my birthday went up in flames, but that's what happens when you share it with Michael Scott

Well, Gracie and I survived another road trip together. My mom told me a couple years ago that kids have to learn to travel well. As usual, my mom is right and that has proven to be the case. I'm less scared of the constant screaming in the backseat and more terrified of imaginary car problems.

Gracie has gone from hating long car rides to only whining if she's hungry or we haven't stopped in a few hours, and I'm always whining by then too, so it's fine. Honestly though, she's turning into such a fun little travel companion, except when we're using a rest stop bathroom and she flings the stall door open while I'm mid-pee.

Not that that happened or anything...

Anyway. I visited my parents for many reasons, but one being so I could relax a bit. LOL. My child suddenly became more high-maintenance than she has ever been. I know that the twos and threes are tumultuous times, but I think we charted some new territories. Something about an hour time change, then Daylight Savings, then being SO EXCITED to be at her grandparents' house, etc. My dad contracted pneumonia while I was there and got progressively sicker every day. I got some weird infection in my foot that left me unable to walk for several days. Super fun times!

While it may not have been as relaxing as I planned, it was still really good. I celebrated my 29th birthday on Thursday. I have a tradition of getting myself a birthday dress. I started it in college, and while I haven't done it every single year, I decided to start it up again this year. I also do the same thing for Gracie. Her birthday and Easter are usually days apart, so her birthday dress does double duty. I'm bad at making up traditions and I tend to overly simplify these things, but this is the one thing I love doing.

So fashion.
We drove to a restaurant on the river for dinner. On the way there, we saw smoke. It's a somewhat rural area so I figured it was a control burn. As we got closer, we saw an old beautiful farmhouse engulfed in flames. I can't even tell you how upsetting this was for me. A house fire is at the top of my list of worst nightmares. I almost lost my house to a wildfire as a child, and ever since even wood burning fireplaces scare me. Not even a year ago, the condo building behind our townhouse burned down, and I saw the whole thing. It gave me nightmares for a long time. Not to mention, the whole This Is Us saga with Jack and the house fire??? It wasn't even my house on fire, but I was traumatized by it. The family was running out of the house, carrying out their personal belongings. The fire department hadn't even shown up yet. Flames were shooting out of the upstairs windows. It was just horrifying. After Colleen's death, my emotions have been so fragile. I feel like I can't handle any more trauma; even watching someone else's unfold just did me in. It didn't feel right to celebrate when a couple miles up the road, a family was losing everything.

Dinner still wound up being really nice even though we were concerned about the fire the whole time. Gracie asked for a plate of goat cheese for dinner. I was so proud. They actually brought one out for her, and she ate it with my salmon and my dad's steak. When we walked out, a red cross vehicle was driving toward the house. The road was closed, so we couldn't see the damage (though I later did, and it was bad). We took a detour on gravel roads way out in the country. Once again, we saw smoke. And more emergency vehicles. We weren't close enough to really see, but it looked like another house was on fire. I don't know what was going on that night, but that's how I'm going to remember my 29th birthday.

I want to make a joke about my 20s going up in flames, but that doesn't feel appropriate. I don't know how to handle trauma without laughing about it.

Wait a second...up in smoke? Up in flames? Which one is it? In the words of Shawn Spencer, "I've heard it both ways."

On Saturday, we left Gracie with my dad. Mom and I drove to Davenport to go shopping and exploring. When I was a kid, my mom would leave me with my grandpa and she and my grandma would go shopping in Santa Barbara. When I was old enough, I started going with them. Our Santa Barbara days were always my favorite days of the year. I think about that every time my mom and I go out, even when Gracie is with us, which she usually is. It's fun to pass those traditions on to her, and I know my grandma would be so proud.

My mom told me to find a place for lunch. I LOVE hunting down funky restaurants. I found a place and literally jumped out of my chair I was so excited. It's only open 4 hours a day at lunch time, and it was located in a very old house downtown. I wasn't sure what to expect when we got there, but I gasped. The kitchen is open, and they make all the food right in front of you. They serve crazy quiche flavors like blueberry goat cheese and sausage apricot. The whole downstairs consists of the kitchen and all the rooms crammed full of tables and chairs. They still had a Christmas tree up, and Frank Sinatra was playing. I had quiche, brussels sprouts soup, and a honey vanilla latte. It was some of the best food I have EVER had. I almost sobbed. It was all just so beautiful. I talked to the owners a bit, and they make and serve all the food. They were SO kind and just pulled up a chair and talked to us. I am dying to go back. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

After lunch, we walked through a St. Patrick's Day festival (both of us are Irish, both of us forgot it was St. Patrick's Day, neither of us cared) and found a used book store. Once again, I could've wept. I bought a stack of old books, one of them a Louisa May Alcott book from 1906!!!! They had tons of old books in great shape for $3-6, including 1950s hardcover Winnie the Pooh books that you KNOW are going to be displayed on the built-in shelves in Gracie's room. I couldn't believe it. I could've bought half the store. I had to force myself to put some back. To say it was the best day ever would be the understatement of the century. Davenport is quickly becoming my favorite city. I had no idea Iowa could be so cool.

