Friday, November 27, 2009

40 is Freakin' Fabulous

I am 40-years-old today and I feel fantastic. I would never have imagined in my early twenties that 40 would be so great. To all of those youngsters who think that 40 is "old" I have only one thing to say, "it's freakin' fabulous!"

Why is it fabulous? Because I look and feel better than ever. In my twenties I lived on fast food, cigarettes, Miller Lite, stress and severe anxiety. What's fun about that? I worried constantly about my job, my life, my savings account, my health, my future, what other people thought of me. My life was one big worry fest. I couldn't enjoy the moment because I was always planning ways to make the moment better.

I don't worry about those things anymore. I have the best job in the world as a mother. My husband and I save for our future because we don't live above our means. Some years are leaner than others, but we still manage to live comfortably. However, the most important lesson I learned along the way is that it really doesn't matter what other people think of me. I can't make everyone happy so I might as well just focus on making myself and my family happy. As Dr. Seuss so aptly reminds us, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

I don't stress now about things I can't control. Okay...that might a bit of a stretch. I stress less about things I can't control. But, I have a great teacher in my husband. He doesn't get angry very often and I admire his ability to let things roll so easily off his back. He concerns himself with things he has some influence over not the things he doesn't. I watch and learn from him. I am working on it.

I put my health first instead of last. I quit smoking, have been exercising regularly for the past 10 years and made friends with fruits and vegetables. I don't diet but eat in moderation. I didn't give up my beer, although I switched to a higher quality brew. Nothing will come between me and my Sam Adams! I keep it simple. The better ingredients I put into my body, the better my body works. It's not rocket science.

I don't put as much emphasis now on trying to prove myself. I have already proven that I can be successful at work (promotions, pay raises, accolades). I have already proven that I can be successful at home (great family, well-rounded kids). And, I have already proven that the quantity of friendships don't matter nearly as much as the quality (goodbye to toxic people who bring me down or cause me grief...hello friends who add something positive to my life).

Wanna know one more reason why 40 is freakin' fabulous? Because I love my life. I don't think anyone on the planet has a better husband than I do. I couldn't be my best self without his constant love and support. My kids are wonderful little human beings who have brought more joy and happiness to my life than I thought possible. I wake up most days in awe of my good fortune.

As the saying goes, "you are only as old as you feel." In that case, I should be about 18. But, seriously, I wouldn't take a million dollars to go back and do my twenties all over again. What a drag. I have paid my dues and learned some hard life lessons along the way. But at least I learned. I took every one of my mistakes and every sad story and turned it around to an "aha" moment. I constantly ask myself, "what can I learn from this?" I may not always find an answer but I am always aware of the question.

I'm not unhappy about getting older. I am embracing the fact that I am much smarter than my younger self. I love that with age comes wisdom. It's true. Every birthday brings me that much closer to the me I want to be. Every year I stop making excuses about why or how I do what I do. Every year I realize that fewer justifications are necessary.

Whoever said "40 is the new 30" wasn't living in her moment. Forty isn't the "new" anything.

It's just plain fabulous exactly as it is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Value of a Dollar

We just got back from an amazing trip to Disney World. I still can't believe how much we accomplished in one week. We managed to tour all four theme parks, spend approximately three days by the pool and even attend the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in seven extremely busy but downright thrilling days. We actually made it home in one piece, but I'm not sure we will ever be the same again.

Never been to Disney? It's stimulation overload to the nth degree. The sheer magnitude of sensory experiences is overwhelming for an adult let alone a 4 and 6-year-old. The music, the lights, the rides, the characters, the food, the...everything. We were pumped up on endorphins from morning until night because we were having so much fun. I don't know of another place on the planet that provides as many opportunities for entertainment for every person.

Nicholas loved Test Track, the automotive-testing ride that simulates the safety and quality tests that General Motors performs on every prototype it manufactures. Christopher enjoyed Soarin', the multi-passenger glider that lifts you 40 feet into the air as you swoop up and soar towards the clouds and spectacular California panoramas. Mark was in full competition mode on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin video-game inspired ride as he blasted away Evil Emperor Zurg's robot minions with laser cannons. And, I couldn't get enough of Expedition Everest, the high-altitude, high-speed, train ride that combines coaster-like thrills with the excitement of a close encounter with the Abominable Snowman.

