Sunday, December 07, 2014

39 for the first (and only) time

On Friday I turned 39 years old. 

"For the first time?" my standpartner asked. 

"For the only time," I replied.

Truly. I have never been the woman who lives perpetually in the nines, so I'm not going to lie about this one. You know those woman, the one who claims to be 29 well after she crosses the 30 line. They joke that it's their "29th birthday," but you can always see the desperation in that laugh. They aren't ready to get old, to let go of the life they had before.

Me? I say, bring it.

Frankly, when I look back on everything in my life so far, it's been quite a ride. There have been some good things - my kids, my Nature Boy, my family, my music, my career - and there have been some bad things - a divorce (or two, depending on your definition), death, financial problems. But through it all, I've learned a few things. 

So for the next year or two, I'm going to be reactivating this old blog to share with you a few of my favorite life lessons. I'm going to shoot for 40 of them... 40 things I've learned before I turn 40 next December. 

I hope you enjoy. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

embrace your not so inner geek

I reread the Harry Potter series recently and it hit me again how genius this series is. 

Not because of the fantastic stories, the brilliant characters or anything like that, but because of the idea that we are all magic. 

Now, I know... there are a whole lot of people who get all up in arms about the fantasy genre and more who got their undies in a bunch that we were celebrating witches, but I'm not sure that's what things are about. 

I think the magic is more symbolic. That everyone has that something inside them that makes them a hero. Their mystery superpower, if you will. 

For my husband, it's his ability to fix anything. Seriously. Camera lenses, leaky toilets, loose doorknobs, broken hearts, he can do it. If he can't, throw that bitch away. 

My mother's ability is to look completely appropriate no matter what the situation. Victorian tea? Check. Parent/teacher conferences? Check. Hauling wood from the barn to the house? Check. Her hair and makeup and wardrobe will not only be appropriate, but stylish. Me? I'm lucky most days if my shoes match. 

My boss can turn any situation into a positive. There was a meeting we had at work that was so bad it had two of us (including me) crying, three so angry they were unable to form coherent words and the last so in shock she was unable to walk. By the end of the meeting, my boss had all of us eager to move forward with a new plan that we all - miraculously - agreed to. It was amazing. 

See, that's something I've learned. We all have something in us that is magic. Some skill, some quality, something that makes us special. Even people we don't think are special has one. It may not be someting that we agree is special, but it's there. 

For a long time, I was very judgmental about people. If I didn't agree with them, or if I felt they weren't operating on the same level I was, I wrote them off as not worthy. And it stressed me out. I would aactively wonder how they had managed to do what they had done, become what they were, being as unworthy as I had condemned them to being. 

But then I started to see things, little things that made me rethink my stance. (Fulll disclosure... I had a lot of help from a therapist.) And you know what? It changed me. Made me less stressed. When I focused on finding the positive, I felt more positive. That  didn't mean there weren't negatives, but those negatives were a lot easier to deal with when they were tempered by the magic. Sure, he messed up that headline for the seventh time, but at least he called in before we went to press to fix it.

So that's my lesson for you today... find the magic. It's there. Celebrate that and just enjoy it. Let that chase the negative away. 

(This post is part of my 40 before 40 project - 40 life lessons I've learned before I turn 40. These thougths are my own and you can take them or leave them. Just please be nice.) 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Today at work

A coworker and I were comparing an ongoing project to The Lord of the Rings. It's a very involved project with tons of intricacies and more than one lost cause. My boss, who is not at all geeky, was very amused by the conversation, having never read the books.

"You need a hobbit," my coworker said as I moaned about the amount of work I was facing.

"Not just one hobbit," I replied. "I need all of them. Merry, Pippin and Samwise."

"I don't know who any of them are," my boss said. "This is a whole other world."

"Yes. Middle Earth." 

Thursday, September 26, 2013


So it's been almost two years since I last donated my hair.

Bathroom mirror shot... holy heck that's a lot of hair. 

But today... This happened.

That is the very lovely Marissa from Blonde & Beyond holding about a foot of my hair. She was appalled that I wanted to cut off all my hair, but grudgingly obliged. In the end, it all went to Pink Heart Funds, so that's good. I like being able to help.

Now I have a very Molly Ringwald ca. "The Breakfast Club" haircut.


Which is still a little too long for my taste and about six inches too short for Nature Boy's liking, but I think next time I'll go shorter before I begin growing it all out again. I've already informed Nature Boy of the "No hair, no opinion," clause in our relationship agreement.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

safety dance

So yesterday I passed hunter safety. Which means I can now hunt legally.

