Top Ten Good Things About “Getting Older.”

Despite my constant complaints, I must confess that there are some good things about getting older.  (I love that euphemism, by the way: “getting older.”  Older than what?)  Here’s ten things that have made rounding the bend into my fourth decade a little less painful:


 1.  I have a laser printer.  After decades of anguish and tears, the days of waging war with my piece ’o crap inkjet are officially over.  The Hub and I have been discussing this grand investment for a decade but never felt we were in a financial position to live so extravagantly.  Then last week out of the clear blue sky, he brought one home.  I could have kissed him, but I didn’t–I told him to open the box and hook that thing up now.  Sometimes I print things out just for fun.  (Do you need any recipes?)

 2.  I no longer worry about my crow’s feet.  Because now the wrinkles around my mouth and forehead have gotten so deep, my crow’s feet look like beauty marks.  The same thing is happening with my tush, which has always been sized a bit too large for my liking.  Lately, my tummy has taken precedence as an Area of Concern, which is really quite wonderful for my tush, which seems smaller the bigger my tummy gets.  I suppose my next order of business will be to find some “older” (than old) friends.  Then my tummy and tush will look young, if not small.  It’s all about perspective, people.

 3.  I  get pedicures.  This is a luxury that was unimaginable in my “younger” days.  But over the last few years I’ve allowed myself to occasionally indulge in them, and over the last year they’ve emerged as a shiny new necessity.  (I’m big on New Necessities, like Charmin toilet paper and paying someone to wash my windows.)  The best part is that my toenails have yet to wrinkle with age, so I can observe the pedicure with some measure of pride–which is more than I can say about the mammograms that I’m now, as an “older person” being subjected to.

 4.  I can no longer generate much interest in fashion.  Wait.  I think this may be a bad thing. But it can’t be helped; malls are torture and online shopping takes saps my blog time.  The result?  I’ve been wearing my “cool” BKE jeans (yes, the store brand is as far as I got) around town with a rather large hole in the back upper thigh.  (Oh alright fine…it’s kindasorta in the crotch area.  All the easier to keep hidden, I say.)  Replacing said jeans sounds like too much work and too much mall.  There’s a reason I’m a blogger and not a public speaker, and my gray flannel sweatpants have a lot to do with it.

 5.  I’ve quit reading books about Getting Organized.  A stack of such books has been collecting dust under my bed for years, and I’m finally mature (read:  old) enough to let the dream die.  I’ve read the books, I’ve attended the classes, I’ve made the charts and graphs and lists and the hard truth is that I’m never, ever going to Get Organized!–at least not at the level these books tell me to.  The happy truth is that I’m plenty organized to manage the affairs of my own day, which include taking a shower, feeding my dog, and writing an embarrassingly inane blog post.  Hey, routine is important.  (The books told me so.)

6.  I’ve kinda quit reading books altogether.  Let me clarify:  I love reading, I believe in reading, I dream of reading, every day.  But I’m spinning in a season of life wherein reading–like I used to read, anyway–is a virtual impossibility.  I’m managing a teen, tween, nine year old, crazybusy hubby, home, hearth, church and school stuff, and gazillion and one errands every day–probably just like you are.  And it’s good; it’s my life as a mom and it’s exactly what I want to be doing right now–even more than I want to be reading.  The pile of books will be ready when their time is ripe, and they’ll be all the juicier for the waiting.  (Not that I read anything that juicy.  Shoot, that came out wrong.)

7.  My feet are shrinking.  No joke.  I used to wear an 8, now I’m buying a 7 ½.  The other day a 7 even fit.  It’s probably the early stages of osteoporosis, but who cares?  I feel skinny!

8.  My age has become a legitimate excuse for laziness.  When I’m on the couch and don’t want to get up, I’ll often ask my kids to get stuff for me.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Ethan, will you go get me my phone?”

“Yeah, but mom…um, how come you can’t do it?”  (The guarded manner in which he asks this does nothing to hide his impertinence.)

“Because I’m old and fat, and you’re young and skinny.”  This is the point at which, a few years ago, he would say, “Mom, you’re not old!  You’re not fat!”  Now, however, he simply replies:

“Yeah.  Okay.”

It’s nice not to be argued with.

9.  Nobody expects me to look that good or be that nice anymore.  This is a relief.  Although:  did they ever expect me to look that good or be that nice?  I may have been flattering myself, which is something people in their thirties are good at and people in there forties should stop doing altogether.  Forty’s foolin’ nobody, baby.

10.  I can cut my hair short.  Without too much thought.  Cutting my hair used to be a anguished life decision–would it flatter or foil me?–but now, thanks to #9, I just don’t really care anymore.  Nor, thanks to #9, does anyone else.  I think I’ll cut my hair short tomorrow, in fact.  See how quick I did that?  Oh, the liberation that comes with the increasing homeliness of getting “older!”  (Older than what, I’m still not sure.  You?  Probably.  Dang it.)