As your brain is processing all of the fun and excitement, it's hard not to succumb to every single monetary temptation that is dangled in front of your nose every 2.5 seconds. Be it a $4.00 box of popcorn served in a cool, collectible Disney box, a $3.00 chocolate-covered Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bar or the ridiculously high-priced, character-inspired t-shirts, pens, mouse pads, toys, etc. that are offered along the way, your dollars are subliminally called forth at every opportunity. Whenever you exit a ride or a show you are plopped smack-dab into the middle of a merchandise mecca designed to insist that you part with your hard-earned dollars. Your children are begging, the merchandise is so darn cute and your normal hard-as-nails resolve has dwindled to microscopic size. How can you not buy that cute, little (made-in-china) Mickey Mouse shaped pancake mold for $10.95?

Nicholas and Christopher each received $10 from their grandparents to spend as they wished at Disney World. Because Nicholas was presented with so many mind-boggling options he was basically tortured with indecision. Not to mention the fact that $10 ain't gonna get you much in the most magical place on Earth. Every item available for sale has been marked up by at least 300%. I'm not joking. The fact that some people actually buy some of the merchandise for the indicated price is preposterous. Mark and I had to make a united front, and quick, to make sure we didn't buckle under the cute-kids-acting-all-sweet-and-nice syndrome and buy things we really don't need or want. We even ate breakfast in our condo each morning and packed a lunch, with snacks, every day. We strategized ways to spend as little as possible inside the parks since we already knew the temptation (and price) was way too high.

So, Nicholas and Christopher learned a very hard, but valuable, lesson on their trip to Disney World. They learned they couldn't purchase the $15.95 item because they only had $10 to spend. They learned that mom and dad were not going to give in to each, "but I really, really, really want this" outburst. They had to learn that most items were outrageously overpriced and not worth even one-quarter of its suggested cost. They had to learn to buy something that they would enjoy and get some use out of and not just buy something to buy something. It's such a hard lesson and I felt small twinges of regret as I said "no" time and time again, but I know how important it is to learn the value of a dollar. They are not too young for this lesson. In fact, it's a great time to start teaching them that they will not always get everything they want.

Nicholas and Christopher finally decided on an autograph book (with coordinating pen) that each of the characters could sign. What a great idea! The boys could have wonderful memories for years to come with their autograph books instead of throwing out a toy that ran its course too soon because it was poorly made. Lesson learned.

The boys also learned another valuable lesson on this trip. Memories are created from spending quality time together as a family not spending money on material possessions. No Indiana Jones sword or Buzz Lightyear stun gun can replace the memories of us skipping hand-in-hand through the parks, floating down the lazy river together in the pool or enjoying S'mores by the campfire on the beach.

Those memories are priceless.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Have Goals and Aspirations Too

Don't tell my children, but I daydream sometimes about returning to work. I reminisce about the days when I was paid handsomely for 2-hour lunches, solo bathroom breaks and leisure time behind my computer. Oh sure, I thought I was busy at work. I would have been seriously offended if you ever suggested otherwise. But, now I know better. I became a mother. And, busy doesn't even begin to describe my day which starts at 5:15 am and ends around, well...does it ever really end?

So, sometimes I daydream about work. I think a little extra money in my pocket would be great. I think that using my brain for something other than umpteen Candy Land or hide-and-go-seek games seems thrilling. I even think that I would be a better employee now that I have multi-tasked my way into power-mom status. Actually, just a simple distraction from the more mundane chores of my day would be a welcome relief.

But, after taking all of that into consideration I remind myself that my greatest accomplishment thus far is being a mother. No other "job" has ever brought me so much satisfaction or made me as proud. When I worked I was always striving for my boss's and co-worker's approval. I was always yearning for accolades about how well I did my job. Now, when I hear my son say, "you are the best mom in the whole world" or when he hugs me so tight I think I might burst I know that I am doing a good job. Nobody has to give me a performance review. No one has to send me a congratulatory email. My kids remind me daily with their "I love yous" and their bright, confident smiles.

So, yes, I have goals and aspirations beyond motherhood. I would love to be a published writer someday. I would love to earn a paycheck. But, I also want to continue to be the parent at the bus stop every morning and the one who greets my kids after school. I want to be the PTA volunteer who attends all the school fairs and fund-raising drives. I want to participate in classroom activities so my kids know that I value their time and effort. I overheard Nicholas telling his friends that I was volunteering for the recent fall fair at his school and he sounded so proud. My rewards don't come in the form of a paycheck, they come in waves of adoration and love.

So, daydreaming about work will stay at the daydreaming stage for now because I have more important things to take care of. Like accompanying my son on his field trip or helping his teacher with her classroom website. Don't assume that because I am a stay-at-home mom that I have nothing to do all day. I won't bore you with my to-do list because it's too damn long. Just know that I am, and have been, preparing my kids to be confident, generous, kind, polite, educated human beings. I take my job seriously.

And it's the best job in the world.

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