Wednesday, March 18, 2020

This. Is. 40. Installment 11

Well, here it is. March 17. I am 40.

No one could handle the idea of me turning 40, so everyone is quarantined. The world is so, so strange right now. I lost my birthday party and the concert I was going to go to, thanks to the corona virus, but I'm trying to appreciate and count my blessings. They are many, especially compared to what some people are going through right now.

As far as turning 40, I think it's fair to say that I've done pretty much everything I've wanted to do by this age. I do wish I had traveled more, I wish that I had a deck...also I thought at this age that I'd have a better drainage system in my backyard, but other than those three things, my life is pretty perfect.

Three healthy, happy kids. One healthy husband who I still love. A house I love. I job that is meh, but pays the bills. I love my bike, especially my bike basket. I love my town. I have curtains I'm quite fond of. My arts and crafts collection is strong. My baseball team won the world series and I went to two of the games. I'm friends with my siblings. I love my parents. I have two cute, established rose bushes in front of my house. I have a stash of two-ply toilet paper that some people would kill for.

But the biggest and most recent checkbox checked is that I finished my book. All the way. I had two rounds of friends read the book, comment, and after that I made more edits. Yesterday I finished my last edits and sent query letters to six agents to start the process of finding an agent to represent me. That was my goal-- by my 40th birthday.

But even if nothing comes of this book, the journey here has been so rewarding. I've become a better writer and this book has given me not only an outlet for my creativity, my love, and my frustrations, but it also gave me a purpose. For ten years. I now need a new purpose. And I have a great idea for a new book.


Yay for friends who give great gifts!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

This is 40, Installment 10

You guys. It's less than two weeks away. The big 4-0. I'll be old in two weeks.


Let's talk about memes.

I feel like I'm fairly meme-confident. I can see one and GET IT. You know, it's subtle and it references something in pop culture and/or the news and I chuckle knowingly and confidently to myself. I make it clear to anyone around me that I understand it. We laugh about it. We're so knowledgeable and worldly. NBD.

The other day my sister sent me a meme that she also attached a caption to. I looked at. Looked at it again.

I had NO idea what it meant. NONE.

But you can't let the sender know, obvs. So I asked my brother what it meant. I asked him several probing questions, trying to extract her meaning from it. It's a meme. It is not supposed to elicit probing questions. I asked him more questions, and then just stopped after several rounds for sheer embarrassment of the texting disaster that was happening on my phone.

I'm still not sure I completely comprehend what it means.

Getting old is hard.

This is 40.

Something I still get: tacos. Yum.

Friday, February 21, 2020

This is 40, Installment 9

The day is fast-approaching. It's less than a month now until I turn 40. I feel like I'm recording my last will and testament here. My last words. But for now I'd just like to write about smoothies. Why? Because they're amazing and I'm completely in love and I think it might make me old. Or else super healthy and robust.

For the past three months I've been making smoothies nearly ever morning. How else do you expect me to eat kale? Turns out kale is not only ridiculously good for you, it's also super filling. I can exist all morning with my tummy full of kale and a whole bunch of fruit and seeds and not be hungry until noon or later. It also cuts down on my coffee-intake, which I suppose is for the best.

I feel like smoothies could be an old person drink. You know, don't have to put the dentures in, just blend, sip through an elbow straw so you don't to raise your head, and swallow. But I don't actually think smoothies are an old person thing; I just thought they might make a good turning 40 blog post.

However, they did make me think of dentures.


This is 40.

In case you're interested in practicing for the denture life, or tricking yourself into eating kale, here's what I've been putting in smoothies. Not all of these into one smoothie, but I've found good combinations of flavors that include these ingredients.

frozen strawberries
frozen mixed berries
frozen cucumber slices from cucumbers that had been in the fridge too long so I froze them.
frozen cranberries
frozen pineapple chunks
ground oatmeal
chia seeds (soak 'em first) 
ground flax seed
plain yogurt (vanilla-flavored when I'm feeling wild)
coconut milk
unsweetened cranberry juice
ice cubes

Thursday, February 6, 2020

This Is 40, Installment 8

It hit me like a dump truck full of bricks tonight. There's this thing I do and I'm pretty sure it's not what people under 40 do. Certainly not people under 30. It's about my text life.

When I'm texting I go light on the emojis and heavy on...wait for it... the adverbs. I use adverbs in my texts. I think that's uncool. A quick glance through my phone and you will see that my texts have more adverbs than necessary. One of my favorite quotes about writing is from Steven King: "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." And I agree. Generally. (See what I did there?) It's the whole showing vs. telling, and using too many adverbs is grounds for writer divorce.

This whole idea made me look through my texts for adverbs, and that morphed into finding words that a 20 or 30 something year old would probably not use. I also used the words tacos and cheese an excessive amount of times over such a short period of time. (But, I mean, can you blame me? Are there better things than tacos and cheese?)

At least I didn't come across any of the text with  ranDOMly CapITALIZED letters that make me feel like I'm BEING YELLED AT.

