Sunday, March 30, 2014

Other people's birthdays

The world revolves around me.

There. I said it. That is the entire summary for what you are about to read. 

Birthdays are days. Birthdays are regular ol' days like any other day. There are very few people in my life who understand this philosophy. You have to be raised to believe this philosophy out of necessity. Necessity is "we don't have money for that." 

I was raised blue collar working class. We had money. Not much. Whatever Dad earned in his paycheck....he cashed it, paid bills, and bought groceries. You can't even enter gas into the equation because in the 80s it was cheap - between 79 cents and $2 per gallon. On a good day, it cost $25 to fill up the van. We never traveled very far either. Whatever Mom earned in the random paychecks she received....well, the money was spent before we knew it existed.

Back to birthdays.....we were allowed a birthday party every 3 years because there were 3 children. On the other years, Mom cooked our favorite dinner and made a cake. Beautifully decorated. For several years, I had Holly Hobbie cakes - every year was a different color dress. If Mom was broke on your birthday party year, no party. I remember my 12 year old birthday party. We must have had money that year. I invited friends to my party. We ate at Mama's Pizza in College Station and went to see Splash with Tom Hanks & Darryl Hannah. We sat on the front row. That was cool. Mom & her friends sat further back. Otherwise, I don't remember birthday parties. 

Birthdays are not a big deal. No fanfare. The MOST special thing about all of our birthdays was that MeMe called at 7:30am and sang Happy Birthday to us. She never, ever failed. Still to this day, I long to hear the phone ring at 7:30am on March 23 and hear Lucille Newcomb's sweet voice. She sounded like an old lady before she was really old. She was divine. She gave gifts later in the day, but that first gift of the morning was priceless. Grandma (Dad's mother) baked a white cake in a pan with white frosting and made homemade ice cream in a stainless steel bowl. That was the weekend before or after our birthday at the farm. Grandparents born in between WWI & WWII were sincere minimalists. 

Musical moments that will make you GASP: 
1.) I cannot just whip out "Happy Birthday" on the piano. I know it is probably a C7 chord to begin with, but that's all I can do. I do, however, own the printed sheet music because the song is STILL under copyright, never to grace the doors of public domain. 
2.) I cannot sing harmony on the song. I can sing harmony on nearly every song in the known world, but never learned that one.

It wasn't until I started teaching that I began to understand that other people don't celebrate birthdays the same way. I would call out an event date in class (upcoming concert or contest or social event), and  a hand would be raised in the air. Not to ask a question, but to say "That is my Uncle Tony's birthday!" or "That's 5 days before my  mom's birthday!" or "That's MY birthday!" 

I've been teaching 19 years and that situation has happened a thousand times. I just did the math, at most I have taught 3,363 days. Just 1/5 of my life. No trumpets on that one? Darn.

Early on, I made it my classroom policy NOT to sing Happy Birthday to every student. Teaching in the elementary music classroom, I would have been singing that song 2-3x daily. I tried. Oh, how I tried! I tried to get into it, but nobody liked my silly version of a Vowels Only Happy Birthday. And at the middle school, I would be singing it 4x every week. I gave up. 

Here is my classroom birthday acknowledgement policy:
I will say "Happy Birthday" to a student IF I am reminded that it is their birthday, but I will not sing it to them OR let the whole class sing it to them. If I sang that song EVERY DAY of the year, "Happy Birthday" would not be special on MY birthday. For the record, I could care less if anyone sings it to me on my birthday. Non-musicians, please don't attempt it.  I do not want to hear ANYONE sing this song out of tune or the worst of all.....spoken loudly in something near the original rhythm. Musicians who can sing in harmony - you are encouraged & appreciated for your efforts.

I am the Ebenezer Scrooge of Happy Birthdays.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Step-skippers go to Hell.

Mr. MacLemore, my 8th grade Algebra teacher, said this the first day of school. It is the most true statement of life and I've held on to it. Most of the time, I don't skip steps. Sometimes, I do. But no one can tell me that I don't use Algebra everyday of my life. I use it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Step-skippers go to Hell.

