Just a Ukulele, Please

Sometimes a small, silly suggestion makes perfect sense down the road.  Here is a tale of goofy present with fun results.

For Christmas 2010, I didn’t want anything.  Nada.  Zip, zero, nothing.  Many asked.  Everyone got the same answer.  Nothing.  It was one of those years.

Lots o' Legos.

Once I had children, the holidays changed.  It was all about what I could find for them, what Santa would bring, what batteries I needed to buy to make sure their toys lit up, played music and had motion.  As my boys have gotten a little older, holiday shopping turned into finding the perfect Lego sets and Nintendo DS games.  Christmas wasn’t about me anymore, and that was perfectly OK with me.

Unfortunately, my personal philosophy about the holidays didn’t stop everyone from asking what I wanted for Christmas.  Some members in my family were not to the point where they understood how one could not even care less about what they are getting for the highly over-commercialized holiday.  The Captain, my husband, was frustrated because usually every year I give him an idea of something that I would like him to buy for me – i.e. a print-out with the exact item, store, size and price.  I kept telling him that I needed nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.  He wouldn’t let up.  So, after being exhausted from being asked, I told him, “Just a ukulele, please.”

He thought I was kidding.  Maybe because a ukulele is an uncommon thing for someone like me who has absolutely no musical talent whatsoever.  For some reason, at his staff holiday party, it became the story of the night.  His principal walked me around the room to retell the story about what I wanted for Christmas.  I tried to explain to her it wasn’t really much of a funny story at all, I just told my husband to get me a ukulele.  She thought this was hilarious.

On Christmas morning, after the boys tore into their gifts, The Captain surprised me with a big box.  I opened it, and voila, there was a real, genuine, no-bones-about-it ukulele.  I was surprisingly ecstatic with the gift.  I couldn’t believe he actually got me a uke.  Hilarious – yes!  A proud ukulele owner am I!

Since then, I have written a few songs for the ukulele.  Most are in reference to what my little dudes are up to.  Mind you, I have no idea how to play the thing, besides strumming randomly, so the songs don’t really count.  But, it turns out, that creating a silly song on the uke is very motivating (and somewhat embarrassing) for two boys.  Phoebe from Friends knew it all along!  Here are a few of the titles to further explain my point:

Sleepover, Yeah, I Better Sleep

Don’t Eat Your Boogers ‘Cause It’s Gross

The Homework Blues

Put the Seat Down or Mommy May Drown

Nine-Year-Old Crankie Pants

Little Brothers Sure Make Me Fart

Don’t Tell Daddy

Not Gonna Buy It

and last, but not least,

Livin’ on Chicken Nuggets and Chips.

A few weeks ago, I ran into my husband’s principal.  She introduced me to her friend as “the one who asked for a ukulele last year for Christmas and writes silly songs for it.”  I chuckled and asked her why she even thought of the ukulele.  She replied, “I think it is so funny, cool and unique.”  Mmmm.   Maybe next year I will ask for an oboe.

The Uke of 2010. A Holiday Hitmaster.

Sing Therapy

My wolf pack of BFFs and I take an annual girl’s trip to Hilton Head Island.  It was the second trip we made and we were excited to leave the world, kids and responsibilities behind for a little while.

On the looooong drive down, we end up singing in the car.  A lot.  A whole lot.  Usually it is 80s music, sometimes its (gulp) country, and we have even been known to eerily belt out, with the correct lyrics, many classic rock tunes.  Be jealous, be very jealous.   😉

When we reached our destination, we immediately headed out for some drinks and dinner.  Talking and laughing about our careers as teachers, we all decided to take on different “personas” if we were ever asked what we did for a living.  I decided that I would be a “Sing Therapist” because I think singing makes people feel better.  Nat aka Peanut, who is a little, bitty thing and is a Spanish teacher by day, decided that she would be an artificial insemination specialist for big livestock.  Suz, who shares a love of 80s music and books with me, said she would say that she played the triangle for Bon Jovi.  Double G was going to be a therapist to the stars.  Hooray!  We all had hilarious new jobs!

Sadly, we were only asked once what we did for a living.  What do you think we all said? “Teacher,” in unison.   🙂

But, I digress.  My point is not just writing about the blast we had in Hilton Head with the wolf pack, but it is the realization that I sing all of the time.  I am Sing Therapy.  I didn’t really notice I did this until a student in my English 11 Honors class said to me, “Mrs. M., you should really be in the choir.”

