Friday, September 28, 2012

40 . . . It's the new 30!

At least that's what people keep telling me!

The truth? I think 40 is better than 30. I have ten more years of life experiences behind me. Ten more years of wisdom. Ten more years of strength. Ten more years of laughter. Ten more years with my husband and kids. Ten more years of figuring out who I am, what's really important to me, and what I want my life to be.

Granted, I also have ten more years' worth of gray hairs, stretch marks, sagging skin, and wrinkles.

A couple of weeks ago, in the car, I had this conversation with Olivia:

"Mom, it's weird, I'm in 8th grade, and I'm 13, and it just doesn't feel like I'm as mature as the other 8th grade classes before me. They just seemed so much more grown up and mature than how I feel now that I'm there."

I wanted to laugh out loud as I replied, "That's so funny Olivia . . . because I don't feel like I'm nearly as grown up or mature as the other 40 year old women I know. I always thought by the time I hit 40, I'd have it all together and feel, well, just more grown up. . . but the truth is, I don't feel much different than I did at 30, or even 20. I'm still just me!"

She looked at me like I had a screw loose. Just like I looked at my dad 25 years ago when he told me he still felt just like he did when he graduated from high school. I thought he was full of bologna. I guess maybe he knew what he was talking about after all . . .

I am thrilled to be 40. OK, thrilled might be too strong an adjective. But turning 40 sure beats the alternative of NOT making it to 40. So I'll take it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

What happens in Vegas . . .

Over the weekend, I went to Las Vegas to celebrate my 40th birthday. (Yikes! How can that be true?)

I met up with three friends that I hadn't seen in years.

It was a wild and crazy time. But not in the ways that you might imagine.

We started planning the trip months ago. Ideas were flying about what we were going to do. Here's one such exchange via text:

Me: "Anyone have any specific ideas for what we should do? Shows?"

Jenny: "Don't make any other plans for Friday night. I bought us all tickets to Thunder Down Under."

Tiffany: "R U Serious?"

Me: "What's Thunder Down Under??? Don't know what it is, but I'm game!"

Tiffany: "Al, it's obviously been a while since you've been to Vegas . . . Thunder Down Under is the Aussie male stripper show!"

Jenny: "Lol. Haha . . . just kidding girls!"

The reality of the trip was that I was meeting up with three of my companions from my Mormon mission to the Canary Islands.

Me and Jenny E, all dressed in traditional "Canaria" outfits, July 1995

Jenny E and Jenni N at a sleepover right before Jenny E headed home to the States.

Me and Tiffany, along with some adoring Elders, the day I left the mission. November 1995

We've seen each other individually, but not all together in 17 years. There was an LDS Women's Conference in Vegas scheduled for this weekend, and we decided it was a perfect excuse to get away together!

On the plane ride to Vegas, there were two bachelor parties and one bachelorette party. Needless to say, the flight was quite exuberant. The couple sitting next to me asked if I was going for business or pleasure.

"Pleasure" was my reply. "I'm meeting up with three good friends to celebrate my 40th birthday!"

They were quick to offer suggestions for the various bars we should visit and the specialty drinks we should try. And no girls trip to Vegas— especially one celebrating a momentous birthday—would be complete without a show. Their recommendation? You guessed it . . . Thunder Down Under! I nodded my head politely, thanking them for their travel advice. I just didn't have the heart to tell them the truth of our plans there!

I flew in first, and Jenny E. and I got checked into our hotel, then spent the evening wandering the strip. We felt a little out of place. And extremely overdressed.

We stayed at the Tropicana Hotel. I forgot to bring my spray-on tanner.

This was the view from our adjoining rooms.

Jenni N. flew in early Friday morning and met us at our hotel. We were still in bed. Aah, the luxury of not having to wake up to the kids . . . we slept in past 9am!

We headed out around lunch time, and ate at the buffet at the MGM Grand. The desserts were delectable!

Yes, this plate was all mine. 

We wandered in and out of shops and hotels, and even ran into the King of Pop!

By about 3:00, the temperature was close to 100. We decided to grab a cocktail and sit by the pool. The bartender got a kick out of us asking for virgin Margaritas & Pina Coladas—I doubt that's a regular occasion in Vegas!

