On the eve of 40

Tomorrow marks the day of my 40th birthday, or as my mom calls it, “the big one.”  My husband, The Captain, has another name for it.  He calls it a “decade” birthday and says kind things like “it’s not a big deal” and “it is just a stupid number” and the sweet, special insight such as, “you know, your life is halfway over.”

As with everything, these “big” or “decade” birthdays are a “rite of passage,” right? And “age doesn’t matter” and “it’s how you embrace life that gives it meaning” and “it’s just a number after all” and a million more clichés folks use to make “the big one” feel a little smaller.  Phooey.

So, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I decided to think of some cool things about turning 40 to soften the blow without sounding too much like a Hallmark card or a group therapy session.  “Hi, my name is Allison and I am going to be 40.”

The first cool thing about turning 40 is that I am now confident enough to say NO to things.  This was a hard lesson to learn, and many times I would find myself involved in activities I hated just because I felt that I had to say YES all of the time.  Now, I say what I think.  Do you want to do this? No.  Can you…” Nope.

Second, my children are potty trained.  This may seem like a small issue, but really it is not.  I don’t have any children in diapers therefore I don’t have to buy diapers anymore!  Woohoo!  That is relief within itself.  My purse can now be my purse, not a diaper bag, not a living, breathing, well-stocked necessity for every venture out of the house.  Also, I don’t have to carry any training pants in it for “emergencies” or throw away those training pants in the mall bathroom because “someone had a little, itsy, bitsy accident in them.”  Also, it is a relief to not have to stock up on Cheerios just to teach my boys where to aim in the toilet.  Cheerios have returned their “kitchen only” usage in my home!

The third thing cool about turning 40 is that I rock at the Pop Culture Edition of Trivial Pursuit.  Give me any question from the 80s to present day and I have got it.  Except for sports.  Those can just stay in the rectangle box.

The fourth cool thing about turning 40 is that I don’t get carded anymore.  This means I don’t have to wiggle my driver’s license out of my wallet which can be very inconvenient.  Really it is!  And if I do get carded, it is a compliment to how well my Clinique make-up looks.  Thank you, Clinique!

The fifth cool thing about turning 40 is that everything that I grew up with, like The Smurfs, Superman, vampires (think The Lost Boys), The Muppets, Super Mario Bros and Star Wars are all back. Back and, as George Costanza said, “Loving every minute of it.”  And guess what?  My dudes seriously believe I’m “cool” because I know about all of this crap.  Being 40, I think I may be a hero to my kids.  The force is with me.

The sixth cool thing about turning 40 is that I can brag about awesome concerts I have seen.  Now, I didn’t get the bragging rights by seeing the Beatles, but I have seen The Rolling Stones in concert (yeah, 8th row in Chicago) and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet tour (among other Bon Jovi shows).  I have seen The Boss in Asbury Park, NJ, and Sting and U2’s amazing Joshua Tree concert.  Plus, Clapton, BB King, INXS (the original), REM, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the king of boat drinks, Jimmy Buffett.  Oh, and the Boss?  Bruce Springsteen?  Yeah, I dated his cousin when I was a ninth grader.  We went to the mall together.  Twice. And a dance. Once.  It didn’t last.

And the last cool thing about turning 40 is that I get it now.  I get that my parents were right – they were right all along.  I get that my dudes are kids and they need to be kids as long as possible.  I get that my students have a lot of growing up to do and that’s OK because they are teenagers.  I get that I can always reflect back on my 30s, 20s, and younger and know that each experience was important, priceless, and each lesson learned made me who I am today.  I finally get it.

So bring on 40.  September 11th, 2012.  Anyone up for some Trivial Pursuit?

My facial expression is one of fear. Forty candles looked like someone set the entire cake on fire.

Comedy of Errors or Sacrifices for the Bard

In the spring of 2009, fellow English teachers and I went to a Shakespeare conference.  Let me say that Shakespeare is like a drug to high school English teachers.  We love him.  He is our lover from a past life.  We are jealous of any teacher who seems to know him better than we do.  We want to live in Stratford-upon-Avon and have his children hundreds of years later.  He is that awesome.

At this conference, it is tradition to celebrate the Bard’s birthday (and death day) with a cake.  No one blows out the candles on the cake, though, because that would be just weird.  Lol.

During these Shakespeare English Teacher love festivals (think the 60s but the dude is not alive and no one has any hallucinogenic drugs), we are usually given some kind of quote from the play being highlighted and we have to think and write about it.  I think some of the teachers go into multiple orgasms with this assignment, and one woman even peed herself with excitement.  Gasp.

