Singing the Birthday Blues… and no, it’s not my birthday

I have a fantasy that one day I will work among adults who do not celebrate their birthdays.

It’s not that I deny I’m getting older (still alive at 55). It’s just that I’m an adult now and frankly, it seems a little silly. Living one more year isn’t that big of an accomplishment. Most people manage it.

But more than that, there’s something else about birthdays that I really hate. Like, really really really hate. And people who know me are aware and act accordingly.

Last year for my birthday, Daughter drew a picture for me that highlights my feelings exactly. I will share it with you now when it is not my birthday because… Hello? Have you been listening?

Birthday blues (1)
That’s me in the Groucho Marx glasses.

I hate the attention. Can’t stand it. During any party my primary thought is, “if I leave, will anyone notice?” So when I’m the guest of honor, the answer is usually “No.”

Not always, but usually.

I’m aware that my dislike of parties can be an issue for my friends and family. Most of whom are very generous and loving and effusive with their emotions. Which is annoying as hell.

Honestly. I need to find new friends.

But work? Work should be free of birthday celebrations because, you know, it’s work. Yet at every place I’ve been, birthdays are all the rage.

At my last job, I had to tell my boss to please stop giving me flowers. She usually did it at the beginning and end of the school year, on Admin Assistant Day, my birthday, and all major holidays. I think she once did it on National Eat a Pickle Day. Not sure.

The thing is, Husband knows not to send me flowers at work and it never occurred to me to tell anyone else. If I’m in the hospital? Sure. Bring it on. If I’m home? Better yet. But at work? Nuh-uh. No way, no how.

Reason being:

“Oh how pretty – what’s the occasion?!”
“Is it your birthday? Oh my gosh! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”
“Ooooh, how beautiful! Lucky you!”
“Are those from your husband or do you have a secret admirer? Haha!”

People who normally never talk to me — and honestly, it’s my favorite thing about them — are suddenly talking to me!

My God!!!

As I mentioned before, I now work at a convent. I have also stated that I am enjoying this job very much. It seems to have all the criteria for happy employment: meaningful work, pleasant coworkers, peaceful environment. I feel quite lucky.

Sadly, it has a downside. I became aware of it just two short days into the job, during lunchtime. I was in the dining hall enjoying a lovely bowl of tomato basil soup with croutons on top.

Have you ever put croutons in your soup? It’s quite good. You should try it.

Suddenly someone starts singing that damned birthday song. I look around and there by the dessert tray stands the poor slob to whom the entire dining hall is now singing.

But wait, it’s not just one verse! Because they’re Franciscan Sisters, they have to give it their own special flair.

Here’s the verse they add: “God’s blessings on you, God’s blessings on you,” etc. With their hands stretched out for the blessing.

Beings how it was only my second day, and beings how I didn’t know the person to whom they were singing, I figured it was a fluke. Sadly, it was not.

When it was repeated a couple weeks later, I knew it was their custom. An insane, diabolical custom in an otherwise sane environment.

At the time I was sitting next to Mr. and Mrs. Boss. Once the song was over, I turned to them and said, “By the way, I’ll be taking my birthday off this year.”

“Oh really? Do you have something fun planned?”

“No. I just won’t be here.”

Fast forward a few months and… well, two things are at play here. For one, I tend to forget things. Birthdays among them, including my own.

I would have missed last year’s completely had it not been for Husband. No kidding.

The other thing? The particular department I work for has a custom of taking the birthday person out for lunch, usually the week after. The birthday person chooses the location and everyone else chips in. In other words, it’s a free lunch of your choosing.

Yeah.

Mr. Boss asked if I’d like to do the celebration on my actual birthday, rather than the week after. I thought, hey, I’ll miss the dining hall sing-a-long!  “Um… sure!”

I chose a local joint called Sanchez Burritos. It’s a little like Chipotle – you go through the line and choose your toppings for a burrito, taco salad, rice bowl, quesadilla, etc. Only in this case, the place is run by three cousins from Honduras and all their sauces and meats are prepared on site.