I skipped the laundry step last weekend. It was my birthday. Who cares? The whole house cares when clean clothes cannot be found anywhere. Not only that, but we were working off of the clean laundry that was still sitting in the baskets from the previous week.

This morning, The Rock Star blew a gasket because there were no clean white undershirts. Leaving him to choose from his collection of t-shirts. None of which satisfied him. He must have gone through 15 t-shirts, all the while slamming drawers, stomping around the house, huffing and puffing, yelling. This even-keeled man rarely gets angry, but when he's best to just relax and let him blow out the door in a rage. 

I couldn't find clean underwear that satisfied me, so I put on a pair that I hate and a black maxi dress. I wasn't mad at home, but I was mad at school. Wearing a pair of underwear that is not comfortable for a day of work made me tell my students "Find something quiet and productive to do, Momma's in a bad mood." And they did. The passionate choir director could not be found. The Rock Star was in a mood. I was in a mood. 

The Firstborn Child. She was happy as a clam. 

She has not been introduced to the Rule of Life that Balances Everything. Step-skippers go to Hell. 

I didn't do laundry - the one chore I love the most - and today was my Hell.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Sprang Sprung

Today is my 42nd birthday. Everyone likes to celebrate their birthday differently. The Rock Star likes a grand affair. The Firstborn Child likes everyone's birthday. I have always preferred to celebrate quietly. No fanfare. No party. Time with friends is a plus. Time with immediate family is a requirement. I want a nice meal of my choosing. I want to do something that I want to do. This year, I wanted to work on my garden. 

The Rock Star and The Firstborn Child gave me a bucket of gardening stuff for my birthday. I am a bit excited about playing in the dirt. 

Earlier in the week, our lawn maintenance guy tilled up the garden that the owner of the house created. Yesterday, we went to Lowe's and bought more gardening stuff including topsoil and garden soil. Plus we bought fencing to keep the puppy out of the garden. We didn't buy enough dirt to do the job. Hmmmm....

160 lbs of topsoil and 4 cu ft of garden soil did not go very far. I have no idea what I'm doing. Really. I remember what my Dad when he created and cared for his garden. I remember what my Mom did in her mother's flower beds. I've read a few web articles. Otherwise, I approach this adventure like I do cooking. Just eyespot it, something will happen. Since I didn't know enough to look for a tool to spread the dirt around, I did it with my bare feet. I know enough to create a simple fence even though I've never built one before. 

Let's stop for a second and talk about the flower bed in front of the house. There are 4-5 patches of deep red amaryllis bulbs in this area - created by the homeowner. After blooming, the very long leaves were looking pretty sad. One day, after work, I cut all the leaves off. I figured if they were bulbs, they would most likely grow back. I think that's how annuals work. My brother thought that I deadheaded them too late in the season. Nope. They are growing back quickly - healthy green leaves. In another month or two, this whole bed will be covered in the long green leaves and deep red blooms will open up.

Today, we hired a babysitter while we went for my birthday meal at Babin's. I love to eat fish. Any kind suits me. Today, I chose Golden Tile and it was delicious. During this time, the babysitter was locked out of the house (by me and my really good habits), had to go to the neighbor's house to call me, I gave her the garage code and all is right with the world. It was her first babysitting job. 

We ended up back at Lowe's to buy garden soil - they were sold out of the stuff on sale, of course. So The Rock Star loaded up 80lbs of manure/compost, 80lbs topsoil, and 8cu ft of garden soil so we could finish the job. I found petunias on clearance, bought a bow rake and seed starter mix. After unloading everything, he points out that we didn't need to buy that $15 bow rake because we already had one. Yes, now we have two, so both of us can work in the garden. I set to spreading dirt in the garden, that felt wonderful. We watered it, then it rained because we are that smart.

I have always wanted bright cheerful flowers in my front yard, so I planted those clearance petunias around the tree. Not too shabby for my first attempt. How did I learn to do this? I've watched a lot of maintenance crews landscape pretty flowers in my time - I put that knowledge to work. I also planted some bulbs flowers in the backyard flower beds - hopefully, those will create pretty flowers.

