My birthday: what I’ve learned

So today, I am 42 years old. And that’s old enough to start inflicting “what I’ve learned” blog posts on all of you. So here goes. Here’s what I have to share with you after exactly 42 years on the planet – these are the fundamentals, as far as I’m concerned. Take what you like and leave the rest.

(And of course, let me know your own hard-earned rules for life.)


KAG’s Rules For Living

-Don’t be afraid to throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall.

-Bass players are for fun. Trombone (or clarinet) players are for life.

-Never eat pizza off the floor.

-Many – or maybe even most – worries and anxieties can be put to rest by asking yourself one simple question: “what’s the worst that could happen?”

-Your children really won’t sleep with you forever. Enjoy it now. Breathe in the smell of their hair. Pat their backs. Sing them to sleep. Repeat.

-The whole “birth experience” thing is kind of overrated.

-When you are 25 years old, and deciding what career to pursue, don’t leave income potential out of the equation. Money stress is a real bummer.

-Be nice.

-Endeavor to avoid inviting drama.

-Gutcheck before hitting “send.” Let your sister look at it, too.

-Never drink tequila, eat oreos and do live radio all at the same time.

-Lower your head modestly in passing and you will harvest bananas.

-Own your own stuff.

-Courage matters… a lot.

-Gossip is best confined to your sister and Dr Neighbor. That’s your gossip safe zone. Don’t venture outside the safe zone. Bad things happen there.

-If you get a do-over, don’t do the same thing over.

-They can’t eat you.

-Send thank you notes.

-If anyone ever refers to you as his “soulmate,” consider yourself warned.

-Go with the bagless, upright vaccuum.

-It’s just stuff.

-If a relationship takes work or struggle in the first six months, it isn’t going to work out.

-Finding the ongoing balance between necessary routine and Big Life is the key to everything. Seriously, that’s the whole thing.

-If you string lights up on your front porch, you will never be alone (unless you want to be).

-Wearing cute lingerie, even if no one sees it but you, makes a bad day better. Similarly, well-groomed eyebrows mask a multitude of other lapses.

-Feminism matters. Raise your daughters to stand up and speak out for their sisters.

-Children should be bored sometimes. It’s good for them.

-It’s all fun and games, ’til someone loses an eye.

How Not To Give Your Child An Eating Disorder

In my latest post over at my Babble blog, I’m for the first time spilling the whole truth about my rather exhausting struggle with food and weight “issues” over the years, and I’m asking for feedback from other mothers on how not to hand that particular family tradition down to my daughters.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, if anyone has any ideas on how to make my beloved, 10 year old Miele vaccuum cleaner stop spewing a noxious wet dog smell (probably developed after years of vigorously and faithfully ingesting what has probably amounted to three tons of dog hair from my floors and rugs) into the air every time I fire it up it lately, well, I’d love to get your thoughts on that as well. Because currently, my whole house smells pretty much like a giant, furry dog, and as much as I love my dogs, I am not digging the pungent canine aroma that seems to have settled over the entire house. This is definitely the sort of domestic management dilemma that a good home-ec teacher would be able to figure out, but I don’t know any to ask. I’ve tried changing the filter and spraying the interior of the vaccuum with Febreze, but the machine still blows out this disgustingly unappealing smell whenever I use it. There has to be some tried and true way to fix the problem. Or at least I really hope so.

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What’s the worst that could happen?

I generally deal with stress pretty well, but occasionally, things pile up and I find myself struggling a bit with too many stress-inducing issues all at once. That’s where I am this week. I have several things going on that are really pushing me to my stress limit.

When I am dealing with hard stuff, I find that it really helps to take the good advice originally offered by my mother, and then modified over the years by my sister. It goes like this: when things are stressful or scary, you just ask yourself – and then really think it through – “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Most of the time, in most circumstances, even the very worst outcome is something you could deal with if you had to, and everyone you love would still be healthy.

My mother’s version of this was, “Well, they can’t eat you.”

And that’s true too.

Try it. It really works.

A parenting goal

All three of my older children have a notably bad habit of too often blaming others first for their own failings and misfortunes (C may have this habit, too, but we just can’t understand what she’s saying).

Now, however, I am working very hard on disabusing them of the idea that there is any value or honor in laying blame before owning up. I think I am actually about to declare a temporary zero tolerance policy for this, meaning, I simply don’t want to hear it. If the book is lost, YOU lost it. If the assignment is late, YOU didn’t get it done. If the alarm didn’t go off, YOU didn’t set it….you get the idea.

To me, learning to own your own stuff is one of the most fundamental and important of all life skills required to become a fully self-actualized adult human. I struggle with it all the time, but at least I am aware of the struggle. That’s a good first step.

Of course, one irony in this is that I tend to blame the fact that the older kids haven’t really learned this lesson on the fact that since I only have them with me half the time, I only get to impart my own parenting values half the time – meaning anything I may say or do is diluted by the significant influences in their lives that are completely beyond my control. But that’s me blaming other people for my own failings as a parent. And I just said that was no good 😉  I am clearly a huge hypocrite. 

But in all seriousness, this is definitely a lesson I want to impart to my children. And there is definitely work to be done.

I actually kept my New Year’s Resolution

Last year, I blogged that my New Year’s resolution for 2008 was to figure out better ways to just shut nasty, petty, mean people out of my life.

And I am happy to say that for the most part, I pulled this off. I had a couple of really difficult people I kept sort of inviting into my life over and over because I felt like I was supposed to, and every time I did it – no matter how I did it –  I got my ass kicked.

So this year, I shut the door on them – figuratively and literally – and let me tell you something, it has been life-altering.

There are times I cannot avoid a minimal amount of interaction with these sorts of people, but I keep it at that: minimal. I am polite but reserved, and I don’t reach out in any way.  And I keep them out of my personal space and off my emotional property. I ignore provocations that previously would have upset me terribly (this was a process over the course of the year. My record in this area was not perfect in 2008, but I am way better at it at the end of the year than I was in the beginning).

The payoff for me has been enormous.

I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle with this. I am a person who, by nature, wants everyone to like me and expects everyone to be generally nice. It’s taken me this long to figure out that some people simply are never going to like me, and that’s just fine. I don’t need to worry about that. That’s just life. And sadly, some people are just Not Nice, and there is no need to give them the benefit of the doubt over and over and over again. That doesn’t do anyone any good.

So anyway, I kept my resolution, mostly. Now I need to decide what to work on for 2009.