The Middle Life: Making it Real

Hey, everyone! How’s it hangin’? Where have I been? I guess I’ve been on a writing sabbatical and not sure why.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since the school year started. So much so that I’m having trouble putting two sentences together to express myself.

What is the predominant thought swirling in my brain? Middle Age. At 46 years old, I have to admit I’m smack dab in the midst of middle age. By the way, when does middle age evolve into old age? . . . . . . . . You know what? Never mind, I’ll worry about that later.

How did I envision this stage of my life? I don’t have an answer. I’d never really thought about it much until I arrived so I can’t say that it’s not what I thought it would be. I’ve been going through my life like a freight train racing through the farmlands of the Midwest. Everything a blur. Until now. The train has now come to a screeching halt awaiting directions.

It’s so weird not to have plan. I’m a planner. I’ve always had a plan – get through high school, go to college, get an awesome career, get married, buy a house, have wonderful kids, . . . . . . . . Then, the plan is blank. The items listed so far have been completed, but now what?

Obviously, the next stage is . . . . . empty nester. Yikes.

Why am I dwelling on this now?

Rachel got accepted into the first of five colleges that she is considering (yay!) – we found out a week ago.  Reading the formal written acceptance letter was like seeing a Technicolor rainbow while getting pelted with ice-cold rain. Then, the rainbow disappeared. I thought to myself, “It’s really happening – she will be leaving.” I cried the entire day and still can’t talk about it without sobbing. I really need to pull it together, but I’m struggling.

Of course, I’m always thinking waaaayyy too far in advance. Since Rachel got accepted into college, I’m seeing my future with no kids at home (I sure can make the leaps, can’t I?).  What the hell am I going to do with myself when that happens?

The hubs is always saying to me, “Don’t under estimate the value of you quitting your full-time job and being around more for our kids.” I’m sure he’s right, but it’s also easy for him to say. He has a career that he enjoys and will still have this career when the kids are gone. Most of my day revolves around managing the kids. (Holy crap! I’m going to have a lot of free time.)

This next part of my life journey is like an unformed lump of clay. I’m scared of that – I really don’t know what to do with clay.

I need a plan. Any ideas?

Lists, Et Cetera, & So Forth

This week, I’ve been on a roll! I’ve finally started to cross the “big” things off of my To Do list that I created on January 24th. What day is it today? Oh, yeah, APRIL 8th!

What did I accomplish from the original* list?

*What do I mean by original? I wanted to go back to Jan 24th list to see what I’ve actually accomplished. To Do Lists are living, breathing, ever-evolving entities, aren’t they? If I put my current as-of-today list in this post (see pic), it would be too long and bore you to tears. Come to think of it, maybe this old list is making you want to stab yourself in the eye with the nearest writing utensil. If that’s the case, then maybe this post isn’t for you.

1. Bio for work website – Done! I finally finished that in early February because I had a serious deadline.  The updated page is up and running – by the way, I sound awesome (those website writers are creative)!

2. Call the Carpet Cleaners – Done! They came out in February.

3. Start my running program again – I’ve kinda started.  I went running the other day with my daughter. How did it go? I couldn’t sit or stand for the next two days without groaning because my thighs were on fire!  Walking was fine, but any transition from sitting to standing (and visa versa) was, well, a struggle. Apparently, I should have taken it easier the first time running after being on sabbatical.  (Note to self: try not to act like a 20-year-old when you’re really a 40-something-year-old).

4. Make doctor appointments for everyone (including self) – this is where I’ve finally made some headway!

Item #4:

I know, I know . . . I’m talking about my doctor appointments – this is one of the items on my list that I swore not to do as I age. To hell with the list.

Eye Doctor – Done!

Rachel and I finally went to the eye doctor – yeah, that was fun. I had to finally come face-to-face with the fact that I had to order some bifocals. I’ve been wearing monovision contacts for the last year during the day (one eye for up close, one eye for distance), but using my old glasses at night which wasn’t bad at first. THEN, it became annoying as hell because I couldn’t do puzzles while watching TV (I felt like this happened over night!). I had to lift up my glasses every time to see my puzzle, then put them back on my nose to see the TV.  My left arm looks like Popeye’s now because of all of the arm lifts completed over the last year! Why did I wait this long? Oh, hell, I didn’t want to hear it AND I didn’t want to spend $350 on a new pair of glasses!

