Saying Goodbye To My 30s

Starting a new decade of your  life is tough, at least for me. I had a hard time with 30 and now that 40 is almost here, I feel deflated. We all have an idea of how we want things to go in our life--where we'll be, what we will be doing, who we will become--but it hits kind of hard when you get to a milestone and realize you have either bypassed those things, or haven't quite gotten to them yet.

At work this week, as I was cleaning out some files, I found some papers from an Anger Management group we used to run. One of them is the Checklist for Hidden Anger. There are a lot of things on this list that describe me and how I feel right now. I have crossed out those that are not relevant to me, but it may as well be renamed-- Checklist for Turning 40.

How do you handle big birthdays? Do you have hidden anger too?



My Last Winter Solstice As A 30-Something

Tonight we attended a Winter Solstice celebration. I was the youngest one there. Our hosts made lamb stew and cornbread, offered tours of their amazing home and let us sit quietly as the bonfire was lit and glasses were raised in toast to those who were not in attendance this year. Our host has lost two friends this year—one just a few weeks back. One gentleman had buried his wife recently. The couple to my right talked to their friends about the recovery from his recent heart attack and heart surgery. One couple both walk with canes, and the wife has a pretty hard time getting around without assistance. They helped each other, and so did everyone else.

Don't get me wrong— I know I have made it sound like a rather somber affair, but it was exactly the opposite. There was so much laughter and good conversation. Our host, who is quite proud of his fire-making abilities, explained to everyone how he had built up the wood into a stovepipe, and he clapped his hands in delight when the fire began to "sing". I heard stories of grandkids and gardens, holiday plans and food. A lot of people did not know one another, but there were no awkward silences. No one felt excluded from conversation, and I bet no one left regretting having spent their evening with this particular group of people.

I left feeling a little guilty for complaining about turning 40 next month, but most of all I left with a little bit of excitement for all the years after 40. This doesn't mean the idea of my next birthday doesn't still give me a twinge of dread, but it does seem a little less scary.



Paper Memories

Today I found the following on an old, faded index card:
William- not Bill & certainly not "Dick"

I often find bits of paper around the house with scribbled notes on them. Sometimes it's a corner of an envelope or a grocery receipt. Other times it's the back of an old postcard or half a Post-It note. Whatever it is, it is often unclear what I was trying to remember. If it has the name of some food item, than it could be part of a grocery list (or not), but more often than not, the paper has a short phrase or one word underlined several times.

I find these bits of memory in old purses, shoved in my checkbook, sticking out of books I've read, or am in the middle of reading, in my shower caddy, my side table, lying on the floor and sometimes, even stuck to my clothes. I'll share a few of them here:

Letter with bits of sand in the envelope.
Boston's south side
Miss Hargreaves frank baket (at least that's what it looks like)
Ribbon for Anne's jar
Tap the clock at top
It's a beard

It's hard to see why I'm not a member of Mensa, isn't it?



From Yetti to Mr. Clean (if Mr. Clean's legs were bald instead of his head).

I shaved my legs tonight. That might not seem blog-worthy to most of you, but you hadn't seen my legs. I can't recall the last time I did a real satisfying job of shaving my legs- perhaps sometime in early autumn when it was still warm enough to wear capris.

After the first swipe, I almost put the razor aside and got out the clippers. Really, I think I could have gotten it done faster that way. So, now I am smooth-legged with a few nicks here and there. After finishing with some nice body butter, I feel and smell fantastic.

Having newly shaved legs is kind of like getting a salon haircut. You leave feeling lighter and not able to stop running your fingers through the length. With shaving, you just want to run your hands up and down your smooth calves and admire the fact that you have ankles instead of cankles today. Is that just me?

I feel perhaps I am over sharing, so I will leave it at that.



Crowd Funding- Good For The Ego

Jon pulled together a Kickstarter campaign recently to help him raise money to finish a sculpture piece in a series he is currently doing. I have been really impressed with the response. Not only did his project get funded, but it has exceeded the funding amount. People aren't just donating money, they are giving great feedback on the work Jon is doing. This type of response is so important to Jon. It has really helped him realize that what he is doing is important and beautiful.

I wish we could all put ourselves out there in this way and get so much positive attention and love from total strangers. Wouldn't that be a great way to live- unafraid to share your true self?

For more information on Jon's project see his Kickstarter campaign.



