putting systems in place, monitoring systems, making sure the financial piece doesn’t fall, keeping people motivated, communicating, and the list goes on. That means 80% of the members only do 20% of the work. But, the point to not forget is that we need that 20% done or the job isn’t done. So, we have concentric circles of participation. We have a few inner circles that encompass the core. The outer circles have more people, but they do less “work”, and sometimes their participation might even be the barest bones of requirements.

The point to remember is that we need all of the people in the circle to make the organization run. And, we give people grace of space to move in and out of circles of participation as their lives allow.

Daily Post (1/6): My favorite

Farmhouse 2

A view onto the vineyards from one of the 5 farmhouses on the property.

What’s the most time you’ve ever spent apart from your favorite person? Tell us about it.

I was in Italy. Well, first I was in Michigan, then I was in London, then I was in Italy, back to London, back to Chicago, and home. I was gone nearly 4 weeks. It was a Sustainability Tour of Tuscany. It was absolutely divine. But I was gone, away from my beloved Petey Pie. So, we had to establish some ground rules.

First, let me begin by expressing how astonished I am that I haven’t taken the time to write about this experience in this venue. Granted, I started this space a few years after I took the trip, I just would have assumed I had done enough retrospective writing that this amazing opportunity would have been included.

Alas, I cannot find proof, so I will begin anew with this veil of thought. How did this trip effect me and my favorite? What did we do to overcome the distance.

Millenium Walkway

The Millennium Walkway in London.

It must have been April of 2006. I was on the heals of figuring out that my goal in life is to, “educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.” Once I figured out this focus, it seemed like everything fell into place. shortly afterwards, PSU announced a “Sustainable Urban Development” minor. Classes were popping up everywhere – specific to my interests! I was able to find so much opportunity, and then, I saw the advertisement for the “Sustainability in Tuscany”. It was a two-week study abroad that studied the ins and outs of an agri-tourismo property near Siena, Italy – in the heart of Tuscany.

There was no way I could pass up this amazing opportunity. So, I applied, I scoped out loans, and I secured airline tickets. Soon, the date approached where I would fly out. In September, I was armed with my luggage, my cell phone, and my international calling card. First, it was Portland to Chicago. Cristi picked me up from the airport and drove me back to Greenville where I spent a few days with family. Then, it was back to Chicago to London. I spent a few days in London, walking the streets, exploring the museums, drawing in the park  (Hyde), and learning the tube system.

del Campo

The Plaza in Siena, one of the last great public spaces.

Next, I was onto the smaller, Standsted Airport where I flew to Pisa. From Pisa, I was on a train to Florence then a bus to Siena. That was probably one of my worst travel days – ever. I had nearly missed connections, I ran out of money, couldn’t find my train, had difficulty finding the bus, and I got off at the wrong stop! At one point, I tearfully called my Petey Pie. Prior, we had been talking once a day. I was almost to Siena, but I didn’t speak the language and I barely knew the city where I was stranded! Very soon (maybe 45 minutes), I figured out the inter-city bus fare lasts quite a while. So, I just needed to wait for another bus. As soon as I was off the bus, the horrific uncertainty of the day was behind me, and I was walking the streets of beautiful Siena. I learned the most important Italian word (dove for where), found my hotel, and soon met with my group. After a few days in Siena, we embarked onto the rest of our journey at lovely Spannochia.

Here is where the rituals really began. There was one phone and one expensive internet connection. The phone was off the main entrance in a small booth with tiny wooden doors. If the doors were closed, you assumed someone was making a call, and you had to wait. Not only was I across the American Continent and over the Atlantic Ocean; I was also a 9 hour difference from home. I sketched out a chart of when I could call, and got in the habit of calling at 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. I would call, when my morning began, just as my Petey Pie was going to bed. Before dinner, I would surmise my days events just as he was starting his.

Volterra

The weekly market in Volterra.

