Dolla Dolla Bills

I received an unanticipated check in the mail yesterday. It was for $300. I felt like I won the lottery.

I make an acceptable amount of money working three different jobs (and babysitting—which I don’t consider a “job” solely because I get to play with Silly Putty, Play-Doh, and eat Peanut Butter sandwiches every day). By “liveable” I mean that it can afford my gargantun grocery bills, impulsive eBay purchases, and, oh yeah, those pesky rent checks.

I get excited when I receive any check, even when it’s only a check from my roommates to pay their portion of the cable bill. My day is immediately brightened when I see a ‘Deposit’ on my online banking account.

I cannot imagine how I’m going to feel when I someday (hopefully by this time next year!) am salaried. It makes me ecstatic just thinking about the possibility. And, unfortunately, excited about the potential items I can purchase on eBay. Mo’ money really may bring mo’ problems.

Daytime Dress-Up

There are few things I love more than comfy clothes. I own approximately 30 pairs of basketball shorts and sweatpants, and could make probably sew 5 quilts out of all my t-shirts (if I knew how to sew, that is).

I love comfy clothes so much, in fact, that I wore sweatpants (“nice” ones—aka, my favorite 5 pairs of black ones) out for the entire winter of my Senior year of high school. I still showered, straightened my hair and put on makeup, but was too lazy for any pants that included a button and zipper. Why shouldn’t I wear out the same pants that I wore lounging in my La-Z Boy?

Luckily, I now understand that sweats are for school and sleep, not for dinner and drinks. Yet there is still one thing that stumps me every time I see it: People who dress up in their houses. Reality show stars like the Kardashians wear stilletos and stage makeup relaxing in their mashion. American Idol contestants wear dresses while channel surfing. Even the matronly moms from Wife Swap wear jeans and button-ups while preparing a pot pie.

I feel like I’m one of the few people that has received a comment “Wow, you’re dressed up!” when I wear jeans to class (yes, this has actually happened).

Am I the only one that is still stuck on sweats? Will growing up make me graduate to jeans?

Exclamation Obsession

Oh, exclamation mark. I know that our relationship is wrong, but it feels so right.

I’ve been taught to despise this overly perky punctuation. Your words are supposed to create the mood, not the punctuation. Adding ‘!!!’ to show excitement or anger is both unnecessary, and, according to many, severely annoying. Acclaimed authors agree:

Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have to triple check my applications and essays to ensure the punchy punctuation mark didn’t sneak in. I often add an exclamation mark (or two) to every line of a Facebook post. For some reason, I sometimes feel like I need the punctuation mood to prove my point: “I’m excited to see you.” isn’t enough. “I’m excited to see you!!” makes my feelings clear.

I know my obsession with the exclamation mark is toxic, but we’ve been together so long that I can’t imagine writing without him.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

For 99.9% of my post-teenage years, I have had roughly the same hairstyle. Medium brown, slightly past the shoulders. Maybe a side part, if I’m feeling especially risky. The simplest style request: Just cut the split ends. Fortunately, my stylist rarely gets bored, since I choose to get a cut approximately every 6 months rather than the recommended every 6 weeks. The ‘split ends’ quickly become a mound underneath my swivel chair. I’ve always been especially cautious when it comes to color. As in, I never used it—It made me nervous, and also gave me a perfect “Never Have I Ever.”

Yet suddenly, I’ve become devoted to hair dye. In August, I decided to go a little darker. In December, I went nearly blonde. Last week, I decided to dye it ‘Medium Brown’ (per the cream dye that my sister had to help me purchase, as I’m completely clueless about color). It came out black.

I actually like the change, as scary as it was when I first saw myself with hair akin to Morticia Adamms (it has since faded, so I sadly no longer have a ready-made Halloween costume). I’ve become excited with hair color experimentation, and am already debating my next dye job. It’s like I’m living my teenage years in reverse. Let’s hope I don’t buy ‘Bombshell Blue’ on a whim.

Bring on the Birthdays

I always pause for a second when asked my favorite holiday. I know the answer immediately, but it often gets an slightly odd reaction, seeing as how there is no place for it on typical calendars.

My favorite holiday is other people’s birthdays. Nope, not my own—other people’s. I’m too indecisive to enjoy my birthday as much. I’m far too indecisive for celebrating a day dedicated to me. Plus, I’ve never liked getting older. But I get excited simply anticipating celebrating another person’s special day. I’d much prefer a birthday party to Christmas presents or a Thanksgiving turkey.

