Apparently the only way I’ll hit my quota for posting is to start re-posting what other people write.  I still have stuff to say, but no time.  Wah.

I related to this article in almost every way.  It’s a good read for those of y’all in my same predicament.

“…in the narcissism of our youth, the very worst invective we could think to sling at someone was: “Eeewww! She looks like she’s 40!” “OMG, that guy checking you out looks like he’s 40. Gross!” “Gawd, stop acting like you’re 40.”

Funnily enough, that same sentiment boomeranged back at me several decades later, but couched as comfort: “You don’t look 40.”

I heard that a lot in the months leading up to the dreaded birthday, when I took to mentioning my age as frequently as possible, in an attempt both to neutralize its power and to gauge reaction to it. It was a comically distinct divide: Those well under 40 responded with a sharp intake of breath and an immediate attempt to soothe, and those past it offered assurance that all doesn’t fall to tatters on the other side.”

One good thing about getting older is that when one of your favorite bands from the nineties reunites after 12 years, you can afford to buy early entry tickets to their show when they come to your town.  So, when we heard Ben Folds Five was coming to Austin, we paid the big bucks (not THAT big) so we could be down front.  I should be getting use to this by now, but when we got to the venue to stand in line I was sort of surprised to find that TM and I were the oldest fans – by a lot.

We struck up a conversation with another guy in line, Trevor, and bonded over the music and the anticipation.  Turns out he’d never seen BFF together.  That seemed weird.  Even so, I figured Trevor must’ve been at least 30, but no.  Come to find out he’s a senior at UT.  Sigh.  At one point as more people were arriving, TM said, “There, that guy.  See?  The guy with completely gray hair?  He’s got to be older than us.”  I agreed that was probably true and felt better.  When we got inside and realized we were going to be this close to Ben…

… we felt a lot better.  There was more waiting inside and we ended up talking to the gray-haired old dude for a bit. We told him we’d last seen BFF in 1999 and before that in ’97.  He said he saw the ’97 tour too.  He remembered it well because his parents let him go to the show when he was in high school.  TM and I just kept smiling and nodding as we did the math in our heads.  The one person in the crowd who was supposed to be older than us was not a day over 33.  The final straw was when the crowd of little baby children went WILD when the band played a Ben Folds solo song from 2005.  Then, it finally made sense why Trevor and all the youngsters were staying up past their bedtime to come to the show.  The crowd was full of Ben Folds solo fans, and they didn’t even care about his EPIC REUNION with Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee.

It’s okay though.  We sang.  We clapped.  We bounced around.  We were all lovers of music and lovers of Ben.  Age was irrelevant.  And we relived the past for just one night.  For two of us at least, the past was just a lot longer ago.

By the way, you like how I took that BFF song and made it about getting old for the title of my post?  I’m clever like that.  On a side note, I turned 39 and a half this week.  Half way through the year, and I’m still here.  This is only my 19th post, however.  I need to work on my consistency apparently.  Thanks for coming back.

I’m going to digress from the topic of aging for a minute.  I’ve been working on a scientific theory that could probably fill it’s own blog or medical journal someday, and I think I’m ready to unleash it on the world.  It’s complicated, yet simple.  Straightforward, yet difficult.  Self-explanatory, yet problematic.  I’m going to try to not get too einstein-y here, but just try to keep up, okay?

Multiplicity of boys = magnification of gross

I’ve held this hypothesis for awhile (about 6 years to be exact), but earlier this week the final bit of evidence presented itself.  I think I can now say that this hypothesis has been proven.

Monday night I got a phone call as the boys and I were driving home from piano lessons.  TM was frantic: “Who threw up all over the bathroom!??”  I’d spent the whole afternoon with the boys and I usually remember such things, so I asked them what happened in the bathroom before we left for piano.  You guessed it (actually you probably didn’t because it could not BE more random)…apple fight.  They had a fight.  With apples.  Real apples.  Exploded.  All over my bathroom.

Later as I was picking tiny bits of apple out of the carpet in my adjacent bedroom I thought to myself, “I bet there has never been a mother of girls who has had to do what I’m doing now.”  And to further explain the theory, “I bet there has never been a mother of one boy who has had to clean exploded apple bits from between her bed pillows.”  This particular chore and many others like it are specifically reserved for mothers of multiple boys.

