Friday, May 24, 2019

Thank You Thirties

I remember distinctly the day my mom turned forty.

I was eight at the time, and had always perceived her as younger than my friends' moms, a fact that made me proud. She was energetic and glamorous, taught aerobics, and frequently mistaken for Kathie Lee Gifford in the mid 80s.

On the day of her fortieth birthday, she was scheduled to teach an aerobics class and I asked if I could tag along. She had been teaching for as long as I could remember, so a good portion of my early memories consist of attempting headstands on bench presses to a soundtrack of Whitney Houston, Belinda Carlisle, and calls to grapevine to the left.

On this particular day, just before class was over, a few of her friends slipped out the back door and emerged to surprise her with a traditional fortieth birthday celebration - Gifts wrapped in dark paper, black balloons, and a cake decorated with a headstone that pronounced her "Over the Hill."

I had never seen such a display and while they all had a good laugh, I observed the scene with a terrible feeling of apprehension. Birthday balloons were supposed to be the colors of the rainbow. Bright, happy celebrations of your life. What were these morbid omens of impending death? How dare they throw her a funeral instead of a party?

It must have been a formative moment, because since that day I have subconsciously designated fortieth birthdays as the onset of a person's mortality. Like we're all born with clocks that countdown to our expiration, but they don't actually begin ticking until thirty nine ends, and someone hands you black balloons and a headstone cake.

Today it's my turn to turn forty, and if I could I would go back and assure my eight-year-old self that it's all okay, and mom is still young. It does feels like a milestone, certainly, and has prompted quite a bit of introspection recently, but none of the thoughts swirling in my head have been about death.

Mostly, turning forty has been a chance to reflect on my thirties as I leave them behind, and I'm glad to say that my thirties were kind to me. In the last ten years I have experienced a good range of happiness and challenges that have all taught me a thing or two, or thirty, about life.

Thirty Lessons 
I Learned in My Thirties

1. Little girls are easier to raise than little boys

2. And require less supervision

3. Chicago is a great place to buy big, cheap bombs.

4. Thirty five is not too old to take your first ballet lesson. But it is too old to show up for your second or third ballet lesson. 

5. Sometimes clothes look better on the model

6. George Washington's false teeth are on display at Mount Vernon, but don't ask me to prove it.

7. Children should be expected to contribute at a young age. 

8. Snowmen can pack heat without melting

9. "La Tina" is Spanish for ringworm. This is helpful information, but not the first thing you want to see when you arrive at the maternity ward to deliver your baby.

10. Men will do almost anything for a new set of golf clubs. 

11. They also need time after returning home from Church to relax and unwind  

12. Butterflies with disabled wings are the most fun

13. Approach the lego table with caution

14. Some kids will volunteer to have their picture taken. Others must be drafted.

15. The nuances of a Japanese steakhouse should be explained to children ahead of time. 

16. No one warns you about the amount of human waste you’ll encounter on the sidewalks of San Francisco.

17. When your caller ID says Prince William, don't get your hopes up and make a fool of yourself. Prince William is a county in Maryland. 

18. Little brothers don't always do their chores, but will be the first to assist you with discipline

19. Nothing beats a cousin sleepover

20. The 2010s were a rough decade for Big Bird

And Dora

And Mickey 

21. When 711 says you can fill any container on free Slurpee day, they mean it.

22. Wearing a University of Utah sweatshirt will help you make new friends in Salt Lake, but not if you're wearing it to an ugly sweater party

23. Life will never get worse than the moment your sister found the golden egg on Easter. 

24. Don't forget the letter G at the end of your sentences. 

25. Teach your kid sports now, and humility later. 

26. When your cousins offer to bury you in the sand, check them first for bread crumbs.

27. The best time of day is when dad gets home from work.

28. If you wear a fur-lined coat and mittens to the World War II Memorial, your shadow will look exactly like Dora the Explorer.

29. If you don’t feel like smiling, by all means don’t

30. Happiness is finding the right balance of chasing your dreams, and living in your reality. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Election Results

Ironwood High School Homecoming Parade, 1996

After conveying in my last post how important I believe it is for girls to participate in student government, I thought I would share the story of my own high school campaign.

At the end of my junior year, I talked myself into running for student body president and decided to file early, knowing I could just as easily talk myself out of it.

Applications became available on a Monday morning. I picked one up before school, quickly collected the requisite signatures, then waited anxiously for Friday's deadline, wondering who would file to run against me.

The week dragged on with no news, and by Thursday afternoon I was still uncontested and breathing a sigh of relief. No one to run against meant no campaigning. No posters. No speech. No self promotion or trying to convince anyone I was a superior choice. This might have been bad news for the democratic process, but it was great for my limited comfort zone.

And then at the eleventh hour, on Thursday afternoon, a baseball player showed up on his way to practice to throw his hat into the ring. He had been recruited by the student government advisors to run, and they couldn't have picked a better candidate. He was popular and well-liked. Smart. Good looking. Quarterback of the football team. Kind to animals. I was toast.

It's remarkable how quickly a person can turn from reluctant dreamer to Tracy Flick, but that's exactly what happened to me. For every poster he hung, I hung five. I crafted and distributed 500 neon paper neckties with my slogan on them. Did you know that six rolls of butcher paper will cover an entire wall of the cafeteria? Neither did I, until he decided to mess with me.

As the week went on he campaigned casually, maintaining the breezy demeanor of someone who was only running because he'd been asked to. I, on the other hand, was sleepless. Think Hilary Clinton in October, when the Access Hollywood tape hasn't deterred Trump and Comey suddenly decides to investigate your emails. I lobbied the cheerleaders, rallied in the quad, and delivered my speech like Winston Churchill before the House of Commons.

In the end it all paid off I suppose, although I was too exhausted to even enjoy the victory. My opponent conceded and congratulated me like a gentleman. I thanked him, and apologized for hiring someone to run over his dog. I'm kidding!

A month into my term however, there were fireworks. Literally. My vice-president, whom I will call "Phillip" was implicated in a scandal that involved the homecoming bonfire and dynamite, and asked to step down from office. Looking back on it all, I gotta give Philip the credit he deserves. The bonfire incident made for a night none of us will ever forget, and as a politician if you're going to go down in flames, why not literally go down in flames?

After the ashes settled, the student government advisors were tasked with filling his vacancy, and decided to do so by appointment. Their choice was obvious - The guy who had run against me. He accepted the position and was sworn into office. We shook hands, buried hatchets, and posed for this official yearbook student government photo which, for reasons I honestly can't remember, we thought would turn out best if we stood behind dead bushes.

As the year progressed, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this vice president and I actually worked really well together. So well in fact that at the end of the year he asked me to prom.

And four years after that, asked me to marry him.

This month marks twenty-three years since that campaign, and there's still no one I'd rather have as my second in command.

A Brother Like No Other

(Written by my mother Susan Foutz, who would like to clarify that she actually has two brothers like no other ) If you lived in Arizona in t...