F A Work in Progress

Monday, August 15, 2005

FAB at FORTY

Okay, I may need to change the title of this blog now that I've crossed over into the "power years." That's what they call it, you know, the decade after you celebrate your 40th birthday. Maybe it's because you are more in control of your life than ever? I'd like to think it's true, so that's what I'm going to say it is, since I just entered this new decade a mere 7 days ago.

I was excited about turning 40. I still am, maybe because the alternative is ... well ... death. So, why the fuss about turning 40? Why do people, many women I know, cringe at the mere mention of their 40th birthday? Grown women refuse to admit they are in their "forties" when asked how old they are. Why?

I may have a slight clue at what the fear is all about. Not that I've experienced it (except for that brief moment of hyperventilation I felt a week before while laying in bed, realizing I will never again be 39), but I think I can somewhat understand it. The whole drama about turning 40 stems from the fact that all those days (all 146,000 of them, give or take a few leap year days) are gone. And all of a sudden the clock that ticked on your nightstand for the past 40 or so years is ticking twice as fast. The fear that life is on fast forward, hurdling you towards your final days at 100 miles an hour seems much more prevalent after 40. I guess I can see that, sort of.

For me, even though I have no fear of 40, 50 or 60, I was reminded that new days were ahead of me (and that there were many behind me!) about a month before my birthday. We were traveling through Georgia on our way to the mountains and I swear to you, the signs of my pending 40th birthday were like beacons guiding me into the next decade. The radio stations in the mountain zone played music that I hadn't heard since I was a kid. The 70s music blast-from-the-past weekend brought back memories of my red corduroy culottes (if you know what these are, you're as old as I am!). Songs like "You left me just when I needed you most," brought back visions of my first kiss, behind the school with the hottest boy in the 5th grade and The Carpenter's lyrics to "Top of the World," gave me a rush of excitement at all the new things ahead.

Such a feelin’s comin’ over me
There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky
Got the sun in my eyes
And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream
Everything I want the world to be
Is now coming true especially for me

Need I say more?

Billboards along the stretch of road between Georgia and North Carolina read, "It's Your Time to Soar" and"Make it Happen." How obvious was that? I smiled with every passing billboard. I was right all along. The best is yet to come. The youth IS wasted on the young. I'm getting better with age. YAH!!!! The confirmation, albeit in the form of blatant advertisements and nostalgia, was clear. Even though time DOES seem to be traveling at mach speed these days, I have so much more power now than I did THEN. Only now can I keep up. That's why they call it the power years. You're moving; always moving. I can't wait to see where I arrive.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Worry wort

I remember hearing the words, "worry wort," when I was growing up but I don't think I understood them completely until I had children. When defining a person as a "worry wort," one must only look in the dictionary. There you will find my face, big as day. I AM the "worry wort." Little did I know, growing up, that the buck would be passed down to me and I would take over the throne of worrydom. As the mother of four (now 9, 12, 18 and 20), you can well imagine, I've spent many a night worrying about everything from the ability of my three-month-old to "pass gas," to whether or not my 17-year-old will know which way to turn the wheel in the event of a skid during a torrential thunderstorm while driving on I-85 at night! So, you get the picture. I am guilty of laying awake until well past midnight conjuring up scenarios where my children are in harms way. Why? Because this innately "worrisome" side of me has this thought that if I think it, plan for it, explain what to do in case it ever happens -- like, for example, if an elephant escaped while in transit from one zoo to another (RUN!) -- then, all will be well with my family.

Well ... isn't knowledge the medicine for prevention? In my house it is. If I could count the number of times I said, "Drive safe," "Don't run, you might fall and crack your kneecap," "Don't swing that, you'll put your brother's eye out," it would likely be in the kazillions. My friend laughed at me when we went away to a very cool mountain cabin getaway, our family and hers. On arrival I immediately noted that the cabin in the woods was made completely of wood. Imagine that? Completely made of wood. Okay, I instructed the kids--who were running rampant through the large cabin, up and down four or five winding staircases (made of JUST wood) -- to take off their socks. My friend didn't say anything at the time, but later, with a few beers in her, "So what's with the socks?" I looked at her through my own wine-colored glasses, "Huh?"

"Why the socks," she repeated.

I remembered my first, but not last, safety measure. "Well, if the kids are running up and down those stairs WITH socks on, they'll fall and crack their skulls," I told her, or something of the sort.