“What? I am a teacher.  I can’t be in the high school choir.” I asked as I was passing out copies of The Crucible.

“You sing all the time.  You have a nice voice.  Our choir could use you.”

“I don’t sing all the time,” I stated, and then the class went into complete and utter chaos.

“Wait a minute, everyone, why all of this chatting?” I said as I tried to give them the “you better stop your talking” eyeball and the teacher spoken code for “be quiet.”

A sweet, quiet girl raised her hand, and strategically said,  “Mrs. M., you don’t know that you sing all of the time?  You do.  Every time we enter the room, in the middle of your sentences, during your lessons, you sing a ton.”

“Really?? No way.” I replied.

“Yes way.  So far, you were singing a line from that annoying Friday song and then repeating “Last Friday Night” over and over.  You have been singing all day,” said one student triumphantly as if he had written down everything I have ever said word-for-word.  If only he would take notes that way!

“That is impossible,” I said with a tone. “Plus, I have nothing to sing about when it comes to The Crucible.  Now, let’s get to work.”

Another student raised their hand.  “Yes?” I asked.

“Ah, yeah, um, yesterday? When we finished the Act I quiz? You…um…you started singing “You Gotta Keep Your Head Up.”

“Oh, wow.  OK.  Let’s begin.”

After that, I began to ponder the question Do I Really Sing A Lot?  I think I am going to have to ask around.  Meanwhile, I can’t get the Beatles song “Hello, Goodbye” out of my head.  Go ahead, sing it with me.  You know you want to.

My new place of employment? I think not.


Carly Simon and Life Lessons

The very first real album I ever received was when I was in second grade. It was the latest Carly Simon record and I used to put it on the record player in our unfinished basement and roller skate to it for hours.

All I needed to know about being a grownup was on that album.

First, men are vain and they probably think the songs are about them.

Second, Anticipation will be a daily occurrence, whether it is waiting for a return text message or just waiting for one’s period to come.

Third, if you perform Mockingbird with your spouse, you will likely end up in divorce court.  It may be cheeky and fun, but it is best left for a Jim Carrey rendition in Dumb and Dumber.

Fourth, if the song Let the River Run doesn’t make you feel anything on any emotional level, you need to seek psychiatric care.  ASAP.

Fifth, That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be is an anthem to never getting married because we all turn into our parents if we do. But, we get married anyway so we didn’t pay attention either.  And our parents did it, so we can surely handle it, right?

Sixth, I haven’t got time for the pain because being a mother/wife/woman is not about me (refer to the vain statement.)  And who wants to schedule doctors visits.  Just take some Advil and get over it.  Geez.

Seventh, just like in the song Jesse, fresh flowers don’t really work with dudes.  That is just weird to think they do. In fact, they backfire.  Take it from me.  There was a guy named Rob.  Enough said.  He and Jesse must be living on an island somewhere.  Just sayin’.

Eighth, there may be clouds in my coffee or it may be hallucinations from having to be at work so early. Or, just maybe, the coffee creamer has expired.  Or maybe I forgot to bring my coffee, which can make the whole day cloudy.

Ninth, it is best to compliment your spouse/love by saying nobody does it better because saying anything else would just start conflict. Refer to the first example again!

Tenth, the stuff that dreams are made of includes actually getting a full night’s sleep, which, as a parent, doesn’t happen until the kids are in college.  Or until the Sleep Number bed arrives.

So, are you ready to roller skate to Carly in your basement with me?

Carly likes scarves, I like scarves.

Finer Things

Do you remember hearing the Steve Winwood’s The Finer Things song?  Well, it is one of those songs that touches my heart, brings me back to high school and, even, makes me wonder why I would have ever owned a pink unitard.

I did an interpretive dance to this song.  Hopefully, you did not spit out your coffee or choke while reading the last line.  Hence, it is true. I was interpreting that song like it was my job.  To add more sugar to your coffee, I wore a pink unitard.  For dancers, we know that this is an entire body covering, shoulders to ankle leotard.  Sexy?  Not really.  Add in the silver leg warmers, the silver Flashdance belt, and the silver bloomer-type bottoms and you have me circa 1987.  Looking back, I am not proud of the outfit choice, but at that time, I thought it was awesome.