As we were getting settled in our rooms, we discovered an uninvited visitor. Jenni was a hero and captured the beast. We set him free in the hall to scare the pants off another unsuspecting guest.

Tiffany flew in that evening, just in time for the evening session of the conference. We enjoyed a couple of uplifting speakers and a thought provoking musical performance.

When it was over, we were all a little hungry, so headed to the best burger joint around.

We stayed up talking past 1am. There's a lot to catch up on in 17 years of life. We laughed to the point of tears more than once.

Saturday morning, we woke up early and headed out to day two of Time Out for Women.

I looked around me at the 2200 other women in attendance, especially these three amazing friends, and was overcome with emotion. The day was filled with inspired speakers, who made it feel as though they were speaking directly to me. 

There was even a rock band!

OK, so maybe "Jericho Road" isn't classified as a rock band. 
But the Christian "boy band" still got us ladies up on our feet!

The conference ended about 3:30pm. We headed immediately back to the Strip, and settled on dinner at the Bellagio Buffet.

For the next two hours, we enjoyed the most amazing food.

Yes. These plates were all mine. I won't need to eat again for a month. 
But it was worth every calorie.

I'm told that no Vegas trip is complete without seeing a show. 

In lieu of male strippers, we opted for a much milder show—"Dancing Queen", a tribute to Abba.

Standing next to one of the performers, I again felt horribly overdressed. 
I should have left 75% of my clothing in the room that night.

The show was mediocre at best. I've seen better dancing by a junior high drill team. But the music took me back in time, and all four of us couldn't help but sing along!

We headed back to the hotel room around 10 for the night. We all got changed into our PJs, and when I came out, I was greeted by these two, complete with party hats and blowers.

A surprise birthday celebration followed . . . for me, and Tiff, whose birthday is the week after mine.

We sat up talking well into the wee hours of the morning. We shared laughs, we shared tears, and every emotion in between. We have each had our fair share of ups and downs since our missions, and it was so amazing to share. 

As I flew home Sunday, I looked out the window to a barren desert. I felt a little empty having had to say goodbye and each of us head back to our respective homes.

It struck me that friends like these are what turns my life from a barren desert into a lush garden, full of beauty. We fed each others' spirits and helped each other grow 17 years ago, and continue to do so even now. 

Today, as I was going through withdrawals from the weekend (not sure if it was from the food or the friends . . . ), I was listening to the soundtrack from the musical "Wicked".

The lyrics from the closing song brought tears to my eyes, and couldn't have been more fitting . . .

"I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, 
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow, 
If we let them, and we help them in return. 
Well I don't know if I believe that's true, 
But I know I am who I am today because I knew you. 

So much of me is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories may end
I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better . . .
Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

So Jenni, Jenny, and Tiffany, thank you for the best 40th birthday a girl could ask for . . . 

Because I know you, I have been changed for good!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

While the kittens are away . . .

The kids started back to school last week—eighth grade, fourth grade, and first grade.

It seems like yesterday that we were dropping Olivia off for her first day of kindergarten, and now our "baby"—who wasn't even thought of when Olivia started school—is a big first grader. CRAZY!

The kids have great teachers, and I'm anticipating a terrific year.

It makes me sad to think of Olivia and her friends all scattering to different high schools next year. They've had so much fun together through the years, and it's been a joy watching them grow into darling young women!

This is the one and only year that all three kids are at the same school for the exact same hours. I have one morning drop off and one afternoon pick up. It's pure bliss. I'm enjoying it now, because next year, it'll be another story all together!

I don't have any trouble filling my days. I still work two days a week in the school library. The other three fill up quicker than I'd like with errands, house stuff, church responsibilities, and of course, the never ending laundry!

I decided to give Bikram yoga (aka hot yoga) a try last week, and am hooked. Picture 90 minutes of intense yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees. It's a little bit of heaven and a whole lot of hell. But I keep going back. . .

I wish I looked half as graceful as this.

I'm trying to find a better balance in my life (no pun intended), and the yoga seems to be helping. Call me crazy . . .