She smirked. That was all. Just smirked. She knows me well enough not to mess with my measures of safety when it comes to my kids. I am the only mother in our neighborhood who still sits on the front porch while her son is playing out front for fear that he may decide, at that one off moment, to follow the basketball down our steep driveway and into a line of traffic that may have accumulated in our all-but-quiet cul-de-sac.

I am a worrier. One would think that because I try so very hard to bypass any and all arenas where my children could be injured or put in harms way that they would be the healthiest and least damaged children that I know. Ah, but not so. My friend reminds me that out of four children, three of them have had broken bones. Her two -- none. Strange but true. You would think this would help me to see that no matter what I do -- worry or not -- my kids will, just like every kid, live with the same dangers as any other. But no. If I had it my way, and I am contemplating this with the last two, I might keep them all locked up in the back screen porch for several years. As I say this to my husband I know he is thinking I will find a way to worry even if they are confined to a 12 x 12 room. Well, duh...of course they could. Our screen porch iss surrounded by 100 foot pine trees. All it would take is one strong storm, a crack of lightening and those trees would surely crush the room....

Oh, there's no escape from worry when you're a mom....

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Price of Beauty

We all know that society dictates the way we look. A sad, but true, fact of life. In my 20s I was immersed in motherhood. Up to me neck in diapers and school bags. There was no room in my budget for manicures, pedicures, highlights, body scrubs, massages or waxing of any kind. I guess it's that old adage that "You never miss what you never had." So, I didn't really long for any of those "beautifying" treatments. The closest I ever got to a facial was the once-a-day shower of regurgitated formula that my daughter would bestow on me in an attempt to work up a healthy burp. Rubbing it in, I was good to go; my skin glowing a healthy cardboard color.

I had my last child at 30, so I spent the first half of that decade fully engulfed in kid-dom once again. I did manage to start experimenting with hair color during that last child phase of my life. What I discovered was that I should have left well enough alone. Maybe I was secretly trying to create a new identity -- one that didn't involve wiping baby poop off the walls -- but when I arrived home with my blonde locks gleaming a bright red, even the baby didn't recognize me. I believe it was my first attempt to find beauty, since the day I had kids. It was the first step in what would become the search for my "real" identity! I was not just a mommy. I could have red hair!

Moving on toward the place I am now, at 39, I have tried many experiments in my willingness to explore this phenomenom of external beauty treatments for women. Even for moms. At 36 I even went to a woman named Helga (yes, she looked like a Helga; the only thing missing was the Viking crown) and I allowed this amazon woman to wax my bikini area. Bad idea. Without going into details, I have never returned for a future treatment and I believe the swelling only took 2 days to subside.

So, moving forward, I have been manicured, pedicured, highlighted, low-lighted, ex-foliated and even stripped down for a massage or two in the last 5 years. It seemed only natural that when my friend told me she just loved this new self-tanning cream she was using, that I would attempt to create a new, more bronze ME for the summer. Being very fair skinned, this was a thrill. Carefully following the directions on the "Gradual Tan," bottle, I spread a thin layer on my legs and on my feet (the top, of course). The next morning when I stepped outside, well, my feet looked like a child's neck, where the tan (or dirt) is wearing off and it's blotchy. Like a child's neck, rubbing it with a damp cloth just made it extremely red and irritated. I looked like quite the dork. Even my son said, "What happened to your feet? Did you step in something?"

Determined to remedy the brown-speckled feet, I attempted various ways in removing the stains. I'll tell you right now, nail polish remover does not take it off. Nor does soap/water, alcohol and soft scrub. Baking soda gave it a run for the money. Some of the hideous blotches have faded and I'm on my way back to my regular pale skinned self. Well, my feet are. The problem isn't with the product, it's with me. As my feet are as dry as an Arizona desert, the tanner (with a moisturizer) took hold of those dry patches and claimed them, giving the patches a much deeper, not-so-pretty tan. Well, there is hope. I am now told that in the case of blotches (listen up, this could mean you), you just exfoliate. Oh, was I happy to hear that. It just so happened that I just purchased a bunch of beautifying products for my face and I owned the latest exfoliating junk!

Oh, the price of beauty. I think I'll bypass the newest "Brazillian" craze. After the FEET incident, I think I'll try to keep all of my skin intact, and free from any further abuse. Soft scrub does nothing for dry feet, by the way.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Nothing to Fear But..