Interpretive dancing aside, I really liked the song.  I heard it first at a church camp I attended called Pennington. When people say church camp is for church and that is the main reason teens want to go, they have never been to church camp.  Church camp is a dating mecca.  Plus, it is a great place to meet new people (aka hot guys) and that is where I met my lifelong friend Erin (who is a guy, by the way).

This morning, The Finer Things song came onto the radio.  Which is strange considering the song was released in 1986 and I wasn’t listening to an 80s channel.  Then I thought, damn that pink unitard and interpretive dance stylings of my younger self.

Sometimes I would like to just be able to groove out again to The Finer Things.  Or, maybe I will just by something cool off of Etsy and call it a finer thing.  Hmmm.  I wonder where that pink unitard is…

Keep shining through

And I need a little…

Festivus.  Right this very minute.

My mom starred as “Mame” in a local theater production.  They put the show on in the summer, and she was perfect.  With her red hair gleaming,  she engaged the audience by singing “I Need a Little Christmas” while her family was crammed up in the hot balcony praying that the show would not be longer that an hour and a half. We were wrong.  But, she was amazing.  She is the epitome of Mame.

We were doing a mother/daughter little holiday shopping adventure last week, and she kept singing holiday songs all throughout the stores.  When I was a young pup and she did this, I would get very embarrassed.  She would shush me (irony goes here) and say, “No one knows us! Sing with me – you have such a pretty voice!”  I would shrink behind her and try to act interested in whatever was around – aftershave, toilet paper, men’s briefs, diapers – anything.  The latest adventure was a repertoire in Christmas, starting with Mame’s famous song, and then moving to such hits as Dolly Parton’s “Hard-Candy Christmas” which is actually from another musical entitled “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” (No, I am not making this up.  This song is from that musical.  Why do I know this? Because everyone in my family is obsessed with musicals and “…Whorehouse” is a fan fav.)  I ducked into the baby bottle aisle and pretended to look interested.  I haven’t had an infant since 2004.  Ha.

Unfortunately, even my singing mother can’t pull me from the Bah Humbugs this year.  I am in need of the Seinfeld tradition of Festivus to get me in the spirit.  I need the airing of grievances, the Feats of Strength and the Festivus pole.  I need a little holiday “for the rest of us.”

Sometimes it feels like Christmas has gone overboard with commercialism.  I can’t say the last time since Halloween I have watched TV and there hasn’t been a “Shop for the Holidays” advertisement.  My master decorator husband has a different perspective of Christmas.  He loves it.  He loves decorating the house for Christmas.  He loves strategically arranging the different sized nutcrackers, red-cheeked Santas and oddly shaped holiday lights.  He loves holiday serving dishware like Christmas tree Spode wine glasses and goblets or any platter donning a poinsettia or Frosty.  He loves having pre-lit trees – three to be exact.  One with glass ornaments, one with homemade ornaments and one with the rest – from Star Wars to Buzz Lightyear.  He loves creating an outdoor light extravaganza just one step below Christmas Vacation.  He even loves dragging me to big box stores and hunting for more Christmas decor.  To put it mildly, he loves the holiday season.

But not me.  I get stressed out with feeling inadequate.  I don’t think I am a good gift buyer, and it really becomes an effort in futility as I scan through my beloved Amazon.com for something to pop out at me that may strike the fancy of someone in my family.  I scour the emails from stores and loot the catalogs for the perfect gifts.  You know what I end up finding?  Stuff I want/need/have to have.  That is not productive holiday shopping, my friend.  No, not one bit.

So, I need a little Festivus. Actually, I would like to see a Festivus ad on TV right this very minute.  Maybe one with a stressed out Mom on the screen and a deep- voiced narrator that states:  “This year, you have cursed twelve times in front of your children, cut off two drivers getting into the drive-thru fast food line, butted in line in front of eight people at the post office, and returned six different items because you found them cheaper weeks later somewhere else.  You need Festivus.  Festivus. Making your holiday a reality check.”

So, if you want to share the humbugs, come and join me around my pole and get ready to take me on.  I have been doing push-ups with my Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred so I am ready.  Jingle all the way.

One of our strategically placed Santas. Ho ho ho.