Finally, I began planting seeds from all of the seed packets that had been purchased in the last 48 hrs. Seriously, I do not know what I'm doing. I read the directions for the jiffy pots and planted seeds. It dawned on me that I wouldn't know which pots had what seeds, so with the spoons I don't like and a Sharpie, the labels were created. I think I saw this on Pinterest. I made a huge mess. It felt great. Until the puppy went running off with one of the pots. Twice. There will be some carrots blooming in the middle of the yard mid-summer because of that part of the adventure. 

And so we come to the end of the day. The tv is on. The Firstborn Child is trying to make me color for her. She is half-laying on the table in order to be close to me. I think the Rock Star went to sleep. I wouldn't blame him. The Firstborn Child has turned in a magpie and keeps talking. And singing. Every 4 or 5 notes, she changes songs. It is the biggest mashup of songs I've ever heard. She is singing through her repertoire of folksongs and hymns. Have I mentioned that she is almost 3 years old?

I started the whole birthday experience by ordering a "Happy Birthday to me" gift. I love it. Just as much as my family, fish, gardening, and the perky puppy. I have a wonderful friend who has rebuilt her life and she makes beautiful things. 

For me, a birthday is about rebirth. I don't remember the day I was born. My birthday reminds that we have a lived one more year trying to make life better. This year, we have made great strides. The road ahead holds many adventures. My heart and mind are ready.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A moment of truth

A quick stop at Sonic today was a treat - Banana Caramel Shake, Large Diet Coke. Oh, since they didn't have bananas, did I want to wait 10 minutes for them to arrive? Um, no. Vanilla Caramel instead.

Then I heard a voice so vile and ugly, I shuddered. A car had pulled into the next stall and it was packed with people. Sedan. Packed. Their windows were down. My windows were down. The woman in the passenger seat kept shouting and I could not understand anything she said. They were all shouting at each other. I thought to myself, "I have to share space with these people on earth?" Yes, that happened in my mind. Should I roll up the window? No, I could probably still hear them. Should I try to understand their conversation? I don't want to. Oh, no, I want to. But what are they saying? It's Sonic. What needs to be yelled at Sonic? I looked over at the car and could only see the person with the vile, ugly voice. She looked like she hadn't bathed in a long time. There was no grooming or personal hygiene involved. Her behavior defied social norms. She was probably a few years older than me. I kept trying to understand her. It was impossible. Was she toothless? Was she mentally impaired? What was wrong with this woman that interrupted my Sonic solitude?

Nothing was wrong with her. Everything was wrong with me. Just because I didn't like someone's voice, I became the vile, ugly person. Not her. I am allowed to think such things, but I didn't like myself today after that moment.

Everyday, I try to share love with the world around me. I'm not a master at it. I don't get it right all the time. Today, I did not get it right inside my head. I did not love this person. I hurt myself and it did not feel good. I want to get it right next time.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Beloved Rubbish Receptacle

First things First.....this is what happens when my hair is dirty and short. It is general silliness. But it causes me great happiness. It helps to be familiar with Harry Styles since I teach middle school choir.

Next....and this is really why I'm here. I am protective of my garbage can. I can become quite hostile about it. I have had my kitchen garbage can for 12 years. Twelve. 1.2. double digits. 12. I am proud of this accomplishment. It has survived 5 moves. Sounds crazy, but the thought of getting a new garbage can makes me anxious. In a not so good way. Hostile.

Why? I don't know how many plastic garbage cans my family went through at 1004 Winter St., but I hated them. Lids were not needed. Trash bags were not always available. You know what that means? A really gross, smelly garbage can that had to be cleaned by yours truly. Outside water hose, liquid detergent, a sponge, sometimes a bit of bleach. No gloves. Just elbow grease. 

This is one of those things that I said, "When I grow up, I'm not gonna let my trash can get gross and smelly. I will always have a trash bag available." 