My husband has been on a business trip all week. Now, that doesn't sound like a terrible thing. People do it all the time. I mean, I am a very capable 39-year-old woman. I have even lived on my own at one time (though I truly don't remember how I dealt with the "after-daylight" hours). Yes, you caught me. I'm a big wimp. I'm terrified of the dark (and sometimes I really do look under the bed for things, people, I don't know what). Ever since I was a kid and my parents decided that at the tender age of 13 I was ready for a room of my own, I've been afraid of the dark. Having spent all those years in the comfort of a room with identical twin beds, separated only by a tiny moat and one rather plush green alligator, with one of the beds housing a fairly decent younger sister, I didn't see the need to rock the boat. They lured me into the room with the promise of privacy and new pink bedding. I gave in, but not for long.

The first night, I checked under the bed three times and closed the pink curtains tightly so that anyone who decided to climb onto the wooden patio table couldn't peek through into my newly painted solitary domain. I remember laying there watching the shadows bounce off the walls just outside my doorway; all of them resembling one monster species or another. I listened so intently for the slightest floorboard squeak outside my bedroom door that I remember that I was the first one to realize our upstairs bathroom had a tiny leak. My heart pounded night after night as I imagined the worst of things. My eyes would flutter open, shut, open, shut. It didn't help that the closet door wouldn't close all the way and even the slightest movement, such as me rolling from one side to the other, would prompt it to pop open, exposing a six-foot line of even darker darkness. The longer I lay there staring at the darkness, the more pairs of glistening white eyeballs appeared, staring directly at me. That would usually prompt me to crawl to the bottom of my bed and, holding my breath, I would grab the doorknob and swing the door toward me. On opening my eyes all I would ever see, of course, is the row of neatly hung dress pants and pleated skirts that were required for school.

Okay, so you get the drift. I'm a big chicken. So, when my husband goes out of town, he knows I will not likely get to sleep until my eyelids are so heavy that a fork lift couldn't keep them open. He is probably not aware that I still do, on occassion, peek under the bed. I'm not sure what I would ever do if I found an actual human being lurking under there amidst the children's crumbling art deco projects from the first grade and the extra blankets we keep handy for company, but I still do look. I have a ritual, actually. When I am off to bed, I turn off the lights behind me, flipping on one in front of me, all the way to my room. Then, I turn on the light in the master bathroom, and the lamp next to the bed. I close the bathroom door, almost all the way, allowing an escape of the faintest sliver of light. Why I do that, I don't know. I mean, really. What am I going to do if I see some strange man standing in my bedroom doorway with the light from the bathroom highlighting his features? Would I attack him with the latest novel I am reading? Strangle him with the string on my Victoria's Secret pajamas? What is the point? Well, for me, I guess it's a matter of the knowing. It's like peeking under the bed, I just want to see for myself.

Did I mention that I don't shower when my husband isn't home? Come on, that's not so weird. Have you ever seen that movie Psycho?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ahh, the Memories

This is going to be a sappy kind of blog so if you're prone to tearing up at Hallmark commercials, you might want to skip this installment of my blog.

We spent the afternoon watching family videos. The "oohs," and "ahhs" coming from both my husband and I would make your teeth hurt. There was plenty of, "Oh, he's sooo cute!," and "I could just eat him up," going on, if you get my drift. We have four children, ages 9 - 20, so there are plenty of home movies to eat away a rainy Sunday afternoon. You know I was loving every minute of it -- except maybe the "paused" shot of me crawling across the floor (in black track pants with the cuff and a green too-big sweatshirt) collecting the shreds of Christmas wrap before our youngest was even through pulling it off his gift. Okay, yes, you caught me -- I have some OCD tendencies when it comes to warding off chaos (even if it is just a mound of perfectly harmless Christmas wrapping). The poor children...

Anyway, my point is that it was an afternoon of nostalgia that left even my husband with a tear or two pooling in the corner of his eye. Those tiny, squeaky voices and footed pajamas would bring down a sumo wrestler ... really, it would. As I watched the children open Christmas gift after Christmas gift (while wondering why on earth we let the video recorder run for an hour and 45 minutes while every last candy cane was licked), it hit me like a load of bricks -- I had created this life. The tiny creatures scrambling through piles of toys, including the Blues Clues Handy Dandy Notebook and the all-new Sega Genesis Game System, had given me this life. And I them. The memories -- some that I still didn't recall even as I watched my then redheaded self create them -- were chapters in that first 40 years of my life. Wow, it is amazing to me how much one can forget.