Not that I was hunting illegally or hunting at all, because as much as I dislike establishment in general, I have no wish to break the law. See, here in Wisconsin, if you were born after Jan. 1, 1973, -- which I was -- you need to take a class to teach you how to hunt safely, what the rules for hunting are and how to handle a gun. It's actually a good idea, in my opinion. But for the last 37 years of my life, I've never felt the need to go hunting.

And then I married Nature Boy.

Now, let me be clear, he has never pressured me to hunt. He's made it clear that he'd like me to join him in hunting and I can understand that. Hunting is very important to him and he wants to share that with his family. Also, we came to the understanding when we got together that he would come to my symphony concerts and I would shoot things with him. So far, I only have shot targets.

But then the Ubergoober got very excited about hunting. His idea of a perfect fall evening is sitting up in a tree with Nature Boy waiting for the deer to get close enough to shoot...

(Before I go any further, I'd like to clarify that we believe strongly in hunting for food and not for fun. We eat or donate everything we kill and we do our very best to make sure that we make a clean and humane kill. In between, we plant crops for the deer to eat, provide them with water [from our pond] and we watch them to make sure the herd is healthy and thriving.)

... and then trudging through the woods with Daddy and helping to process the meat. I think it bears mentioning that Goober is the only one of our children who doesn't vomit at the sight of internal organs.

A few years ago, Wisconsin passed a law that allows 10-year-old children to hunt as long as they are with an adult, licensed hunter. Which Nature Boy is. However, I am not and Nature Boy is not always available to take the small child hunting. Also, hunting is something we can do as a family. So, being a good mother, I volunteered to take hunter safety.

The most amorous I have ever seen Nature Boy was the day I sent in my registration for the class. That was one happy man.

Once I got my study materials, I started to panic. The class covers not only hunting guidelines and gun safety, but also animal habitats, hunting history, animal anatomy and how to take apart and put together different types of guns.

"It's common sense," Nature Boy assured me.

Oh, sure... It's common sense for someone who grew up hunting. It's common sense for someone who handles guns at least once a month. It's common sense for someone who spends more time in the woods than in the living room.

It's not common sense for someone who read "Gone with the Wind" in sixth grade. It's not common sense for a concert violist. It's not common sense for a woman who truly enjoys dissecting poetry and who does not enjoy dissecting animals. It's not common sense for someone who goes into the woods only to pick berries or apples.

So I studied like I studied for my college finals. I did all of the homework and then some. I gave in to all my Type A tendencies and ventured ever so slightly into OCD territory. I made Nature Boy dismantle one of the hunting rifles so I could put it back together and see how it all worked. (Unloaded, of course, and with all safety precautions.)

Eventually it became common sense. Once I understood the background, I began to understand why things are as they are.

And I passed the test. In a few weeks, the Department of Natural Resources will send me my certificate and I'll be all legal and stuff.

Now I have accomplished something I never thought I would. I did not expect to take hunter safety in a million years. This was just not a life I expected to have. But I do. And I liked having to challenge myself like this. Conventional wisdom says we should try to learn something new every day and I try to do that. Plus, you never know you can until you try. So I tried, I did and I passed. I'm proud of myself.

What have you done lately you never thought you would do?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

turn ons

Nature Boy and I were watching the news the other night and the story came on about Anthony Weiner texting rude photos of his junk to women. Again.

"Really?" I asked Nature Boy. "I don't understand. I mean, I love you and all, but if you sent me a picture of your nether regions it really wouldn't turn me on. It's nice and everything, but I really don't need to be reminded of its visage. Why does he think this is going to get women all hot?"

"It really isn't the most attractive part of a man's anatomy," Nature Boy replied.

"But if I sent you a photo of my breasts?"

"Yeah, I'd save that."

We discussed it more and decided it's because women aren't really visual. At least, I'm not. Maybe it's because I'm legally blind (without my glasses, at least), but seeing my husband naked and swinging in the breeze makes me more concerned about his sanity than about fulfilling my physical desires. Oh, there's the argument that men enjoy our breasts because they don't have them Well, many men don't. But we don't have a penis and most of the women in my circle of friends aren't obsessed with surrounding ourselves with them.

But then Nature Boy sent me a text that turned me on. Heated me right up.

He made me a new door for my garden. That's right. Garden porn.

I've been begging for it for about three years, after the original garden door fell apart. It was a nice door in the beginning, but time, Wisconsin weather and paper wasps took their toll on it. Plus, the supports had warped so that in order to open the door you had to lift up on the handle, push the fence support away from you, heave the door across the beaten earth and then wedge it open with a big rock. It took so much to open the door that once you actually got in the garden, you were too tired to do anything. And it put a kink in the hose that lessened our already spotty water pressure to a slow trickle and rendered all sprinklers useless.

