Reflecting on 40 years…

Ah milestones.  A time to reflect.  40 years to think about…  Life.  It is certainly interesting.  The people you meet and then lose track of, the places you’ve been and ones you still have on your list, the major accomplishments and the bitter disappointments, the good surprises and the bad surprises, from as big as the ways ‘inventions’  have shaped the world and our personal lives since then to the small decisions that shape your path in this ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ ride that we are all on, some of these stories you just can’t make up!

It will be interesting to tell my children all these things as they grow up; they will be incredulous that I remember the day my dad came into a Girl Scout meeting and asked me if we could use some of my savings to buy our first personal computer, this thing called an Apple Computer (somewhere between 1982-1984).  We were lucky – I only knew a couple of other people for a LONG time that had their own computer at home.  I remember when Dad brought home this giant box that cooked food quickly called a microwave.  I remember when he brought home this thing called a VCR that allowed me to watch The Making of Thriller and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (RIP Gene Wilder – you were brilliant!) a thousand times over (not that my kids will ever know what a VCR is, but the concept they would definitely get).  I remember when we got our first tv with a remote control, vs. flipping the dial!  I remember our yellow rotary phone with *gasp* a cord!!!  I remember the first call I got from someone in a car and how amazing that was.

When I went to college at Indiana University in 1994, I moved into the only dorm on campus that was hard-wired with ethernet, so I could do email from my ROOM.  Email was pretty new, at least to the general public.  I brought my own computer with me to college, but it had a monochrome screen and I had to deal with DOS because it was a few years old.  In early 1995, I used a mouse for the first time on Windows.  That certainly changed my life!  Throughout college, the computer age progressed, and the internet had gone from barely a thing at the beginning to the hottest thing in a matter of those 4 years.

When I graduated from college in 1998, the job market was hot and I had my choice of offers.  I picked Kraft Foods and I moved to Cincinnati all by my lonesome.  That, unbeknownst to me, would lead me to a place where I have been able to continue to work and have children, something that isn’t all that common I’m finding.  Because of work, I ended up moving 5 times and lived in 4 different states (OH I did twice!).  Cincinnati to Cleveland, back to Cincinnati, then to Pittsburgh and then Chicago.  Then I fell in love with Chicago and then to a boy pretty rooted in Chicago, so here I have stayed.  Both companies I worked for, Kraft Foods and Heinz are now merged and have been ripped apart at the seams, and almost no one, out of the hundreds I knew at each place, still work there any more.  I took a position as a Region Manager at Borden in 2007 and it ended up being a very wise choice, and I have been there since.  The fact that I work from home has allowed me to keep working through having 3 children!!!  I do a decent amount of travel, but my husband has decent flexibility in his job as well, and we make it work!!!

Because of work and college, I have met scores of interesting and very smart people from around the country and the world.  Many of those people have changed my life in big ways and in small ways.  I have, in my 40 years, managed to get to 36 of the 50 states (and keep in mind I got on my first plane my senior year of high school!).  I have been to 17 countries.  I’ve been to 5 continents.  I have ridden camels to see the Pyramids, heard the calls to prayer in a Muslim country, and swam in the Persian Gulf.  I’ve swum in underwater caverns 100 ft. below the surface of the ocean with Caribbean Reef sharks swimming nearby and section-hiked about 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail with my Dad.  I’ve had ice cream under the Eiffel Tower, ran through the rain barefoot in Barcelona, felt the winds of Mykonos and Aruba, walked up a waterfall in Jamaica (and trusted a local affectionately known as Captain Sticky who strongly reeked of the ganj to arrange travel for us to get there), spent a few New Years Eves in Key West, attended a wedding in Mexico City, zip-lined in Costa Rica and Honduras, gone to the rainforest in Puerto Rico, Belize and Costa Rica, seen Stonehenge, celebrated the Millennium change in Brazil, and gone white water rafting in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Argentina.  I’ve had fish and chips in London, steak and wine in Argentina, and churrasco in Brazil.  I even went to Germany for a long weekend once!!!