I grew up in a house with only one boychild, so the multiplicity of boys was completely foreign to me prior to 2006.  My husband came from a family with one boy and one girl.  Boys (plural) were foreign to him too.  I present our family history so that you moms of girls and moms of ONE boy out there know that I know what I’m talking about here when I say…it’s different and grosser having boys.

You can talk to me all day long about messy, moody girls.  I’m sure you’ve had to get the peanut butter out to remove gum from someone’s long, pretty hair.  In my house I have to get out harsh chemicals to remove the gum.  Ever had gum smeared all over a toilet seat?  Don’t ask me how it got there.  How about gum melted all over the inside of your dryer?  I didn’t think so.  I’ve found unidentified slimy objects in my nicest dishes…outside in the yard.  We’ve had a major ant problem…in our CAR.  And speaking of hair, you already know about the lice, so…yeah.

Case in point: I was practicing speech with Boy #2 the other day because he has a lingering lisp that we’re working on.  (BTW, I probably wouldn’t care about the lisp at all because it’s cute, but my sister-in-law pointed out to me one day that she sent her son to speech for his lisp because she didn’t want to feel guilty if, later in life, her son “wants to be a news anchorman.”  Potential future guilt transferred successfully.  Thanks Les.)  Anyway, we were doing speech practice where I show him a picture of an S word, and he’s supposed to make up a story that includes the word.  Me: “Faucet”  Him: “The faucet peed.”  Me: “Groceries” Him: “I ate the groceries and pooped them out.”  Me: “Moccasin”  Him: “A brown moccasin came out of my bum.”  Every, single time.  Our children frequently get sent to the bathroom during dinner “where that kind of talk belongs.”

Sure they are funny, sweet, smart, and charming.  They are also extremely gross.  It takes some getting used to.  And I’m just going to say that they are most likely responsible for most of my gray hairs and definitely all of my body image issues so this post may be relevant after all.  I read something on the Pioneer Woman’s blog once that might be apropos. The definition of boy(s).

BOY: (n) noise with dirt on it.

Touché.  And for my friends that have more than two: may God have mercy on your souls.

The two boys in the front are mine. The boy in the back has two sisters. Note the comparative cleanliness (ie: lack of grossness). Need I say more?

Hello again, blogreaders! I’ve been away for awhile, but since all six of you are in my close family, I’m sure you know what I’ve been up to.  I’ll give an update in the off-chance you’ve stumbled over here as the result of a Google search such as “i am in my 40’s and just piling on weight” or “how to handle vizsla witching hour” or “what should a man turning 40 look out for” or my favorite “my friend is turning 40 what song can i sing for her.” (These are all actual search queries that have led people here!)

Since the last time I was here I’ve taken an epic European vacation visiting five countries.  I include Lichtenstein, Austria, and France even though I only spent between five minutes and two hours in each.  Our main destinations were Switzerland and Germany.
On our trip, there was a lot of this:

“The hiiiiilllllllls are alive…”

And a lot of this:

Read: I’m feeling pretty good about hiking all the way here, and I can feel that this is a really special thing I’m getting to do.

An enormous amount of this:

“Be still. Hold still. Stop grabbing your crotch. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Smile. If you’ll just let me take one more picture I’ll buy you some ice cream.”

A daily dose of this:

“A light lunch” according to our German friend.

A little of this:

“WEEEEEEE!!!!”

You can never have too much of this:

A fancy dinner on a pretty lake.

And sadly some of this:

Read: Blisters, hot, sunburned, tired, and maybe a little bit lost = Get that dadgum camera out of my face.

The attitude displayed above does nothing for one’s joels as you can see.  Most of the time, we really appreciated the differences between what we are used to here in the US and the way people live in Europe.  It’s the first time I’ve been overseas where I’ve gotten to really experience another culture by staying in people’s homes and also just being there for so long.  It seems like with every good vacation the best things you bring home are ideas about how to change your day-to-day life a little bit to make it more like vacation.  At the risk of being too self-help-y, I will share some of my “souvenirs.”

We walked our tails off on our trip, and I felt like I came home in much better shape physically. As an example, in the picture below we parked in a garage in the modern section of Heidelberg WAY over to the right outside of the frame of this picture.  Then we crossed the new bridge (not pictured because it’s WAAAAY over to the right like probably where the edge of your screen is), hiked up to this vantage point via the Philosophenweg (aka Philosopher’s Way), all the way down to the old bridge in this picture, all the way through the old town to the train station just below the castle tucked into those trees on the left, all around the castle, back down and all around the old town pictured, and then all the way (very far!) over to the right and back to the parking garage.  This was the kind of thing we did almost every day of the trip.