I, however, did not get that warm and fuzzy feeling.  Instead, I wanted to crawl under the desk.  As much as I love the Bard, I didn’t want to write about one of his quotes under the scrutiny of all of the other English teachers.  So I sat there.  And sat there.  Even my purple Sharpie couldn’t snap me out of it.  Here is my quote:

“Am I in Earth, in Heaven, or in Hell?  Sleeping or waking, mad or well advised?  Known unto these and to myself disguised.  I’ll say as they say and persevere so and in this mist all adventures go.”

What the hell did this mean?  I looked around the room in horror.  I felt that masterpieces were being written and I was just sitting there sniffing my Sharpie.  Finally, I put my pen to the paper and here is my (pathetic) response:

OK.  I absolutely hate starting writing prompts because I can never figure out what would be the best way to begin.  Yet, I give students a prompt almost daily so they can write some BS about whatever I choose is important for them at the time.

Is it a fraud?  Am I a fraud?  As I look into myself, I was always the “classic underachiever.”  I even had a Bart Simpson t-shirt with those exact words on it.  I thought it was funny, but after awhile, my mom – the queen of reality checks – said it wasn’t.  She went on to say that it was my way to “somewhat” excuse my mediocre grades in high school or to placate my dad when my science and math grades were less than he would have liked (hideous).  Self-fulfilling prophecy?  Crap.  “Allison is horrible at math and science.”  Oh. Maybe that is why I didn’t like math from 10th grade on.  Hey, Jimmy Buffet wrote a song saying Math Sucks. I am not alone, right? Anyhow.

Sometimes I feel like I am a big fraud as a teacher and it is only a matter of time until I am called out on it. Thanks, Mrs. W., for telling me I didn’t know the first thing about grammar or literary analysis or English.  I really appreciate the caring support you gave to a new student – in 11th grade no less, who was brand, spanking new not only to the school district but to the state of Ohio.  Who was she to put those incredibly disparaging thoughts into my head?  I didn’t ask for that.  I really was just trying not to drown in a new town – torn away from all I had known and understood and finally figured out.  I was directly deposited into a whole new set of circumstances and patterns and humans I did not know.  Difficult? Yeah.  A fraud?  Who knows.

So, to this day as a teacher, I have had to prove to myself that I am not wearing a disguise.  I am not a fraud, although some days feel like it. I am doing exactly what I should be doing with my life. This is what I need to do.  And, I even try to make learning fun – because it wasn’t for me and I don’t want any of my students writing about me 20 years later as to how I crushed their spirit.

The quote from Comedy of Errors?  It is just an adventure.  An adventure in teaching and in knowing, deep down, that I am really not a fraud.  Even these excitable English teachers are not frauds.  Except for, maybe, Mrs. W., who isn’t here because she doesn’t love Shakespeare like us real English teachers do.

40 by 40

Here is the list of all I hope to accomplish in 365 days. On the big birthday. The four-o.

40 by 40

1. Live each day to the fullest
2. Lose 40
3. Go to Vegas
4. Buy a pair of Malanos
5. Take a photography class
6. Read 100 books in the year
7. Climb a rock wall
8. Visit Auburn
9. Get good family portraits that I don’t hate
10. Eat a good steak with my dad
11. Eat vegetables every day
12. Go to the state fair
13. Take a yoga class
14. Videotape and photograph my children more often
15. Finally finish our honeymoon video
16. Visit one friend from college
17. Have a couples massage
18. See ALL members of my extended family
19. Have a character breakfast at Disney
20. Organize all digital photos
21. Finish baby scrapbook of Luke
22. Save $50 a pay
23. Teach a tap class
24. Write on my blog at least weekly
25. Breed my Havanese, Maisy
26. Visit NYC and the 9/11 memorial
27. Clean out, organize, sell and donate ALL baby stuff
28. Learn how to play my uke
29. Organize unfinished part of basement
30. Actually use my gym membership
31. Write one real note/letter a week
32. Touch base (by phone, not just Facebook) a long distance friend each month
33. Play laser tag
34. Solve Super Mario Bros on the Wii
35. Visit each of my son’s classes and take them to lunch
36. Hang with my wolf pack at least once a month
37. Plan a great birthday celebration for my husband
38. Try out for a musical
39. Say no to things and not worry about hurting feelings when I do
40. Control what is in my control and let go what is not