Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Best Birthday Present Ever



You will not believe what my husband made me for my birthday. He may as well just stop giving me gifts, because nothing could ever be better than this.

A couple of years ago, I showed him the Ideal Bookshelf website, knowing we couldn't actually afford to design my own, but maybe one of the prints? Although how could one ever choose between delights such as

late twentieth century novels,

Ideal Bookshelf 965: Novels 1978-1997

girl stars,
Ideal Bookshelf 660: Girl Stars
or fantasy?

Ideal Bookshelf 629: Fantasy
His response? "I wonder if I could paint one for you?"

WELL. He is artistic. Years ago he made me an extremely good painting of our cat, and he hand painted two of the most lovely switch plates ever for the light in our staircase. So the next question really was--how do I narrow my list of books down? I decided upon Oregon/NW authors, which still ended up with a list of some 30+ books. He asked me which ones were mandatory, and I narrowed it down to maybe 28 or so before I gave up on that and told him it just had to include something by Ursula K. Le Guin and the Oregon Book of Geographic Names. Le Guin because she's my favorite, and the other because my dad gave each of us signed copies, because my sisters are in it because they actually named a small lake on the top of South Sister, a 10,000 ft mountain in central Oregon.

We collected books, and photos of books, and he started working on it for my last birthday, but last year was HARD at our house, and he didn't get very far, and that was fine. He put on a big sprint before Christmas, but he was doing so many things on it for the first time, and kept having to repaint sections to make them better (have I mentioned he's the perfectionist of this relationship?) and didn't want to rush it. So with this being my BIG BIRTHDAY (as you may have noticed), he has really been focusing on getting it done this summer. He's going to be out of town next week, returning the day before my birthday, so his deadline was this week. "Do you want to wait until your birthday to see it?" he asked.

"I want to see it as soon as possible," I told him. So last night, he had me hide out in the kitchen while he brought it down, then our daughter led me, eyes closed, to the couch. When I opened my eyes, this is what I saw:

I just--




I'm not going to walk you through each specific element, although I'm sure you can tell how personalized and thoughtful they are. But I'll give you a few clues.

  • Strange the Dreamer across the top has an almost invisible silhouette of me reading. 
  • Ramona the Brave represented on the left by both her portrait and the colored pattern on the spine.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness--if I had to pick an all time favorite book, this would probably be it.
  • Pirts Meza is not a real book, but an inside joke.
  • The River Why is another strong contender for all time favorite, and the fishhook on its cover has snuck out to "hook" me on reading as I float down the river.
  • This Side of Home is on the side with a homey portrayal of us.
  • Last week he had our daughter take a picture of us on the couch, and then he went on Pinterest to find an example of a fireplace I'd love. His wine also makes it into that segment.
  • The animals are all stuffed animals important to our household.
  • He added the blue water droplet to Oregon Geographic Names because that little lake my sisters named is Teardrop Pool.
  • The Latvian and Lithuanian flags are both represented on here.
  • Mt. Hood is the basis for the entire thing, and the top of the mountain includes references to my family of origin as well as our time together on the mountain.

His initial is hinted at here.

Spot (the reindeer) is following a "falcon guide." Remember this blog's title?

A bullet journal. Four Ws = "for Wendy"

My family is floating down the Molalla River past a sauna in he woods

Look at the detail in the book spines!

My dad's old camera, tiny climbers near the summit, a mountain lodge we love.

Do you see me reading?

There's a really obnoxious billboard I've seen around town for a local jewelers that says, "She's just kidding--she really DOES want a larger diamond." 

Yeah, no. She really doesn't.

If you really want to show her how much you love her, make her a personalized painting that represents her life, her family, and the things she loves most. Make it full of little details that express your personality and sense of humor. Labor over it, challenging yourself to master new skills in order to convey what you're trying to. Hide little symbols of your marriage that only she will recognize. 

And then, when you give it to her, she will cry tears of joy, just like when you proposed to her nearly twenty years ago.


  1. That gift is so sweet. I'm crying over here! What a beautiful, personal, and wonderful gift.

  2. I can't even express how amazing this is. What a gorgeous painting and what a thoughtful husband you have.

  3. Wow. Just wow. You are putting my 50th birthday to shame. ;) I also wanted to let you know that your posts on 50 books for your birthday (the two posts) inspired me to write my own abbreviated one. I didn't go into the detail you did, for each year, but I wish I had. I admire all the work you put into those posts and appreciate all the great books that are listed there too, including The River Why, one of my all-time favorites too.

  4. Oh my goodness, this is WONDERFUL!! He really did make it impossible to ever top this gift!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  5. This is sooooooo unbelievably amazing! I'm tearing up just reading this post!!!!!

  6. That is such a thoughtful gift! What a personal touch!

  7. Thanks for sharing this very special gift and moment, Wendy. Happy Happy Happy Birthday!

  8. What a wonderful gift. I hope you treasure it always.


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