On the Eve of 44

There are still many days when I feel like a fraud — like I’m just pretending to be an adult and at any moment someone is going to recognize that I’m just a kid wearing eyeliner and mom jeans.

Time keeps on tickingIt’s Birthday Eve for me. Tomorrow I’ll wake up the big double-four. And how do I feel about that, you may ask?

Honestly? I. Don’t. Know.

Is it just me, or is 44 kind of the no-man’s-land of ages? Caught in between youngish and oldish, 44 just kind of stands there with a blank stare before offering up a shrug and an apathetic “Eh.”

I mean, I really can no longer pretend to be young. And to be perfectly honest, this kind of stings because there are still many days when I feel like a fraud — like I’m just pretending to be an adult and at any moment someone is going to recognize that I’m just a kid wearing eyeliner and mom jeans.

So even though I may still feel young, in all reality I am not. Heck, according to actuaries I’ve already cruised past the halfway mark of my life expectancy. But here’s the thing: I’m not really old, either.

And therein lies the rub. (And that right there didn’t make me sound old at all.)

Poor 44 seems to be caught in a custody battle between young and old. And in the meantime, 44 is just kind of there.

I’m too old to find it fun to pass around the Jello shots, too young to find it fun to pass around the blood pressure cuff. Too old to have kids (I think), too young to have grandkids (I hope). Too old to get ID’d buying a six-pack of beer at Git ‘n Go, too young to get the $3 senior discount at the movie theater.

At 44, I can no longer in good faith claim to be “just over 40.” But I’m not yet close enough to the next decade that it feels good to boast, “I’ve still got a couple good years ’til 50, by golly!”

If 44 were ice cream, it would, of course, be vanilla. But not even the good vanilla with the little black specks of real vanilla beans — the Super Savers No-Name Best Value brand that’s more yellow than white and tastes like disappointment.

Eh. 44. Whatever.

Maybe this is a license to just do as I darn well please. You think I’m dressing too young? You think I’m acting too old? Geez, I’m 44, what do you expect?

I do believe I’ve officially reached the awkward stage of middle age. But instead of that gangly pre-teen in braces and an “I’d rather b texting!!” T-shirt, I’m that 40-something wearing skinny jeans while I get my grays colored.

So, ready or not, here I come. Bring it on, 44.

I guess we’re stuck with each other.

The 40th birthday post

This isn’t the post I was supposed to write.

I was supposed to tell you a funny story about turning 40. I was supposed to tell you about how I spent my 40th birthday at the BlissDom Conference in Nashville. How I met Jon Acuff, who was completely inspiring.

How Joe Jonas gave a concert just for us and even brought a cake on stage and sang “Happy Birthday” — to someone else (wah wah waaaaah). (And how I inserted my name into the song when I sang it, anyway. So there.)

How I got my picture taken with Rascal Flatts, and Gary Levox put his arm around me and genuinely wished me a Happy Birthday. And how I also got my picture taken with Joe Jonas, who said “Happy Birthday” with his lips but “Oh, yeah, SURE it’s your birthday too, you pathetic cougar” with his eyes.

How I drank a couple blood orange martinis, a couple glasses of wine and one glass of a gross martini concoction made with Swiss Miss hot cocoa (recipe fail!). How I hung out with sweet friends who did their best to make my day special.

How I possibly pilfered a very large poster of The Lorax… (Unless someone from “The Lorax” PR is reading this, and then I most certainly did not.)

That was the post I had planned to write.

But instead, this is the post that came out.

I apologize in advance for any disappointment or general dissatisfaction this may cause you…

About a year ago, I decided I was going to “work on myself” so that I could enter my forties looking good, feeling good (and hopefully, smelling good). I even went so far as to post a time or two about it on my blog. You know, to make me accountable.

Well, we can all see how that worked out…

Blame it on my layoff, blame it on our move or blame it on my favorite scapegoat — my thyroid — it doesn’t really matter. Fact is, I fell off the fit-n-healthy wagon almost before I even got myself hoisted up there.

And contrary to my wishful thinking, my birthday went ahead and came anyway.

