Monday, December 5, 2011

I have a new blog because I'm not dusting myself off anymore.

I got up and tried again, and now, I've been at the new job longer than I had been at the one that laid me off -- from which I needed to dust myself off and try again. Also, that name puts a really annoying song in my head. (Sorry, Aaliyah.)

So for months now, I've been trying to figure out how I should create a blog that will fit me in all the different shapes I may take in the next few years. (You may have noticed the "identity crisis.") I didn't want to define myself solely by my job or my husband, and when I have children, I don't want them to define me completely. I'll be more than "just a mom," just like I'm more than "just a wife" or "just a designer" now. I tried to find something that would stay the same throughout my life.

I'll always be Rebekah, but my last name has changed.

I probably won't always design. I have no idea when I'm going back to school -- or what I'll do when I get there. And I tend to scoff at women who have no more to say about themselves than who their husbands are.

Tonight at work (for people with normal circadian rhythms, that would be yesterday), I created some content in the list of events in the upcoming week. The editor hadn't found anything for Thursday, so I typed into Google "things that happen on Thursdays," hoping for DVD releases (that happens on Tuesdays) or something like that.

I didn't find anything with that search, but I did think, "That would be a great name for a book."

Or a blog.

Someone else thought of the URL I wanted to go with it, though. So I went through the days of the week, playing with combinations on the mundane, everyday days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

While I don't know who or what I'll turn out to be or how I'll define myself, I do know that there are a lot of mundane days in my future. Hilarious anecdotes come from mundane days. And brilliant ideas sometimes penetrate the thoughtlessness of the everyday grind.

Sometimes, the very best stories and ideas come from the everyday things that happened on a Wednesday.

----

Visit me at my new blog: Things That Happen on Wednesdays at mywednesdays.blogspot.com


Now I have a blog name that reflects more of me than one part.

Or nothing of me except an acceptance that I can't plan everything.

For now.

Until next time something I didn't plan surprises me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let's Be Clean People - UPDATED

My house is a wreck.

Really.

Think "tornado went through but left the roof." It looks like a natural disaster has taken place within our walls.

And I'm not being one of those women who smugly says, "My house is such a wreck," knowing that it looks better than a lot of people's houses.

No. It's really bad. And I didn't realize how bad it was until I read a news story in which five children were removed from a home by Social Services because they were "living in filth."

The story said there were dirty clothes all over the floor, covered with flies.

OK, I don't have flies. But I do have dirty clothes everywhere. Michael has a terrible habit (which I've picked up since I married him) of undressing when he walks in the door. Great for relaxation purposes. Not great for looking like civilized adults purposes. We need to walk up the stairs. And someday, I am going to die because I trip over his giant shoes in the middle of a dark hallway when I get home at night.

The story said that food in the refrigerator was spoiled.

Last week, I ate a whole cup of yogurt thinking, "This doesn't taste very good. Yoplait's Greek yogurt sucks," before realizing it was a day past the sell date. (In my defense, I had just bought it, like the day before. It didn't occur to me to check the expiration date because yogurt usually has a couple weeks' fridge life -- at least from the grocery stores where I usually shop.)

Also last week, I cleaned out the refrigerator, and I was really glad Michael wasn't in the room. I kept thinking, "We are disgusting people."

Unlike the people in the story, I do have electricity, and I don't have a bug problem.

But it really made me think.

If I had children, would Social Services deem my house unfit to live in?

I can't say with certainty that they wouldn't. And that's disturbing. Really disturbing.

And I'm being brutally, disgustingly honest because I desperately need a motivation to clean -- especially when I know that in mere hours, dishes will be dirty again, clothes will be removed (and likely dropped in a living area), and gross, unspeakable things will happen in my bathroom that never happen in a single girl's bathroom. And I will need to clean again.

So judge me. Shame me. Guilt me into cleaning this place up.

Because right now, I'm so overwhelmed with it that the easiest thing to do is to curl up in a blanket and bury my face in a book, where I can't see the mess. That's the biggest reason the mess gets so out of control: I get overwhelmed.

It's not that Michael doesn't help me. He does. He helps a ton more than a lot of guys. Technically, he probably does more hours of cleaning than I do in any given span of time. But after he does a big clean, he slacks off. (I guess most people do.) And there are some things he just can't do -- like wash wine glasses. We had to find him some cheap glass ones because he couldn't fit his giant paws in our part-crystal wine glasses to wash them, and you can put plain old glass in the dishwasher.

Every time we get the house clean, we say, "OK. This time, we're going to be clean people."