My Bad Handwriting

Though my last post addressed the contents of my childhood journal, the real theme of it was, of course, my bad handwriting.  Or rather, my Bad Handwriting, because handwriting as bad as mine deserves capitalization.  My Band Handwriting has always been something of a family joke, but I don’t think it’s so funny.  Just look what I have to work with when trying to plan my week:

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Disorganization?  Nah…it’s just my Bad Handwriting.  And I can’t change it because, really, I’m the victim here–of a glory never quite tasted.

See, back in the second grade, Good Handwriting lay right at my feet.  Back in the second grade, my dream of fine penmanship almost came true.  But back in the second grade, I was also under the the wicked tutelage of one Evil Mrs. Young.  She hated being a teacher, and I’m pretty sure she hated me.  (I don’t know why; I had jeans with a gray mouse embroidered on the back pocket, and sometimes my mom french braided my hair for school.)  I knew Mrs. Young hated being a teacher because she never answered our questions with words, only with an eyeroll and an exasperated sigh.  I wondered if she hated her own kids and we reminded her of them.  She seemed like the kind of woman who would hate her own kids.  (Not to be rude, just saying.)  The good news was that Mrs. Young was just youthful and pretty enough that she didn’t really terrify me.  Until the day of the D’Nealian Test.

Once a quarter, the second grade class was subjected to a standardized D’Nealian test.  D’Nealian, for those of you born after 1977, was the coolest part of my childhood–besides the pilot episode of Silver Spoons.  (and btw:  did you know that Ricky Shroder was baptized Mormon as an adult?  Whoa.  As if the church wasn’t true enough already.)  D’Nealian was a cross between print and cursive, meant to bridge the gap between the two.  D’Nealian was beautiful:  slanted but smooth, swirly but restrained.  Most importantly, D’Nealian determined, in Mrs. Young’s class, whether or not you were “ready for cursive.”  Pass the test and you were on your way to adolescence; flunk the test and you were stuck scribbling like a baby while your friends poised their #2 pencils with an elegant maturity acquired only by their mad D’Nealian skillz.

I really wanted to pass that D’Nealian test.  Like, worse than I wanted to win at four-square.  Worse, even, than I wanted a red oversized sweatshirt that said “Esprit” on it.  (That’s saying something.)  I wanted to master D’Nealian so I could go on to learn cursive, and I wanted to learn cursive so I could get out of the proverbial playpen and sit at the proverbial grownups table.  (I also wanted to learn what proverbial meant.)  (I still do.)  (Someday.)

 And so I practiced my handwriting, and I practiced hard.  I filled sheet after sheet of ledgered “dittos” (remember those?) with such heavy, meticulous D’Nealian that you could turn the paper over and it looked like a sheet of Braille.  I left a few holes in the pages here and there, but such was the price of my determination.  After weeks of applied study, a bright spring morning dawned with the announcement in class that today–today!–was The D’Nealian Test.  Upon hearing the news, the very instruments my fate rested on–my two hands–shook with the task before them.  I clasped them together on my desk, damp and tight, unwilling to let their weakness betray my fear to the Evil Mrs. Young, who stood right before my front row desk.  I would not let that woman break me.

I sat up straight–someone might have poured water down my back, so stiff was my spine–turned slightly to the left, and crossed my ankles in the Ideal Handwriting Posture that had been demonstrated to us time and again.  Frozen in position, I watched Mrs. Young walk up and down the aisles, carelessly dropping the dittos like feathers on desk after desk.  I dared not look up when she came to me; what if we locked eyes and I absorbed her bad luck?  Instead, I simply pressed the downturned page with a moist finger and slid it closer to me, turning it face up to assess the situation.  One full ledger at the top, filled with capital and lower case Ks, Ps, and Ts, then four blank ledger lines beneath it, waiting expectantly to be filled with the expert arcs and dips of a cursive-ready second grader.  I took a breath and dug in, arcing and dipping with the controlled enthusiasm of Picasso to canvas.  After twenty long minutes of toil, our time was announced “up” and  I rested my pencil on my page.  Then, in signature second-grade style, I rested my head on my desk.  My work here was done, gone out of my own literal hands and into Mrs. Young’s proverbial (!) ones.

An hour later, during silent reading, she called me up to her desk.  I shuffled quietly to the back of the room, nervous as a cat.  Private desk time with one’s teacher was rare back in my day; the last time I’d had any was when I’d peed my pants in the first grade.  (I told everyone I’d spilled 7-up beneath my desk.  It didn’t go well.)  I neared her perch as she pulled my D’Nealian test from a drawer.  The single page that was my destiny wavered in her hand and my stomach folded over on itself.

