40 is NOT the new 30

Forty is not the new 30. Shut up, liars.

40 is 40.

I know this because I AM FORTY.

Last week, I turned 40 entirely against my will. I couldn't stop it, or avoid it, or ignore it, or bribe it to go away. 40 came at me like the Grim Reaper on a bullet train filled with “Over The Hill” mylar balloons and reading glasses. It sucks, too, because I really want to be the kind of woman who ages with dignity and grace. I want to be cool about it, easing into each new year with a sense of pride, welcoming the days that lay ahead. But I am soooo not cool about it. Instead, I am aging in more of a dumpy, clumsy sort of way, flopping around in a fight against the forces of time and nature as if those are things I can actually change.

Needless to say, 40 hit me hard.

As my 40th birthday approached, people kept trying to make me feel better about being almost dead. They kept saying encouraging things like “40 is the new 30!” or, even more ridiculous, “40 is the new 20!” And I just smiled back and nodded with a look that I hope said, “YOU ARE EFFING DELUSIONAL.” That's a damn dirty lie, that's what that is. And we need to talk about it, because A) You have been the victim of this lie, and you think something must be wrong with you because when you turned 40 you definitely DID NOT feel 30. Or B) You haven't turned 40 yet, but you think you might someday, and you're clinging to the hope that 40 is the new 30, or preferably the new 20.

Friends, Ladies, Countrywomen, lend me your ears...

40 is just 40.

You can act like you're 30 and dress like you're 20, but you will still be 40. And I just wish someone had been straight with me, so I could have been better prepared. I wish I had been told the truth, which is that I would have a 40 year old body and a 40 year old brain and that this is simultaneously the best and worst thing ever. So, because I love you, here are some important facts about 40:
  • You will grow a lady-beard. This vampire facial hair sparkles like diamonds in the sun. Occasionally, a single hair on your neck or face will grow quite long, and when a loved one attempts to brush it off, you will both be horrified to find IT'S ATTACHED.
  • The cottage cheese on the backs of your thighs spreads like a virus, and it's now on the fronts of your thighs. And your arms. The noonday sun is a 40 year old woman's Kryptonite. 
  • Something frightening happens to a woman's chestal region at 40. It's like flipping a switch. I mean, like, literally flipping a switch; things are pointed up, and then all of a sudden they're pointed down. This happens so fast, it's actually confusing. I'm serious. You hop out of the shower one day and catch a glimpse of your goodies in the mirror, and you're like, “Wait a minute. When did those melt?"
  • Sometimes your hips make noises when you don't want them to make noises. Repetitive hip-popping? Not sexy.
  • People say super nice things, like, “Wow. You look good...for your age.” Don't stab them. Forgive them. They know not what they do.
  • Even when you look really good, you don't look that good. You can get dressed up and your makeup can be flawless and you can be having a great hair day and no one will even notice. The grocery store checker who would have flirted with you at 30, will call you “Ma'am” and ask you about the weather. It's almost like being invisible. But not.
So here's the kicker – All the crappy outer beauty stuff, and the interior moaning and creaking that makes 40 miserable is the same exact stuff that makes 40 kinda kickass...
  • You become more than a pretty face. I know that's sexist and dated and old-fashioned, but as you are less often defined externally by your looks or your boobs or your sexuality, you discover the freedom to share the more significant parts of who you are and what you have to offer the world. Plus, as people stop looking your way, you stop caring if people are looking your way, and that's powerful.
  • You really do look good for your age! Rock on, Lady. But don't forget you are smarter, and kinder, and more generous, and more capable, and wiser, and cooler and better because of your age. In fact, you almost feel like a real grown up. 
  • Your hips pop during sex and you don't even care because you know how to laugh during sex. And you know all the other sex stuff, too. YOU KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT SEX because 40 makes you THE QUEEN OF SEX. OR NOT! Does not matter. 
  • Your body is a wonderland...of lumps and bumps and wrinkles and stretch-marks and scars and depleted muscle mass and droopy tits and turkey skin and tufts of fur, and you are actually coming to grips with it. 'Coming to grips' is a very mature thing to do, and you can do that because you're 40 now. You can look at your body and feel proud of all it has accomplished, and also relieved that nobody else is really looking at your body. Because you're 40 now.
  • Cottage cheese arms make you sad, but they don't make you put away your tank tops. You like tank tops, and dammit, you have the right to bare arms. Let your bingo wings fly free, my friends - 40 don't care.
  • You can't stop the beard, but you do not have to take that shit laying down. I was with a group of women commiserating about our facial fuzz situations, when the oldest of us – the GORGEOUS, stylish, classy chick I want to be when I grow up – shrugged her shoulders and said cooly, “I shave.” And we all stopped talking and our mouths hung open and we stared at her, and she was like, “I shave my face once or twice a week.” This was the most liberating thing EVER. Shave, pluck, wax, peel, sand blast. Whatever, man. We're 40. We do what we want! So if you just want to go with it and let those chin hairs free? Shine on, sister! I support you.
In the interest of community and sisterhood and being on the same imperfect, shriveled up, squinty eyed, forgetful, granny panty team, can we please just let 40 be 40 from now on? Can we quit pretending that 40 should be something other than 40, and instead welcome the next 40 year old woman into our doughy arms, by putting a stubbly cheek against hers, and gently whispering something encouraging, like "I tweeze my chest hairs." or "I pee when I sneeze." or "I'm going gray down there.