You should get a whiff of this place. *swoon*

As can be expected, eating with four Sisters and a man who attended seminary (though chose marriage over priesthood), they all prayed as soon as they sat down. I waited patiently.

Then Mr. Boss pulls a surprise. He has us all hold hands while he says a blessing – for Me! Giving thanks I was born, moved to Minnesota, took this job, yada-yada.

Never had THAT happen before!

My face

Anyway. We wound up having a discussion regarding birthdays. It shouldn’t have surprised me – Mr. Boss remembered what I said at that lunch several months ago and planned accordingly.

This is what happens when people live their lives focused outward. They not only remember someone’s preferences, they act on them. Amazing.

Two of the Sisters admitted they avoid the dining hall on their birthdays for the same reason I did. “I eat in my room” one told me. The other said, “I just deal with it.”

Sister LaVonne said, “I think the celebration should reflect the person being celebrated. If they don’t like attention, you should respect that.”

I had a similar conversation once with Daughter, who is as much an introvert as I am. Her feeling was that if people care about you so much as to say, “Hey, glad you’re still alive bucko,” then you should be thankful there are such people in the world and just suck it up. Besides, you might get cake.

My thinking more closely aligned with Sister LaVonne: “Please go away.”

You know, I’d really like to hear your opinions on this subject and since I’ve never done a poll before, it’s time we start. We’ll make it multiple choice and we’ll even include a write-in option for you creative types.

Next week I’ll be out of town and in all likelihood not posting – unless I pull one out of the vaults. Haven’t decided yet.

In any case, I’ll give you the results of our birthday poll the week after that.
Please choose wisely. The fate of adult birthday parties is in your hands.

Not really, but let’s pretend.

When Reception isn’t very perceptive

*ring* … *ring* …

Franciscan Life and Associate’s Office, this is Christi. May I help you?

I’m trying to get a hold of Sister Angie.

Oh… uh… Let me transfer you to the reception desk… one moment… (finally locates transfer button, dials 0)

*ring* … *ring* …

Hello, Franciscan Sisters of —

Hi Renee, this is Christi.

Hi, Christi! How are you?

Fine. I have someone on the line who wants Sister Angie but I’m not sure how to transfer the call to you. If I just hang up will you have them?

Who are they trying to reach?

Sister Angie.

She doesn’t live here.

Yeah, I know.

She’s in Mexico.

Yeah. So I hit transfer and then your number, do I have to hit transfer again or do I just hang up?

I wonder what they’re calling about?

I don’t know. Let me give you the call and you can ask them.

I suppose I can give you her cell phone number.

I’m just transferring the call, I don’t need her—

I’ll look it up.

But —

She puts me on hold; I’m now listening to Sister Carol’s invitation to last month’s soup supper… only $6 each… chicken noodle, wild rice, cream of potato…

Okay, I found her cell phone number.

All right, so how do I—

Are you ready? It’s 555—

What?

Did you get that?

No.  I don’t know how to transfer calls. I wouldn’t know how to give her the call even if I had her number.

Okay, well, what you do is hit transfer.

Yeah, I know that part.

So first hit transfer, and then dial eight and then her number.

I think they hung up.

You have to dial 8 first because she’s off campus.

Yeah but…

Wait until you hear it ringing, then hang up.

I don’t hit transfer again?

No, you just hang up.

Okay, but they hung up.

Oh they did? Oh dear. Hopefully they’ll call back.

Yeah.

Do you need anything else?

No.

It was nice talking to you. Have a great day!

Sigh.

News from the convent: Dinner, death and donuts

Our lead story:

A protestant took part in a Catholic Eucharist. In other news: Hell did not freeze over.

It happened last Friday, March 1. The convent’s “Founding Day.” The Mass was a special one and many people attended. Sisters from far away attended. Employees of the convent attended.

I, a Presbyterian, attended.