I’m usually not one who cares too much about age. I didn’t used to give too much thought to my appearance, either. But now I realize it wasn’t because I’m one of those self-assured women who’s confident in herself no matter what size she’s up to or how many chins she is currently carrying around.

I didn’t give much thought about it before because I didn’t have to. I was relatively young, relatively thin and relatively attractive. I’ve never turned the most heads in a crowd, but I’ve never sent people screaming out of the room either.

Maybe that’s why this big bad birthday has been so hard for me to swallow. Gaining weight has robbed me of my “relatively thin” status, and the extra pounds, as well as the cystic acne flareups that always choose the most opportune times to reappear, don’t make me feel even relatively attractive — and now I am officially kicked out of the “thirty-something” club. Super.

So celebrating my birthday at BlissDom in Nashville seemed like the answer to my birthday blahs. I would rub elbows with inspiring women! I would doll myself up and put on a big smile! I would magically feel younger and prettier! (And a sturdy pair of Spanx would surely make me feel thinner!)

However, it didn’t work quite that way.

I woke up February 24 (after keeping my friend and conference bed-partner awake half the night with my ladylike snores), showered, got dressed, carefully applied makeup and fixed my hair, and I looked in the mirror.

“I look like a lesbian,” I said.

Which is really a crappy thing to say because most lesbians I know look way cuter than I looked, or at least than I felt. What I probably should’ve said is, “I look like Liz Lemon looks when Jack Donaghy tells her she looks like a lesbian.”

Except I didn’t even feel as cute as Lez Liz. At least she has shoulder-length hair, which makes her look a little more feminine even when she wears frumpy shirts and tennis shoes. My hair is currently going through a “phase,” we’ll call it. It’s too short and unfortunately I don’t have that cute pixie face to pull it off. Just picture my face with Kenneth Parcell’s hair. That’s what I felt like.

My self-confidence already waning, it didn’t take much to make me want to crawl back into bed. So seeing about 500 women who are not only smart and successful but also have ka-POW bodies and long, luscious locks didn’t really help matters. Instead of feeling like “one of them,” I felt like the ugly stepsister. The ugly, OLDER stepsister. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hiss, “Look away, I’m hideous!”

But sometime late afternoon, after I had thrown myself the mother of all pity parties, I began to feel something change inside me. I ducked out of the session I was in a little early and took a walk through the beautiful Gaylord Opryland by myself.

And I realized that over the last few three or four years, one word has been consistently resurfacing within me: humility.

And it just reared its head again.

I thought back to when I first realized this was something I was supposed to be working on, and I remembered how harsh and cold humility seemed.

But now, instead of being an ugly word that I despised, I saw it as something else. Gentler. Softer.


Some of my vanity and misplaced self-pity then began to melt away. And I started to see myself as God sees me.

And I knew then that God wants me to enter my forties humble.

He wants me to enter this next phase of my life with humility so I can take the focus off myself and see through His eyes. Because it’s sure hard to notice anything else when you’re concentrating so hard on yourself.

I don’t think I’m the biggest egotist who ever walked the planet or anything. But the thing is, that doesn’t matter. It’s not a contest. I don’t “win” anything by being less self-absorbed than Snooki or the Kardashians. But I stand to lose every gift God has for me if I take my eyes off Him to stare at myself in the mirror.

That’s not to say that I’m now going to keep packing on the pounds and completely let myself go. That God doesn’t love people who are physically fit or have flawless faces. No, that’s not it at all.

I can still “work on myself.” After all, God created this body just for me. I should still “work on myself.”

I just have to work on myself for the right reasons.

Coming out of my funk

I know, I know. As my friend Jody recently reminded me, I never write, I never call… Why is it that my excuse always seems to be that things have been stressful? It’s never, “I’ve been having sooo much fun in this vacation-like life I lead that I couldn’t tear myself away to write a blog post.” Nope. And just to remain consistent, my excuse this time is no different — Stress. Busyness. Chaos and anarchy.