But, occasionally (twice maybe?), someone was using the phone when I was scheduled to call. And, my opportunity for calling subsided as I was whisked away to the day’s activities. When I had my nighttime call, my dear Petey Pie expressed sorrowful worry. I missed my check in! And, I am 9 time zones away! He can’t fix this problem!

As we were riding through Italy, all I wanted was to share this experience with him. I wanted to rent a little Fiat, and drive the windy, white lined roads through wine country. I wanted to get lost with him in the streets of Volterra as we both explored the various carvings and Estruscan ruins.

But, this adventure wasn’t for him. It was for me. So, we called twice a day while he fixed bicycles back home and I explored Italia.

Why I Love the Serial Comma

The serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma, and sometimes referred to as the series comma) is the comma used immediately before a coordinating conjunction (usually and or or, and sometimes nor) preceding the final item in a list of three or more items. For example, a list of three countries can be punctuated as either “Portugal, Spain, and France” (with the serial comma) or as “Portugal, Spain and France” (without the serial comma).

The Serial Comma
Graphic depicting the importance of the serial comma.

Daily prompt: A plot of earth

Farm Shot
My brother carrying his daughter on the Farm.

You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?

Simple. Acquisitions. You see, there is a book, and it explains who all the owners are. They are neighbors to the plot of earth. They are longtime, and sometimes new, residents to the area. They might have had kids grow up and move away. They might be treating the space as their vacation home.

Regardless, I thought the earth was infinite as a youth, and it’s my dream to make it seem more so.

There is something that churns at my stomach when I consider those who have second and third homes. On one hand, I am envious. And, perhaps that’s the only hand. Because, then I consider all those who have nothing.

Peter is fond of saying, lately, that he does not think Levi will have the resources when he is an adult to purchase his own plot of earth. That is, the housing prices will have increased so dramatically, that Levi will be Out of Reach.

Growing up, I always felt out of reach. I suppose I was vaguely aware of aunts and uncles who owned versus those in our predicament, seemingly to always be on the cusp of another’s wishes.

So, my dream is to acquire the plot of earth. Rather, aid in its tending, and grow it. Currently, it sits at 160 acres, divided by a highway. I’d like to pick up the properties adjacent, one at a time, until everything is owned abutting the state and federal lands. Then, I would like to purchase the land Mead used to cut down trees when I was a teenager. Then, I would like to buy out the second homes. All the land would go in a preserve, an extension of the existing trust. And, we would learn from it.

“Land is to be loved and respected, is an extension of ethics. Land is ecology, ethics, and history.” – Aldo Leopold

My uncle told me that my grandfather is the first tree hugger. My uncle told me that he nurtured a certain grove of trees on the land the entire 40+ years he lived there and was able to care for it. My grandparents, in my estimation, were kind of like the original homesteaders. (Granted, this is not possible since they were born of the 20th century, but to me, this is what I’ve known.) They gardened. They husbanded animals. They churned butter. They pasteurized their own milk. They made bread. They shoveled. They tended. They nurtured. And, they grew. They grew with each other, on the land. They grew their family, together, on the land.

I want that legacy to live on, but showing it to others.

Once our food buying club coalesced into an amazing group purchasing food together, it was very evident how much knowledge was within the group. It was also evident how much we had to learn. We needed to know how to cook with the food we were procuring. We needed to understand its nutritional value. We needed to understand the land that fostered its growth. We needed to understand how to preserve it for the off-season. And all those things require a space in which to sit around, learn, do, and teach.

In this plot of earth, I would create that space. We would resurrect the old barn into a community kitchen. Perhaps we would do some sort of agri-tourismo, though not in Italy. Perhaps we could have interns from the nearby high schools and colleges, and from far away. I don’t envision a strict back-to-the-land curriculum, more farmsteading. We would study how to plan, plant, tend, and harvest a garden. We would discuss the benefits of farm animals and varied ways to husband them while also nurturing the earth. We would explore cottage industries and economies. We would make soap together. We would make bread together, and we would break bread together. We would share knowledge, and meals in this preserve so that our children don’t have to worry about whether they can afford the next thing. They would have a space, in the family, that would help them take care of themselves.