My preference for birthday parties leads me to an odd—no longer very hidden—talent. I am really good at remembering people’s birthdays, even if I’ve only met you once. People sometimes come up to me to test my talent after we discuss it, and I nearly always know the date (or at least the month).  Of course, this also depends on the number of drinks I’ve had when the date is divulged.

I can barely remember a single statistic about science, probably because my head is bursting with birthdays. Ah, well. I’ll take cake over chemistry any day.

Prom Ponderings

Prom. Regardless of whether your experience was awesome or awful, you can assure that it’s likely a night you won’t forget.

I hadn’t thought much about prom in the past few years—it was fun, but not the most memorable night of my life (I went to two proms with two different guy friends). I was reminded of the event at work yesterday. One of my jobs is working as an Upward Bound tutor, where I tutor low-income High School students from 3 Des Moines high schools  (Lincoln, Hoover, and Roosevelt). Since the majority of their questions involve Chemistry or Calculus, we mostly end up chatting. I couldn’t fake an understanding of chemical equations even if I were given a free supply of food for a year.

The topic of conversation yesterday? Prom. Their prom is April 10th, so prom preparations are in full-force. A few girls had pictures of their dresses, and one even had hers to show. The conversation eventually moved from dresses and dates to price.

Although I know that all of the students are considered low-income, we never discuss this directly. The vast majority of the students have to pay for all their own bills, and some even have to give the income they make at their part-time jobs directly to their parents. One student even has to give her stepdad $15 each time he drives her anywhere because he’s “taking time out of his day” (he is currently unemployed, and, from what she says, he spends the majority of his day in front of the TV). Another has to take on early morning shifts at the airport to provide for her parents; her father has a 6th grade education and her mother speaks minimal English and works at Wal-Mart.

We were discussing prom yesterday when one student, Erin, mentioned that she just bought her dress, which she found at Goodwill for $5. She was so excited about it, and it was so pretty (she was the student who had the dress to show). Yet she wasn’t sure it was right for prom—it fell to the middle of her calves, and she thought a long dress may be more appropriate for prom—but she didn’t think she could afford another dress. Another student mentioned that there were free dresses available through a program at another high school. Erin was ecstatic.

Our discussion really made me think. My prom dress wasn’t ridiculously expensive (it was about $160)—or so I thought—and I didn’t think twice about it at the time. Yet, ultimately, feeling pretty at prom isn’t about the price tag. I could have easily found a less expensive dress and had just as much fun.

There are so many other money-related things that I don’t think twice about. I spend more money on a single drink or a loaf of bread than Erin spent on her prom dress. I work because I enjoy it and it helps make a (small) dent in my debt—not because my family requires it. I spent my hours after- and before-school doing homework, at practice, or hanging out with friends when I was in high school, not working exhausting shifts at an airport.

I admire these students so much. They tell me these stories not to gain my sympathy—but merely just to chat. They share some great stories—both serious and silly—that make me laugh and so excited to teach someday. We move from deep discussions about price to dense ones about the plots of MTV shows (seriously, we had an entire discussion about this yesterday), and I learn a bit more every time.

Cute Confusion

I spend alot of time playing make-believe. During my time watching Harry, I have been all of the following: A puppet, a chef, a ghost, a police officer, a dog, a cat, a customer…and even a banjo playing Backyardigan.

During my most recent character exchange, I was a customer at a restaurant. Harry was the server. I received a menu, but my meal was pre-picked (Mac ‘n’ cheese and Milk, which just so happens to be his favorite). After receiving my food (and expertly overacting the play food deliciousness), I asked him if we should switch roles. He looked at me like I was crazy:

Harry: “Kristin, we can’t switch. Servers don’t eat.”

Me: “Yes, they do. They get breaks and get to eat.”

Harry: (Getting more frustrated) “No they don’t!”

Me: “Yes, they do.”

Harry: “No they don’t! They live at the restaurant and just give people their food!”

His confusion mixed with certainty cracked me up. He clearly thought I was insane for thinking that servers have lives outside of restaurants, and that working at a restaurant means that you somehow don’t require food.

But it got me to wonder: When do you realize that people aren’t just defined by their jobs? I remember “discovering” my teacher’s actually had first names and lives outside of school—which, even still, is still difficult to grasp for some especially grouchy ones. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to picture my seventh grade teacher, Miss Madsen, who donned a set of thick black rimmed glasses, frequently used the word “joshin,” and didn’t crack a single smile until at least February, having a “real” life.