“Jennifer.  I have your test here.”  I nodded.  (Politely I thought; a little kiss up at test time never hurt anything.)

“I just wanted you to know that your test is right on the verge of passing.  I’m not sure about it yet.  I’m going to have to think about it.  I’ll let you know.”

I nodded again and pressed my lips to keep from screaming.  Was she kidding??  Did she not understand the weight of her words?  She might as well have said, “I think you may have been adopted, Jennifer.  I’m not sure about it.  I’ll let you know.”  But of course I couldn’t say any of this to my formidable teacher.  I was like Queen Esther before the king, with eventual beheading a real possibility.  So I just nodded my head again (politely) and whispered:


But, as you may have suspected with the context clues, it was not okay.  Because, whether I passed the test or not (and I honestly can’t remember if I ever did), my Handwriting Confidence was, in that moment, forever crushed.  The humiliation of being proverbially (!!) “on the verge” would stain my penmanship attempts forever.  It was then, staring down the Evil Mrs. Young (i.e., hanging my head and shuffling back to my desk) that I vowed to never, ever take any pains with my D’Nealian–or printing, or future cursive–again.  My laborious efforts had been weighed, measured, and found wanting.  I was taking my bat and going home.

And this, my faithful readers, is what I now have to show for that indignity.  Check out my blogging ideas for the week.  Can you see what a mess my mind is?

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Notice how often I crossed out “Bad Handwriting.”  (I feared the emotional fallout.)  And if you think this is bad, you should see my grocery list and the sticky notes on my bathroom mirror, reminding me to make a grocery list.  I know It’s All Wrong, but in my defense, please see my Standard Line of Defense (i.e., It’s Really Not My Fault.)  Then whose fault is it, you ask?  The Evil Mrs. Young’s, that’s whose!  For real.  (Not proverbially.)

Journal up, baby.

Cleaning my closet this weekend, I came across my very first journal.  I was eleven years old and I made it myself with copy paper, a hole punch, and some yarn.  Here’s a sample entry of A Day in the Life:

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Pretty spicy stuff.  I spent five lovely minutes on Saturday reading this and remembering why childhood was grand.  For all the angst of tweendom, an overarching simplicity still reigned during those years.  When one’s deepest thoughts can be followed with a rainbow-cloud picture, a heart, and a monkey-man (?), not to mention an impressive autograph, you know that Life Was Good.  And yes, these drawings were the standard signature for every single one of my journal entries in this collection.  Not only were my thoughts deep, my art was consistent.  (And no, I was not “getting good” at swimming, I was trying to pass Level 3 at the public pool.  And no, I do not believe I only watched TV on Saturdays.  And yes, my mom used to let me and my friends ride the public bus by ourselves, all over town.  The ’80s ruled.)

 I was a happy kid and it was a happy time, and I say

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hooray for journals.  Did you keep one?  Do you keep one?  If you don’t, you should.  Do it for five minutes a week online; you’ll be surprised by how much gets recorded in a year.  I know journals were once kept to teach our descendents about our everyday lives, but thanks to the constant documentation offered by the digital era, I don’t think that’s the real reason for journaling anymore.  I think the real for journaling–or any kind of writing–is to find out what you think about things:  books, people, food, your kids, your faith, your struggle with your faith, politics, family, life, love and, of course, how you can’t wait for summer.  You write to discover your opinions, and you write to discover yourself.  Your thoughts deserve a voice that no one hears but you, free from self-consciousness, free from critique.  Taking time to write your thoughts down, you’re paying them the respect they deserve.  And that’s a big ‘ole step closer to respecting yourself.

There is one problem with snapshotting our thought processes, however, and that is that you have to answer for them later.  Your brain droppings then may come back to haunt you now.  Refer to above images for case and point:  Shouldn’t I have been a little, um, smarter for being in the sixth-grade?  A little savvier, a little more mature, a little less drawing-rainbows-and-hearts-and-monkey-men after everything?  And let’s not even get started on my handwriting.  (What, for the love, was that?)  The innocence of youth is one thing, but these sound like the ramblings of a third-grader.  Shoot.  I guess I’m finally caught in the decade of lies I’ve been telling my own kids about how “bright” I was at their age–and how, therefore, they should be “bright” as well.  (It was a patently deceptive parenting strategy, but all I could come up with at the time.)

The upside?  If I was three years behind in maturity and articulation then, maybe I’m still three years behind today.  Which means, by my calculations, that you’re actually reading the blog of a young, vivacious thirty-seven (not forty) year old woman.  And that kind of youth means I can still sign this post

with love, hearts, rainbows, and monkey-men,

Jennifer Christensen (pretend that’s in fancy cursive)


p.s.  I (still) love Valentine’s Day.