The Next 50 – A Preview

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​Despite dropping the ball for several of the weeks, leading to a ridiculously busy final two months, I really enjoyed writing the fifty reflections about fifty.

Or rather reflections on the last fifty years before I officially turned fifty. 

For 2017, my goal is to write one reflection or short essay each week for the next fifty-two weeks, exploring this next year. I won’t be turning fifty again, but I plan to enjoy and stretch out my fiftieth year.

This set of fifty or so reflections will have a bit more structure than relying on whatever struck my fancy in the moment as I did this past year, although I wouldn’t completely discount that either.

I’ll start each month with a blurb about the month itself, followed up with a photo, a spiritual reflection, and a person who inspires or otherwise influences me. 

I sat down to write a quick outline, and I was amused that after completeing my preliminary list of random people that I wanted to write about and share that I had an evenly divided list of six men and six women. I don’t think I could have done that if I had tried to. Looking over my list, the people who I admire are a mix of performers, artists, religious, politicians, journalists, and saints. They are more different than alike, but each has its own way that draws me (and others) to them.

I’ve enjoyed the last year of looking back and I’m hoping that with these fifty-two weeks coming up that I can not only continue to look back but also look ahead. There is so much more to come.

50-50 – Birthday Traditions

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I usually like to spend part of my birthday on my own. Since college, I have never worked on my birthday. The one time I did work-business for a new job, getting a physical and a drug test, I almost got into a car accident. Never again. 

I get up. I take a shower. I wear my favorite clothes. Today, I will wear my favorite boots and jacket. On years that my driver’s license is due, I go for a haircut and then go to DMV for a new picture on my new license.

There is a local, fancy strip mall that is more boutiques than strip mall that I like to spend the day at. The first week in December is usually not too cold if I’m wearing a heavy sweater and snood and the sun is shining. I would wander in and out of stores, window shopping, grabbing a muffin or a tea, picking up trinkets and then replacing them on their shelves.

I try new things.

In recent years, while my kids are in school, I let my husband work and I head out to Starbucks for a couple of hours. I get my free drink and a cranberry bliss bar. I take myself shopping, usually for a new pocketbook or a new wallet. I go to Target and buy myself a Christmas ornament, sometimes a new notebook.

My mother used to give me money for my birthday, and this is how I would use it. The year after she died, my husband gave me a $50 Visa gift card so I could continue my ritual for my birthday despite my mom being gone. It was one of the nicest things he’s done for my birthday.

On the weekends, I usually spend the day with my family. Sometimes, I’ll go to Starbucks for breakfast alone, but the rest of the day we’re together.

This year, today, we’re going to the firehouse for a pancake breakfast, then the local airport for the Santa Fly-in, Fantastic Beasts at the movies, and dinner at Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse. Cake and presents after.

I’m being unusually decisive for my 50th birthday. I’m very much an I don’t know kind of person, but not this year. The only other time that I was this decisive on my birthday was when I was pregnant with my first child.

I’m looking forward to turning 50. Honestly, I don’t know why. It’s not something that I’ve looked forward to – growing older, and while this is a chapter ending, it is also a chapter beginning.

This is my final reflection of the fifty I planned before my fiftieth birthday, and I plan to write another fifty next year, a bit more focused and a bit more consistent.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come, and that in itself is unusual for me. It feels like a good thing, though.

50-49 – Birthday Freebies

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I have always been on the lookout for good deals. Kids eat free, free ice cream day at Ben & Jerry’s or Friendly’s, but the most freebie centric day has got to be a birthday.

You do need to get on email lists or sign up for rewards, but they are usually free to join, and they are well worth it.

A few of my birthday freebies and discounts that I’ve received in my emails this week.

Starbucks – free birthday drink if you’re a member of their rewards program. Don’t sign up at the last minute.

Red Robin – free birthday burger if you’re a member of their Royalty Rewards. A special note about Red Robin: their rewards program is one of the best I have ever been a part of.

Ruby Tuesday – free birthday burger with coupon.

Jimmy’s Egg – free birthday entree.

Hot Topic – $10 off $30 purchase (this is pretty reasonable)

Avenue – $10 off $50 purchase.

Hallmark – 20% off coupon

Pizza Hut – free cinnamon sticks with your next online order

Recovery Sports Grill – $5 on your Hall of Fame card (rewards card)

Olive Garden – free dessert

Chili’s – free dessert

Perkin’s Restaurant & Bakery – free Magnficent Seven meal (breakfast meal)

Texas Roadhouse – free sidekick of ribs or free appetizer

Smart Style Hair Salon (inside Wal-Mart) – discount with coupon

If you have kids, and join the kids club at Barnes & Noble, you will receive a free cupcake coupon for your child’s birthday month.