Anyway, it’s done. I get my new glasses next week – maybe I’ll post a picture later.

Mammogram – Done!

The other appointment? It’s a little overdue – I got the reminder in September 2010.  Reminder for what? My annual mammogram. Yay! I finally had my exam today.  B-I-G fun.  Nothing does more for the 33-year-old boobs (I didn’t get them until I was 13) than a good old fashioned flattening!

Mammograms are definitely a necessary evil and I know that I shouldn’t put it off. But, I know a lot of you can relate – you get so wrapped up in taking care of everyone else, that you just don’t take care of yourself.

I excel at that.

Can I share a little bit of my appointment with you today? As most of us know (and the men can imagine), it’s an uncomfortable, barbaric, and painful ritual. I usually wince while holding my breath during the whole ordeal (and they do instruct you to hold your breath – like you need to be told that!). While wincing (which is constant throughout the entire exam), the tech doing the mammogram asked me what I thought was a very strange question –

Tech: “Are your breasts always this tender?”

Me (huh?): “Well, only while they’re being smashed between two panes of glass.”

Tech: “Oh, sure. There’s no chance that you’re pregnant, right?”

Me (I would be sobbing if that were so): “Nope.”

Tech: “I just wanted to make sure.”

I have to take a poll. Am I the only one that winces? Does everyone else stand there with smiles or stoic expressions on their faces while the girls are being tortured?  She does this to women all day long and thinks my reaction is abnormal?

Now, I’m anxious about my results. I have a week to worry – great.  That’s all I need. I’ve never had an abnormal result, but I’ve never been asked that question before either.

I still have a couple of other appointments to yet to make, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m making progress on the list. However, today’s exam kind of freaked me out, so I may procrastinate just a tad bit longer (not too much) on the other appointments if you don’t mind.

Girls, we need to take care of ourselves – no one else is going to do it! Let’s make a pact – wait. . . . pacts never really work. But, let’s at least make a promise to work harder at taking care of ourselves by adding ourselves to our lists!

Pinky Promise……

They Love Me, They Really Love Me!

Mother’s Day 2010 is here!  
First, the Breakfast

Mother’s Day has been great so far.  Maddie (13 yr old) made me breakfast this morning with Mike as sous-chef. 

The menu had all of my favorites –

  • French Toast using fancy bread – My favorite breakfast food on the planet
  • Bacon (again a big fan!)
  • Homemade chocolate-covered strawberries (is Maddie great or what?!  chocolate for breakfast!)
  • Coffee (an absolute must!)
Second, the Cards

This was my favorite card of the day today:



100% Organic

Amazing Cleaning Powers

Completely Germ-Free

May contain traces of TLC

Removes unwanted smears and smudges

The inside of the card is irrelevant – I love this card because I have given my multiple children multiple spit bathes much to their dismay!  It has slowed down now that 2 out of 3 are taller than I am.  Hey, if they want to walk around with stuff on their faces, then so be it!  I’m not going to tackle these people now just to keep’em clean.


Next, the gifts

Do you remember my post on March 19th – “My Cooking Mojo is Slipping Away”?  In it, I described the day of kitchen woe when  I set my Wolfgang Puck 3-quart sauce pan on fire.  I have missed that pan!  I didn’t realize how much I used it until it was gone :(.   Since the demise of my pan, I have been scouring the internet looking for another pan to replace it.  Well, I have discovered that in order to replace my pan with an exact WP original, I would have to buy a whole brand new set of Wolfgang Puck pans!  What?!  I can’t buy just one pan?  What a racket!! 

I had resigned myself to a cooking life without a 3-quart sauce pan – I would just have to put on my big girl panties and deal!  BUT. . . .. . .

Guess what I got for Mother’s Day today?  A 3-quart sauce pan!  They (I know it was my Rachie’s idea!) found one that could be purchased separately without putting us in the poor house!  Emeril is my new “go-to” guy!