And I have for 12 years. Through years of financial despair, I have managed to always have trash bags.  Even if I order a case of the trash bag that I prefer from Amazon which usually lasts for 2 years (the case, not 1 single bag). As a result, I have rarely had to clean my trash can. It doesn't smell. It isn't gross. It is not allowed to pile up high with trash. If the Rock Star ignores the piled up trash - I take it out to the dumpster or nag him until he takes it out. If I have to nag him, I always make sure he has to take at least 2 bags out plus dispose of the cat litter.

Hefty Easy Flaps with Gripper are my preferred trash bag. They have stopped making them, so I am forced to find a new trash bag that satisfies my needs. I do not like drawstring trash bags, but the variety is slim these days. Since I only buy brand name trash bags, it is gonna have to be drawstring. Hefty Ultimate with Gripper has been found and tested. It satisfies me.

The next obstacle is the dog. You would think The Firstborn Child was the first obstacle in keeping my trash can. No. She was never interested in throwing random items in the trash. The dog is a different story. She is a 5 month old 26 pound shepherd mix puppy. She can tip her nose up to the rim of the trash can. She sniffs curiously. The day is coming when she will attack the trash can because of leftover food that she smells. 

So I ask myself.....Will I need a lid for my beloved trash can? Sterilite no longer makes this particular can - it is 12 years old. I'll have to look for a new trash can. Everytime I begin the quest, my heart becomes sad. The only thing to do is remove myself from the search until I am desperate. Until the day I have to buy a new trash can. 

But my beloved trash can has successfully survived 12 years. My short term goal is 15 years. Long term is 25 years. It is good to have goals.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Running Amok

Amok? Amuck? However you prefer to spell it.  

I don't run amok. It does not agree with me. I prefer to live 85% prepared for all parts of life. I figure that about 15% of my life I will not be able to predict - car maintenance, TX snowstorm, unemployment, a random act of kindness, etc..

Routines makes me happy. The routine that I love the most is doing the laundry. Once a week. Not during the week. Potty training has made me break that personal rule. I'd rather do laundry than wash the dishes or clean the bathrooms. Clean clothes are a priority. I don't like to iron. I'll use the steamer or take it to the drycleaner. Usually every Saturday or Sunday is devoted to doing the laundry. By Sunday evening, I want every bit of clothing in my home to be clean, folded, hung up, and put away in its proper place. This laundry routine makes me ready for the work week. It creates a clean slate. 

Every 3 months or so, I get a little lazy. Everything is clean but still in baskets - I can live like this for 2-3 weeks before short circuiting. Every 6 months of so, I get a lot lazy. Not all of the loads get washed and we just work off of the available clean clothes. That happened last weekend. I didn't care to finish. So today, I am on a mission to regain my life. After everything was sorted, most of the baskets looked Mohammad had brought six mountains to this little molehill. It is an all day job to conquer, but life is restored and Momma is happy once again.

The way that I run amok is the use of too many personal pronouns and really pitiful sentence structure. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things I don't celebrate

Being raised Southern Baptist, I don't celebrate Lent. But I love McD's Filet O Fish. Confession: I don't even pretend to understand the significance of Lent. I understand fish. It understands me. It is my food group of choice. I went off the deep end and tried Chick-Fil-A's fish sandwich 2 days ago. Just call me Benedict Arnold because it was better. 

My Dad was an alcoholic, so holidays with a direct connection to alcohol do not hold my interest.I don't make a big deal out of New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, or Super Bowl Sunday. If that one gets moved to Saturday, it just might be declared a national holiday. Pity.

My Mom was an event planner/florist, so every other holiday in life probably needs flowers. But I refuse to spend money on flowers knowing that no one makes money in that business. Unless you are willing to set profit margins so high that only the wealthy can buy flowers and pay for delivery.

I celebrate Christmas & Easter, but my absolute favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Time & food with family without the pressure of gifts.

Finally, there are birthdays. I celebrate them. Not with fanfare. To me, a birthday is simply a day to recognize your entrance into this world. It needs nothing more than my favorite food and my immediate family. Other people's birthdays? They happen. And that, my friends, is another day's story.