Can we spill all of our not-so-old-lady secrets, and let the next woman in line know it's ok to be 40, and to look 40, and to act 40? 

Because, honestly, I'm too damn tired to be 30 again. 

I'm 40. All I want to do is watch Gilmore Girls and take a nap. And that's ok. 


How do you feel about approaching 40? 
How will you welcome the next woman into the 40 year old fold? 


Actually, I can judge you.

It seems like everybody is always calling everybody else out for being judgmental, and it makes me feel so cringey, because I really think a world without judgement would suck. It would SUCK.

I am dead serious.

Let's just be honest – I'm totally judging you right now. 

I'm forming all kinds of opinions about you based on the way you look, the way you talk, the way you treat other people, the way you spend your money, and the way you eat. I'm judging your haircut, your makeup, your muffin top, and your weird dietary restrictions. I'm pondering your choice of partner and appraising your ability to parent your own children. I am questioning your motives right this very second.

It's true, I am judgmental. And so are you. 

I know what you're thinking. You're like, “But, but, but, the Bible says!” And, yes, I also know what the Bible says. It says,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

It even says it in red.

But is Jesus telling us not to form opinions? Is that what he means? Are we being threatened to not make observations and form opinions about anyone or anything, or else?

If that's the case, if God is going to form opinions about me based on the way I've formed opinions about others, I'm not all that torn up about it. On judgement day, God is gonna look me up and down and be like, “Oh, honey, no. Those pants make you look fat. And you have cankles. And that angry eyebrow is like whoa. I will say your hair has always been pretty good, except for that short bob you got in the 90's. I was sooooo glad you never did that again. Ugh! It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. And remember when you drove that minivan with a missing hubcap? That was hilarious. Hashtag whitetrash. Also, you were kind of a whore in high school. And your attempts at parenting? Pathetic. Like, I was embarrassed for you the whole time...” And on and on and on and on and on.

And I'll just be standing there, rolling my eyes, like, “Jeez, God is so judgmental.”

But I'm pretty sure that's not gonna happen, because I'm pretty sure that's not what Jesus meant. I don't think he was talking about that kind of judgement.

Judgement in the form of observing and opining is a really healthy, necessary part of life and growth. I ask my children to use good judgment every day. I want them to look at the people around them and be able to make thoughtful choices about who they do and do not want to be like. In my own life, I want to emulate the positive behavior I see in others, and I want to recognize and reject that which is not beneficial to me. But how can we do that if we're not permitted to think critically about the world around us?

I know, I know, “YOU CAN'T JUDGE ME!” is the battle cry of our people. We live in the age of the opinion police, where personal thoughts made public can be swept aside by the opposition with the clutching of pearls or grasping of vape pens, and a smarmy, “Who are you to judge?!” or maybe a defensive, “Judgemental much?” This is almost inevitably followed by a counter attack comment like, “Now who's being judgmental?” or, my favorite, “Aren't you judging her for judging you?”

