Oct 29, 2014

Musing About Birthday's.

Well tomorrow is the day... that day that everyone in the entire world has. The day when a person turns one year older. I bet when my mother had me 46 years ago in Provo, Utah she and my dad had no idea that 46 years later I would be divorced, and living in their house with them with two of my children....good times :) They probably figured I would cure cancer, write a book, have successful relationships, and be extremely good looking :)

Every time my birthday rolls around I think about weird things. I wonder if anyone else would admit to thinking about weird things on their birthday?

I think about birthdays gone by. I think about how I can not remember what favorite birthday dinner I used to choose to torture my siblings with. I do not know what my favorite dessert was. I sometimes try to remember my favorite birthday present ever and contemplate why it was my favorite. I ALWAYS fondly remember my 12th birthday boy/girl surprise party my parents had for me that made my life utterly perfect in every way.

Every year I remember the birthday card I got from a great grandmother of mine when I turned one that my parents memorized and still quote to me every single year on my birthday:

"Quack, Quack the ducky goes it's your birthday and he knows. There's going to be a lot of fun at your house because you're one."

Can you tell I was the oldest child? :)

Last year a few weeks before my birthday I had just told the hubby that the whole marriage thing was simply not going to work anymore. I remember wondering where I would be on my next birthday and what would be happening....and now I know and no amount of wondering had me where I am.

Last year at this time I was doing lots of substituting at the library in Westfield, Massachusetts. I was loving every minute of it. None of my kids knew about the divorce yet. Amanda left for her mission on my birthday. Miriam was on her mission. I had one kid married. And I may or may not have cried most of the day for lots of reasons.

This year I am driving a school bus in Cottage Grove, Oregon and loving every minute of that too. My kids all know about the divorce and all of you do too. Amanda has been gone on her mission for one year. Miriam is back from her mission. I have two kids married. And there is a good chance I may or may not cry again but for different reasons than last year.

 We all have expectations of birthdays. We all long for there to be someone that knows exactly what makes us happy and is willing to make it happen on just one day. We say we don't care but I would venture to say we really do care. We all have good birthday stories and bad birthday stories. We all like attention but yet hate attention. There are so many layers of reasons why we feel the way we do about our birthday. Depending on how our moms celebrated them. Depending on what time of year our birthday is. Depending on if we share a birthday with someone or not. Depending on if we are easy to please or hard to please. Depending on if someone loves us or not. Depending on if we ever asked for something and actually got it. Depending on if someone ever made us a homemade gift or not. Yeah, you get the picture.

I am a little bit afraid that I am a weird one. I do want attention on my birthday but then when I get it I do not know what to do with it and I quickly decide I actually do not want it. I rarely answer my phone on my birthday and if I do well...I am not sure what occasionally compels me to answer. I am pretty sure I do not answer because I am afraid I will cry if I do. And how would that make you feel if I cry when you call to wish me Happy Birthday? Yeah, that's what I thought :) If you give me a present I am not overly comfortable opening it in front of you. Actually, I really do not want a present I just want you to tell me how you sincerely feel about me.....okay, and maybe to do something for me that I know is a sacrifice for you.....like cleaning the bathroom or spending the day letting me ask you questions.

My kids have been asking forever what I want for my birthday and I do not know how to explain to them that I do not know what I want. I want someone else to know what I want. I know people do not know what you want if you do not tell them but I am a tough customer I keep hoping there is someone who has noticed what I want and has paid attention.

This year for the first time in over twenty years I am with my parents on my birthday. Someone asked me what I want for my birthday dinner. Someone asked me what I want for my dessert. It took me a few days to decide what my favorites were. At first I needed to drive to Bandon to my favorite fish and chip place but then reality stopped me and I told my mom I wanted my dad to cook his fabulous pork tenderloin and I wanted her mixed berry pie.

I wonder how other people really honestly feel on their birthdays? When they thank everyone who wished them a Happy Birthday on Facebook and declare that their day was perfect I wonder was it really? How do they know it was a perfect birthday?

Oct 18, 2014

Stout Grove AKA Home of the Redwoods and Highway 101.

Today was one of those days. You know, the ones where you have no time obligations. The ones where you have a car full of of girls, music, and treats and are headed for an epic destination. I really adore these days. Miriam is home from her mission and she is not staying here in Oregon very long. Her job is waiting for her in Massachusetts. And because she is only here a short time we are trying to cram some fun in.