A Day in the Life: PDX

The Last Real Neighborhood: A Look at Portland in a Crossroads between Working Class & Gentrification through Observations in Food
The Last Real Neighborhood: A Look at Portland in a Crossroads between Working Class & Gentrification through Observations in Food

Writing prompts are a godsend when one doesn’t want to divulge too much about their day-to-day, yet exercise the thought connections – words, texts, paragraphs, brain synopses, how it all flows together. I’ve used Plinky previously, but their topics don’t always resonate. So, happily, I checked out WordPress’s Daily Post, Writing Prompt, and yesterday, this is what I discover.

Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different (See more here.)

Race Comparision, 2000 to 2010, where Portland remained predominantly white.
Race comparison, 2000 to 2010, where Portland remained predominantly white.

I followed a boy here, but he was just the catalyst. I had always dreamed about living in the Pacific Northwest. After watching Singles, I had this idea of perpetual fall – my favorite season – and if Michigan wasn’t doing it for me, then where else could I go? This boy afforded me the reason to move – we were in love. Well, the relationship didn’t last, but my love affair with Portland has.

I moved here in 2003. I was told I didn’t need a car because the bus service was amazing. I heard stories of a hippies paradise, and what I found was that I no longer had to argue about recycling. There were interesting things on every corner – Portlandia adorned a building that looks like a present, it rained blossoms in the springtime, there was art in the parks like Washington DC, and people even painted the streets to slow down traffic. The bus came, frequently, so I didn’t even own a car for the first 3 years I was here – relying on my feet, my seat (on a bike), the bus, or ZipCar (then FlexCar) to get me where I needed to go. I was in my twenties, and it was a dream. The independence I felt was triumphant, as I continued to go to school and work a full-time job, then about a mile from each place.

When I moved to Portland, I lived in three neighborhoods over the course of three years. I started in southeast, moved across the river to southwest (Corbett / Lair Hill), and finally have made North Portland my home, with my husband, who I met here.

In 2008, I started looking at my neighborhood in more depth. We had lived in Arbor Lodge since 2005, and in that short time, we saw many changes. The Yellow Line Max finished and started running, local favorite health store (New Seasons Markets) opened a store, and the development soured. The boy who brought me here liked to repeat that wherever MAX goes stores turn to gold. And the amount of development that continues to blossom is astonishing.

In 2008, when I was examining the changes in the neighborhood, the rose-colored glasses came off. No longer was I a 20-something who only cared about an organic garden and getting along with my housemates. Now, I was married with a baby. Now, our income reduced because of situations beyond our control. Now, we had to look at things in a  leaner light. And, we were surprised. In 2008, we made less than half of the median family income for the area, and we qualified for many services offered in the social safety net. Our housing related costs were 70% of our family budget, well over the HUD recommended for a stable family. But, what could we do? We had a house with a garage and a yard. If we moved we’d be getting a slightly less expensive apartment. So, we stayed, and we got by, and things got better. We stayed in our walkable neighborhood, where we would frequent King Burrito and Walgreens. We stayed in our neighborhood where I could still take the 35 to work, and as our income increased, we started to get more interested in buying a house.

The shock we found. We assessed our income and figured we could afford a $150,000 in 2009. So, began our real estate search. 3 agents later and a month of flea bites to torture my sensitive legs, we decided that buying a house wasn’t in the cards for us. Clearly, we are being priced out of the market since staying on budget was so important to us. The only thing we could afford wouldn’t qualify for a loan!

A look at housing values in 1999 and 2012.
A look at housing values in 1999 and 2012.