We ate lots of new foods and appreciated how the Europeans shop and eat. You walk to the bakery and get the fresh bread.  Go to the market for everything else, buying only enough for a couple of days because your fridge is teeny.  Maybe you buy your vegetables or fruit from a street vendor on the way home.  You pick your berries from the garden and make homemade jam.  You use your good, China cup in the morning for your home-brewed espresso. Going out to eat is a much bigger deal (in Switzerland, anyway) because it’s so incredibly expensive and time consuming.  To simplify the lesson if there is one: slow down, think about it, enjoy it.

We tried to learn some of the language and realized it’s a no-brainer to stretch yourself a bit for the sake of making new friends. There is a whole post wrapped up in this picture, for another time.  Suffice it to say, this moment was a highlight of the trip, and frankly, of our lives.

We soaked up the history of the people and the buildings we were surrounded by.  There certainly isn’t the same kind of history here in Texas and the US, but maybe we should get out of the car and walk around a bit?  Maybe try to learn some more about…well everything.  You with me on this?


So the first couple of weeks after we got home I was dedicated to applying these lessons.  We made weinerschnitzel, we rode our bikes to the grocery store, we made some new friends, and we took the boys for a hike to an Austin landmark.  We even read the historical marker while we were there!  I’m still in the process of habitualizing (that’s most likely not a word, but just roll with it) my new European ways.

Here’s the thing, lest you think this post is picking on Amer-ka.  There is no shortage of great things about America too.  Even with all our politics and junk food and reality TV, I believe it’s the greatest country that has ever existed.  After two and a half weeks, I was so ready to get home.  One of the first days we were back I took the boys to Wendy’s for lunch (I know, shut-up.  They have good salads, okay?).  While we were sitting there this really, really old lady starting speaking across the restaurant to this young lady who was wearing scrubs and sitting with her co-worker.

(Please read the following with a major Texas accent to get the full affect.)  “Honey, what is that you’re drinking?  That looks so good!”  The young lady replied, “It’s a root beer float.”  “Ohhhh my gooooodness, that just looks so good!  I haven’t had root beer in ages.”  It was a wee bit awkward, but we all just smiled nervously and went back to eating.  A few minutes later I looked up because there was commotion with the old lady again, and saw that the young lady had gone up to the counter and bought her a root beer float! “Honey, that is about the nicest thing I have ever seen! You did not have to do that! Thank you so much Dear, you are just as sweet as you can be.”  Later as the old lady was leaving she stopped for a quick chat at the younger ladies’ table.  And that, folks, made me so happy to be home that I took a picture of it.

(I recommend clicking on that roller coaster picture.  It’s worth it.)

I keep thinking about discipline lately. I’m not talking about spankings or time outs. I’m talking about my own personal discipline when it comes to things I should be doing more of, or things I should be doing less of. In case you haven’t noticed, this whole writing-about-turning-forty thing has caused me to reflect a lot on what I’ve done and how I’m doing.

Things that require me to be disciplined now more than ever include: not eating chocolate chips every time I walk through the kitchen, not inventing reasons to walk through the kitchen, being patient with my kids, finding time to exercise, talking to people, keeping my mouth shut when I don’t know what I’m talking about, getting enough sleep, not rushing around, smiling more to reduce the appearance of my joels. Maybe the biggest thing for me right now is being disciplined about my iPhone consumption.

I have this guilt, see. It’s like I want to pick up my iPhone and look at it, but I worry that looking at it all the time is making me an obnoxious person. Here are some examples:

1.  Today in the car (I kid you not), boy #1 kept asking me to turn around and look at something he was doing in the backseat. “Mom, watch. Watch. Mom, watch.” Ad infinitum. At one point I snapped, “I cannot watch you right now because I’m trying to drive AND text.”

2.  It makes me want to know everything. There’s no reason that I shouldn’t always know everything, right? How many times a week in a conversation do I have to stop and look something up? Many times. Who directed this or that movie? When does that new album come out? What are the symptoms of such-and-such disease? What does my dream mean? How much is my friend’s house worth? How tall is Gabby Douglas? How tall is Michael Phelps? How tall is Tom Cruise? Kill me now. I don’t need to know all this, but yet I do need to. I don’t even want to try to estimate how many times I’ve typed “Chipotle” into the map. I know where every Chipotle in Texas is. It’s a sickness.

