A couple of soon-to-be empty nesters at a baby shower

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a baby shower before.”

This was Mike’s confession to me as we were walking up to the door to our friends’ home, Saturday afternoon.

Had I realized this earlier, I would have though of some way to punk him. Maybe made up some fake baby shower etiquette to share with him in the car. But, right then, on the spot like that, I couldn’t think of the right thing to say that would freak him out just enough for us to laugh about it later, but not enough for him to bolt. These things take some finesse and the look on his face had me worried.

So I just shrugged.

“There’ll probably be mimosas.”

The mom-to-be greeted us with a huge smile, wearing a flattering, floral print dress. Back when I was that far along with either of my pregnancies, you’d likely find me in a baggy pair of overalls that gave me the profile of Uncle Jesse on Dukes of Hazard. On alternate days I’d switch between one of the two knit tops that still fit. On dressier days, I might wear shoes. I could go on like that for a couple weeks.

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How I came to be spending the night in the death house and WASN’T SCARED ONE BIT

Midlife Sentence | Haunted

I love scary stories. Love, love, love them. Until they get the better of me.

The only time I ever got in trouble for reading anything I wasn’t supposed to was in the fifth grade. It was a loaned copy of The Amityville Horror I kept hidden under my pillow until I could finish it. The night I did, I woke up my parents around 2 am to tell them I couldn’t sleep.

They were astonishingly unsympathetic. And I still get creeped out by flies on the window.

I’ve always thought I could write a satisfyingly scary story, except that if it was any good I’d probably lose my marbles a little. The process is the problem. I get this little nugget of an idea, and then I mull it over for a long time before any writing happens. I’ll think about it while driving, or washing the dishes, …. taking a shower … or waking up at 3 am and its pitch black and I’m sure I’ve heard something ….

I have a fairly decent imagination, you guys. I don’t trust it not to freak me out. I won’t stare too long down a dark hallway. Is that the vague outline of a misshapen midget axe-murderer, or a coat on a chair? I can’t listen too intently to silence without wondering if I’m hearing a faint scream for help.

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At least now I know how to talk about monkey brains in Spanish

Midlife Sentence | Language Learning, Spanish

Whenever somebody says something in Spanish and any member of my immediate family is with me in earshot, I’m usually quizzed about what was said.

I’ve been engaged in a very casual study of the language for years, and folks around here have way more confidence in my ability than they should. I think it would be generous to say I can comprehend about as much Spanish as can be taught a moderately intelligent Labrador retriever. You know: most basic commands and some stuff relating to food.

Twelve years ago I spent four weeks in Argentina as part of an exchange program. To prepare, I took months of Spanish classes with a native speaker and spent every waking moment trying to read short stories and magazines in Spanish, watching telenovelas and Spanish Sesame Street, and listening to tutorial CDs in my car. As anyone who has tried to upload an entire language into her grey matter in this amount of time can tell you, this was not enough to become anything close to fluent. But I tried.

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Perfection is rarely the objective around here

Midlife Sentence | Perfection

Before you get into this, I just need to let you know this post started out different than it ended up.

That actually happens more often than you might think.

This is how it should go: I come up with some theme and then write a catchy lead, which flows into a full story, and there’s maybe a twist in there – could be funny or touching or shocking, with or without foul language – and things tidily come around at the end, which points back to the lead, and everything’s all wrapped up tight, like a 30 minute episode of Friends that you’ll forget by next week.

Or tomorrow. I don’t know how exciting your life is. Maybe you forget by mid morning.

But that’s not what happened.

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Tips for surviving the END OF THE WORLD, or … erm … apoceclipse

Midlife Sentence | Solar Eclipse

What are you doing for the eclipse? That’s the question of the day around here.

I’ll tell you what we’re doing … I don’t know what we’re doing.

Which means we’re probably doing nothing, if we haven’t made plans by this point. Depending on the the time of day, that answer could bring on either intense FOMO or a sigh of relief.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know we have this thing coming up. August 21, right about midday, for about twenty-seven seconds (or thereabouts, I don’t really know and haven’t looked it up, but it’s not going to be long), the sun will be entirely blocked from the sky. Or almost entirely blocked, depending upon your vantage point.

And if you’re not already within the PATH of TOTALITY (which sounds like a perfect name for a disaster movie to me – I’ve used all caps to convey the proper gravitas), I’m sure you realize you’re going to get there only by navigating your way through a ton of traffic to a place where there’s no parking or toilets and probably the only things gracing the shelves of local grocery stores by the time you arrive will be single bladed razors and cans of Spam that expired in 2013.