But at the slightest sign of slacking from Michael, I get catty. Screw it, I think. If he's not cleaning, I'm not either.

And then, by the time I realize I'm being catty, it's messy, and I'm overwhelmed.

It's still manageable at this point, but it's not easy. So I escape. Into a book. Into the computer. Into sleep. Anything not to deal with it. Which is really weird since in all of my other problems, I tend to dive in and work for a solution rather than ignore it and pretend it's not there.

So here is my plan:

Today, I will do two loads of laundry, but I will not beat up on myself if I don't fold them and put them away. If they get clean, that is good enough for today.

Today, I will clean the bathroom. Just one -- not three. (My therapist thought it was hilarious when I talked to her about this and said, "I just didn't see myself having three bathrooms to deal with at 26.") But I will clean it, despite the fact that Oscar will roll in the freshly cleaned tub, and I will have to contend with the "it all goes to the same place" argument regarding urine and drains. For a couple of hours, it will be clean.

Today, I will unload the dishwasher. If one thing leads to another and the kitchen gets clean, thank God.

So leave me lots of comments judging me about letting the cat scatter junk mail everywhere and the fact that my husband puts empty boxes back in the pantry, but most of all, the fact that I pretend not to notice. I'm going to turn on some music and enact above plan.

And if I don't complete it, that is not failure. That is improvement.

After I figure this out, we'll work on motivation to exercise.

UPDATE: With the exception of the music and the dishwasher, I accomplished (am accomplishing) today's cleaning goals. I still need to scrub out the bottom of the tub and move the second load of laundry to the dryer, but the bathroom I chose looks infinitely better, and the library looks better without all the laundry. And I have clean underwear again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Things Come Together

Almost three years ago, I was offered two jobs in the same week.

One was at the newspaper I'd grown up reading as a features reporter. The other, which I accepted, was as a copy editor at the newspaper I'm still designing.

I wanted to accept the other job. I wanted to go home. I wanted to have normal hours. I wanted to be near friends. Most of all, I wanted to work at the newspaper that dirtied my fingers as a little girl when the teachers brought them in for social studies. I wanted to produce stacks of papers beside daddies' chairs and on hearths throughout the town where I grew up. And I wanted to write about fun stuff. Not murder-suicides or political expense reports.

The decision did not fit with the chase-your-dreams speech I'd grown up hearing.

The hometown newspaper was offering less money. When I made mock budgets, I found that a roommate would be a financial make-or-break. I didn't know anyone looking for a roommate, and none of my friends in town did either. I was wary of living with a complete stranger, but without a roommate, the mock budgets ended in red.

And the hometown job was 45 minutes farther from Michael.

But finally, I reminded myself, working in newspaper is not my dream job. And Michael is part of the ultimate dream. So is being financially solvent.

Reluctantly, I accepted the better-paying job with terrible hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved it.

But over the next several months, I wondered why it had to work out that way. Why couldn't the job I wanted in the town I loved be the one that fit?

---

My elementary school was special.

None of my friends at other schools did the kind of stuff we did. Books were really important at our school. Everyone else kind of evened things out, but we did books -- because after all, there were books about everything.

We had authors visit. We published our own books, and we had a binder.

We had a Good Citizen of the Day every day. Each teacher got a few chances a year to choose a Citizen of the Day, and you got to go to the office during the morning announcements. The principal would tell everyone your name, whose class you were in, your favorite color, your favorite food, your favorite author, and your favorite book. Then, you got to lead the school -- the whole school -- in the Pledge of Allegiance. And all day, you got to wear your Citizen of the Day ribbon, and everyone from the other teachers to the librarian to the janitor would tell you congratulations.

The best thing about our school, though, was our principal.

He was the one who liked books the most. Our school motto was, "Read, read, read."

Before we started kindergarten, my friend Catherine told me about meeting him.

"He's bald with a little hair on the sides," she told me. "And he's really jolly. And he shook my hand really tightly and told me to read with my mom or dad every day."

"Is he scary?" I asked. The daycare principal was kind of scary.

"No!" Catherine told me. "He's not scary at all! He's really, really nice. I guess he might be scary if you were bad..."

When we started school, we realized that our principal wasn't just a principal. He was a farmer, too!

And he brought some of his animals to school.

During my time at that elementary school, we had chickens, roosters, turkeys, a pot-bellied pig (who died when I was in second or third grade, leaving tearful bereaved children to experience death with an animal before most of us experienced the death of a loved one -- an ingenius teaching tool, really) and, in third grade, peacocks!

Dr. S., the principal, would dress up like his favorite book characters and read to each class at least once a semester. He was the peddler from Caps for Sale.