Now, for the Mother’s Day Book – my husband started this really great thing for me.  He bought a blank journal and has had each of the kids write something in it each year for Mother’s Day.  He started this tradition on Mother’s Day 2004 when Rachel was 10, Maddie was 7 and Jack was 4.  It is a time capsule of my kids and I LOVE it.  

Jack’s entry into the book this year

Roses are Red,

Violets are Blue,

Nobody here dislikes you!

It’s true, [even, Jasper!]

Hmmmmm …… that’s sweet, right?!? 

Here is Jack’s other poem to commemorate my special day (he was very TS Eliot for this Mother’s Day!):

If You Give My Mom Some Coffee

by Jack Engledow

If you give my mom some coffee, she’ll want a peanut butter bagel to go with it.

When she eats the bagel, it’ll remind her she needs to make pancakes for everyone this morning because she’s thinking about breakfast.

When she is getting all of the stuff ready, she realizes she needs pancake mix, so she goes to the store.

When she’s at the store, it’ll remind her she needs food for Monday’s lunches, so she gets the food because she’s thinking about food.

While getting the food, she remembers she ate the last bagel so she gets some bagels for breakfast tomorrow.

Getting the bagels, it makes her really want some coffee, so when she’s done buying everything, she’ll go home and get a cup of coffee.

Chances are …

Drinking the cup of coffee, she’ll want a peanut butter bagel. 

The End.

I do like coffee and peanut butter bagels!  Again, sweet, right?! (However, I do seem to be preoccupied with food in this poem).

I know some mom’s don’t always quite get what they think they want out of Mother’s Day, but I have to say that I feel really lucky to have a husband and kids that pay attention and know what brings me joy on this special day.

In this post, I have to give a shout out to my baby girl who is 16 years old today and has to share this day with her MOM!  Happy 16th birthday, Rachel!! 



To all of the hardworking moms,
Happy Mother’s Day!!

Jen’s Mid-Life Crisis

As I somewhat alluded to in my Thoughts on “What If?” post, I’m feeling a little aimless. It has been 3 years since I jumped off of the merry-go-round and I’m still looking for that thing that will make me eager to jump out of bed every morning (oops – besides my family, of course), you know, My Purpose (I know that this is not an original quest). It dawned on me today that I’m 3 years into my mid-life crisis and I still haven’t made much progress. Don’t get me wrong, I am very blessed in my life – I have a wonderful husband, amazing children, loving parents and sister, etc. We have a home in a great neighborhood, my husband is doing well professionally and we have wonderful friends. I should feel fulfilled and not be this restless, yet here I am.

According to most people in my life, quitting my full-time job and going part-time has allowed me to be available to my children 24/7, you know, like a Meijer store (was I only available like 12/7 before?) – now I’m able to provide my children with untold benefits, experiences, etc. I get the fact that now it is a lot easier for my children to participate in more afterschool activities and to play with the neighborhood children more. So, now that also meant that I was more available to be the family’s social secretary, budget master, banker, tutor, taxi, chef, EMT, counselor, sports enthusiast, maid, judge & jury, taskmaster, etc. So, duh, THAT must be my purpose!  Whew, I’m glad we got that cleared up.

Wait a minute, if I’m doing such a great thing for the kids now, does that imply that I was doing a shitty job before? Hmmmm. I do think that would be the implication – what else could these well-meaning, yet back-handed, statements mean? Did my kids feel lonely, abandoned, unloved, ignored, and deprived when I was working full-time? (I don’t really believe that.) Because, of course, my husband working full-time apparently didn’t have that same impact. Yikes! Had I completely screwed up my kids already? They were 7, 10 & 13 when I quit the FT gig. I didn’t think we really started “ruining” their lives until they were in Jr. High. Oh Shoot, I was ahead of schedule!

