Farewell, 2012!

misc cloudy

Miles run today: 4.5

Pair of new boots I’m wearing today: 1

Number of sugared cranberries I ate last night: 22 (Yum! You can find the recipe over at Maisymak.)

Sayonara, 2012! Bienvenido, 2013!

My dad has always scoffed at New Year’s.

Dad: December 31. Such an artificial, arbitrary way to end a year.

Mom: Oh, man. Not this again.

Dad: The new year is supposed to start in the spring, when the new leaves come out and the birdies sing. It’s the middle of the winter, for Pete’s sake.

Mom: Oh! So if we put off our New Year’s celebration, we’ll do a big celebration in the spring, then? Mmm hmmm. A likely story.

Now my mom goes to her parents’ house for New Year’s. That’s one way to avoid the whole “rite of springtime” speech, I guess.

Things I learned in 2012:

1. Turning 40 does not mean that all of your body parts will fall off. Maybe only some of them will. Or you will get an ugly, black blister on your foot that scares young children… but you will live through it.

2. You can write a draft of a novel in six months. It may take you the next five years to finish it, but you have the bare bones in place, goshdarnit.

3. Writing a blog is one of the most cathartic processes out there. Sure, your entire inner workings are laid bare for the world, but a correspondent job at NPR might come out of it. You might become the next David Sedaris.

Waiting.

Still waiting.

4. Looking for a job is every bit as soul-crushing and time-consuming as it was when I was 21.

5. Appliances aren’t made like they used to be.

6.  I hate that I like air conditioning. But when it’s gone, life is hard. And sticky.

7. Sometimes, like manna from heaven, you get a life-affirming gift like boots for a penny. And you ride that wave of happiness for months.

8. Even though you aren’t a kid anymore, there are still moments when you are having a great time, and you know you will flash back to the memory for the rest of your life. Whenever I hear Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City’s “Good Time,” I get a faint whiff of chlorine and remember my kids participating in our neighborhood’s triathlon. When they are 60 and 62, and I am in a senior living facility, I will still remember the happiness.

9. I still have a problem with inappropriate laughter when someone falls down.

10. I like it when my car does not resemble a serial killer vehicle. Functional door handles are one of those non-negotiables… call me pampered.

11. I still cry at It’s a Wonderful Life. I still laugh until I cry at Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

12. I still believe that good trumps evil.

What did you learn in 2012? Was it a banner year, or are you glad to say goodbye?

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Reading is Sexy

My husband went out in the windy cold this weekend to take some awesome photos for my blog. I love this one.

Miles run yesterday: 3 (icky, rainy, didn’t-wanna-be-out-in-it run)

Book club meeting I attended last night: 1 (We discussed 2030.)

Words I have written in my novel today: 0

Sometimes you have to hear things over and over and over for the words to sink in.

Sometimes when you hear the words over and over and over, you say words without thinking about them.

Sometimes this is a problem.

When I went on the field trip to Old Salem with my daughter’s fourth grade class recently, I embarrassed her beyond imagination. (A very, very easy thing to do.)

Every single restored home had large signs throughout the building; signs that the girls in my group were able to overlook with daunting regularity.

“Second Floor for Staff Only” placed on a stair riser became: “Oooh! Let’s go upstairs!” And “Private Residence: Do Not Knock” became “Hey! Let’s go in this house! Let me knock!”

I was beginning to wonder whether I was chaperoning juvenile delinquents or illiterates.

Finally, as five girls started to lounge against a stair rail that said, “Do Not Touch,” I yelled out:

“Reading is Sexy!”

My daughter wanted to crawl under an 1800s-era rock.

A few years ago, my husband had seen a bumper sticker–Reading is Sexy–and every time our kids now disregard the printed word, one of us laughs and says, “Reading is Sexy.”

Sexy is apparently a bad word among the fourth grade set.

Blurting out inappropriate words made me realize that all of the things we repeat in our daily lives sink in somewhere in the crevices of our gray matter.

Last weekend, when I was at the writing conference I attend each year, I walked into a “Slushfest” with two friends. Slushfest, for the uninitiated, is where two anonymous, laminated first pages of someone’s novel are thrown up on a screen, and agents riff on why the passage would be something they would consider reading further or not.

After four years at the conference, I was starting to get that apathetic, senioritis feeling. I was tired; I felt I had heard it all before.

