The dance…

The fall semester at NDSU started this past week and it reminded me of how much I love to see bright, shiny faces at the start of a new academic year.  My classes typically have a blend of former and new students, but after a summer away even the students who have had me before seem like they are seeing me afresh.  It is a funny dance that goes on the first few weeks of classes – them getting to know me, me getting to know them, and them getting to know each other.

They are pensive in the beginning, not all too sure what to make of me or what I am saying.  Some may hesitantly laugh at my jokes, be it genuine or as a homage to how pitiful they are, but the majority of them just look at me intently as if they are trying to identify my species.  I wonder what students who spend their first class session with me say to their friends afterwards.  I imagine comments such as “crazy”, “odd”,  and “laughs at her own jokes” are bandied about quite liberally.

But after a few weeks they settle in and we all start to laugh together and find areas of commonality.  By semester’s end, we will be one very interesting family with three and a half months worth of stories about our interactions.  Then we start the process all over again in a new semester with some of them that were with me this semester and some that are new.  This is the circle of life in my ecosystem…it is an exciting and magical thing.   I won’t worry now about the time when they will fly away to new adventures.  For now I will just engage with them in this beginning of the semester dance and relish it for what it is – a sometimes awkward, but fun, lesson in getting to know your dance partners. ;-)

Day one thousand five hundred and seventeen of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

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I am a speed limit…

Over The New Forty’s hiatus I hit the enviable watershed moment of being able to order off the senior menu.  Yes, indeed – 55 years of age, that I am.  It was a moment in time that I had often thought of as creating a major shift in the earth’s axis (at least where I am concerned), but in reality it was pretty much a non-event.  I say “pretty much” because it has caused me to actually survey that section of the menu when I visit restaurants.  Having now perused a selection of menus, let me say that I wish restaurants would provide more diverse senior menu offerings.  Try as I may to use my new senior standing to my advantage, I have yet to find the menu that has the item I want on the senior menu.  Surely, there must be some restaurant that forgoes the whole senior menu selection business and just gives seniors an across-the-board discount.  I presume I have not visited there yet, but those who have their aged finger on the pulse of this whole senior discount thing will hopefully clue me in to the happening restaurants.

I have been doing some intellectual re-framing and socialization since my arrival at 55.  I used to often say when I had aches and pains or moved at a slower pace than I had in the past that it sucked to get old.  I do not say that any longer because I have become acutely aware that getting old is a privilege denied to many.  My new line is – it sucks to feel old.  It is a more accurate representation of the physical realities I have noted.  Make no mistake, 55 is as much an age as it is a responsible speed limit.

However, the real challenge in being 55 is not evident in the speed with which I function, it is in still feeling 20 years younger in my mind, heart, and soul.  I expected that I would be more reserved, sage, and circumspect upon my arrival at senior status – that some miraculous change would occur and I would feel and act more like a full-blown grownup.  Alas, I only physically aged and the rest of me hangs in a state of suspended animation wherein I think I am still very much a young whipper-snapper.  And as a young whipper-snapper I get into mischief that may be unseemly for a woman of my age and for a body with my speed limit. I have reconciled myself to the fact that I will likely continue to serve as an embarrassment to my children as I further progress into my senior years.  I have concluded that I can live with their moments of angst over my behavior because I realize that the whole point of being here and living is being the authentic me that doesn’t act her age.

I am digging 55.  When I tell folks my age I use my jazz hands.  This is the one and only year that I will be able to pull this off.  I am going to use it obnoxiously until  folks come to warn others not to encourage me to share my age.  I have arrived – I am a speed limit – but I am still a sports car on the road of life.  I am not looking to be a sedate sedan, at least not yet.  Maybe at 75…but then again, maybe not. ;-)

Day one thousand five hundred and sixteen of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

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Until he didn’t…

In the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest starts running one day and just keeps running.  He ends up running across country and amassing a group of followers who run along with him.  Ultimately, he ran for three years, two months, fourteen days, and 16 hours when he unceremoniously stopped in the middle of a highway.  The crowd waited anxiously to hear what we would say and all Forrest said was, “I’m pretty tired. Think I’ll go home now.”  The crowd was confused, but the bottom line was this: Forrest ran until he didn’t.

I reckon that is what happened here on The New Forty blog.  Well, at least it sort of feels that way.  I blogged every single day for almost five years.  I blogged on business trips, on vacation, when I was sick – through all things I blogged.  I blogged despite the fact that family, friends, and colleagues would question my compulsion to blog daily.  I cannot even remember how many times I was asked, “Can’t you just miss a day?” I couldn’t though, because I told myself I couldn’t.  I just kept going all those days until one day I didn’t.