But we need a door so critters don't get into our garden and eat all our food. It's a definite problem where we live. We're constantly fighting the wildlife for rights to our berries, pumpkins, apple and flowers. We're not just handing our vegetables over, too.

So when I saw this picture, I got hot. Because my husband made that for me. He built me something. Something useful, something I needed, something I wanted. Plus, he made it out of scrap lumber and leftover fencing, so it also was cheap.

Tell me that wouldn't turn you on.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

two sides

I got the invitation for my family reunion in the mail the other day. This is my grandfather's family, the Danish/German side. A vast empire of stoic Germanic Lutheran midwestern farmers who make Garrison Keillor characters seem like dope-smoking hippies. They are hardworking people who have very little time or even ability for fun.
I love them all, each and every one of them, and I truly enjoy that we all get together once a year and visit, but sweet jumpin' Mary, it is quite a reserved bunch. There is no drinking, no music, no dancing, no swearing and not a lot of joking.
I was thinking of this as I went for an evening run the other night, trying to decide if I would attend this year or not. I last went two years ago with my favorite aunt, who had recently been widowed and even with that hanging over her, she was the jolliest person there.
My running route took me past my uncle Jim's house, so I stopped in for a quick visit. Jim is my grandma's brother and one of my favorite people. Actually, I liked all of my grandma's siblings except her oldest brother, Johnny. He was a right mean bastard. My grandma came from a big, messy Irish family. She was the oldest girl and the second oldest of eight. Like my grandpa's family, Grandma's family also farmed, but it was complicated significantly by the fact that my grandma's parents were separated for most of their marriage.
When the Great Depression hit, my great-grandparents, already poor farmers, fell even further into poverty. Fortunately, my great-grandpa's sister was able to find him a job in a machine shop. In Milwaukee. Half a state away from his farm.
He took the job and my great-grandma was all set to follow him to the big city with their children in tow until she found out that they wouldn't have their own house but would live with the sister, universally considered to be a horrible bitch (She was still living when I was younger and I can assure you, the rumors were true). My great-grandma dug in her heels and said not just no, but hell no, and stayed put on the farm. My great-grandpa came home occasionally and knocked her up, but it was my great-grandma that did the heavy lifting.
So my grandma and her siblings grew up in this environment - an absent father, an overworked mother and lots of children. They worked hard, but they also played hard. These people know how to have fun. There was always laughter and jokes, even when things were really horrible, like having to hide my uncle Art under the bed when company came because he had a severe cleft palate or the abuse or the abject poverty or when my grandma had to walk 10 miles one way to school because she wanted an education and her father and her oldest brother didn't believe she needed a high school diploma so neither was going to drive her or even let her use a car. She did it, though. She was the first one in our family to graduate high school and then went on to graduate from beauty school.  
Even Jim, who served in Germany in World War II and is the last remaining sibling, still laughs about everything and tells stories of racing cars with his brothers and farming and his courtship with his wife, Jim-Sandy. See, Jim and his brother Buzzy both married women named Sandy and so we'd always know which Sandy we meant, we'd run the brother's name together with the wife's name and they became Jim-Sandy and Buzzy-Sandy. When I was younger, I honestly thought that's what their names were because I never heard them referred to any differently.
Anyway, I was talking to Jim about our farming efforts and his eyes lit up. With every mention of corn and raspberries and tomatoes and blueberries and pumpkins, he would jump in with a hilarious story of growing up on a Wisconsin farm and his smile got a little wider.
"I'd really like to see that," he said. "I remember when your ma and dad bought that place. It would be good to see what you kids have done."
I assured him he could come any time.
On my way home, I pondered the difference in the two families and I wondered what would have happened if my grandpa had never married my grandma. He always said she brought light to his life and I believe it. Still, I can count the number of times I saw him laugh on one hand. He just wasn't a jolly person. Dour is a word that comes to mind.
My grandma, though, that woman knew how to party. She's the one who slipped me my first drink when I was 12. A grasshopper, our traditional Christmas drink. When my grandpa would get too grumpy for her taste, she would razz him until he loosened up enough to suit her. He would grouse about it, but there was always a smile on his face as he did whatever it was his wife asked him to.
She was the yin to my grandfather's yang and I'm glad I knew them both. I'm glad I could see how the two pieces fit together. It's something I always keep in mind with Nature Boy - no matter how different we seem, we still fit together.
I think I will go to the reunion. It may not be the rollicking fun we have with the other side, but it's good to remember where we came from.