An agent we had sat at dinner with the night before then said something that felt like he was talking directly to me: “We have all heard these things before. At times, you may think you don’t need to hear them anymore. But I think it takes many times and ways of hearing things for wisdom to set in.”

I perked up. If only a teacher had said those very same words to me years ago, maybe I would have sat up straighter in my seat; maybe I would be sitting in a swank office somewhere, contemplating string theory.

Or maybe not.

I’ll leave you with words of wisdom gleaned from these experiences:

1. Reading is Sexy.

2. We need to hear important information over and over for it to sink in.

3. Be careful what you tell yourself over and over. You may start to believe it.

What is a helpful mantra for you that has led to success? What have you needed to hear over and over that eventually worked its way into your psyche? Have you ever embarrassed your child beyond belief?

What We Haven’t Learned

Yep. I stopped. I smelled ’em. Would you?

Flowers my husband has clipped to decorate our table in the last week: 11

Things I learn each day: at least 2

Things I don’t learn or forget: 2

When I was a young 20-something, living in my college town but graduated and working at a job that barely enabled me to eat chips and queso dip and a Coke ($1.99) once a week as a treat, I was once standing in a checkout line at the grocery store. A friend and I were discussing marriage or love or a couple who had just gotten married and was blissful or something.

The old lady standing behind us in line felt obliged to weigh in. “You know, it’s all about settling anyway,” she said. “You’re never going to get all the qualities you want in a husband, so give up that fantasy right now. We all just settle.”

Mean old witch.

Still today, I have decided that old people should not share what they consider to be “wisdom” with those of us too young to handle the truth. I feel that they should have learned compassion and wisdom and when to keep their mouths shut. Remind me of that when I’m old, which let’s face it, will never happen. Someone once told me it would, but I have chosen not to believe her.

I had book club the other night, and I hadn’t read the book. My friend used to be in a book club that they called “The No-Read Book Club,” but ours isn’t like that. You’re kind of expected to read the book. There have been a few times I haven’t, and when the other members start reflecting back on books we’ve read in the past seven years, I’ll start to disagree, like, “Oh no, we haven’t read…” and then my voice trails off, because I remember that I skipped that one or didn’t have the interest to continue after the bad first 723 pages.

Anyway, only three people out of five had read it, so I avoided a potentially meandering conversation about characters I didn’t know, and they didn’t drum me out of the group.

Our next book is Catcher in the Rye. I read it when I was about 13, and I remembered nothing. Pretty much nothing… except “Holden Caulfield,” and I wasn’t very impressed. A friend in my book club said, “You know, everyone read this book when they were younger, but no one remembers what it’s about.”

So I started reading it because I was desperate for something to read while my daughter was in dance class yesterday. I finished half the book, and, well… I’m not sure I’ve learned anything.

The writing? So good. The speed with which I can rip through it? Excellent.

The memory of what it’s about when I talk about it ten years from now? Nonexistent.

Have I learned nothing? Because I’m older and wiser, aren’t I supposed to be gleaning some wonderful morsel of intelligence as a sign of how far I’ve come since age 13? Am I on a course to being an old lady who accosts innocent young people in a grocery store and tells them to be prepared for a life of disappointment?

Should I start visiting middle schools and telling them to skip Catcher in the Rye and read The Hunger Games instead?

Here is what I have learned. And I know a lot of people will disagree with me. I can handle it.

1. Life is too short to read bad books. I don’t mean Catcher in the Rye. It’s pretty good, just somewhat forgettable. But I am firmly on the side of skipping or stopping reading any book that doesn’t resonate with you on some level. Drop it. Move on. Learn from the good writers; don’t waste your time with the bad ones. There are too many good books in the world to waste your time with bad ones.

2. Stop and smell the roses. I know; so Pollyanna. But they’ve proven that we all remember the bad stuff much better than we do the good stuff. Take your time to let the good stuff sink in so you don’t terrorize idealistic young ‘uns someday.

3. Give other people some good stuff to remember. I followed a teaching assistant down the hall today to tell her that my daughter’s class loved getting her for a substitute. Simple, right? She started crying. She said last night had been really horrible, and hearing something nice really helped.

4. When you’re an old person, give young people something to look forward to. Climb a big mountain or take up paragliding. Stay out of the grocery stores; send those young whippersnappers to do your chores. Hopefully, you’ll have more interesting things to do.

What are some life lessons you’ve learned? What would you never tell a young person? What do you wish you’d known?