I do want to stress that I have very much enjoyed being be able to hang out with my kids more. They are so interesting at the ages that they are now – we have really great conversations and I love the individuals that they are becoming. Rachel is near the end of her sophomore year and will be graduating in two years, Maddie is in junior high and we all remember what that is like, and Jack is my baby and in elementary school still, so I’m glad to be able to spend more time with all of them. BUT, why is it that I am considered a little nuts (maybe even whiny) for not being completely satisfied? Well, how could I not be 100% contented knowing that my mere presence (and now MORE of it!) brings boundless joy and happiness to my children everyday? YEAH, RIGHT! My daughter (I won’t tell you which one) disputes this statement every so often by stomping up the stairs yelling, “I HATE YOU!”. Yep, a therapist might be in her future (I actually think being around more has pretty much guaranteed it)!

I have repeatedly talked to my closest friends about this topic and, of course, we have determined that all women are not the same. Not really an “Aha!” moment, but it’s nice to confirm common sense notions aloud once in a while. I do enjoy working outside the home and contributing in that way – I always have. What I didn’t want to continue doing was working 50-55 hours per week. The part-time job I have now was a real blessing when I first quit my FT job. It is not stressful at all and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. But now, I think maybe I need something more and something different, but what?

Why did it take me this long to get to this realization? Well, I think it was because I have been trying to tell myself that I was fine because apparently there was really no reason to not be fine. Everyone else thought my situation was perfect, so it must be, right? I mean, I have a 30-hr a week job with a fantastic boss, I work during school hours so I can get my kids on and off the bus, I’m home in time to start the taxi service and usually cook a meal, AND I don’t have to work until midnight. Oh, and I can work from home whenever I need to. What’s not to like? (Wow, when I put it in writing, I am asking myself, “What is wrong with me?”)

Do I need a more interesting hobby or something different professionally? If I were to do something different professionally, what the heck would it be? I’ve been surfing small business idea websites just to brainstorm. Starting my own business has never really been a dream of mine – I don’t really think I have the moxy (or the fearlessness) required for that. The websites say to do something that you like (interests, hobbies, etc). When I was working full-time, I didn’t have time to develop any real hobbies that could lead to a career change. Okay, so what do I like to do? Hmmm . . . . .

Reading – I don’t see much of a job in this. A lot of people like to read. I’m not a literature major and I don’t have the qualifications to work in the editing field.

Crossword puzzles – I like solving them, not creating them.

Painting – I just started painting and I really don’t see a career blossoming from this hobby (see painting to the right).

Numbers – I was a math major and love to work with numbers. I’m always within arm’s reach of a calculator – I know, I know. Please don’t say it (Geek!).

Computers – I love computers (you can say it again, “Geek!”). I actually toyed with the idea of majoring in computers instead of math – why the heck didn’t I do that?!! However, I am mostly self-taught and I pay attention any time a computer professional is working on my computer. I’m not afraid to press a button! But, what can I really do with imitation computer skills?

Organization – What is there to say? I’m a fairly organized individual, but I’m not sure I would be very good at helping others get organized. Did you know that there is a National Association of Professional Organizers? Is there a college degree for that? Anyway, there is definitely something for everyone.

Cooking – I love cooking, but I follow other people’s recipes. I don’t create my own. Catering wouldn’t really be something I could do. What else can you do when you like cooking?

Should I go back to school? If I did, what would I study? I haven’t really pursued this option because we don’t have the finances for it – in two years we will be putting our first one through college. But, it does cross my mind once in a while.

If I were to gain a new hobby – what would it be? I’m doing oil painting classes now and that has been fun, but my classmates are intimidating. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself after 5 lessons, but my paintings look like caveman drawings or maybe kindergarten finger paintings (see pic above) compared to my fellow painters. It will be Y-E-A-R-S before something could actually develop from this hobby. I’ve also tried knitting; however, I haven’t developed beyond the basic dishcloth and winter scarf. I still don’t know how to pearl! I don’t think that selling kitschy knitted items is in my future anytime soon. My current problem with hobby-development is that I really don’t have any more time than I did when I was working full-time. It’s weird, but true (I have some theories on why that is, but I won’t expand on them here).

All I know is that I need to either accept my current status and drop it or create a plan to move forward. I guess this leads back to the “What If?” question. This question is really starting to annoy the crap out of me!

I guess I need to brainstorm a little more. . . . .