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The Living Without Series

This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2006 on living with less stuff. Check them out: liv011Living #2liv031liv04

Coal Creek Farm on Facebook

The Chicken Doctor


The Architect


The Long Overdue Birthday Saga Part I

Last year for my 40th birthday I had told Clay I didn’t want a big party because I wouldn’t have time to get the house in order, I didn’t want people to go to any trouble, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on hosting a big extravaganza, I wasn’t really feeling like being the center of attention and I really just wanted some peace and quiet.

Clay tells me that I am impossible when it come to gifts.  I either ask for something completely unattainable like an addition to the house that will have a laundry room with six washers and twelve dyers so we can get laundry done in one day and, of course,  an employee to do it for me, or I ask for something really minuscule like a new coffee mug, that’s all, just a coffee mug. The contrast is so great to him that he has NO idea what to get me.  The absurdity of just buying a small, inexpensive gift for me is too much for him, he doesn’t think that could possibly make me happy.  I can’t seem to convince him that if he were to stop by a store and buy my favorite brand of chapstick and hand it to me at the end of the day, I would break down in tears.  Because, it’s the thought of him knowing it’s my favorite chapstick, knowing where to find it and taking the time to go get it.  That’s the big deal to me. But, Clay is not a shopper.  The only stores he frequently steps foot inside sell groceries and gas. Everything else is electronics to him. If I wanted a computer or a camera or a TV or an iPhone, he would know exactly where to get it and which model to buy.  It is very rare for him to shop for anything that is not an absolute dire need right at the moment.  This is a good thing when we are on a tight budget.  This is a bad thing when it’s his wife’s birthday.

I try to help Clay know what I want.  When I’m in the store with my kids I will point to items and say, “If you are ever with your dad shopping for me (then I  pause and try to imagine when that would be and what that would look like) tell him I want this, this item right here, don’t let him convince you that I wouldn’t like it, because I do, I love it, I want it, tell him to buy it for me.” That tactic has never-ever-not once worked for me.  My daughter will say, “Dad, mom wants this coffee mug.  I was with her shopping and she told me that if you buy her a present, this mug, this one right here on the clearance shelf marked $4.99, this mug, this one, she would really like it.”  To which my sweet Clay will look at his darling daughter and say, “She would never like something like that” then proceed to walk through the store  unable to buy his wife anything because she wouldn’t like one thing in that store.

Last year I posted a very long list on his facebook of what he could get me for my birthday.  Here’s the list:

Clay Phillips: flowers for the urns, pot rack, barstools, Steve Coburn pottery, pedicure, prints of Kiana’s photos for the black frames, a clean van, upstairs floors finished, can lights for the dining room, cute white serving trays from TJMaxx, a trip with you, a weekend without kids, garden beds..built, filled and ready for me to plant, long beaded necklaces (let Ellen pick them out..wait, never mind), a clean house, the porch fixed, someone to make the cushions for the porch furniture…and repair the porch furniture, new dining room chairs, clean windows, a personal assistant, ground cover for the Margaret Roach area, brick patio, the back porch fixed, fresh gravel in the driveway, the kids to do their own dad-gum laundry, a Dexter cow, the long haired barn cats to quietly disappear, your home-made carrot cake, a cute apron that doesn’t look one bit manly, CUTE dishtowels-that means they match my kitchen and have a high cuteness factors to them and would never be mistaken for a rag to be used to check the oil, my washer fixed, my dyer fixed, an endless supply of travel mugs, exercise clothes, a cute ball cap, a cute new purse from Amy’s Etsy store, a new/old wedding band, more storage shelves in the basement and barn, for every single photo on every single computer to be put on that external hard drive so I can use them whenever I want, Word for my computer. There…there’s a wide variety of things I would love…you can’t go wrong. And notice that nowhere on this list is a CAMERA!!!!

Oh, and you…I’ll take you too.

See?  Doesn’t that make it easy for him?  I really thought that was a nice list of things that he could choose randomly from to do for me or buy for me.  Honestly, I had no idea this would make it more difficult for him, I didn’t get a gift from him or my children on my 40th birthday. I seriously need to think of a different strategy of telling them what I want.  Obviously saying, “I want that coffee mug” is not working for me.  I’m afraid I’m going to turn into the woman that goes out, buys her gift, wraps it and says to her family, “Here, hand this to me, you got me this really awesome gift.”

I woke up on my birthday hoping that everyone would let me sleep in and they could pack their own darn lunches, but instead I got up and did the same thing I always do and not one of my children wished me happy birthday. Were they serious?  When they left I thought maybe they would run back in and give me a giant hug and hand me a card…or something. I couldn’t believe that not one of them wished me happy birthday.  Then I started to fear that maybe they had planned a surprise party for me and they were just pretending to ignore me.  Yes, that was probably what they were doing.  Crap, was I going to have to spend the day cleaning the house?  Did I need to find something clean to wear?  I thought Clay would call any second and tell me some story about how I needed to do something before a certain time so the house was clean and I was ready.