So this morning we got up and left at 8:30 in the morning. We hopped on I-5 and headed South towards Grants Pass. I love this drive. Through mountains, passes, and valleys all filled with pine trees and trees turning colors for fall. Not too many cars on the road and flying along smoothly at 75 mph wrapped in our little Toyota Camry bubble. Strangely, I have passed my love of road trips on to my girls. We all settle in with our music and food and just enjoy the ride. It is soothing and interestingly seems to be therapeutic to us all. Well... except the part when Tatiana constantly changes the music. And the part when someone feels car sick.

The weather was gray and thinking about raining but we all decided that did not bother us. The gray actually makes the fall colors really pop and I have this strange love of gray and rain. Our trunk was full of umbrellas and rain coats just in case.

We stopped in Grants Pass, Oregon to buy provisions at Wal Mart. My dad had warned me to take the second Grants Pass exit but I panicked and took the first one so we had to spend some time getting over to the Wal Mart that was just off of the freeway by the SECOND exit :) It is very important to have the right amount of sweet snacks and salty snacks in the car so that was our mission at Wal Mart. I also have been contemplating for many weeks the need I had to purchase the Bastille album Bad Blood and since we were starting to have hints of trouble on agreeing on which cd to listen to I figured I could finally justify the purchase....you know ten dollars in the name of peace :) Finally after Wal Mart, getting gas, and such we headed out of Grants Pass on route 199 towards the Redwoods. It really is astoundingly easy to get to the Redwoods...I-5 South to Route 199 to the Stout Grove.

We listened to Bastille. We divided up the Reeses minis. We discussed how candy corn has never broken out of Halloween. This conversation came up because I noticed there were bags of mini peeps in Wal Mart and we were all surprised that Peeps had managed to bust out of Easter. Miriam told us mission stories. We commented on names of roads as we drove by. In Oregon the road name signs are so huge and clear you can not help but notice them.....especially if one is called Suicide Lane.

Hardly anyone chose Friday, October the 17th to be in the Redwoods and it was magical. The girls ran around on the trails and we took way too many pictures. It rained so we all had rain hair. While we were wandering through the grove a sudden wind came up. I had never been in the Redwoods when the wind blew...and all these seeds? Needles? Something? fell from the sky. It looked like a snow storm except not snow. Miriam said it was hurtful snow. But I loved it. It was so cool. All of us got these things stuck in our hair from this sudden gust of wind :)

We played in the grove for a long time and I love that I did not have to check the time once. We could do whatever we wanted. I think it was close to two when we decided to head out. On our way out we drove on this winding, very narrow, packed dirt road for at least a half hour through the redwoods. Half way through this majestic drive I realized we needed the right music and insisted on my Mormon Tabernacle Choir patriotic cd. The kids always moan when I put this cd in but we needed something substantial  as we were admiring the incredible beauty and the immensity of these trees. And it was not Taylor Swift....sorry Taylor :) When our winding road finally ended we were in the back of some town by some homes and cemetery.  I had no idea where we were so I just kept driving.....just kept driving :) In my past life I would have felt anxious and worried a little but I have realized that you are always going to find a main road. And we had time. Finally I discovered we were in Crescent City, California and we eventually found our next road which was Highway 101.

Highway 101 goes up the coast of Oregon and is pretty amazing. My dream is to drive Highway 101 in my future convertible and stop at every single beach and every single viewpoint on this glorious road. But for this day it was rainy and gray and I did not have a convertible so I was not sure how it would go but we all agreed we needed this drive up the coast so it was never a question. Why would you not do The Redwoods and the beach all in the same day just because you could?

The first beach we stopped at was in Brookings, Oregon. I have stopped there before and there are some amazing sea stacks. The parking lot had more seagulls in it than cars and it was raining pretty hard. But we threw on our rain coats and ran to the beach. The surf was rough and I love that. The sand had been beat flat with rain and was smooth. We all ran pell mell like crazies and then I remembered Natalie. She has a fear of tsunamis. I made the mistake of watching the movie The Impossible with her and...yeah. So the rough surf freaked her out and no amount of talking could get her to budge. I wanted to race all over the beach and enjoy the rain and waves but I am the mom :) So after I raced and took some pictures I went back up to the car with her.

