Category Archives: stories

At the end of the (birth)day

It’s a little after 11:00 pm and the few friends we had over for dinner have gone home. Z made amazing tamales, cheesy rice, guacamole and a 7 layer bean dip.  He surprised me with all of my friends contributing to my first guest post. My present is to get my piano tuned and while I’m very excited for that, the best gift is having such a loving and supportive husband who worked so hard to give me such a special day. Having such an amazing son and great friends is pretty wonderful too.

Here are some pictures that Z took and since a picture is worth a 1,000 words I won’t editorialize/explain the photos. If you would like to read about my birthday you can do that here.


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It’s 3:07 pm on my birthday and everyone is napping except me. I was going to join everyone but I needed to wash a load of diapers and after I started them I walked by my computer and saw an apple on the counter. I ate the apple and now I’m reflecting and writing.

This aging thing is so strange. I don’t feel 37. In fact, I don’t feel much different than I did at 17 or 27. Sure, I feel more tired but I don’t feel any more or less “grown up” or mature. I remember many times in my life when I would think about some future date and how I would reflect back and wonder how it happened so quickly.

I mean, I was JUST 7 and walking with my dad to the bank and getting a sugar cube from the coffee counter,

or 17 and studying theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University,

or 20 and moving to Olympia, WA to take care of my brother’s children (two now in their twenties with babies of their own).

I feel this most significantly with my son. Ike is almost 19 months and the time needs to go just a little bit slower!

I’ve had a fabulous day so far! I got breakfast in bed, was able to take a looooong (25 minute) shower, went on a momma & son date to Corina bakery where we split a vegan/gluten free carrot cake, then we went to the zoo until time to pick up Z from his Admin class. We lunched at Rosewood Cafe where I got a feta melt (my favorite!) and then home. Later we will have a few friends over for homemade tamales, courtesy of Z.

Before I shut down my computer, here are a few of my favorite birthday celebrations/traditions.

Every year, my dad would take out the birthday kid for lunch (or dinner). With six kids in the family, it was the one time we were guaranteed undivided attention. He let us pick the restaurant and we’d get Baskin Robbins afterwards. One year I chose Pizza Hut and they messed up our order so they let us keep the mistake (pepperoni and onion) AND they made the correct one (pepperoni and black olive). Most years I chose Taco USA – a legend in Nacogdoches. They had a claw machine and one birthday my dad persevered and won an aqua colored dog with yellow ears.


For my 31st birthday my sister flew up from Texas to spend my birthday with me (as she did for my 25th). My birthday was on a school day (my first year with my own class) and she was going to observe me. When I went downstairs to leave, my entire living room was covered in balloons! My asthmatic sister had stayed up most of the night blowing up balloons just to surprise me! We had a great day at school, one of my students brought me coffee and then we went out for Mexican food and karaoke.





The next day, she and I got to play runway models at the New York Fashion Academy Spring Runway Show.






There have been other birthdays that had wonderful moments but if I listed them all this post would be ridiculous. I’m very blessed and grateful.

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Guest Post – 7 stories

The following post is a bit of a special treat. It’s Joann’s birthday today, and this is her husband. We have a group of friends over for dinner and they have all been invited to come prepared with a picture, story or anecdote to share about Joann’s creativity – something she made, something she made with her friends, or something she shared. This post is a tribute to Joann Varnell – a friend, a wife, a mother, a singer-songwriter, a seamstress, a naturalist, a gluten-free baker, a rockabilly girl and a model citizen of the east side of Tacoma. These are her stories.

I have a small tattoo of a trifold on my right wrist. I chose this symbol because it means the cycle of life or change. If you are around me long enough and pay attention, it shows up in a lot of my art and design projects. Joann, who is not normally a jewelry designer, created an olive green brooch in a trifold design for my last birthday. When she presented it to me, she said, “Let me know if it falls apart. I didn’t really know what I was doing.” Joann, I’m reporting that I have worn it several times and it has not fallen apart. In addition, it looks fabulous on me!

About seven years ago I created a poster with my friend Tom called Red Brick Town. When Joann saw the poster she was inspired to write music based on the words from our poster. I have always loved her songwriting and she shares honest transparent stories from her heart. I love this girl. That was Lance, this is Dana now 🙂 One of my most memorable moments was the morning of 9/11 and at the time Joann was living next door to us. She showed up at our front door on the morning of the disaster in tears and disbelief of what was going on in our country and the pivotal moment in history unfolding right before our very eyes. We watched the events for hours and I could see Joann’s humanity as we stared speechless with what was happening. Joann has such a heart for people! That was my mom. This is Emily now! I like how nice Joann is and how much fun it is to be around her and Ike and Z. And Indie and Wally.






When I met Joann I knew that I wanted to be her friend. She has such a free spirit that is loving and accepting of all. When Joann was pregnant with Ike we made a trip to Portland for the weekend, that’s where that picture is from. Even with her basketball belly we walked everywhere and explored the city. Joann has a contagious love for life and is constantly making me laugh. She lifts my spirits and is truly a great friend. Happy happy birthday! I like you a lot!





This is Adam… I’m the guy in the picture who is actually bald but is too scared to shave his head. Her name is Penelope. Z is the guy on the right with the shaved head. He’s Joann’s hubby. We’re all friends. This photo was from our hilarious weekend trip to Portland. I’ve known Joann for a few years. We were in a band together and made music but the woes of life have taken over yet the hope that the band reunites still remains. Joann is a truly talented woman who has an incredible voice. Seriously, ask her to sing sometime. She has always been a great friend and I couldn’t be happier that she married Z. I wish the best for their family in the coming year and look forward to continuing on in the journey of life with them. Happy Birthday Joann! Here’s to yet another year of sheer awesomeness for you and the fam!

This lady is such an amazing woman. She will not take anyone’s drama, yet when you really need her she is right there for you. She is the most creative, caring, loving, outstanding woman you could ever meet. I have countless memories of times where she and I laughed so hard we were crying; from CRAZY Scrabble games, to house hunting and claw foot bathtubs. She is such an amazing friend that I cannot believe how lucky I am to say she has been my mentor and #1 role model. The one thing that comes to mind with her is that she has this sense of humor that cannot be compared to anyone else. Honestly, there can not be enough words to describe this amazing lady! Happy Birthday Lady!

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