Here are some uncool words/old person words and adverbs from my last few weeks of texts:

Uncool/Old Person Words        Adverbs
colloquialism                             accidentally
obligations                                 totally
prearranged                                totally
proctor                                       possibly
hardcore                                     totally
Pinterest                                     completely
chemicals                                   enthusiastically
incorporate                                 totally
plumber                                      exuberantly
manuscript                                  loudly
database                                      selfishly
cornbread                                    objectively
referral                                        hopefully
attendance                                   finally
symptoms                                   definitely
grammar                                     totally
negative                                      originally
shitburgers                                  totally
confirm                                       really

This is 40.

Nostalgically going through pics lately... BFFs from college. All turning 40 this year!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

This is 40, Installment 7

Remember when kid food was cute? I mean, in the beginning it was adorable-- baby's first solid foods, funny faces. Then it got a little messy as they started feeding themselves, food all over the upper bodies. But still cute. And little. Then you could do creative things with the food-- shapes and colors and such, and they'd semi-appreciate it, maybe even help you with making it. Still, it was little.

I am past the little food phase of my parenting life. I'm pretty sure I'm now on to the huge food phase. I have three boys and all they're doing is eating and moving.

Recently I just owned it and started feeding the twins two dinners a day on hockey practice days. They'll down a frozen pizza or two after school and before practice (to be clear, I cook them first), come home from practice, and eat tacos and drink smoothies. The second dinner is the one where they smell like dank hockey gear and sweaty helmets, in case you wondered.

Brian often makes them two breakfasts on hockey game days. Piles of sausages and a carton of eggs. Twice. If they don't eat that much then they end up eating 20 granola bars and 25 string cheeses and we will be out of school snacks for the week. And they're skinny and they're not very tall.

Guys, it's only going to only get worse from here. We might need to take out a second mortgage to afford our grocery bills.

This is 40.


Friday, January 24, 2020

This is 40, Installment 6

My countdown to turning 40 has been inspirational. Ten years ago, when I first started staying home with my twins, I started writing a novel. TEN. YEARS. While it is not polished and I'm sure will still undergo many edits, it is FINISHED. I finished the ending last weekend. Maybe I cried. When you know characters and their dirty secrets and conflicts and what makes them laugh and love, and what they want in life, for ten years, you get emotionally attached.

Since September this year, I have been working feverishly on finishing the story, with my 40th birthday looming like a sweaty mountain ahead of me. I had to finish writing a book by the time I turn 40. Had to. And I did. I have never been so focused on one thing... maybe forever. It's the closest I've come to feeling like an Olympic athlete. It was almost all I thought about. Sorry, if I was absent from our conversation last time I saw you. Totally living in my book. Major shout out to my husband here... he has been amazing at supporting my writing, well always, but especially the past few months. He basically does everything.

However, my next goal is to send out query letters to literary agents by my birthday (March 17). So last night I sent copies of the manuscript (I feel so naked about this) to a bunch of wonderful humans who have agreed to be my beta readers* and give me feedback ASAP, so I can make edits before I send those letters out to agents. Now I have to write what most writers hate-- my synopsis. So, I'll work on writing that, while sweating profusely about what my beta readers will say, and await my birthday.

To think that I started this entry out thinking I would write about the gradual acceptance and incorporation of Mom jeans... this is better.

And this is 40.

*If you'd like to be a beta reader me. :)

My unattended kids have stolen my phones and filled it with pics like this. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

This is 40, Installment 5

You know the social formalities we all go through with acquaintances, coworkers, even strangers:

"Hi, how are you?"
"I'm fine, how are you?"

"How was your weekend?"
"It was great, thanks, how was yours?"
"Good, thanks."

Whenever possible I try to switch things up and say something unexpected and funny, but let's face it, sometimes we're all just trying to get through our days without being rude. Just trying to get by, and falling into these comfortable exchanges is just that-- comforting. Predictable.

Some expressions I've heard lately have rubbed me the wrong way. Probably because of my impending 40th (which I am now referring to as Black Tuesday). I'm absolutely sure there was no malice in any of the things these people said, but still... I'm sensitive right now.

"You look tired."

What am I supposed to say to this? Yeah, I've been flying through the solar system on this rock for 40 years, of course I'm tired. Shut up, you're 16 and you smell weird. (I mean, that's just an idea.)

"You don't look good. Are you okay?"

I mean how do you respond? Ok? Thanks, you don't either? And I mean, is anyone really okay?

I've said these things to people, and I'm probably still going to say them to people, and they will say them to me, because it's just habit, and I believe most of the time well-intended. But still. I want to try not to say these things to adults. Who knows, someone else might be in the throes of midlife crisis like I am and cry themselves to sleep after hearing that they look tired, even though they slept for 10 hours in a row last night and spent the weekend at the spa.

Too soon, people! It's coming too soon.

This is 40.