She and I watched the seagulls out the window. She felt bad for them because it was raining. And she was sure they needed some of our chips. I said no. I know what happens when we feed seagulls....yes, I do :) The seagulls on the west coast look different from the east coast seagulls they are sleeker and plumper and just all around better looking. The east coast seagulls are mangy and easy to hate but these west coast seagulls were harder to resist. Did I just use the words resist and seagull in the same sentence? One seagull seemed to really like us and he eventually hopped on the hood of the car and peered in at us.

The big girls were on the beach getting into all sorts of trouble so it was good I was not with them to witness their choices. Thankfully all is well that ends well. But lets just say that they ended up on a rock and waves came quickly around the rock and they had to get wet up past thighs to get to safety :) And then they waded across a little inlet that they thought was a few inches deep and was not. Needless to say they were soaking and sandy and cold. But yet somehow content and extremely happy. Miriam declared that it was therapy :)

Miriam getting her therapy :)
We continued to drive up the coast stopping anytime we felt the urge. Running on beaches in the rain looking for perfect photo opportunities. We sang our way through the entire Mama Mia cd.and the entire Taylor Swift cd just to mention a few.

We finally made it home at 9:30 at night. Full of sand and still very wet. But so happy. I wanted to go on another adventure today but they all denied me. I wonder if I will ever find someone who wants to go and see and experience as much as I do?

Oct 8, 2014


Drat. It all started last weekend on my,thoughtfully planned, "be alone in Port Townsend," girl trip. That is the whole problem with being alone, admiring breathtaking views, riding on ferry boats, eating jelly bellies, uninterrupted shopping, and having uninterrupted hours in the car, things start. So what exactly started?

Well, it was......comprehending....grasping....understanding clearly.... basically it was realizing...that's what started. We all do an enormous amount of realizing in our lives. Sometimes it is realizing something good and sometimes it is realizing something bad. Either way realizing always means you have graduated to being accountable for knowing something. It means you have to act. I hate that part. And I am here to tell you that no matter how hard you try not to act on what you realize it will lurk about waiting for action. Trust me I am an expert at pushing poor realizing down and trying to smother it with a pillow. I probably have a certificate somewhere declaring me the avoider of acting on realizations champion.

I have become so much better at acting on my realizations lately that I had hoped I would get a small break. But no. I think I actually opened the realization floodgates. They are coming at rapid speed. And I do not want to play with them. They require brave Jennifer.

Some of these realizations are small like realizing I should have bought that book I saw in that adorable little store in Port Townsend. Even if it was $25.00. It was this book called All Things Alice: The Wit, Wisdom, and Wonderland of Lewis Carroll by Linda Sunshine. It was a beautiful book. I took it off the shelf, I held it, and I looked through it for way too long. It was filled with all things Alice...beautiful illustrations and every fabulous quote that any Alice in Wonderland lover could ever want. I could not justify spending the money on myself so I left it and realize now that I should not have ever left it.

Other realizations are medium realizations. These are ones like realizing you forgot the importance of only eating one helping of whatever you eat. Oh, and realizing that you need to remember to write down when you spend money that one is medium also. And probably realizing it is yet again Sunday and you forgot to fix the hem in your favorite brown corduroy dress could also fall in this category.

Then there are the big realizations. I do not know about you but for me these usually involve relationships. Realizing what they are. Realizing they are broken. Realizing you have been played....my personal favorite...if we are picking favorite realizations :) Realizing they are not healthy. Realizing you really have no one to blame but yourself....maybe my second favorite :) Oh and what about realizing you were not a priority?

I think this is the part where I throw a tantrum about gosh, darn realizations and then having to do something about what I have realized. I do not want to have courage. I do not want to be brave. I do not want to do the right thing. I want to do the wrong thing. I am laying on the floor kicking my feet....can you tell? I do not want to do hard things. I do not want to learn one more things about myself that they say is going to make me better. I just want to eat steak....with someone who loves me for me. Weird...where did that some from? :)

Okay, my tantrum is over...I am laying on the floor in fetal position but I am done kicking. I know I have to endure to the end. I know I can make whatever choices I want and I honestly do want to make the right ones so here I go back to doing hard things. But was it not fun to eat some steak and do nothing for a few minutes? Or was that seconds?