We waited, and the market changed. Circumstances adjusted so that in 2012, we started our search again. We found a compatible agent who walked us through house after house after house, over the course of about 10 months. We cringed. We looked beyond our price range. And we bemoaned the low inventory. Finally, all the puzzle pieces fell into place, and we found a modest home with sturdy bones, without fleas, that was in our price range. We haggled, we negotiated, we inspected, and we waited. And, on the day before Thanksgiving, we closed on what is now our first house. I know we got a good value for our home, based on the market, the walkability, the neighborhood, and the type.

What I don’t get is why collectively, we let it all get out of hand. We have known we live on a fine line between making it and not making it. We try to plan and budget to make sure we stay on the “make it” side of the line, but like many American families, we’re only a few paychecks away from needing to go back to that social safety net if something bad were to happen. In fact, Kaiser Health News released a report documenting how close we are to being eligible for premium benefits compared to the federal property rate. And, I had thought that we’d been moving forward over the last few years! Now, it seems we’re taking a few steps backwards.

The cumulative rate of inflation from 1999 to 2012 is just over 37%, yet housing costs increased between 45% and 130%.
The cumulative rate of inflation from 1999 to 2012 is just over 37%, yet housing costs increased between 45% and 165%.

The pundits have talked, since Mitt ran for president, about the growing divide between haves and have nots, and it seems that Portland is one of those key examples of how that divide is working. After considering this writing prompt, I’ve been digging through the census data and collecting some things that have been percolating in my brain for the last few months. And, this is what I found out.

Oh! How Portland has changed over the years! In my first observation, I considered that I moved here in 2003, into the home of a friend who bought her house the year before with her husband. They live in a modest neighborhood, that in the 70s earned the nickname “Felony Flats”. Their modest, 1,200 square foot, 3 bedroom home, with a tiny backyard, and intriguing shared garage increased in value by 35% over the last 10 years. A 35% increase in value seems outrageous to me. The US Inflation Calculator figures that there is a 26% cumulative rise in inflation from 2003 to 2014. So, my friends’ home increased in value 10% over the rise in inflation. Our new home increased 82% from the value of the home in 2003 and the value of the home in 2014 – over 50% higher than the cumulative rise in inflation!

Thinking about housing prices, made me consider income and who holds the wealth in the city. I was able to find a comparison between 1999 and 2012. In 1999, it looks like the wealth was distributed in a fair bell curve, with a bulk of the city’s wealth being held in the middle. In looking at the 2012 data, though, it looks like it’s beginning to distribute up, as if we’re on the beginning of a J curve, giving the haves more resources than the have nots.

1999 income distribution compared to 2012.
1999 income distribution compared to 2012.

That is Portland in a nutshell. You have neighborhoods that appear primarily working class, but the desirability factor continues to price existing residents out. The incomes are distributing away from the lower and middle class towards the upper class. Housing affordability matches the higher incomes. Houses are being torn down and developed into McMansions. The sustainability factor of Portland is decreasing because all the kitschy amenities that make this place great are disappearing.

So, a day in the life of PDX is interesting, because it is in the midst of this change – and I, for one, am not sure where the change will lie when it’s all over.

Resources

 

Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays

It didn’t start out that way. It started out as a normal I-am-working-but-the-boys-have-are-staying-home kind of day. The boys weren’t sure what they were going to do. A friend was coming over later, and there was talk of the zoo. To ensure proper kiddo-car-travel, I took the bus. So, my rushing this morning, after missing the 7:23 am bus was to scramble to get the 7:36 am bus. My commute was a normal bus commute – three times longer than a quick car ride, but it afforded me the pre-work-snooze.

Then, people were late. Traffic was bad. Apparently, I chose the right day to take the bus.

(One of my goals is to get back into bus riding, as I confided to EcoGrrl last year.)

And, then, the work day began. It seemed sort of normal, until it became apparent that the heavy traffic of the morning, coupled with busy schedules, lent itself to misunderstandings and grumpiness.