I knew none of the songs, but I faked it well. As for the prayers, there were a few others not doing the sign of the cross either. So yeah. I wasn’t the only protestant on the field. (For the record, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a protestant making the motion, however this one is fairly certain she’d whack herself in the nose if she attempted it.)

Then we segued into the Eucharist and in all honesty, Catholics are masters with the segue. It’s seamless. There was another song and people started walking forward. I was about to sit down because, you know. Not Catholic.

Only I noticed everyone was walking forward. Everyone. Even the non-crossers, whom we presume are fellow protestants.

I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood. I had Catholic friends. I know the drill. Only Catholics. Never me.

But these Franciscans have been described as radical. So maybe?

I whispered to the woman sitting next to me – a frequent visitor to the convent, she runs their volunteer organization in St. Cloud — and I ask, “Do you know if it’s okay if protestants–”

I didn’t get to finish; she was nodding emphatically. “I know for a fact it’s okay,” she said, adding, “The Sisters think it’d be like inviting someone to dinner and then not allowing them to eat.”

Which is a marvelous way to put it, don’t you think?

Speaking of dinner, there was one after the Mass and it was free. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, several salads including a “copper coin” salad. A dish that will forever change my view on cooked carrots. For dessert, apple pie.

In sadder news from the convent:

One of the Sisters passed away.

Deaths are announced quietly here, by way of a little slip of paper on the entrance to the convent.

front door of convent

It was a Sister I’d never met before: Sister Bernarda. She was 102 years old.

She had been a registered nurse and hospital administrator. Other Sisters reported she was always dignified and direct, and took care to present herself well and look her best. They also said she was very patient and kind to young nurses in training, had a charming sense of humor and was loved by all.

One thing I kept hearing from the Sisters: “I’m happy for her.”

They truly have a different view of death.

The day before she died, Sister Bernarda went to the convent’s beauty salon and got a permanent. (Let that sink in. At 102, she got a perm.)

She told the beautician she needed to look nice because she was “going to meet Jesus.”

Sister Bernarda

This is the news, folks. I’m not making this up.

From the lighter side of of the news:

Yesterday was Donut Day. Also known as Shrove Tuesday.

So apparently this is a thing? Honestly, I had no idea. Growing up Lutheran, every day was donut day. But for those whose Lenten tradition meant giving up decadent food, all that fat and sugar had to get used up. Hence, donuts on Shrove Tuesday.

Full disclosure: I’ve never had a donut as good as my Grandma’s. They arrived on your plate literally moments after she pulled them from the fryer, crispy and golden and oh-so-good. Never too sweet and perfect for dunking in tea.

But these, my friends? These came close. Really, really close.

Speaking of Lent, not sure if it’s your custom to give up something – it’s not mine, but I always liked the notion strictly for the challenge of it. Anyway, came across something that might be the most difficult challenge I’ve seen. It comes from Pope Francis.

Lent image

Even if we aren’t 100% successful, I rather think if we all just attempted these, we might change the world.

And that’s our news from the convent. Until next time: Be humble, be kind, and always choose love. 💗

Three Word Challenge in Text: My Thematic Response Using Untoward Reasoning

A few weeks ago, a certain blogger by the name of Brian of Bonnywood issued a challenge. He’d give me three words, and I’d write a story with said words.

Seemed easy at the time. Then I saw the words: Thematic, Untoward, and Reasoning.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am. I mean, I don’t know what I did to the guy, but clearly he had it in for me.

What’s more — now get this — he added, “And I challenge you even further by suggesting that a recipe and/or Norwegian kinfolk be involved in some way… ”

Honestly!

I decided I needed to have a chat with the guy. I sent him a text:

Brian 1

Brian 2

Brian 2 and a half

Brian 3Brian 4

Two hours later…

Brian 5Brian 6Brian 7Brian 8Brian 9

You can read about Brian’s challenge here.

(Hint: he’ll accept your response in text.)

The Blogger’s Annual Performance Review

Blog Title: Feeding on Folly
Blogger: CJ Hartwell
Review Period: January to December, 2017
Reviewer: CJ’s Internal Critic
Note: Beings how this CJ person is currently enjoying some time off work — and sleeping in EVERY morning like the lazy bum she is — I, her Internal Critic, am conducting her Annual Review in her place. (She can thank me later.) 