At that moment, as the screen on the television turned to blue and the tape automatically rewound itself, a line from a John Lennon song played in my head, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."So, as I end this forty-year mark and move onto the next, I am going to try to live my life a little less in fast forward and so those moments, the ones that I won't capture on tape, will not be lost forever.

Thank God for videotape!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Something More

I am no longer in denial: I enjoy change. I have worked as a sales clerk, cashier, telemarketer (for a cemetery!), factory worker, accounts payable clerk, laboratory technician, chiropractic assistant, writer, editor and publisher! I enjoy reinventing myself, to some extent. With my many careers, one thing has sort of led to the other. I love the rush of learning something new, even if it's how to burp a Tupperware container. Oh, did I mention there was a two-week stint where I sold $180 worth of Tpperware to my sister's friends? Tupperware lady I am not.

Truth be told my niche is writing. It's in me. Even as I consider giving up the idea of seeking new assignments from unknown editors, I find myself gravitating back to the publishing world. When I was young, I wrote story after story. I dreamed of writing a book. Today, my first novel is due to be published within a year and I'm busy working on my second. Along the way, I may have worn a lot of hats but writing will always be who I am, more than what I want to do.

The idea of changing careers though is fascinating to me. Just a small change can create a huge ripple in your life. It doesn't have to be a major career jolt but the idea of inching my way out of the box is very appealing. A good friend of mine once said, "Well, this is just what you're doing for now. There will be something else. A year or two or five; you'll do something else. It's just the way you are."

It took me a long time to think of this as a positive thing. Always afraid that people will consider me "flighty" or a quitter, I hesitate every time I am faced with the inevitable decision that I must go on to something more. So, call me flighty, but you just never know where I will end up as I travel through life. Maybe I'll be making lemon meringue pies for weeks on end or mastering the craft of sweater making. Perhaps you'll find me at Home Depot (as I threaten often). I always thought I'd look great in that orange apron they are required to wear. I've come to the conclusion that I can't live without change. Some things, of course will remain a constant-- family, friends and my writing--but I must seek something more every day.

This past weekend I saw the movie Monster In Law and a line from Jennifer Lopez's character has echoed in my head ever since, "I never live the same day twice." How cool is that?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Spare parts

With today's technology, I have decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to offer women over 38 the option of purchasing spare parts (for their body). I, myself am hurtling toward midlife an alarming speed and the velocity in which I am traveling is causing some of my "parts" to fail, slip, crinkle and crack. Nothing has fallen off yet, but I fear the next sharp curve in the road may just rattle something free.

I'm taking all the precautions and following all the instructions on the "Over 35" package that was handed out to me on my birthday a few years back, but still I'd be first in line for a new part or two.

To slow the deterioration process, I slather age-defying moisturizer on my face day and night. Without it, I know my face would be the first part to crumble and fall off. The Mary Kay lady just informed me that in addition to this anti-aging routine, I also needed micro-dermabrasion. According to the definition of microdermabrasion, this might be the closest thing to getting a new part: Microdermabrasion helps remove old, damaged cells, tightens skin, evens out fine lines, wrinkles and age spots and gives your skin a "new" youthful appearance. So, sign me up! I bought the program and I'm on my way to my first new part.

For my eyes, I use eyelift cream. When I was 20, I didn't even know that there was a possibility that my eyes would fall so I never used the lift. If I had used the lift before the fall, perhaps I could have avoided the fall completely?

Hair dye, anti-inflammatories (don't even ask me about my bursitis), bras that lift and separate (with 2-inch wires sewn in to keep the girls securely in the place they were meant to be), orthopedic inserts, cereal with fiber, electric toothbrushes (why?), calcium, iron and other anti-aging supplements are mere band-aids on this gravity-defying time in my life. I need more. Imagine the crowds of women who would gather in line to purchase new thighs, thighs that are guaranteed cellulite free without the need for 153 lunges a day. Now, that's an investment in your future. Okay, you CAN purchase new breasts. I'll give them that. They are on their way to being able to offer us a catalog of new parts to replace those that now look suspiciously like a pair of tube socks with tennis balls in the toe draped over a clothes line (not mine, but I've heard of such things.)

You see, I don't want the pain, just the gain. So, I'll wait until they can discover a way to distribute spare parts online or by mail order. The home shopping network would make a bundle! Until then, I'll exfoliate, medicate, irrigate and watch my weight, so that the overall shell will be in top shape in case a spare part becomes available.