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Posts from May 2012

Envy-Free at 51?

I’m at the age when I should have stopped looking around to compare myself and my life to anyone else’s, and certainly not to everyone else’s. It’s time (51 is definitely after the supposed watershed moment) for me to rejoice in ME! I am free to discard all thoughts of limitations, weight issues, and life lackings—because, apparently, just getting to this point should be enough of an ego boost to last the rest of my lifetime!


And the trick’s on me because, unfortunately, this is just one more thing for me to feel bad about having failed: apparently I am the only woman who has failed in the “Look World, No Envy and No Jealousy! I Love My Almost Green Lawn Now That I’m 50!” stage of development.

Woe is me.

It’s not that I haven’t evolved at all, but there’s just no way a lifetime of thinking that I’m the smartest/stupidest/most attractive/least attractive/nicest/meanest woman around can be dismissed, or wished away just because THEY say it should be gone. You see, I’m still dealing with the darn THEYs of the world.

Even writing this has me fraught with comparisons because I am not writing the way I am supposed to. I can’t stay focused for more than ten minutes (I lied, five minutes) before I need to click to see if I have any emails or if there’s some undiscovered news to read. If I were a real writer, I’d focus fully for at least two hours without letting myself be tempted, even by the need to re-re-reheat my coffee. Alas, failure again.

And what of my being beyond all thoughts of could haves and should haves. I have found in my teeny tiny bit of research that it is the women who have checked off some accomplishments (besides the children, I mean, but that’s not exactly a unique accomplishment) who are able to lay claim to that “universal 50+ trait” of not comparing oneself to any other woman in the room. Is it that I am supposed to be content with not achieving any of the achievements I had dreamed of just because I’m 50+? Does it mean that I’m supposed to be content with whatever it is that I have done and not worry about falling further and further away from what I think I am capable or want I want to do? If that’s the case, doesn’t it assume, sort of, that I have given up, that I am no longer going to push myself because I have done all that I can expect from myself? But I am not ready to throw in any towels—I’m still here and hope to be for a while to come.

The real difference for me, pre and post the dawning of this marvelous age of the new Middle Age, is that I have less of a speak-up suppressor. The hand-over-mouth synchronicity that was there from my teen years to not so very long ago has vanished—POOF! The big mouth I was when I was still wearing dresses and Danskins is back, but the big difference is that in 3rd grade it was just a need to talk constantly, now it’s a need to say what I think—even if it’s not my turn to speak and even if it’s not censured for proper company. The topics are often of the “think but don’t say” variety; it does feel good, I admit, to have overridden the what-will-they-say internal censor.

My skin. Apparently my skin is supposed to be very very comfy right about now, but I look in the mirror and I see that my face is fuller than it’s supposed to be and not as bright as it’s supposed to be. In my mind, I am the woman of my wedding pictures. I was 24 then. I am not now. I’m not even married now. Yet that’s my mind’s image of myself. How the heck am I supposed to change from perception to reality? And, really, are all those other happy-with-their-lawn women really seeing themselves in the here-and-now or are they trying to trick me for someone else’s good? Is it really bad that every time I peek in the mirror I am disappointed that I’m still me, as in puffy-and-tired-faced Laura? Isn’t it, in some sense, a good thing that I am not willing to forsake my hopes and dreams just because I have reached an age milestone?

Why am I feeling bad that I’m not aging the way I’m supposed to?

Is it self-esteem issues, still? Or is it that this magical glory-be-me revelation isn’t something that we all get to share? Perhaps, as in all things, it happens for some while for others it just doesn’t happen with exclamation marks or over tea with my closest, dearest friends since kindergarten.

What’s wrong with a bit of envy? Isn’t it a bit of a driving force? Can everything really be completely internally driven? Do we all become yogi masters when we step over the 50 milestone? Maybe the key is that by this time we have made our own internal recipes where we can adjust what we need with what we have and what we can still get, as opposed to thinking that all’s well, couldn’t be better, I’m where I’m supposed to be without really believing it—or afraid to believe it.  

Appreciating Teacher Appreciation Week

I know that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week because there’s free food at school. Last week, in preparation for the big event, we were feted with, as one colleague put it, mayonnaise-five-ways. Okay, there was pulled pork to go with the mayonnaise salads, but still it was a July 4th meal two months early. We’re professionals and sadly/gladly, we were pleased not to eat our Lean Cuisines and leftovers one day during our lunch half-hour. This week, so far we have had a lunchtime barbeque, donuts, cake on a stick, a Costco cookie, and coffee. (I must admit, coffee brought to me on a cart was quite the treat.) Not that I don’t mind all the food-based treats, but I wonder if there is another way to show appreciation for teachers besides with food?

Here are some ideas.