Blog Description

Hard to say. Is this a humor blog? Food blog? Self-help blog? (Lord knows Self could use some help.)
Describing this blog is like describing the smelly thing you stepped in while walking the dog: Possible, but why go there?

Posts of Note

Your top three posts this past year, both in terms of “clicks” and “likes”, were:

In close running were two other posts: one on Broadway Musicals and one on your Post-NYC Blues. The one unifying thread among all five posts: New York. As in all five mention New York in some fashion. If you had a brain, you’d write about New York more. Or just tag every post New York whether they were about it or not. Or maybe just write it: New York. Give it some thought.

As for my personal favorite, I’d have to say it was the week you missed. Remember that one? You totally forgot what day it was and didn’t publish anything. That was great. You should do that more often.

New York.

Accomplishments

Back in March you created a Facebook page for your blog. Then in late April you went on vacation (New York) and promptly forgot about it. Sometime in September you tried to resuscitate it with about as much enthusiasm as giving mouth-to-mouth to a blowfish. Blowfish

You stretched a bit with your writing with your rambling thoughts on Beauty and a feeble attempt at poetry. Normally stretching is good, but in some cases, e.g., yours, it’s less so.

You added some illustrations to your posts to give them a (*cough*) New Yorker flair. It is painfully obvious, however, that the ones where you bribed Daughter for help (Suicidal Mice) compared to the ones you did yourself (Cursive Schmursive) are vastly different in quality:

The answer? Less drawing, more bribery.

Additional Comments

You are nearing your third full year of blogging when many (okay, it was just me) said you’d never make it three days.

You managed to hoodwink a sizable number of people into following this blog, when everyone (fine, just me again) said you’d be lucky if you got your family to read it.

Maybe I was wrong before, but this time I’m right: give this foolish thing up NOW!  If you continue stretching yourself as a writer and trying new things, you might fail! And you know what’ll happen if you fail? You’ll DIE!

Okay, maybe not actually die, but you know what I mean…

Oh shoot, she’s waking up! I better finish this thing fast. Dang it, now she’s reading something affirming! I hate it when she does that! It only encourages her.

I better hit this publish button fast before she tells me to shut—

My Idea Journal: the Foolish and Forgotten

Do you keep an idea journal?

JournalsI have two. One is a pretty little journal someone gave me several years ago. Unfortunately, I misplace it constantly. So I’ve taken to using the notes section in my daily planner.

(Yes, I use an old-fashioned printed planner. Don’t judge.)

My problem with idea journals is that I rarely remember what I had in mind when I first wrote the ideas down. Which is what happened when I reviewed my entries recently, hoping for inspiration.

Instead, I’m offering my ideas to you. Maybe you can work them into something.

You’re welcome. Continue reading “My Idea Journal: the Foolish and Forgotten”

Righteousness is a Dangerous Business

bizarrobelieverjerkcolorThis is my second theology post with a Bizarro comic. I fear if this continues, I’m going to have to add Dan Piraro as a cowriter and give him a cut of my earnings.

As much as I love this comic – as well as most every comic Piraro puts forth (here’s his blog, by the way) – I think we all know religion doesn’t have a monopoly on self-righteousness. We see it nearly everywhere: Continue reading “Righteousness is a Dangerous Business”

Bad Theology or Bad Parenting?

wp_20170104_14_18_20_proAlrighty gang, our judgment on last week’s Bad Theology post was considered not harsh enough for some readers (though one defended the picture), and I pledged I’d condemn with greater vigor from here on out.

Later, I found myself saying, “Meh. I’ll do what I want.”

In any case, I want you to know it’s not that I’m waffling on this week’s entry. It’s more that I’m not sure how I stand on it.

Is it bad theology, or is it just bad parenting? See for yourself: Continue reading “Bad Theology or Bad Parenting?”