The first person to ever refer to me as middle-aged in print was my friend Rod Dreher. On the one hand, I appreciated the publicity. On the other hand, I was 34 at the time, and I may never entirely forgive him. Still, the shock has waned, and I have come to terms with the fact that if I’m not middle aged now, I will officially be so on August 15 when I cross the line into my 40s.
To be absolutely honest, hitting middle age bothers me not in the slightest – my feeling is that every year that takes me away from being 14 is a really, really good one – and the further the better. I would go back to my 20s or G-d forbid, my teens for a bazillion dollars and being made queen of the universe. My life has only gotten better as I get older. My Mom, her in early 60s, reports that pattern continuing, so I see no particular reason to worry about it. Yeah, I’m more prone to hurting myself. On the other hand, I’m not quite as stupid as I was when I was young (or at least so I think ), so I think it is probably a net win for me.
I’m looking forward to my birthday. For Eric’s 40th we held a giant bash. I didn’t really want a giant bash for my birthday – particularly since it is sandwiched in between two other bashes – Eric and I finally had an official Jewish wedding back in October, in fact, a pirate-themed wedding (the kids insisted, who am I to argue when you are finally being made an honest woman of surrounded by your children who range from 11-6 ) with tons of friends present, and Eli will become bar mitzvah this year in April. So I didn’t feel a strong need to have a big party – instead, we’ll probably do what we normally do for summer birthdays, both kid and adult – eat too much cake (something with berries in it), have our usual friends over for lunch, watch the kids play in the creek and get filthy and relax. I can put those parties on in my sleep, since I’ve done them every year since the kids were babies.
I did want to mark 40 in some way, however, by doing some of the things that I’ve been meaning to do all along, but never seem to find the time for. Rather than presents, I really wanted to up my skill set and either improve or learn some things I don’t know. So I am officially publishing (because then I can get y’all to nag me about it ) my list of goals for my 40th year. My hope is to take some classes or follow around my more skillful friends and get a new set of super-powers as part of my official entry into geezerhood, because, after all, old ladies with super-powers are cool. Fighting old age is pointless – the goal is to keep having fun during it.
Here’s my list:
1. Learn to make a decent quilt. I have a love-hate relationship with sewing – I love the idea and hate the reality, but it is such a useful skill. At this point, I’m only a bit above 7th grade home ec, and all of that is self-taught. I have made a couple of picnic quilts out of old blue jeans, and have a half-made hand-quilted scrap quilt around, but this time I’m going actually master the basics. The problem I have had over the years is that I really am more interested in repurposing old fabric than in purchasing new – much as I admire the results of serious quilting using new fabric, I have yet to see anyone giving a course around here in patchwork with used fabric. Still, I think I’ll just suck it up and take the local quilt store’s course, and then adapt to my own needs.
2. Get my woodworking/home repair skills up and running. These are pathetic, frankly, and there’s no excuse for it. Both my father and step-mother are quite good at these things, and I just didn’t pay attention. Honestly, both woodworking and sewing suffer from my lack of liking for anything that requires precision – but it is time to just get over this and master at least the basics.
3. Learn to shoot properly. My father taught me the basics as a kid, and I can handle a gun in the ways that most farmers need to – to put down livestock close up. But I’m not especially competent, and while I can clean a rifle in a basic sense, I don’t really feel competent with guns, even though they are a necessary tool of my trade. I’m a terrible shot (crappy vision) as well. In my “if I’m going to do it, I’d like to do it well’ spirit of things, this is on my list.
4. Learn to take down a tree well. I basically won’t touch anything of any real size, because I’m scared of the trees and scared, frankly, of chainsaws. I use a buck or crosscut saw in our own woods, but only take down things small enough not to make me nervous. Time to grow up and get over it.
5. Up my home brewing and wine-making skills. I can make a competent beer and a half-decent wine, at best. I’ve got all the information, I’ve got all the tools, I simply never have sat down and played with it enough to really get any good. I will make time.
6. Master not losing my temper with my kids – so much. Ok, I’m never going to get this one down perfectly, but one of the things about fostering is that the kids get scared by adult anger – usually because adult anger has been historically pretty awful and violent. It is a really good reminder that you shouldn’t yell – and of course, I shouldn’t yell anyway. I really try on this one, but I do yell at the kids more than I would like. My main project here is simply to train myself to make a joke rather than yell – kid respond better to it, and I’m happier with myself when I don’t raise my voice.
7. Expand my cheese-making repetoir a bit. Oh, and on another related note, my sausage making skills.
There are lots of other things I really want to learn as well, but that’s probably enough for one year. What about you? Even if you aren’t turning 40, there’s probably something on your list, right?