first of all, the birthday story. it was, without a doubt, the single best birthday of my life. we had a meeting early in the evening with the pastor who will be presiding over our wedding. the gentleman was in town doing a seminar on a group he oversees. this group does work for families in nicaragua. it's mission-focused, Christian in nature, and all-around very rewarding. turns out the guy needed a web site for his initiative, so g and i will be helping him get one set up and designed. Once the conversation and info session was over we headed to our friend norm's new bar for a drink with friends. turns out there was a little more than that in store for me. when i walked into the joint, everyone i know in this city was there awaiting our arrival. g looked at me and said "you said you'd never had a surprise party.... so...." all of our friends were there, and they all toasted me and my birthday. we laughed a lot about how shocked i was, took pictures, and all that typical surprise birthday stuff. (i say typical, but this was my first ever surprise birthday party and i loved every minute of it) at one point late in the night, the whole crowd began to sing happy birthday to me and a cake appeared with one burning candle. i prepared to blow out the candle by closing my eyes in preparation for wishmaking. and then i heard someone behind me say "wait, you forgot something." i turn around and see g hunching over, holding what appeared to be... no, it couldn't be... but it was - a guitar case with the word "fender" on it. i couldn't believe it. i opened the case and saw the holy grail of gifts - the mark knopfler signature series fender stratocaster . gina got me a guitar. for my birthday. and not just any guitar, mind you, but THE guitar - of my dreams. i could have never guessed this was coming, but from the looks on all of my friends' faces, they'd all known - and kept it a secret, something that i couldn't imagine being able to do on my own - for weeks. so i've had the best birthday ever. i got a few other gifts - some technical books and an awesome mogwai cd from my amazon wish list, to name a few. but i'll tell you, nothing could ever top this. all of the guys agreed, "you've got the perfect girl, man. you'd better be good to her." amen, i say. she's the best. she made it the best. thanks, babe!