That may seem like a long and interesting list (many amazing memories in that paragraph), but it was generally possible because I married later and had children later in life.  (So anyone jealous of this list, remember I’m now 40 and I have a 20 month old!!!)  My most recent adventures have been more home-based, with getting married and having 3 wonderful girls.  I had no idea that I would enjoy being a parent so much, or that it was this hard!  It brought my own parents strongly into focus, where I can marvel at them and wonder how they did such a good job with me and my sisters and hope that I can pull off the same hat trick!  My girls have come into the world in three very different ways…  My oldest, Charli, was just in happy times.  We were excited, things were uneventful, and all we did was welcome her with open arms.  Ellie was thrust into the world too early, and we were terrified and worried because she just came too early and had to fight so hard to even be here today!!!  Kate came on the heels of the death of Matt’s Mom, and it was difficult for us to process the gift of life and the sting of death within a week’s time.  As time has gone on, each daughter brings us joy and worry, and I’m sure that will continue to be so, probably forever!

As for some of the setbacks, as not all is rosy in life, here are a few of the ones that taught me the most:  breaking the cartilage of my kneecap at 25 and all of the aftermath of that mess (it’s a doozy of a story); having a child spend 63 days in the NICU, fighting for her life; losing important people in life in quick succession (I lost a Grandma from my Mom’s side and a Grandpa from my Dad’s side 2 weeks apart), I even had two cats get killed by my neighbor’s dog on the same night when I was young; currently my Mom is struggling with a disease that has changed her so much it is heartbreaking and terrifying and I struggle with what we’ve already lost of her.

Through all this, I have come to come conclusions in life.  Here are just a few:

1) First, I firmly believe age is a number.  I just saw some lady from an Eastern European nation at the Olympics that was 42 do a vault!!!  I can’t tell you how many people that act/ look older and younger than their chronological age that I have met.

2) I also believe that those most upset by getting older are those that look at their life at that particular milestone and don’t like how something went.  Or have regrets.  I feel pretty good about how things have gone overall.  With a few different decisions here or there, it could have been a very different story, positively or negatively.

3) I believe in perpetual motion.  Sleep begets sleep.  Money begets money.  Worry begets worry.  Positive thoughts turn into positive realities.  If I stop what I’m doing to watch a show, I’ll fall asleep.  If I keep moving and stay on my feet, I can accomplish so much!!!

4). There are certain characteristics that you can’t change about yourself.  Go back and look at what your kindergarten teacher said about you…  I bet you there are some striking similarities to your latest performance review!

5). Life isn’t fair.  Truly, I wish it was, or maybe sometimes I’m glad it’s not when things go my way!!!  End game, it’s just not.  Some of the best people have the most rotten things happen to them.  Sometimes it just feels like you can’t catch a break.  And some of most undeserving people have the best luck!!!  Not saying you shouldn’t work hard, you should.  But sometimes life can really pile it on.  Sigh.

6)  Act like you own the place.  Act like you know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and people will leave you alone!

7)  Take care of your belongings.  Do maintenance.  Keep things up.  Don’t get lazy or complacent.  This includes stuff you own and how you treat yourself.

8)  Size doesn’t matter.  No, I’m not being gross here.  Whether it’s the size of your house, the size of your car, the amount of land you have, whatever.  The little Jetta I had for a few years held an amazing amount of stuff.  The time I spent in my condo in downtown Chicago was so memorable!

9)  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  This applies to so many situations!  Don’t be afraid to ask!  The worst they can say is no.

10)  Be an opportunist.  Half of the list I have compiled above came from me taking advantage of an invite, using airline miles, or not being afraid to take a chance!!!  Keep the door open!!!

11)  People are inherently interesting.  When you talk to new people, find out what their passions are and talk to them about it and LISTEN!  Whether they are into miniature tractors, fishing, golf, car racing, whatever, it can be interesting.  Try and see what they see in it.

12)  Family is everything.  Hold them close.

13)  Hide money from yourself.  I think this is the beauty of the 401k.  If you are offered a match, sign up for at least that much, as soon as it is offered to you.  If you don’t know how you’re going to make ends meet with just that amount, do it anyway.  You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll save!!!  In addition to the 401k, but along the same lines, hide money from yourself.  Get a little windfall?  Keep a savings account and a checking account.  Having your checking tied to your ATM.  Not your Savings.  If you make it JUST a little harder to access that money, you’ll find you won’t spend it.

I’m sure there are a bunch more, but I have to wrap this up.  So happy birthday to me, and we’ll see how the next 10 years go!!!


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