A little before noon I called to see if Clay would want to go to lunch, but he was out of town at a meeting, so I took myself out to lunch for my birthday with my then 5yo.  Obviously, Clay couldn’t have lunch with me, because he was cooking up a plan and didn’t want to throw me off.   I picked the kids up from school and headed to track practice. I bet they’re all going to surprise me at practice.  That’s the plan.  I figured it out.  Practice started, kids complained about running, kids complained about their events, my little boys ran around annoying me and asking tons of questions.  Nobody wished me happy birthday.  Not even my own kid that was on the team.  I was starting to think I might be wrong about this whole surprise thing, which was good because I was totally okay not being surprised.  But I was certain a present was in the works somewhere.

I was wind blown and sweaty when Clay showed up at practice and asked where I’d like to go for dinner. Was he serious? He didn’t have reservations somewhere?  Oh, but maybe there was a gift waiting for me in his truck.  Yes, I bet he and the kids had put their brains together and there was a gift waiting for me in his truck, he had to pick it up at lunch and that’s why he couldn’t have lunch with me today.  I was so on to them, they can’t sneak anything by me.  I walked over to Clay’s truck and noticed there was nothing on the seat.  Okay, so maybe it’s a big gift and he took it home to surprise me or while I was gone he went home and installed new dining room lights or fixed the dryer or….no, he’s in his dress clothes.  Maybe he got me a Steve Coburn mug and it’s in his bag!   I asked if I should go home and change, but Clay said I looked fine and my daughter only had any hour before she had to be at another event, so I had to go out in my yoga pants, old t-shirt, wind blown hair and no make-up to a place that was most convenient for our daughter to not be late for her event.  I was starting to give up hope that there might be a gift.  I could tell Clay was starting to feel bad and he apologized that he hadn’t done anything for me that day. He had contacted some of my friends to get together, but I had told him I didn’t want a party so he canceled it. I was totally okay with that.

He asked if I wanted to go to a furniture store in Kansas City to look at chairs. I have been asking for new dining room chairs for the past seven years. I finally broke down and bought some used chairs at an antique mall, but  now all those chairs have problems, like the two that I wove fabric seats for a few years ago. The fabric is so loose now that when you sit down you can get a nice butt flossing. I agreed to go.  We looked at chairs and found some we both liked, but they were expensive and I could tell purchasing those chairs was going to be a huge burden for us.  We wandered over to the electronics department and looked at cameras.  My old camera had bit the dust and it’s pretty hard to blog without being able to take photos.  I kept telling him I DID NOT want a camera for my birthday, but there we were looking at them.  The boys were getting restless and I was tired.  We left the store without purchasing anything.  On the drive home I stared out my window and let the tears stream down my face.  I didn’t want Clay or the boys to know what an incredibly crappy birthday I was having. I was really feeling sorry for myself, like heaping loads of self pity were being piled on top of my head.  I felt old, I was 40! I didn’t feel like I had accomplished very much.  My family obviously didn’t feel I was worth celebrating, I guess I hadn’t done enough for them to be celebrated. My track kids didn’t care about me, I don’t think they even like me or know my name.  I’m just another person yelling at them to do stuff and a driver that gets them where they need to go. As for the presents, I didn’t need any presents and I could go on Craigslist and find some more used chairs that would last us a few years and one by one they would break.  I still don’t have new chairs or used chairs. Our dining room chair situation is a bit of a standing joke.  I suspect I will never have new chairs, we will slowly burn all the broken ones and then we’ll just sit on the floor to eat. Chairs are so over rated. Was half my life really complete? I was a mess of feeling really sorry for myself for no good reason. Pretty sure I was hormonal too. I never thought turning forty would make me such an emotional mess.

But it did.

And then I got over it.

But, Clay he remembered. Oh, yes, he remembered how sad I was and he felt bad. Really bad.  In fact he decided that for the rest of 2010 everyday would be my birthday.  The next morning he had the little boys deliver me a handmade card, that weekend I came home from buying some flowers and waiting in the garden were new raised beds built by Clay and Seth.  The next month they all went a little over board for Mother’s Day.  I think my sadness and loathing of life might have made them feel a bit guilty. I had to keep reassuring them that it was okay, I was not mad, they could stop being so nice.

This year as my birthday approached I had zero expectations.  I don’t think I talked about it or asked for anything.  The night before I asked Clay if he would take the kids to school and that was all I really wanted.  In the morning I got up, woke up my little boys, packed their lunches and just as the crew started to head out the door, Clay handed me an envelope.

…to be continued.

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