Plaid pajamas make me think of old people. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

This is 40, Installment 4

I've learned that some people don't make sense, and that's okay.

You know the ones:

She's in the express lane checkout with 105 items and a handful of coupons and she's writing a check. 

He's in the left lane happily going 12 miles an hour in a 45 zone, next to someone in the right lane who's on her phone.

These people don't make sense.

I'm almost 40 and I think I've come to terms with that. These people happen. They will continue happening for the rest of forever. And nothing I do or say or how many times I roll my eyes or make annoyed coughs, she will continue to stand in the bathroom line with a huge gap between her and the person in front of her while the end of the line snakes down the hall. He will wait for 20 minutes with his turn signal on, while the family of eight loads up their groceries and buckle up for safety, so he can claim the parking spot ten feet closer to the store.

And that's okay.

We won't be best friends, we won't even maintain eye contact, but I don't have to try to teach you a lesson with my indignation or a "thoughtful" word of advice, or even be involved in any way.

Coming to know and practice this is freeing. And for some reason it has taken me awhile to internalize. I do not understand people. I love many of them and I like many of them, but not all of them. But they will always be here, with their turn signals stuck on, or completely blocking the bread aisle with their cart.

And that's okay.

This is 40.
And that's okay.

Friday, January 3, 2020

This is 40, Installment 3

Just. Say. No.

It's something I've learned can be SO freeing. Maybe it's a growing-old revelation. This fall I was working on finishing my novel and kept saying no to things. Things like my gingerbread house building party that we've thrown for the past 14 years. Things like turning down various Christmas invitations. Things like not going to my kids' hockey tournament in Buffalo (I know, so tempting) in order to write. Even things like going to see the Capitol Christmas tree and White House trains and trees that we've traditionally done. I said no. I don't HAVE to go to everything I'm invited to, even when I like the people who invite me! Even if we ALWAYS do it. Most people already know this, but it's been a little addictive for me to say no. Consider it.

I lived primarily in my head this fall and first part of winter, and I've enjoyed it. My inspiration to dive into writing again was fueled by a literary society of two other writing pals from college also working on novels. It is a virtual society, and we communicate via Google Docs and Marco Polo, which is an amazing app that everyone should have (unsponsored plug).

On the flip side, I said yes to something that we don't usually do, which was to visit the beach over Christmas/New Year's break. It was delightful and relaxing. Now I am in a mad dash to finish grading essays and plan the rest of second quarter. Unfortunately, all I could say to those essays was, "No, not yet." Now they're here and real and staring at me menacingly.

Here is a poem I wrote this fall about drifting away from writing over the past few years. I'm glad to be back. And if I say no to something, don't be offended. Just know that it's an addiction that I'm currently not seeking help for.

This is 40.

I Lost You

on the path
in the weeds
sidewalk cracks
playground mulch
silent desks

I’ll see you tomorrow though
I always say I always say
when the spirit prompts
when the wind blows tree leaves
sequins flipping in flight

but diapers
but dinner
but laundry
but dishes
but bathtime
but stories
but essays
but meetings

You’re in me but never
on the lines
white, barren, beautiful
flying, flitting, dividing my 
sky separating my thoughts my
world shattering my air my breath
my dreams

You are loud as cat’s feet 
on pine needles
predictable as time
surprising as sunrise 

Always there


And now a couple beach pictures from the thing I said yes to this holiday season.

Friday, December 27, 2019

This is 40, Installment 2

When I think of old people I think of things like floral sofas, and mauve or pea-green toilets. I think of white and orange Corelle ware in a kitchen with a wallpaper border around the top of the walls. Maybe it's just me. But another thing I think of is routine. And finickiness if that routine is not upheld. Glasses down on the nose. Scathing glare at the kids on the lawn.

One of the things I've discovered lately, and I realize it's a bit late in life to discover this, is that routine provides great comfort. It's not that my life is organized, let's not go that far, but my daily routines have become so predictable and...comfortable as I've gotten older. The flexibility and sense of being scattered that is essential as a parent of newborns and toddlers is not here anymore. There is still a sense of it as a mother of three loud boys, but as far as daily routines, I have more of them than I remember having before.

I won't bore you with the details of my morning routine, but they happen in the same order or things get weird. Order of operations is essential. Here are two that absolutely must happen:

Make my bed- If I don't make my bed it haunts me all day and I don't feel like a real person. Never before the past couple years has this been the case. This includes putting my pajama pants under my pillow. Thanks, Mom.

I must drink morning coffee. No change here. But if I'm at home I have to drink it out of a certain little tea cup and if at work I must drink it out of a mug, not my travel cup. My coworkers think this is strange, but it's so much more comforting to hold a warm mug of coffee than a sterile, uncaring travel mug.

I will continue to find comfort in this routine, and in the revelation that its comfort brings. Why have I been so spontaneous in the past? Why so fun and imaginative? All I really need is to go to the bathroom at the same time each day and I will be just as fulfilled.

I've found my mauve bathtub. And I like it.

This is 40.

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