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An American guide to European road signs

Midlife Sentence | Storebælt Bridge

Mike wasn’t super excited about renting a car for part of our trip to Denmark, and for a quick jaunt into Germany, but there were places we wanted to go where buying train tickets for the whole family was going to be super expensive, or our destination was out of the way enough, the train wouldn’t quite get us where we wanted to be.

By this point in our journey to visit the place our son had been living for a year and attend the wedding of a former exchange student, we’d experienced no real problems. None. No missed connections or lost luggage or screw ups with our Airbnb hosts.

Which made it the PERFECT time to put all marital and familial relationships to the test by having one us navigate while another drove (possibly illegally, we never really looked that up), and the rest rode in nervous silence in the back.

Or if not total silence, at least everyone tried to keep their startled screams and audible gasps to a minimum.

Saara gave Mike a quick and helpful tutorial about driving in her part of the world. It was basically pretty much the same as driving in the United States, she said, except with regard to stop signs.

“We actually stop at them,” she said. Which made us wonder what she thought we were actually doing at stop signs in our home country.

NOT stopping. Apparently.

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Of genetics, realistic expectations, and Father’s Day epiphanies

Midlife Sentence | Genetic Testing and Paranoia

We’re in the final stages of trip planning and last night Mike suggested renting a car and taking a road trip while we’re in Denmark. We could drive through a little town some of my ancestors are from. I can’t remember the name right now, but it starts with an H. And it probably has a lot of vowels in it.

… Which makes me wonder, not for the first time, whether poor Mike thinks it’s fun or exasperating to be married to someone with the memory of a goldfish. I suppose it could probably go either way, depending upon the conversation. I mean, he does repeat a lot of the same jokes. And I almost always laugh, which I think is the number one quality you should look for in a spouse.

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We’re gonna need a bigger tiara

Midlife Sentence | My Apparently Fragile Ego

One of my favorite quotes is that one about doing something every day that scares the beejeebus out of you.

I know that’s not the exact wording, and I’m sure there’s another quote that speaks to my being too lazy to look it up. In my defense, I did, once, and found something about it being falsely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. Ever since, I figure it’s fair to just express the sentiment in whatever way I want. And you can attribute it to Eleanor if you choose. Or me. Or Captain Kangaroo.

I don’t think either Eleanor or the Captain probably used the word beejeebus nearly enough for my taste, though.

Well, guess what? I’ve landed on something I get to do every day for the foreseeable future that accomplishes that, and I don’t have to think about spelunking or jumping out of a plane to keep the fear queue full.

I’ll get to the actual thing in a sec, but first I want to share my favorite mechanism to cope with the biggest fears I have that don’t incorporate staring out a Cessna door at 12,000 feet.

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Wake me when it’s time to be a grownup

Midlife Sentence | Wake Me When It's Time To Be A Grownup

I think it would really be nice to have some notice when a panic attack is due.

Like something on my calendar, so I’d know, for example, that at precisely 4am Mountain Time this coming Tuesday I would wake up wondering how much longer we were going to put off replacing the broken microwave, followed by my letting brain wander down various other rabbit holes that have to do with what is otherwise broken or incomplete in my life.

I might try to get to bed a little earlier if I knew I had that 4am thing looming. Maybe decide to actually get up then, instead of laying there, staring into space. I could do some laundry or something. You know, multitask.

A friend of mine wondered on social media recently whether she was of an age to start feeling like a “grown up,” and whether the fact she doesn’t most of the time has something to do with not having kids.

“Does having children make you feel more adult?” She asked.

I’m guessing my friend also had one of these unscheduled appointments, recently.

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A Midlife Guide to Selfies that Don’t Suck

As far as advice goes, I’m not ever going to be one to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do upon reaching a certain age. As far as I’m concerned, you should wear whatever makes you happy and comfortable. Whether it’s leggings, hoop earrings or hot pants, I don’t care. You should eat what you feel like, workout as often as it suits your fancy, and use the oxford comma or not according to your taste.

… Oh, wait. I will probably judge you on the comma use, but carry on with the other stuff.

But there is something I think anyone over a certain age needs to come to grips with: Selfies.

You guys. There is possibly no more distinct line of demarcation between the old and the young than the ability (or lack thereof) to take a decent self-portrait with one’s personal electronic device.

… Except for maybe the TV remote thing. But in the interest of being concise, we’re going to focus on the art of the selfie here.

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