Travel – Star Trek Original Series Set Tour, Ticonderoga, New York

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It hasn’t been a week since my birthday surprise, and at times I feel as if it were just yesterday or a year ago that we took the long drive to Ticonderoga, New York to visit the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour.

It was all the more wonderful to celebrate my 50th birthday among the stars that had been in our world for those same fifty years.

I was completely speechless and wide-eyed. I had no idea that this place existed. Upon entering and checking in (we’d bought our tickets online), we were led into a large warehouse space. The modern displays and wooden walls stamped with Desilu Studios 9 were wonderfully deceiving.

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50-48 – Jane of All Trades

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When I was just out of college I got a job with the US Navy’s MWR** department as a child development associate. In order to be considered for this entry level, teaching assistant, minimum wage job, I needed to fill out a Department of Defense job application. I needed to provide ALL of my jobs and ALL of my addresses for the past ten years. As a newly minted college grad, the amount of jobs and addresses I had (a new one every semester and every summer, sometimes two) led to an application that was well over forty pages long.

Over the years, I’ve had occasion to look back on this application – yes, I have a copy in my files in the basement – in order to fill out other applications and write resumes, and in looking over I saw the plethora of different things I’d done. Upon leaving the work force to stay home with my kids, I did a number of other things that added to my job list and my skill set.

I often feel like the second half of my title’s proverb – jack/jane of all trades, master of none.

I feel less than instead of focusing on the first half of the proverb – jane of all trades – expressing my vast experiences and using the culmination of everything I’ve learned continually in my life daily.

I didn’t work until my first year in college. I lived a privileged life. I don’t believe most of my friends had jobs in high school. I didn’t have an allowance, but I had everything I needed. I didn’t take advantage and ask for crazy things, like spring break in Cancun or a European adventure. I went to the movies and the diner, and I didn’t do that every day. I did work a disastrous weekend at a delicatessen, which still haunts my dreams.

My first “job” was an unpaid high school internship in a law firm. I did all the usual secretarial/receptionist work, and got to go to court with one of the lawyers to observe. The other women in the office were very kind to me and I did learn a lot before I went to college to a pre-law/political science major.

When I changed majors two years later to elementary education, I did other unpaid internships in schools as a student teacher. I even got paid three times to substitute locally before I graduated.

At college, I worked as a Bio Research Assistant, which consisted of cleaning petri dishes and putting equipment in cupboards. I was also “campus security” for my dorm. I sat at the door overnight with another student and signed residents and guests in and out after the doors were locked for the night.

In the summers, I had an extraordinarily long list of retail and receptionist positions: Alexander’s* for inventory, Gimbel’s*, Kids R Us, Curtain Country*, Herman’s Sporting Goods*, JoAnn Fabrics,  as a temp for several offices. I also made and sold jewelry as a member of the SCA***.

In teaching, I taught for the US Navy program, a cooperative nursery school, day care at a college, Head Start as well as volunteering at my kids’ schools. As part of my teaching positions, I published parent resource newsletters.

I proctored the NYS Teachers’ Exams for several years.

I became a direct sales consultant for Creative Memories, a company that taught the techniques and sold products for scrapbooking.

I taught a tax class for other direct sales consultants.

I babysat.

I published a Travel Organizer chapbook.

I’ve been crafting this website and I think I’ve finally found a rhythm.

I’ve volunteered in ministries with my church in their adult enrichment, adult initiation rites, and day of service groups.

I wrote for a parenting newspaper, and then began to seriously freelance write. I’m currently working on two books: one on our home buying experience (horrible) and one on my travel/pilgrimage to North Wales (amazing). I’m also considering a book on my spiritual journey since I’ve begun attending church services and my conversion.

I have article submissions in process for The Sun Magazine and Vox.

So many things and most of them come back to writing.

Jane of all trades. I can use that.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

*since closed or out of business

**Morale, Welfare and Recreation

***Society for Creative Anachronism

50-47 – Niagara Falls

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I can’t remember how many times I’ve been to Niagara Falls. It is the one place that I’ve been to in almost every place of my life. I went as a kid with my parents and siblings, I went with my husband while we were dating, we brought my young son right before he started kindergarten, and we recetnly went with our whole family of five.

The city iteself changes, and over the last forty years or so, the Falls have even changed, but yet, they still remain the same.

I recognize the crowded streets, the carnival like atmosphere, the bright lights, the cold spray from the Falls, the huge ferris wheel that we could see from our hotel room window.