And he wasn't the only one who dressed up. The assistant principal was Miss Nelson from Miss Nelson Is Missing. Every year on Halloween, we had Storybook Character Day, and we all dressed up like characters from books. I was Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Sometimes, he wouldn't dress up, but he would always use funny voices and talk to us about the books and the pictures. It was always funny when he read Thomas' Snowsuit.

But there was one book that everybody loved the most -- when Dr. S. would dress up and be really silly.

Tacky the Penguin.

He made up a tune to the song Tacky sang. He put on a Hawaiian shirt like Tacky wore. He wore a baseball cap too, probably because his head didn't look very much like Tacky's.

Once, Dr. S. promised that if we read 1,000 books by a certain time, he would sleep in the petting zoo. And he did!

It was a chilly night, and I remember going to school at nighttime to see Dr. S. with a bed -- an actual frame and mattress -- in the pin with the chickens. He was wearing a nightcap, sitting up in bed, talking to local TV news crews. Nobody thought of it as a publicity stunt though, unless it was to show off how much we read. He just really wanted us to read as many books as we could and learn as much as we could.

I credit Dr. S. for my love of reading and writing.

I know I loved it before I went to that school, because Momma and Daddy remember me bringing them endless piles of books. A couple of days after I was born, my aunt got married, and Daddy had to go to his sister's wedding. My mom's parents weren't there yet, and Momma and I were in the hospital alone.

She was lonely, she told me later, but we did a lot of bonding during that time. She said she spent a lot of time reading me nursury rhymes.

So I would have loved reading anyway, but Dr. S. made it fun. With Dr. S. encouraging us, it was cool to read.

And it wasn't just me who was affected this way.

My sister called the other day to tell me Evie Grace discovered board books.

"We read We're Going On a Bear Hunt 10 times," Rachel said. "And then we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar 10 times. And she screamed when I shut the book.

"And then, I got Tacky the Penguin."

"Did you read it right?" I asked her. "Did you read it like Dr. S. with the voices and the song?"

"Of course!" she said, sounding almost offended that I had asked.

She paused, then said, "You know, I don't think I know how to read it any other way."

---

On September 20, 2009, I had been at the job I chose for one year, two weeks, and four days.

That day, Dr. S. had a massive heart attack and died.

A few weeks before, I'd found out about the death of an acquaintance while I was putting obituaries on the page.

"How awful it would have been," I thought, "to have found out about Dr. S.'s death the way I found out about Mrs. Lib's."

I was glad I was in a different newsroom.

On Tuesday, the newspaper that offered me a job published a news obituary. Most obituaries are written by funeral homes (and that's why they say stupid things like, "She stepped on a rainbow to meet Jesus") but a news obituary is written by a reporter when someone's death is a big deal.

It was a pretty well-written tribute. Former students, teachers, district officials. I looked at the reporter's name, hoping it wasn't a classmate who had had to write it. I didn't recognize the name.

But then it dawned on me. The position I was offered was features and education. This obituary would have fallen into both categories.

If the job at the hometown newspaper had worked out, I would have had to have written Dr. S.'s news obituary.

While it would have been a great honor, it also would have been terribly painful. It's scary when people my age lose a parent. It makes it seem like losing my parents isn't that far away. In college, when friends lost parents, I would think, "It's an aberration. It doesn't normally happen." They had cancer or some awful disease, and they suffered for a long time. And, frequently, I didn't know the deceased.

But for a friend to lose a parent that I knew, who had been such a formative influence in my life -- this was different.

I believe things happen for a reason.

I believe that taking the job closer to my parents and closer to Michael was a good thing. I believe being near my sisters was a good thing. I believe it was good for me to be in the same town as my aunt as she was weathering a nasty divorce. None of those things would have been true if I had accepted the job at the hometown newspaper.

I also believe that if I had taken that job and hadn't written every word perfectly, I never would have forgiven myself. I believe he deserves remembering in a way newspaper's traditional format is incapable of providing. I believe that as empathetic as I was when I was reporting -- holding a woman on a curb in the projects as we watched firefighters soak her remaining possessions -- losing someone personally and having to deal with it in a professional way would have been extremely difficult.

And I believe that by choosing the path I chose, I also chose to live near my niece and nephew, where I can read to them.

---

As I recited words to Evie Grace over the phone,

We're going on a bear hunt.
We're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We're not scared.

Her delighted giggles made me smile.

And I promised myself that I will help Porter and her -- and, eventually, my children -- to value the written word as much as I do, with the memory of Dr. S.'s exuberance and costumes as an inspiration.