Here’s the short version:

Husband left for Poland for a month. Three boys played baseball in three different leagues. I was haunted by a rabbit carcass for a week and a half. I lost my job. I had to wait a day for Husband to text me so I could tell him the good news. I spent my 16th wedding anniversary doing laundry. I looked for jobs. I cleaned up poop and puke. I found myself secretly enjoying the new cartoon series “The Amazing World of Gumball.” My mom’s friend told her she was glad to see that I’d put on some weight. She meant it as a compliment. I couldn’t decide whether to thank her or cry. I comforted my 6-year-old after he got bullied by a goat at the zoo. I developed a hyper-perspiration condition. My baby started shaving. I looked for houses to rent. I drank way too many 32-ounce convenience store sodas (69 centst!). I said I’d write a blog post tomorrow.

Well, it’s finally tomorrow. And Husband will be back in 6 days. SIX! The 4th of July is coming up, and you know what that means — a small-town celebration in all its glory (and carnies). And the summer’s moochcation to Rochester, Minnesota, has been planned. Nothing says “vacation” like twice-daily trips to Mayo Clinic!

I’m finally emerging from the funk I was in and have decided to rejoin the land of the living (and literate). Hopefully that means I will keep up my commitment to this blog and maintain my friendship with all of my wonderful bloggy friends. Thanks for hanging with me!

Cool photo by meophamman

Countdown to 40: T-Minus 51 weeks

Last week I turned 39. THIRTY-NINE. To me, that just sounds old. Darn old.

Now, please don’t take offense if YOU are 39 or older. It doesn’t sound old on you, just me. Maybe that’s because I can read my own thoughts, and my thoughts are not those of an almost-40-something. In fact, most of the time, they’re pretty immature. My thoughts are still running around in tight-rolled jeans and a KISS “Crazy Nights Tour” t-shirt. (My thoughts are also a tight-bellied size 6.)

I wish I was one of those people for whom age isn’t an issue. Such things usually don’t bother me. I’m usually such a “Whatever happens, happens” kind of girl. (Thanks be to God and my friend Effexor XR.) Not wanting to turn 40 is so cliche, it’s embarrassing. It makes me think of middle-aged women who insist on shopping in the Juniors section, sporting too-tight t-shirts that say, “Team Edward” or “Boys Suck!” It makes me think of “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” which in turn makes me want to poke my eyes out with a pencil. The thought that I could have anything in common with those women is enough to make me run with open arms toward the section of the department store that sells silky two-piece jogging suits and sweatshirts with the fake scalloped collar and a picture of a cat playing with a ball of yarn embroidered on the front. (Again, please don’t take offense if you currently own such items of clothing. Remember, it’s not you, it’s me.)

I know, I know. It’s time to face the music, accept the milestone that is to come. But like the John Mayer song says, “This is bound to take a while.” (Although what he’s singing about sounds a lot more fun…) So I’m giving myself time — 52 weeks, to be exact. By February 24, 2012, I’m going to be able to look 40 straight in the eye, flash a sly smile and say, “Bring it on, biatch!”

How am I going to do this, you ask? Hmm, good question, I answer. Would you believe me if I told you I had it all figured out, had a plan all sketched out and ready to go? No, I didn’t think so. That’s so not me. Instead, I have some jumbled, fuzzily formed, semi-focused bites of ideas that will continue to simmer as I ponder life and looks and age and attitude.

Here are, for example, some random thoughts I plucked from my cerebral stock pot:

  • Maybe I just need change my perspective. Instead of thinking in terms of years, I should concentrate on the fact that I will be 14,600 days. Then when I go back to thinking 40 years, it won’t seem like that much.
  • Tattoo? Maybe a Liz Lemon quote? Possibilities:
    “Do you need sex advice? Here’s a tip. Sometimes a lady likes to leave her blazer on.”
    “Trying on jeans is my favorite thing. Maybe later I can get a pap smear from an old male doctor.”
    “Mrs. Doubtfire shimself could not do this.”
    “I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”
  • Shedding 30 pounds should make me feel more confident. I wonder if this can be done without having to sweat or give up Golden Oreos…
  • Think: Distinguished. Experienced. Aged to Perfection. Keep repeating until you can say them without picturing Wilford Brimley or bleu cheese.

I will keep updating you on my progress toward aging gracefully instead of grumpily. I know, you are on the edge of your seat. In the meantime, if you have advice for me, like “Suck it up!” or “Get your nipple pierced!” (Yeah, no.), please leave a comment.