Same Thing As Last Year

The thought of returning to work tomorrow has filled me with a deep melancholy. I would prefer to stay home and be slothful for a few more days. Although, it is nice to put Christmas behind me and begin a new year. I have not, and will not make any resolutions. I do not think it is healthy to set yourself up for failure so early in the year, and just before your birthday. Better to decide halfway through to be a smidgen more productive, lose some weight, eat healthy, write more, get your eyebrows waxed more regularly, never run out of gas, cook more than once a week, etc.- than at least you only feel bad for not keeping the resolution for 6 months instead of 12. That has to be better for your mental health.

ASIDE: Speaking of mental health- I have written an inordinate amount of my characters lately with mental illnesses. Not sure if this is a product of my working environment ( I work in a student psychological counseling center), or if it speaks to some deep, disturbed part of myself trying to come forward.

I hope the year 2014 is good to all of you.



A Chill In The Air

It was 5 degrees outside when I got up this morning. The dogs didn't even want to go out and they have fur coats. This the the time of year (every year) I think I am ready to move. Ready to find somewhere just a bit warmer, where it doesn't snow and I don't have to spend half the year changing into a different pair of shoes when I get to work.

As the time nears for us to make a decision about staying, it is getting harder to imagine our family anywhere else. We really do love this little town. We feel safe here, our children enjoy being here, and even though I have been yearning for more opportunities for my own career, I will be sad if we have to leave. We've put down roots and they have become so far reaching, that ripping them up might ruin us for a time.

Have you ever wanted to take a place and transplant it? I felt that way about our first house in California. I still dream of that house. I think when I conjure up an image of home, that's the first thing to come to mind. I feel that way about Moscow, Idaho, where we have lived for the past 6 years. The town is pretty near perfect, and if I could take it and relocate it so it was near a larger city that offered more opportunities for Jon to share his art, and me to further my writing, I would. While I'm at it, I would take that first house from California and put that in the mix.

Since this is an impossibility, perhaps we will make the most of our current situation (make our own opportunities) or find a place to move that will attempt to live up to our high expectations. The perfect town with the perfect house? Does it exist?



Dance Like Nobody's Watching—Really

Last weekend Jon and I attended a party here in Moscow. It was a 20s-themed party called 31 Fisticuffs. It was organized by a guy, who is really good at parties and has a great imagination, for his birthday. He sold tickets, did some great marketing and rented a space. We attended in 1920s garb and  stood in the basement of a building, under a single bare bulb watching people with amazing moustaches fight one another. The losers had to have their moustaches shaved off. Almost everyone was dressed up- although many of them had a strange idea of what 1920s clothing looked like. I am pretty sure there was a slutty cowgirl there.

In any case, after the boxing and socializing, there were several bands there to perform. The music was punk rock and it was evident why some people were at the party—to dance. There were a few who were just itching for a mosh pit. Not long before we left this girl, who was dressed in the greatest linen dress and pearls, came down to where the band was playing. She stood there swaying back and forth for awhile and then, out of the blue, she began to dance—like Elaine from Seinfeld. If you don't know what I'm talking about see the Youtube video.

It wasn't the exact same dance, it was just bad and jerky and weird. The funny thing is, I wish I was her. I wish I had even an ounce of her abandon and complete disregard for what others thought of me. It was fun to watch her. I hope I run in to her again somewhere here in Moscow, and I really hope there's music.



Oxford Screws With The Dictionary, Again

I want to protest. Who's with me? You make the signs, and I'll bring the treats. 

From Geekologie's latest post: (I really love this witty quote)

"As a sign that God is clearly ready to abandon us to focus his efforts on another inhabited planet (I'm assuming he was smart enough to not put all his eggs in one basket), the Oxford Online Dictionary has announced its latest 65 additions to this embarrassment we call the English language. Come on, why couldn't you have just added 'bangarang' and called it a day?"



I Need More Time

Today was my children’s first day of school. Like most mothers, I both love and hate this time of year. I am ready for the structure of the school year, but I am also dreading it. School days mean the kids go to bed at a set time, we eat dinner together with frequency and I always know where they are during the day. It also means I can’t take a day off work and go shoe shopping with my girls or have lunch with my son, and we can’t have lazy evenings eating greasy pizza and watching old reruns late at night.

I really wish I was independently wealthy, (two years of my current salary would work too) so I could take a year or more off from work and spend all my free time doing things with or for my kids. I would be a stay-at-home mom who would pack special notes in their amazing lunches, have time to listen to everything they wanted to tell me about their day (the patience too), make new quilts for their beds, sew homemade Halloween costumes and have dinners made before 7 pm. Of course, I would also make time for myself so I could finish and sell my book in order to make even more money to stay home.