3.  Three years ago, I didn’t need to surf the net whilst going to the bathroom. ‘Nuf said.

4.  I can barely type on a regular keyboard anymore. I’m so used to autocorrect now that I when I type I’m constantly making mistakes and expecting the computer to fix them.

5.  This hits way too close to home.

6.  I derived entirely too much pleasure from this victory. An obnoxious amount.

7.  It’s with me all the time, and if it’s not I feel weird. I think about my parents, and of course, I have no memories of them nurturing an obsession like this. There was the time period when my mom was hooked on Tetris and played her Gameboy until she got carpel tunnel syndrome (sorry to pick on you Mama), but that was different because she didn’t do it WHILE SHE WAS DRIVING! I worry that my kids’ memories of me are all going to include me carrying around my iPhone. Or worse – looking at it all the time.

That’s where the guilt comes in. I tell myself that the phone allows me to be able to spend more time with my kids. I can work from home sometimes. I can reply to emails quickly rather than getting my computer out and going into another room. I can read the news instead of turning on the TV and having those news people scream the headlines into our house. I can send a few texts and get all the plans for the day worked out. At the end of the day, though, it’s just one more thing that requires constant self-control.

Things I remember my parents doing when I was a kid include talking to their friends on the phone, opening and reading the mail, reading the newspaper, writing checks to pay bills, watching TV, reading books, going to the library to look things up, going to stores to shop for things, working with their hands both at home and at work, cooking with recipes, relaxing on the couch. I could go on and on. Guess what! My kids rarely see me doing any of these things!

I almost never talk on the phone, I text. I check email on my phone. I read the news on my phone. I pay the bills online. I almost never watch TV. I only read books after they’re in bed. I never go to the library, but I look things up on my phone. I rarely take the boys to stores with me, and I buy things online. I work on a computer. I don’t cook everyday, and if I use a recipe I’m probably looking at my phone. I never sit on either of our couches. The couch thing is probably just a weird tangent. Anyways, my parents would wake up and eat breakfast back in the day. I wake up and look at my phone. All of this worries me, but should it? I don’t know.

I have always embraced technology and rolled with the changes. But this particular thing – the iPhone – is different. Carrying the Internet in your purse or pocket all the time with basically all the accumulated knowledge of the entire human race just seems kind of dangerous. I feel the need to get it in check and set myself boundaries now because not doing it means being a huge hypocrite when I have to discipline my kids about their phone use some day.

So that’s something I’m working on during this year of reflection – being present with the people I’m with and limiting the use of the phone to appropriate occasions. After all, a famous person once said “We are what we repeatedly do.” That famous person was Aristotle. How do I know this? I googled it. I found that quote and 20 more just like it in less than 10 seconds. Genius? No. Obnoxious? Oh yes.

When do you think it’s appropriate or inappropriate to look at your iPhone?

With permission from the author, Paul Stokes, today I’m reposting from his blog Stokes Kith and Kin which I read frequently.  It’s a little lesson that struck the right note with me when I read it a couple of weeks ago.  Am I the only one who is completely overwhelmed walking through the mall or Target or often my own house (!) by all the new, abundant, accessible STUFF?  Sometimes you just want to say “Enough!”  Paul gives us another way to think about all of this “blessing” and the word “enough.”

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Having Enough or Having It All

On Sean’s [Paul's friend] facebook page, he links to this post on the Foreign Policy webpage, entitled “Why America Can’t Have it All.” I commend it, not only about what it says about “America” but also what it says about the idea that we, as individuals, should have “it all.” I have been considering lately the story of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, and specifically the matter of God feeding them there. I was led there by our study of John, Chapter 6, in our Sunday School Class, where Jesus declares that he is the Bread of Life, referring to “our forefathers who ate the manna in the desert . . . “

Whatever manna the people gathered, it was enough.

-Exodus 16: 15b – 20

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer [an omer is a unit of measurement] for each person you have in your tent.’” 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” 20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Having it all is very often having too much.  So we keep “part of it until morning” and our lives begin to smell bad.  There is rot in it.  Maggots.  Broken families.  Broken lives.

The Jews have a song they sing at Passover.  The song is like a prayer, even a single word lifted up in thankful praise to God:  Dayenu (דַּיֵּנוּ.)  “Dayenu” means “Enough!”