Of course, it isn’t as simple a story as that.  I was feeling an ever-increasing weight on my psyche.  It was a collection of struggles and sorrows that I saw my friends suffering with that caused me to wonder if I should be doing something different with my time – something more meaningful – something more than a blog that was often irreverent and lighthearted.  With each impact I learned of  I became a bit more removed from the frivolity and leisure of my blog.  I just kept thinking about the sadness that was surrounding me and the inability I had to change anything with the words in my blog.  It brought me down.

Two of my friends – women I hold so very dear – lost their adult sons over the past year and half.  Cancer took my friend Janna last fall and is also currently attacking other friends.  A young woman I knew from my days in Kindred was murdered.  My brother’s family is struggling.  And my kindred spirit, B-Dubya, has been sick – in and out of the hospital.  These things, and others like them made my blog feel selfish and juvenile.

When I stopped blogging, I wasn’t sure if I would go more than a day or two without it.  After all, when you do something continuously for all that time it becomes part of who you are and what you do.  I didn’t really know what I would do and I was surprised when a week passed and I had not even visited The New Forty.  One week turned to two and then four; I found myself thinking that I should make some sort of formal decision about the blog.  I thought I should either go back to it in some shape or form (maybe go to a three times a week or once a week format) or maybe just stop blogging.  At four weeks, I knew one thing for sure – I could not go back. Yet, I was not ready to decide to let it go.  I told myself I would give it 50 days…which turned into 60 and ultimately 90.

Over that time I saw, read, and experienced things that I thought would be nice to share with readers of The New Forty, but I could not bring myself to engage on that level.  I received emails, calls, posts, and letters from friends, family, colleagues, and readers asking me what was going on with The New Forty.  The more folks asked, the more I retreated.  It was, as best I can describe this period, a combination of avoidance, malaise, and clouded thinking.  I was in a funk to be sure and needed some clarity, but it wasn’t coming.  The moment of clarity ultimately came in early August via a memory about the old movie Sullivan’s Travels.  I saw the movie as a child and remembered the movie’s moral – comedies are more valuable than dramas to the downtrodden soul.  And so it was that I pondered the thought that being me and writing my blog doesn’t mean that I have abandoned my own or others’ downtrodden souls.  The weight of the world must be lifted sometimes by those who have the opportunity to do so.

I am sad about the losses and struggles I have watched those near and dear to me deal with – I feel deeply for them.  I want them to know that my life does not march on without somber reflection about them and their struggles.  No matter what silliness or off-handed commentary appears in my blog, my heart carries the weight of their pain.  Every day I think about the difficulties they are enduring.

Thank you New Forty readers for your concern and loyalty.  I am sorry for the concern I caused you.  I want to assure you that Noah did not put me in “a home” as he gleefully commented on the May 30 blog post.  It was a confine of my own making in my mind, heart, and soul.

I feel as if I have been away a very long time and I am happy to be back and in the right frame of mind to be able to share the day-to-day goings on with you.  And of course I will catch you up on my summer vacation over the days to come.  And yes B-Dubya, I will provide the details of the annual Oprah and Gayle road trip. ;-)

Day one thousand five hundred and fifteen of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

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An update from The New Forty

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your posts and emails that inquired about the return of The New Forty.  An explanation about The New Forty’s unexpected hiatus and a return to regular blog posts will be coming on August 30th.

Thank you for your concern and loyalty, it has been heartening.  The best part of The New Forty blog experience for me has always been the relationships I have had with the readers.

Until we chat again – obla di obla da

Ms. C

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What a fabulous legacy…

Yesterday was Miss Sparkle’s last day of ninth grade.  It left her a little melancholy.  It left me a little melancholy as well.  A whole year passed so quickly.  I never cease to be amazed at how quickly the time goes.

I confess that I was happy to be relieved of the additional time burden that driving back and forth to Sheyenne High School imposed on my schedule.  Next year, Cheyenne will be at West Fargo High School – a mere handful of minutes away from our house.  I am almost gleeful about this.  I am not gleeful that Cheyenne has to change schools again, but this is what West Fargo School District came up with as a short-term fix – all the 9th graders were at Sheyenne High School this past school year.

Now Cheyenne will be in a new high school as a sophomore.  I am sure she will be fine.  A good chunk of her STEM friends (her 6th-8th grade academic home) will go with her to West Fargo High School, but not all of them.  That was concerning me for a bit, but I realized today that those STEM bonds will never leave her.

Yesterday, Cheyenne and a group of former STEMers attended a gathering they instigated at the field behind their old school.  A number of their former teachers and their former principal attended as well.  It seemed like a simple little gathering, but it sure did mean an awful lot to Cheyenne and her friends.  The STEM program always had a heart of its own and it beats on even though the kids are in high school and the teachers have been distributed to different sites around the district.  Once a STEMer, always a STEMer.

What a fabulous legacy for the West Fargo School District’s STEM Program. ;-)

A mini-STEM reunion on the last day of ninth grade.

Day one thousand four hundred and twenty-three of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

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