Before I know it, my oldest will graduate from high school and my daughters will soon follow. Soon I will not have the time I want to spend with them. Until I inherit a fortune from some relative no one has heard of, or I actually enter the lottery and win, I will have to squeeze as many extra seconds out of my day as possible. 



From Toddlers To Teenagers

Yesterday my youngest turned 13. I am now a mother to three teenagers. I was a young mother, but not in a teen pregnancy, irresponsible way. I don't feel young. Having teenagers ages you in a way nothing else can. Compared to my friends, I am a dinosaur. Not in years so much, but in child-rearing. 

Everyone around me is having babies, or raising toddlers. Granted, we do have a lot of friends younger than us, but even those in their late 30s and early 40s are just beginning their families. 
I don't want to give the wrong impression— I am really happy for my friends, and estatic it's not me. I want to say I am like an auntie, but I do feel a bit more like a grandmother. I get exhaused at the thought of having to spend more than 4 or 5 hours taking care of a small human. I haven't had to bathe, burp or diaper mine for years. 

I do have great kids. They aren't trouble makers, they do what they're told (often accompanied by several complaints, but it gets done), they express their appreciation and love for us, they like to spend time with us, and no matter how much they have been fighting with one another, they always have the other's backs.

 My oldest will be graduating from high school in 2014 and will turn 18 at the beginning of the new year. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I am scared for him (probably more for me) and his foray into the real world. I want to protect them from everything bad, but I think Jon and I have done a pretty good job or preparing our children for their lives. We will continue to teach them to be kind and patient, to be good listerners and stand up for who and what they believe in. Then we will have to step back and try our hardest not to interfere. 

Ugh- growing up sucks.



It's Called Positive Thinking

I'm closer to 40 than 30, or even 35 at this point, and it feels as though everyone is in their groove but me. I do recognize how whiny I've been lately, but just go with it- you obviously don't mind, if you keep coming back. Either that, or you derive pleasure from knowing someone else (being me) is worse off than you. Whatever the reason, take a break from your wonderfully put together life and read about how mine is so un- put together. Also, to make it seem less depressing, I will give one positive thing for every negative thing. See, I'm not a total loser. Ok, that's not true. I may seem balanced, but it comes from working with psychologists all day and editing their articles and reading the links they share via email. Fake it 'til you make it.

1. I have an education I don't use in its entirety.
                  - At least got an education.
2. My entire future hinges on the job market for Art professors.
                  - Baby boomers are starting to retire.
3. I haven't gotten a consistent amount of sleep in a week.
                  - I have perfected writing things down in the dark.
4. I have library books that are due, but I haven't finished reading them.
                   - We have a library.
5. The hardwood floor in my foyer is covered with enormous, ugly, mismatch rugs so no one gets four-inch splinters in their feet.
                   - I don't currently have any four-inch splinters in my feet.
6. I desperately want to sit on my couch and eat an entire cake, but I can't have grains, or sugar, or butter.
                   - I can still eat bacon.
7. I don't own a house- not even a small one. I'd settle for a shed that's all mine.
                   - I don't have to pay property taxes or worry about how I'm going to pay to fix the roof.
8. I can't afford to send my kids to fancy music camps in New England.
                   - I can afford a summer pool pass.
9. I signed up for a zumba class, but what I really want to do is just watch while eating a bowl of ice cream.
                   - No one there knows me, so I could get away with not attending.
10. I haven't had a true vacation in several years.
                   - I live in a beautiful area where there are many opportunities for staycations.
11. I think I need bi-focals.
                   - Sorry, I can't find a positive here. At least I can see???
12. My dogs are more excited about getting up at 5:30 than I am.
                   - Just two more months and I can start getting up at 6:30.
13. Half my clothes have stains on them and I don't have infants or toddlers to use as an excuse.
                  - The stains can usually be camouflaged or covered with a sweater or something.
14. I have not met my potential.
                  - Not sure what my potential is, so I could have met it without knowing.


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Envy Rears Its Ugly Heady

I think I'm turning into one of those people who wants others to be unhappy, or at least not as happy as themselves. I have no soul.

One of my co-workers, who is in her early to mid 20s, single with a steady boyfriend, recently put in an offer on a house. The offer was accepted and they are just now going through the process of inspection and all that comes with buying a property. I am green with envy and found myself hoping (in a very small way) that the owners would turn down the offer, and then that the house wouldn't pass inspection and it would be too expensive a project for her to pursue. I am a terrible person. In the end, it looks like it's all working out for her. Yay her!