  1. Each and every student will say at least one nice thing to each of his/her teachers. A few suggestions popped into my head. “That was an interesting lesson, thank you.” “Now I get it, thank you.” “I’m sorry that I didn’t do a good job on the assignment, but I have redone it, without expecting a higher grade but just to show you what I am capable of and what you have taught me that I am capable of. Thank you” “You look lovely today, as always.” “You are the best teacher” (this can be said, without any irony or contradiction, to every teacher).
  2. Each and every parent, no teamwork here, must write a Thank You note to his or her children’s teachers—for every single teacher of every single child. To do this each parent must know the name of his/her child’s teachers, must know the subject the teacher teaches, and must know some specifics that can be mentioned in the note. This information could be gleaned from your child. Surely, writing the note is something all parents know how to do since they have told their children, on various occasions, to write Thank You notes.
  3. All parents and students will refrain from sending any emails that are thinly-disguised or not even vaguely-disguised rants at a teacher, and if any are sent, they will certainly not be CC-ed to assistant principals, principals, or superintendents. Honestly, you can assume that it is not the teacher’s fault that your child is failing, and it is not the teacher’s fault that your child is not doing his/her work and it is not the teacher’s fault that your child plagiarized a paper. Generally when a child is not doing his or her work, it's because things are not quite right at home--so parents, look to yourselves before you start blaming teachers.
  4. For the entire week, parents would need to help their children with their homework. Not to do it for them, but to sit there and explain  c a l m l y  what he didn’t get at school. And if, for whatever reason, he still doesn’t understand what you’re explaining ever-so-thoroughly and effectively, figure out another way of getting the idea across so that he can feel good about himself and his learning. For each of the week’s sessions you will never voice your frustration, nor will you express your frustration by leaving the room (other than to go to the bathroom), until the learning is done. At absolutely no point will you use the S-word (as in stupid) or the L-word (as in lazy).
  5. “If you can read, thank a teacher.” I’ve seen that bumper sticker—and I think it holds true. Every person in this country should acknowledge, in some way (see above and below) the positive impact that teacher’s have had on his/her life. (Yes, there are teachers who are not good, as there are parents who are not good, but who takes away a Mother’s Day Card from a mother or a Father’s Day card from a father? Positive thinking, we are positive-thinking.)
  6. For one week let us teachers teach without the dual requirement to entertain the masses. This is not stand-up comedy and this is not a sitcom. (Wait, it probably is a sitcom. Every single classroom could easily be the basis for a sitcom.) Grammar is not fun. Writing essays is not the most enjoyable of activities. SO WHAT! It needs to be done. There are skills that need to be mastered, and not just for tests that dumb-down, but for life that invites possibilities. Do it! Do your work. Yes, it’s called work—school work and home work. But if kids would try for just a moment to focus on the learning—on what the teacher has to teach—and not on the fact that they would rather be connected to some gadget, learning may occur.
  7. Pay a one-day babysitting fee for your child. Let’s assume a babysitter these days makes $11 an hour and a school day is 7.5 hours, so $82.50 would be owed for each student to be paid to a teachers’ fund at your child’s school. This money could then be used at the teachers’ discretion; of course, a professional community would be established to decide how to use the funds. Luxuries such as coffee machines, microwaves, refrigerators for teacher workrooms, or even “teacher chairs” that don’t look like they trickled down from the Principal’s Conference Room two principals ago could be considered.
  8. And one thing that did happen this week that I truly appreciated: students wrote nice thank you comments on paper apples and gave them out to teachers. Too bad that most had exactly the same comments so there was a hint of insincerity, and that mine had a misused contraction. But here, at least, there were no calories involved and there seemed to be an honest note of appreciation. THANK YOU STUDENTS!



Book Review: Love for Grown-ups

Book Review: Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides’ Guide to Marrying for Life When You’ve Already Got a Life by Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Ryan Lampl, and Trish Rabe

A big recommendation goes out to women and men to read Love for Grown-ups. This book is about how we, the “over the hill” folks, are not so over the hill, or once we’ve all made it over the hill there’s a sensitivity and kindness that weren’t there on the other side—or at least there’s the acknowledgement that that’s what it’s all about: being loving, finding love, continuing to be loving, and finally being maturely loved (as in loved and respected for all one’s qualities—and personality quirks). What’s so wonderful about this time of life, as the Garter Brides describe in their book, is that both women and men have decided that kindness, consideration, and good sex are all things to want, to search for—to deserve and to expect. No longer are we to believe those adages about women over 40 and their chances of marrying being akin to winning a Vogue make-over. No, we are to listen and heed all the happily-ever-after stories of the many midlife women they have compiled in this book, including the three authors’ lovely stories, to make us know that we are the winning ticket! 

This book is listed as being a Self Help book, but as a non self-help book fan, I can say that this is not a simplistic do this and this will happen type of book. It’s more that Blumenthal Jacobs, Lampl, and Rabe laid out their stories and invited the reader into the lives of so many other women so that the reader can think that “you know, maybe it could happen to me too, maybe I can still be happy in a relationship.” And that, truly, is more honest help than I got from friends who just tried to pick up my spirits saying that I deserve happiness (which is true for all of us). But that’s not the same as showing how it has happened and how it could happen to me.

And now that I am in a relationship, although I don’t know if it’s going to last more than another month, there is a security that I feel because of this book, and it’s not necessarily that I will marry again, which is not my goal. No, the security is in the fact that Love for Grown-ups puts all those horror stories that I lived through via on-line dating into context—that there is a reason to believe that it could happened to me too.

While up-beat on the whole, the book tries to be realistic, but since the writers’ stories are so positive-in-the-end, “look we got married!”—it’s up to the reader to add her dose of doubt. The section on blending kids and families was, for me, not as true to my reality, but who’s to say my tough teen is not the exception? I did appreciate, though, that they did lay out the problems that arise and how they and other couples handled them. That, surely, was insightful.

So if you need to read some real life 40+ love stories, this is the place to go.