On my birthday morning, I woke up around 5AM and it was cold enough in the van that I decided I needed a comforter, so I pulled it out, unfolded it, snuggled down — and then Zelda came and snuggled under the covers with me, tucking her head into my shoulder and lying on her back so that I could rub her belly. I love it when she does that. Really, truly love it. And that’s pretty much how my birthday went.

Jumping back in time, R arrived Thursday night in time for dinner at the Bistro, the fancy restaurant in the retirement community where my parents live. We hadn’t planned on going but that day they won a gift certificate for it, and reservations were available that night, so away we went. When we got there, I was waiting to be seated when my dad said, “I think you can figure out which one is our table.” It was the one with balloons and presents. I was surprised, charmed, and pleased, which was fun. On Friday, of course, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all (although I still would have been charmed and pleased — I like balloons and presents!), but it was fun to have that surprise factor.

Dinner was terrific, as it always is there. It’s not just a good restaurant by retirement community standards, it’s a good restaurant by any standards. But the fact that it’s a small community and the waitstaff all know the patrons really does make it exceptional. Instead of helping me find a gluten-free option on the menu, the cook made a modified sauce for my meal. And they all sang Happy Birthday to me along with a candle in my ice cream, but it wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as it usually would be, because I’ve chatted with most of them before and they all know my parents. It was just nice. It felt very celebratory.

In the morning, I got to feed R breakfast — the third-best commonly-available yogurt (IMO), fresh blueberries, and my homemade granola. He approved. Since he’s the first person to try my granola except for me, I was pleased, although realistically, it’s not like he would have told me that my granola was terrible on my birthday. Or any day. But I think he really did like it, except maybe for the dried blueberries, which I’m not so excited about either.

Afterwards, we went off to a hardware store to buy a part to repair damage I inflicted on Serenity the day before by trying to go under a roof (yes, stupid! but we are not dwelling on that, it is what it is), and to Starbucks to collect my free birthday treat. And we stopped by Goodwill, too. It felt so cozy to be running errands with my dad and my son. Like snuggling with Zelda in the morning, it was the kind of everyday that I don’t get everyday and so appreciate all the more.

For lunch, R and I ate roast beef rolled with horseradish cheddar cheese, a little mayo, and arugula. It is a perfect taste combination, one that I just discovered recently, so am still enamored with.

After lunch, we went to Beauty & the Beast. I’d suggested a few different options to R for my birthday activity — a Segway tour of Mount Dora, kayaking, thrift-store shopping, or the movies — and the movie won. That movie is pretty close to a sure thing: enjoyable for all ages, impressive eye candy, fun and nostalgic, and we all liked it.

For dinner, we were intending to go to a pizza place with good gluten-free options with my sister and her kids but they were unfortunately all sick, so we went to Bonefish Grill instead. I had the special of Georges Bank scallops on parmesan risotto, which the waitress was told was gluten-free. Honestly, I don’t believe it on the gluten-free part — I asked, but I expected to be disappointed, and I was surprised when she said it wasn’t — but it was absolutely delicious. I don’t even care if I’m paying for it on Tuesday & Wednesday. I will tough it out, knowing that it’s a gluten-reaction, and it will have been worth it.

I had a little bit of a low point in the afternoon, when I was getting dressed for dinner. I’m not sure why, really. Maybe it was just low blood sugar. But I was really missing my mom. I adore my stepmother (and I know she reads my blog, but it’s true and I’d say it anyway!) and I’d had a really nice day, but… I don’t know, I just wanted my mom. I went into the kitchen to get a drink and my dad had picked up the mail and left a card for me on the table. It was from my aunt and uncle with a very generous gift, but an even nicer message. I had to go into the bathroom and cry, but not in a bad way at all — it just felt like my aunt gave me an immense long-distance hug at exactly the moment I needed it.

After dinner, I got a couple more presents — an induction cooktop and an immersion blender. Yep, the longer I live in Serenity, the more complicated I get with the cooking. But I’m looking forward to playing with both of those toys. I miss making soup and the induction cooktop means I can cook anything outside. It’ll be like setting up a little outdoor kitchen. Yes, there is bacon in my future. Also soup. Lots of soup, I hope!

On Saturday, R and I went off to a matinee of Your Name, an anime that I’d seen a review of somewhere. When I first mentioned it to him, he rejected it, thinking I was talking about some other movie, and I’m so glad I persisted, because it was amazing. Not in the popcorn movie sense of Beauty & the Beast, where the movie is perfectly straightforward and not likely to cause any tension (although I did shed a tear when Mrs. Potts was searching for Chip at the end). But it was captivating and interesting and… I think the review said something like “go see it and when you’re done, go see it again” and yeah, that was pretty much what I felt like doing. Instead I waved good-bye to R and went off to spend the next three hours cleaning out my storage unit.

Alas, rats had gotten into the storage unit. Or is that yay, rats got into the storage unit? It was much, much easier to let go of some of the things that I’d been holding onto — linens, blankets, stuffed animals, even pictures — when they were covered in rodent droppings and/or chewed on. The woman at the storage place let me use the dumpster, probably grateful that I wasn’t yelling about the damage. I also let go of two boxes of books, a lamp, and most of the remaining kitchen items, although they were dropped off at Goodwill. I’ve got four bins, a cedar chest, a chair, and a small table left, and I’m hoping to move all of them up to my brother’s basement. Sometime this week I will see how the cedar chest fits into Serenity, because it’s the big issue. Beyond those things, I’ve got some pieces of luggage and a vacuum cleaner left to figure out. And three paintings. But I’m really close to having simplified as much as I ever hope to. And it only took me a year longer than I wanted it to! A year ago today, in fact, I was looking around the house debating whether I should try another garage sale and feeling pretty wiped out after the two previous days of selling. It’s amazing how there’s always more stuff to get rid of.

As a combined result of birthday presents and cleaning out the storage unit, I spent a big chunk of the evening and today reorganizing Serenity. I was prepared to let go of the kayak. Instead, I let go of some clothes, some dishes, some containers, and a blanket. And it doesn’t feel over-stuffed. I think I have it organized enough that all of things that I want are accessible to me. There’s still some stuff I’d like to do — I’d like to get bins for the medicine cabinet, so stuff doesn’t always fall out on me, and maybe the same for spices. And it’s funny to see how my use of space is evolving. With every passing month, the kitchen supplies take more room, clothes and entertainment get less. Although I guess the kayak counts as entertainment and it gets a lot of space. But I was thinking of the cupboards, not all the storage.

Anyway, this is a long, rambling post and probably not of interest to anyone but me. But ten years from now, I do want to look back on this birthday as it is right now, not as I will remember it then. We were talking about my fortieth birthday at dinner and it was a reasonably dramatic birthday as they go, so the stories were of C’s broken arm and T’s tears and who had the stomach flu. It was only later that I remembered the fireworks and the calm when it was just R and me, home with Zelda, and I was so glad to be just us again. This birthday was very nice, most excellent, and ten years from now, I really don’t want to remember it as the weekend when I crunched Serenity and rats invaded the storage unit. It was a weekend of many treats, much delicious food, cozy family time, and both nostalgia and joy. A happy birthday, indeed.

Edited to add: I can’t believe I forgot this already. I can see this will be a process…

If you’d like to support my blog, start your Amazon shopping here!