Jon has been trying to get me to commit for the last several years to buying a house here in North Idaho, but I have been very resistant. We are somewhat transient as Jon finishes his Master's program and I honestly don't know if I want to stick around. For that matter, it may not even be a question of wanting to stay as much as it is going where the jobs are. I do not want to be left with a house I can't sell and have to rent and maintain from a distance. I know Jon sees the logic in this and I, in my infinite wisdom, am always right. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to be settled.

I am so ready for Jon's program to be finished and for us to hopefully find a permanent position somewhere. I had thought I would be terribly picky about where we ended up, but I am to the point where I just want to be stationary again. Of course it wouldn't hurt to be stationary in a place with little to no snow, good schools, nearby shopping and great job opportunities for me.

Our lives will eventually get back to normal, but it has not been easy these past few years. Don't get the wrong impression--I would do it all over again if need be. I just really hope that is not necessary.

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Marriage According to Erin -or- 18 Years Is Not Enough Time To Learn Anything Useful About Marriage

Today marks close to two decades of marriage for Jon and I—18 years and counting. Not to be confused with 18 Kids and Counting. 
I would love to say it’s all been peachy, but that would be a lie and a disservice to any single folks who are looking forward to marriage. Marriage is hard. It’s really hard. That’s not to say there aren't a lot of easy or fun parts, but it is work. 

To commemorate this hard-earned event I will share 18 things I have learned about marriage—one for each year. These are not listed in the order I learned them, or are even indicative of how well I have learned or implemented them. Let’s be honest—these are things I hope I have already, am currently, may one day or am semi-willing to learn about marriage:

1.  If it crows, it’s not always a rooster. (This is just a general guideline for all aspects of life.)
2.  No matter how many times you see them, your spouse’s feet can still gross you out.
3.  Just because you can have children doesn't mean you should. (I am not speaking to my own   
     marriage and children. This is just something I have observed about other people’s marriages. Who 
     said this list had to be all about my wedded bliss?)
4. The apple might not fall far from the tree, but it is often picked up by a Labrador retriever, chewed to 
    pieces and strewn around the yard until it no longer resembles an apple or the tree from whence it 
    fell. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.)
5. Once and a while it’s okay to admit you were wrong—even if you are 99.9 percent sure you aren't 
6. Don’t carry a grudge. Even if you lift with your knees, it will injure your back and your relationship.
7. It’s okay to say nothing. In fact, you can find out a lot more about a situation by closing your mouth  
    and using your other senses- even the sixth one.
8. Always be on your spouse’s side. You've got to have each other’s backs.
9. Make sacrifices for your relationship and family. It can often feel like these are enormous burdens, 
    but it usually turns out okay in the end.
10. Don’t let other’s beliefs about relationships, marriage, family or children dictate how you live your 
      life together. Only you can know what works for you.
11.  Being married doesn't mean being dull. Have fun and don’t be afraid to do things without your 
       spouse. Being together 24/7 is not good for anyone. (Even conjoined twins.)
12. Keep ‘em in the loop. Your spouse should be the first to know important information—not your 
      mom, dad, sister, brother, co-worker, dentist or barista.
13.   Be goofy. Don’t let life get too mundane and repetitive.
14.   Don’t feed each other in restaurants. Come to think of it, don’t feed each other anywhere. It’s just  
      weird and nobody wants to see that. (Unless they have some weird fetish and, if that’s the case,      
      they should at least pay you.)
15.   Do something to celebrate your milestones. You don’t have to throw a big party or spend a lot of 
       money, but if you make it a habit you are less prone to forgetting the date later when you get old 
       and Ginkgo Biloba is no longer effective for memory retention.
16.   Think before you speak. Counting to ten isn't always effective. You might need ten minutes or ten 
       days, but take what you need to avoid saying something you’ll regret.
17.   Learn when to say no and when to bow out. If it makes your spouse happy, is semi-reasonable 
       and won’t cause harm let it go. If it will contribute to the downfall of society (or just your house    
       because it attracts mice, termites and other pests) say no.
 18. It's just a movie, and you won't remember it 18 years from now anyway.


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Every weekday, as Jon and I travel to work we drive by a billboard with a riddle. The riddle usually changes every week or two.

*Today’s riddle: What has 6 legs, 2 heads, 1 tail and four eyes?

Most of the time Jon has the riddles figured out before I can finish reading them, but today I got it before him. It’s a simple riddle—too simple for Jon. Jon is a complex thinker and usually over-analyzes everything. So, this riddle gave him pause. I cannot lie—this gave me a small bit of pleasure.