And so begins the annoying, never ending circle of judgment to infinity. But what if we are allowed to have opinions? And what if our opinions are just that, opinions; not fact or truth or even reality - just our own sincere beliefs about the life we think God wants for us.

I do think we get to form opinions, even about our friends and neighbors and favorite bloggers. But Jesus is warning his followers against using those carefully formed opinions to condemn the people around us. I don't get to decide your worth as a human being or your fate or your future based on what I think of you or your life. I don't decide who's in or who's out. It's not for me to impose my will or my ways on everyone else. It's not my place to issue edicts of eternal fate, no matter how opposed I am to someone else's beliefs. 

I am not The Judge.

Condemn not, or you too will be condemned.
For in the same way you condemn others, you will be condemned,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

It sounds so much more serious when you put it like that, it's almost scary. But this is not a threat, it's a brilliant gift from God -- because when you drop the judge's gavel, what you're left with is an open hand.

If you've found yourself unable to extend a hand to the people you disagree with, then perhaps your judgement has crossed over to condemnation. Tread lightly, my friend, you are stepping on God's toes. He has already given us permission to love generously and wholly and to the best of our dynamic understanding, and He's released us from the pressure of trying to change people to fit into our narrow views. 

We get to have opinions, even unpopular ones, and we get to say them out loud if we want to - this two way street is how we grow and challenge and learn from each other - but we need more good judgement and less reckless condemnation. Our conversations are more productive when they're open-handed and open-ended, more invitational than confrontational, filled with personal thoughts, but free of personal demands.

Because see, actually? I can judge you. And you can judge me. But, no matter how tightly we hold to our gavels convictions, we don't get to condemn each other to hell or to poverty or to solitary confinement or to celibacy, or to a life or death apart from Christ. 

He calls us to love freely and then He frees us to love fully.

And that's it, and that's all, and that's enough. 

...But, hey, that's just my opinion.


Bless this Hizzy fo Shizzy; My new office interior on a dime.

Remember how El Chupacabra built me my very own office out of sweat and blood and a shed kit from Costco? 

Me, too.

In fact, I'm sitting in it right now - basking in the glory of a perfectly silent space that is all my own. And I've gotta say, it's a big improvement over my previous writing stations; perched on my bed next to an ever-present, always massive pile of laundry waiting to be folded and put away, or sitting cross-legged on the sofa with the loud swish swooshing of the dishwasher to remind there are other things I could be doing that aren't writing. Things like cleaning or cooking or plucking my eyebrows.

But no more. 

The days of putting off words that are begging to be written and thoughts that are aching to escape are behind me. When I walk through my office door, there's only one thing to do, because under this precious roof I have only one purpose. 

This is where I write. 
That's it and that's all.

But before I could really start writing in here, I needed a place to sit. I had this beautiful blank slate, a creative space to fill to my hearts desire... and zero dollars to fill it with. For the most part, I would have to make due with what we had on hand, so I set about the house stealing furniture, blankets, baskets, art, and office supplies until the tiny house in my backyard felt like a tiny 2nd home. 

I wanted color, I wanted whimsey, and I wanted it to be free. And I knew the easiest way to pull that off would be to go "Shabby Chic". (Which we all know is just a nice way of saying "Shitty Cheap".)

So I started by jacking this little desk I snagged at a garage sale for like 10 bucks two years ago and painting it.


It was perfect paired with this kickass vintage chair and gray chevron upholstery. (A gift from my incredibly thoughtful sister-in-law!)

But a writer also needs a cozy corner...NEEDS... So I took an Ikea cane chair and a fuzzy wool throw right out of the living room as if no one would notice they were missing. 
Kids: "Wasn't there a chair here?"
Me: "...Uh....I don't think so."

And for a side table, I used these two stumps I had from last winter, when I made my husband and son pick them up off the side of the road after a tree near our house was hit by lightning and took out some power lines and the city had to cut it down. I chiseled the bark off of one and left other intact and I love the color and texture and insects they bring to the room. (This is a work in progress - I have bigger plans for these guys. Check back in 11 years or so.)