Oct 6, 2014

The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round.

Isn't it funny how we think we know about something and then it turns out we didn't know at all? That is how I feel about school bus drivers. I have always taken them for granted. Occasionally one of my kids would complain about their bus driver because they had assigned seats on the bus. Once or twice a Baird child left something on the bus. A Baird child has even been known to hear about the facts of life on the bus. Sometimes a substitute driver would miss our bus stop and I would have to call transportation. But on the whole school buses have fallen into the, "taken for granted" part of my life. I had no idea what went into driving a school bus....but now I do.

This, "getting my commercial drivers licence," thing started in earnest on September 3. This was the day before school started here in Oregon. There was an eight hour meeting at the school district office building for all the bus drivers for the school district. I had no idea what to expect from this meeting but I was expected to be there. By this point I had taken all five of the multiple choice tests I was required to take at the Department of Motor Vehicles, been fingerprinted, and had earned my commercial drivers licence permit. 

I had never been in a room filled with bus drivers before. I was very impressed at the togetherness of this group. I was surprised at how much you had to know and learn to be one of them. As they talked I realized I had never fathomed all the issues a bus driver faces everyday....

 If a parent is not there to meet their kindergartner's bus.
 If a child wants to go home with a friend on a bus and does not have a note.
 If someone is allergic to something someone else is eating on the bus.
 If someone wants to get off at a different stop.
 If a kid does not want to get off the bus
 Or if a kid does not want to get on the bus.
 Kids who do not want to stay in their seat.
 Kids who "need" their feet to be in the aisle.
 Dogs who feel the need to get on the bus and say good morning to everyone.
 Bees that fly in windows and sting kids.
 The keeping track of  mileage, figuring logistics, and keeping up with where kids get dropped and  picked up. 

After this meeting the first thing they had me do was just ride on a bus a few days to see what it was like. It was the first few days of school and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love morning. I love driving. I love routine. I love the hilarious things kids say. I met a kindergartner who told me she and her dad went hunting over the weekend and that they shot a bear and then they both ate the whole bear together:) I was stunned by how many kids did not know their phone numbers, addresses, last names, or where their house even was. When my Zach started school in Princeton, New Jersey the first day of kindergarten they sent him home on the wrong bus but he knew exactly where he lived and told the bus driver how to get there. I witnessed a few kids on these buses who could not do that.

After a few days of observing I started training. Training meant that every single day from  9:30 to 11:30 I was with my trainer Janet. All through September and even now. The first thing we do every day of training is go through the pre trip inspection. Did you know before the bus driver ever gets on the bus they have a 30 minute pre trip inspection they need to do? Yeah, I didn't know that either. It starts with you telling what you are looking for as you approach the bus and then you open the hood and explain all the parts under the hood and whether they are secure or not and how you would know if there is something wrong with them or not.Then you get on the bus and explain everything on the dash and on the side panel, all the gauges, indicator lights, fans etc. Then you do your air brake test. The air brake test has been the hardest part for me to remember. But after writing the steps over and over I finally have it.Then you check all the lights on and off the bus, emergency exits, and seats. It is a crazy amount of information and I had no idea my brain could do this.

After I finish the pre trip every day we drive. While driving I have learned about crossing train tracks which this little town is chock full of. I have learned how to drive a bus down a 6% grade. I have learned to back into the most interesting school bus turn around spots you have ever seen. We practice student stops. I learn how to not hit the curb when I am making a right hand turn and how to not hit the yellow line when making a left hand turn. I learn how to constantly be looking in mirrors while I am driving. It is becoming so bad that when I am driving my car I have to remind myself I do not need to stop a railroad crossings. How easily we become conditioned.

So tomorrow is my big day. When I show up at 9:30 I will not be trained I will meet the testing lady and I will be tested. First I have to do the pre trip and then I will have to pass the basic skills test which includes backing the bus three different ways. Then I will have a driving test. I am strangely not nervous. I feel like I know everything I need to know. The backing up does not thrill me but I have asked a ton of questions and my trainer indulged me when I begged to try all different kinds of ways to back up so that I could know for sure the best way :)

So the last question I have is what does one wear for their commercial drivers license test? And what do I deserve when this is over? :)

Oh and I know you are wondering and yes, I can easily reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel....but thanks for asking :)