Parking was worse this last time, and I had trouble with my knee, but overall it was a lasting memory that we will enjoy for a long time.

Standing across from the Falls, my hand on the cold stone wall that kept me from falling down the hill to the sharp rocks below. I would stand there and stare, occasionally taking pictures, occasionally closing my eyes and just standing there, listening to the wind, the water hitting the bottom. I couldn’t feel the spray from there, but I could see it.

We wanted to take the kids on the Maid of the Mist, but the boats had also changed. Maid of the Mist only docked on the American side. The Canadian had a new tour from Hornblower Niagara Cruises. The boats were red trimmed, and the ponchos were red and biodegradable. The boat was less choppy and I liked it much better than when I was a kid.

When I was a kid, I refused to go on until my family came back safe, then my Dad took me alone. Since they didn’t drown, I figured it was okay for me to go. The anxiety is strong in me. At that time, you couldn’t keep the rain jackets. They were much heavier, rubbery, and hot, so very hot.

This boat still rocked and we were drenched from going under or close enough to the falls that the spray was heavier than any torrential downpour I’ve ever been in.

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Adventure

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I may have mentioned this once or twice already, but my birthday is next Saturday; a mere six days away, and I will be 50. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it, but I’m approaching it positively. It’s a big milestone, and I don’t want to ignore it and regret that later. I skipped having a big thing for my fortieth becuase my daughter was turning 1 four weeks later, and I wanted her to have her special birthday.

Money is still tight, but I did actually ask for something for my birthday since it was a special one – a new model Kindle. That will be next week or sometime before Christmas since we’re trying to divide the paychecks for bills and Christmas gifts and holiday festivities.

My husband has been planning a birthday surprise for today. He has been going over logistics for weeks, finally deciding on Thanksgiving weekend rather than my birthday weekend.

My idea of an adventure is getting in my car and seeing which Starbucks I end up at. The one two towns over? The one inside the Target? Crap! It’s Monday; there are no lunch sandwiches. (The truck comes on Tuesday.)

I don’t do adventure. Or really, I do it slowly and quietly, and then I congratulate myself on a spontaneity well done.

I’m also not great at not being in on the plans.

I’ve decided to ignore my comfort zone and my instincts to try and find out what’s going on today.

There have been very few clues, and I have been uncharacteristically nonplussed. I haven’t tried to weasel it out of my kids. I haven’t checked his browser history. I’ve asked no questions.

It is truly a birthday adventure. I don’t know how to dress or what jacket to bring or shoes to wear. I will check with my husband but I will probably end up wearing my favorite outfit even though I wore that for Thanksgiving a few days ago. And my boots. I love my boots.

The clues I have received are as follow:

It will be a couple of hours in the car. At least two hours from home.[I have not checked a map to see what falls within a two hour radius of home.]

We are leaving at 9:30 in the morning.

The place closes at 4, I believe.

There is no meal involved; we will have to eat afterwards.

I will need to find our camera and charge it. I’ve been told this is very important.

It was more money than he would normally spend in advance, but I don’t know how much money. [I have also not checked the credit card bill.]

I need to bring all of the family’s passports. [I believe this is a red herring to keep me on my toes, but I will still comply with the request.]

I had a dream last night that my surprise involved live turkeys, driving up stairs, Napoleonic wars re-enactment, war monuments, costumed men on horseback, Ben Franklin, but the size and demeanor of a leprechaun, Philadelphia, Canada, although I don’t know that there actually exists a place. There was also a bridge overflowing with water shaped like one of those tubing waterslides. It was frightening in many, many ways.

I’m going to guess that my dream was way off from the reality. At least, I’m kind of hoping it is.

I’m looking forward to whatever it is. I’m excited because my family is so excited to have kept the secret for so long, and for me to find out what it is.

I will post about it late tonight or tomorrow. Who am I kidding? It will probably be tomorrow.

50-43 – Why Are The Lights Out?

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In my family, everyone got a cake on their birthday.

It was always a surprise.

No one knew it was coming until they entered a darkened room and the family starting singing Happy Birthday.

That was how it was supposed to go, and how it went for my entire life; at least five times a year, probably more with Mother’s and Father’s Day and my parents’ anniversary.

We’d go out to dinner and come home.

There was a bit of awkward talking, waiting for the surprise moment.

At some point, my mother asked the birthday person to do her a favor so they would leave the room. When we were older, we’d fake going to the bathroom.

Once the candles were lit and the lights turned out, my mom would call the bitthday person back down to the dining room.

The singing would start and then we’d blow out the candles, turning the lights back on. Plates and forks. Cake and frosting. I love frosting.

We never saw it coming.

Surprise family cakes were the best.