For a bookshelf, I took the unused hutch from the sideboard in our dining room (which has been sitting in our garage for 3 years), flipped it over, stuck a board across the top and painted the whole thing with leftover semigloss paint from the office trim. Boom. Free.

It used to be black. 
When I was priming and painting it, I had serious reservations about how it would turn out, but after a third coat and with the addition of a couple of itty bitty crystal knobs, I think it works.
 But whatever. It was free. 

Topped with one of my Grandmother's oil paintings, a repurposed picture frame,
 and office doodads in adorable jars? 
Love is in the details. 

On the shelves you'll find things I like from people I adore. Custom paper clips and a big jar of pencils (also a gift from the sis-in-law!), my favorite old and new books, a couple of photo albums (remember those?!). And the best? Art and notes and poems and pics from my kids; things I have gathered and saved for the day when I could look up from my own work and be inspired by theirs. 

I think, in the end, the inside of my little office is exactly what I needed it to be:

Quietly reflective and personally inspiring. 
And basically free. 

Knives isn't really feeling it, but screw him. 

My little retreat. My still refuge. My home not far from home.

I call it Sanctuary.

And I pray God dwells here, too.

Bless this Hizzy fo Shizzy, indeed. 


What if Mother Teresa hated her thighs?

So, I recently posted this to my Facebook page:

I saw it in a friend's Instagram feed and I had to share it because it's so funny and true, right?!

But as the likes rolled in and the shares stack up, I started to wonder if it was actually true. I mean, did Mother Teresa complain about her thighs? Did she ever wish she was taller? That she had a smaller nose? Or a longer neck? Or bigger eyes, or whatever? Did she ever lament, even a little teeny bit, the lines on her face growing deeper, or the skin on the backs of her hands turning paper thin?

Yeah. I doubt it, too. 

Given the nature and scope of her work, I think the meme is probably based in truth. Her life is so well documented, we can say with integrity that Mother Teresa wasn't much of a complainer. We know she wasn't distracted by silly, frivolous things, like outward appearances, and she didn't believe in the accumulation of personal wealth or material possessions. So, I think we can safely assume she didn't lay in bed at night reading magazine articles about eyebrow shaping and body hair removal. Plus, to be blunt, when you live among the starving and the dying, "thigh gap" means something completely different.

But part of me kind of hopes that, at least once in a while, she sat around with the other nuns after dinner or between vespers or whatever nuns do, remarking about the way human flesh turns to turkey skin in our old age, or comparing leg hair length, or standing side by side, wrapped in their matching cotton saris, for a friendly round of "Who Wore it Better?"  -- I love the idea mostly because it would be funny, but also because that's what I would do.

I don't think she did, but what if Mother Teresa hated her thighs? Would her good work be any less good? I guess I'd just like to believe it's possible that that heroic, saintly lady and I could share this common thread of womanhood. Because I hate my thighs, I really do, and I don't see that changing any time soon, but I want to get shit done. 

Mother Teresa was a woman consumed by things that matter. And she got shit done.

I am a woman consumed by a contradictory mess of things (from unicorn poop to sex-trafficking, from materialistic wants to felt needs, from what is social to what is spiritual, from Instagram to the impoverished to Instagraming the impoverished. I can go from crying over our messy world to worrying over a messy bun in .02 seconds flat). And I'm getting almost zero shit done.

But maybe there's still hope for a shallow, flippant, wannabe world-changer, like me. Because, while I believe that as a very young woman Mama T was consumed to the point of action, I wonder if maybe I could act to the point of consumption. Like, maybe for a while I can get shit done AND want to look good doing it. And maybe as I invest myself in what matters most, what matters most will intertwine itself in me. I've wasted too much time already being the chick who thinks she's not worthy to do good work until she quits complaining about her thighs. So maybe it's time for me to say "Fuck it. I've got shit to do", and then go shave my legs, put on some makeup, blow dry my hair, change clothes three times, and get out there to serve. 

My meme certainly won't be as impressive or inspiring, but if I can help the next insecure, self-absorbed, easily distracted person get up, get fabulous, and get to work on making the world a better place, then my job here is done.