Regardless of who figures the puzzle out first, I look forward to these small diversions from my day ahead.

What small things divert your attention in a positive way during a busy week? I hope they’re good.

*See tomorrow’s post for the answer to the riddle.

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Feeling Asparagus?

I feel blue. I thought about this phrase all weekend long. When did the color blue become associated with sadness? Aren't there a number of other colors that are more appropriate? After an Internet search I am still no closer to knowing the true origin of the idiom- feeling blue. Some say its origins are in Greek mythology, some place it as a navy term and others just make up a bunch of random crap.

The color blue just doesn't seem quite right for how I am feeling. One color doesn't seem to be sufficient. Using the colors of Crayola crayons, I have made a list of all the colors I am today:

Dolphin Gray
Outer Space

That is how I am feeling this week—in alphabetical order.
I feel asparagusblackdolphingrayoliveouterspaceshadowtimberwolf today.

I really don’t enjoy feeling like a 120 count box of Crayola crayons. I would much prefer to just feel like myself.



Is It Weird To Have A Favorite Toilet?

This is not my actual favorite toilet (it would be weird for me to be caught taking a picture of my real favorite toilet), but this one is a good representation.

I don’t like using public restrooms. It’s something I got from my mom and from my inability to tell a men’s restroom from a women’s restroom—that is a different post.
Anyway, this dislike of public restrooms becomes a problem when you work in a public building and have to share the bathroom with an entire floor of offices. I have become a little hyper vigilant about my bathroom rituals now. I have rules for my restroom use:

   1.      Only use the first stall in the restroom.
I once read in a magazine that this is usually the cleanest, as most people tend to want to go to the bathroom further from the front door. Even as I am writing this I realize this is probably not the case any longer because hundreds of thousands of people read the same article I did and are most likely now using the first stall. I am going to have to rethink this whole rule now.

    2.       Use more than one toilet seat cover.
One is most definitely not enough. The slightest breeze from the overhead air intake is enough to send the cover floating into the toilet water or move it slightly off-kilter. Using multiple toilet seat covers adds weight and more assurance there will be no part of the toilet seat uncovered when you begin to urinate.

   3.       Find a stall with railings on the walls. (In my work bathroom, this is the first stall.)
Railings give you something to hold on to as you hover inches above the toilet seat.

   4.       Never actually sit down on the toilet—even with multiple toilet seat covers. (See rule #3)
You really don’t know what’s on that seat (especially since you now know everyone in the entire building uses this toilet in this stall because of a magazine article they read).
   5.       Dress appropriately.
Don’t put bulky things in your pockets (that could fall out) or wear clothing that is too long and risks touching the toilet seat or, heaven forbid, falling into the toilet.

   6.       Do not use the public restroom for anything other than peeing.
If you have to do #2 at work, you need to hold it and start to adjust your “schedule”. Try taking more fiber before bed or doing squats as soon as you get up so you can use your own bathroom in your own home.

   7.       If possible, use the automatic door opener—the one with the blue handicap sign on it. (Fear of public toilets is most definitely a handicap.
Make sure to use a clean piece of paper towel to avoid touching the germy door.

   8.      Always follow up with hand sanitizer.

   9.       Don’t tell anyone about your rules.
You will sound crazy.

Update: I found this article, plus many more on using the first bathroom stall. The article says things like:

But the toilet seat is actually the cleanest part of the bathroom, one expert says.   ( I don't' believe it.)


The middle stall of a public restroom usually has the most bacteria because people use it the most. "I guess people like company," Gerba said. The first stall will probably be cleaner.  (Thanks, now everyone knows.)



Harty Family Weekend of Fun (forced upon the teenagers)

Yesterday we went to Washington State University's veterinary school where they were holding an open house. We walked through the building and stopped at many of the booths to hear information about caring for your pets. We pet several dogs, got lots of candy and watched a military dog demonstration.

In one section of the building they had a horse and cow on display. The horse, which you weren't allowed to touch, had its bone structure and internal organs painted on its side. The cow had it's various cuts of meat painted on its side and you were allowed to pet her all you wanted. Seems a little backward to me—come pet and love on this beautiful cow and see how she is going to be divided up for your eating pleasure. She was so pretty and friendly that I actually devised a mental plan on how to sneak her out of the building and into my backyard.

After the vet school we got to hear our friend Eric's band play.

Then we got Little Caesar's pizza and Ferdinand's ice cream. Yummy!!!