For the most part, I believe my coworkers and I are fairly committed to the same cause – improving the environment through volunteer engagement. We love that we work at a non-partisan, non-advocacy group because it allows us to get to the meat of an issue and just take care of place, slowly, quietly, in a servant leadership model, encouraging people to be an agent of change for a sustainable world – starting with their nearby environment.

But, despite our beliefs, we are still human, and we’re still moody, and sometimes we have misunderstandings. Sometimes it seems like I am always trying to re-navigate the paths of communication as what worked for one person doesn’t work with another, or what worked with one person a few times, no longer works as they evolve.

So, what’s the solution? Really, increasing our emotional IQ seems to be the most logical example. We all have bad days. We all have good days. They all pass, but hopefully we can appreciate one another enough that we can work together on the collective thing we signed up to work on.

Recently, I was honored to become involved in a small group of local non-profit leaders. I will, with 8 other classmates, embark on being a better leader over the next 10 months or so. The first month’s sessions involved studying a little about our and the Enneagram.

I’ve been reluctant to write about this, as I have not been able to fully articulate my thoughts into something that seems relevant to write about. But, this process has been eye opening. As one mentor noted in class, while we were discussing the importance of the Enneagram, “Sometimes you just have to get off your point.”

What has been most amazing about studying this view of thinking about personalities, for me, is how much more thorough it is from Meyers Briggs (I’ve since been told that system is more about how we process information rather than how we are), Strengthsfinders, and even the Insights (test, we’ll do the full assessment in a month).

Freakishly, the Enneagram nailed my vices in one succinct sentence. And, amazingly, it’s given me more awareness of others, or at least the energy they are pushing out.

So, when we have a case of the Mondays, my lesson is to get off my point and see where the other is coming from. Perhaps there really isn’t ill-will (I hope not, as a 9 I’m looking for your agenda), and really it was a simple misunderstanding.

Resources

They Say It’s Your Birthday

Okay, well, not YOUR birthday – rather it was Levi’s.

It began in January, when after we more or less moved in, and after we attended a friend’s party that I thought – oh goodness, we haven’t talked about Levi’s party.

A few days later, I remembered to call the Bowling Alley. They had space, so I was able to reserve the room. I counted the kids, divided it in half then cut a few, adding a few from last year. I hoped it wasn’t that many, but I hate being surprised with cost.

I pulled the invitations from last year, redrafting and reformatting to fit four on a page. I printed, cut, and copied the graphic into an email to send off to the friends who weren’t in class. Two weeks before the secured date. My lack of planning is within what I’ve been told is standard etiquette. Victory!

The RSVPs rolled in, and didn’t, so a reminder was sent, upon which more RSVPs rolled in. Then some changed. We ended up with a manageable number, and because I forgot to update the RSVP with the bowling alley – we ended up with 5 tables and corresponding lanes! That meant the kids were able to spread out, comfortably. There was a year of maturity in which we had a calmer, quieter bunch.

The kiddos had a good time. Only one smashed finger (Levi’s), and I’m still not sure what happened. The adults were calmer too, likely picking up on the calmness emanated from the kids. And, for the first time – Levi even reported that he had a good time.

A word on the cake. I used the same chocolate cake recipe as for Elisa and David’s wedding. The 8″ cake also sported the yummy strawberry filling. The chocolate cupcakes had a cherry inserted, instead of strawberry filling. Now, this bit was done the morning of his party. This is not how I go about prepping for birthday parties. I did make a cake the night before. However, it’s been many months since I made an 8″ cake, and I forgot to measure the batter instead of just dumping the whole product in the pan. I ended up with an overfilling cake pan, burned oven, and singed actual cake. The next day, when we remade the cake, Levi was able to help. This tickled his funny bone to no end, which was likely the better option all around. I repeated the overfill pattern, though, with the cupcakes and we had at least four casualties. And, for the firs time ever – I made enough (not too much) frosting! Cream cheese, of course.