There was one thing even better than our day in Davenport: watching The Office with my mom. I introduced her back in August, but she hadn't watched much since. We stayed up late every night pounding through episodes. They say having kids makes you see everything again with fresh eyes, like you're a kid again. As someone who has watched The Office at least 5 times through, watching someone experience it for the first time is liking watching it for the first time too. I laughed so hard watching her laugh and just experiencing the hilarity of it all over again.

I also realized something very important: Michael Scott and I share a birthday. On my birthday, we just happened to watch the episode about Michael's birthday. He said he shares a birthday with Eva Longoria. I looked it up, and her birthday is March 15th. My birthday is March 15th. Michael's birthday is March 15th, and we watched this episode on March 15th.

And some people say God isn't real!

While I was gone, James started tiling the kitchen floor. I have hated ceramic tiles my entire life, and yet what kind of flooring are we doing? Black and white ceramic tiles. As Justin Bieber once said, "Never say never." My mid-century retro kitchen dreams are coming true. I would show you a picture, but a small portion is tiled, the other 80% is 1964 glitter asbestos tiles, and the last bits are carpet which has yet to be ripped up. Look for my feature on Apartment Therapy any day now!

Our guest room is still full of boxes. No matter how much I work on it, the boxes just seem to reproduce. Our guest bed is here and I have to make the room livable for guests coming this spring. It's so chaotic I'm not even sure where to begin or what to do.

Or, as my birthday buddy Michael Scott once said, "I know exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I have no idea what to do."


  1. YOU SHARE A BIRTHDAY WITH MICHAEL SCOTT?! That is the most fantastic news I’ve received in awhile.

    I love the tradition of a birthday dress! So much fun!

    Can we PLEASE plan a trip to these places you mentioned?! I’m dying of envy right now!

    1. RIGHT? Like, should I be thrilled about this or nervous? Haha.

      YES. PLEASE. I talked about you the whole day because everything reminded me of you!

  2. Happy belated birthday! It is SO COOL that you and Michael Scott share a birthday. March 15 has long thrilled me because it's the Ides of March (cue creepy soothsayer from the play Julius Caesar warning about that day), but now I have even more reasons to mark it down for being awesome. I'm so sorry to hear about the fires (how heartbreaking) and I can't imagine how sobering that would be to see, but I'm glad that you were able to have some good birthday moments anyway. I love that birthday dress tradition! So fun. And oh man, so I just managed to find that restaurant on the internet and it looks incredible and I'm pretty sure I need to go there. Except it's about 11 hours away from me, so I don't know if I'd ever make it over, but oh man...it looks and sounds so good and amazing! Within the past 2-3 years I've met different people who have all raved about Iowa, and I think it must be one o fhte best kept secrets in America. It sounds like such a special place!

    1. Yes!!! The Ides of March! I was completely depressed about sharing that day with my birthday when my high school English teacher went into dramatic detail about it, but now I think it's cool.

  3. I don't know what I am more jealous of-- that GORGEOUS birthday dress (I want to buy the same one) or a meal that consisted of quiche AND brussels sprout soup?? I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it. A few weeks ago my friend and I went to this place that served homemade scones and raspberry jam with every meal, and I have literally thought about it 10x a day since then. Is there something wrong with me???

    Speaking of coincidences, I literally made a quiche by myself for the first time last night!!! I think I may have over-egged it because it was completely runny and raw in the middle after the recommended 30 minutes of baking, but I turned down the temperature and stuck it back in there for an additional 20 and it was as good as gold at that point. I wish we were neighbors, I would have brought it over to share with you!!

    Maybe for your next birthday, you can visit Scranton, the Paris of Northeastern Pennsylvania (-Michael Scott). I'll meet you there.

  4. Obviously first happy belated birthday. Secondly, I LOVE your new dress tradition. And I really like that you're continuing it with Gracie!!

  5. First I have to say - your writing is just the best. I seriously am hooked on every word & laughing or crying all the way through. You are an amazing writer.
    Second - I need to make buying a dress for my birthday a tradition too - LOVE THAT
    Third - My husband was in a fire when he was younger & burned over 75% of his body.... it's a horrible & inspiring story all mixed in one. Saying that, house fires freak me out too... & Jack Pearson just wipe out any peace I had made with them.
    Fourth - Michael Scott Rocks - means you must rock as well :)

  6. I can't believe we didn't know you and Michael Scott share a birthday before this year! Colleen would have loved that.

    A lady from church introduced me to a place called The Bread House. It's the cutest little restaurant with farmhouse tables, mismatched chairs, patio lights, plants and the best homemade potato chips. We'll go when you come visit!

  7. Happy birthday!! I love your new birthday dress, and quirky unique restaurants are some of my favorites...though I'm a rather unadventurous eater, so mostly I like them for the atmosphere if the food is a bit too unusual for me. :P
    That's pretty funny that Michael Scott's birthday is the Ides of March, too. I bet that was on purpose. March birthdays are popular in my family! I have two sisters and a sister-in-law born in March, and now Cyrus, too! Quite the month!

  8. I love you and your goat-cheese loving child and your birthday dress tradition. seriously praying this year is SO GOOD FOR YOU.


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