I’ll leave you with a few photos of my birthday last week. I was in Rochester, Minn., staying with my sister-in-law while attending some doctor appointments for Boy #2 (gastrointestinal issues). After sitting through a rough MRI with my boy, I was ready for 1) a drink and 2) chocolate. Fortunately, I got both at dinner! Happy birthday to me!

My SIL sippin’ on a margarita. Mmm…













My MIL enjoying her glass of Reisling. Yumm-o!













I opted for the Cranberry Cosmo. It went down smoooooth. Like buttah. With alcohol in it.













Yeah, that’s me. Roasting a marshmallow. When I saw that Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill in Rochester had “Make your own s’mores,” I almost peed my pants. It was SO fun, and SOOOOOO yummy!















Okay, we became a little worried when my SIL’s marshmallow erupted in flames! We could barely stop laughing long enough to blow it out. Good news, though: no fire trucks were dispatched, and her hair is still intact.















This is whatcha call “s’more bliss.” It doesn’t get much better than this!

A Tribute to 1’s — on 1/1/11

Happy 1/11/11!

Now, I’m not going to jump on the “1” bandwagon and tell you that I’ve always loooooved the number 1, that I always chose it for my number in sports and that I’ve tattooed it on my lower back (along with the yin-yang symbol and the adage “Mama said don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys”). Nope, that is actually the number 2. But considering I can’t guarantee I’ll still be blogging on 2/22/22, I’m going ahead and giving it up for 1, a worthy number in its own right. (But it’s still no 2.)

In honor of the number 1, that gutsy integer that says, “Hey, I ride alone, pal,” I share a few of my favorite 1’s.

“Little 1” by Ann & Paul Rand. I just discovered this book, which was published in 1962, and gave it to my nephew for Christmas. I love the illustrations by graphic designer Paul Rand, and the text by his wife Ann is so perfect.

“Little 1 looked like a stick.
From the front he was medium thick,
but from the side he was so thin
he could have been
a line.”

I found the book locally at my favorite shop Ephemera, but you can also find it on Chronicle Books’ website.

“One” by U2. (Husband would argue Metallica’s “One” should come first, but that song just makes me think of a very uncomfortable lesson I had to lead as a student teacher that involved the book “Johnny Got His Gun” and the “m” word that ends in “bation.” I still have nightmares.) Plus I saw U2 in concert right after this song came out — it was a-MAZ-ing!

Pier 1. It’s no Target, but it’s still a store I love browsing through. My favorite finds are a wicker chair and a humongo wrought iron spoon that hangs on the wall. But I’ve drooled over lots and lots more that I couldn’t justify purchasing yet.

Hawks. Okay, I realize this entry doesn’t include the number 1, but to me hawks represent the number because you always see them sitting on a sign alongside the highway, and they’re always alone. Pay attention next time you’re driving (or next time you’re riding so you don’t cause an accident) and see if I’m right. My mom first pointed this out to my sisters and I when we asked her why she waved every time she saw a hawk. “They always look lonely,” she said. Which is what I now tell my kids when they ask me why I wave when I spot one in a tree or on the speed limit marker. I figure hawks must be really comfortable in their own skin (or feathers) if they can spend so much time by themselves, which is something I really admire.

Hope you enjoyed your day of 1’s. But don’t feel let down that it’s almost over. There’s more to look forward to. Just think: the next 8 days are Palindrome Days! Let the festivities begin!


Young Love: The Dichotomy Between Kindergarten and Middle School

Having a 7th grader on one end of the spectrum and a kindergartner on the other provides for some interesting insights.

Take love, for example.

On one hand, I have an almost-teenager who has to log on to Facebook numerous times a day just to keep up with his ever-changing “relationship status.” (I try to keep a straight face.) This wouldn’t make me quite so leery if it weren’t for the “dating” habits of today’s youth.

A few weeks ago a woman “in the know” blew my happy-to-be-naive-thank-you mind when she initiated a frank conversation with Boy #1 and me. The topic? Sexting, and girls sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to boys they like. She said it’s happening right now IN HIS SCHOOL. These are SIXTH and SEVENTH graders, people.

Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Oh, and she also mentioned that boys in our city have been charged with trafficking of a minor for forwarding said photos to their friends.

What happened to class rings and letter jackets?! Sock hops, anyone? Those could become cool again, right? Right?!

I’m so not ready for this.

So while one day I’m reading Boy #1’s sent text messages for evidence of “foul play,” the next day I’m having conversations like this one with Boy #3.

Boy #3: Mom, I have a girlfriend.

Me: You do?

Boy #3: Yeah, but she doesn’t know I’m her girlfriend.

Me: (Holding in my giggles) That’s okay. She doesn’t need to know.

Me again: So why do you like her?

Me once again: (Because I am apparently the shallowest person alive) Is she cute?

Boy #3: (Looking at me like has no idea what I’m smokin’) No.

Me: (Trying to recover from being the shallowest person alive) Why do you like her then?

Boy #3: Because — I like the way she draws.

And right then a 6-year-old put me in my place, without even trying to.

Now, if I could just magically transform the middle school dating scene to be so innocent. But I’m pretty sure that would require hormone manipulation, and I didn’t take that class in college. I don’t think “British Literature and Art in the 1890s” is gonna be much help here, either.

I can only hope and pray that this philosophy on love comes full circle and someday when Boy #1 is thinking about who he wants to spend the rest of his life with, he remembers his little brother’s standards.

And that Boy #3 remembers his own standards when HE is 12-going-on-35.

Yeah, right…

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It’s a Small World (After All)

Is the world getting smaller — or is it just me?

I’ve begun to notice that people who have been doing cool things lately have somehow crossed my path before, which doesn’t really mean anything but seems a little weird (but in a good way) nonetheless. Now if it would only be me doing the cool things . . .

Case in point #1: Sarah Brown Wessling, National Teacher of the Year

Last week it was announced that Sarah expanded her Teacher of the Year reign to include not only Iowa but the entire nation. Yeah. Not too shabby. So how do I know Sarah? Well, she not only taught with my husband for 7 years, but she also lived directly across the street from us for 5 years. During that time we got to know her and her husband (this was pre-kiddos for them) and hung out with them from time to time. As a former English teacher myself, Sarah always amazed me with her passion for her students, love of literature, and insatiable desire to keep learning. I’m so excited for her as she embarks on a year of incredible opportunities. If there is a Northern Hemisphere Teacher of the Year, I’m sure she’ll snag that one too!

Case in point #2: Gretchen Skellenger, high school student whose book report made it to late-night television

Today Husband asked me if I’d read the article by Kyle Munson in the Des Moines Register. Kyle is the Iowa columnist at the Des Moines Register who just stepped in some big shoes when he took over for John Carlson and before him Chuck Offenberger. In other words, around these here parts, he’s a celeb. Okay, so bear with me. Kyle’s article was about a high school senior from Lake Mills, Iowa, who wrote a book report on a book by her TV idol Craig Ferguson. She didn’t just copy someone else’s book report off the Internet, either. Nope. She actually called Craig Ferguson’s office and asked for an interview — and got it! This led to him talking about her in his opening monologue on “The Late Late Show” as well as meeting her backstage after a performance in April. Just read the story here. It’s really good. (Kyle tells it much better than I.)

So what does this have to do with me? Well, Lake Mills, which is a small town, is where we lived right after graduating from college. And for three years I taught high school English there. And I know Mrs. Ham, the current English teacher who assigned the book report. I’ve even watched a movie or two in the theater Kyle describes.

Not that I think I’m Kevin Bacon or anything, but it does make you think about how connected we all really are.

Oh, and Kyle Munson, the columnist who wrote the story? Yeah, I went to college with him. We were in the same English classes. And I did manage to beat him out for the English department’s writing award as a senior.

And look at us now.

It appears that Kyle may have the last laugh . . .

It’s a small, small world.*

*Neither Paula nor boogersandburps.com as an entity is responsible for any mental anguish experienced by the song “It’s a Small World” becoming stuck in readers’ heads or from the sudden and unexpected reliving of a frightening experience that occurred while riding on the “It’s a Small World” attraction at DisneyWorld.

Image courtesy flaivoloka

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