I also think this expression of praise and gratitude has more to it than those obvious elements of worship: it is an acknowledgement that more than enough is not a blessing.  I would suggest that underneath that song, there is something like, “Enough blessing, oh Lord!  Thank you, oh Lord, but enough blessing!”

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The article referenced has some good thoughts about all of the excess we’ve become accustomed to, and now demand, as a country.  Here’s a quote from the article: “You see it in the imagery offered up in the fiction of Hollywood, not to mention the confections of Madison Avenue, Wall Street, and Washington, D.C. In each, images of achievement without sacrifice, of weight loss without diet or exercise, of gain without risk, and of economic growth without investment or prudence are dispensed like crack in a schoolyard….the [American] dream was never having it all. It was always about having enough and perhaps, generation to generation, having it a little bit better. It was about tapping potential, not about confounding the laws of physics, biology, finance, or reason.”

Amen.  Thanks, Paul, for writing and for sharing….

On any given day in 1995 (0r 1994 or 1996 for that matter) I could be found laying out by a pool in Dallas, Texas reading Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour and listening to Ritual de lo Habitual on an infinite loop. No sunscreen, no 10 minute safety breaks, no juice boxes or goldfish to be seen. There were two hour lunch breaks everyday spent eating stuffed baked potatoes in the company cafeteria debating everything from the existence of God to which was the best Coen Brothers movie. (We didn’t even know about Fargo yet!) Racking up the credit card bills eating out after work at Humperdink’s, On the Border, or any of the other 900 chain restaurants on Belt Line Road in Addison. Shopping for CD’s at Bill’s Records and Tapes. Drinking coffee in the middle of the night at Cafe Brazil. Everyone piling into TM’s Saturn to go downtown because he had the most gas and the best stereo. Seeing Little Sister at Trees in Deep Ellum. Discovering Woody Allen and CS Lewis. 7-11 Big Gulps. Blockbuster Video. The Inwood Theater. We watched Friends and Seinfeld. We watched the news about OJ Simpson and Oklahoma City and could barely fathom what had happened in Rwanda. It was the year that gave us Ben Folds Five and Braveheart. The Foo Fighters, Tommy Boy, and Toy Story.  It was around this time that I first realized the appeal of the Internet the day I discovered The Onion. Waiting 5 minutes for those pages to load and laughing so hard.

This happened at Halloween:

Our homage to Kurt, Courtney, and Frances Bean

I remember a snow day where it was impossible to drive down the street to work, but I managed to skid across town on 635 to hang out with friends all day. Hanging out. That’s what we did in the 90’s.  We hung out.

I wish I could say I was doing something worthwhile like my early-20-something friend Kelsi who just moved to Kenya to help make the world a better place. But for me, at 22, my mind’s eye could not see all the way to Africa. It looked out from Texarkana and got as far as Dallas and stopped. But here’s the thing. While all this hanging out probably seemed frivolous at the time (and now as I describe it), it may have been the most important time in my life. My faith was forged. My worldview was solidified. My mind was opened. I found my future family and chose my path.

I had this epiphany the other day about 1995. What I was doing at work seemed very difficult and stressful. I had lots of fun with my friends, but I knew when to get serious. I would work all hours of the day and night and be very hard on myself. I was trying to do a good job and make the most out of every opportunity. It’s actually so funny in hindsight that we were a company full of liberal arts kids, influenced by Pulp Fiction and Barton Fink and Blade Runner, making these stupid training videos. Now, all the hanging-out memories come flooding back, but I can’t remember the stuff I was stressing about at all. What I didn’t realize was that my job and making a paycheck, what I thought was the most important thing I had going on, was actually just the backdrop for my real life which was playing out in coffee shops and record stores and movie theaters. I was thinking deeply and being challenged by new ideas and people. I was growing.

Career, school, and time at home are the canvas of a life. The masterpiece that will endure is what you do with your time when you have a choice.* How do you treat people? What are you learning? What kinds of things are you talking about? Are you listening enough? Are you growing? Are you showing grace and mercy to the people around you? What, from today, is going to matter looking back 20 years from now? This is what is important. In 1995 and now.

* Exceptions would be if you are Kelsi, Steven Spielberg, Eddie Vedder, Steve Jobs, or someone finding the cure for cancer. In those cases your career probably is the actual masterpiece and you can disregard everything I’ve written and get back to work.

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