The Working Title Is…The Dirtiest of The Dirty Words

There are a number of words that, when uttered at a certain age, carried the punishment of a soapy mouth. Comedian George Carlin famously spoke of seven dirty words that were once verboten to say on television. As society evolved, or depending upon your perspective, deteriorated, the ban has since been lifted on some of the classics.

I will freely admit there are a few of those words that roll off my tongue like the saltiest of sailors. Certain situations demand a, “What the xxxx?”   Or a, “Are you xxxxxxx kidding me?”  And, of course the occasional, “xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx, what xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx with xxxx for brains came up with this xxxxxxx idea?” But that doozy was usually reserved for supervising craft related book reports or volunteering on fundraising committees.

There are a few words that are SO naughty that they render me speechless, leave me aghast and can even cause a tiny bit of throw up to unexpectedly appear in the back of my mouth.

In recent weeks, I have been hearing the dirtiest of dirty words repeatedly. People uttering it without shame, in full voice rather than hushed tones, and some have even had the audacity to say it directly to my face in what I can only interpret as a sure sign of Armageddon.

The dirtiest of the dirty words…..Fiftieth.


Sure, they try and mollify my horror by sandwiching such a cuss between the words “Happy” and “Birthday,” but the pain of such a slur stings like a xxxxxxxxxxxx.

I was out to dinner with my wonderful in-laws a few weeks ago and the subject arose of the impending milestone anniversary of my birth. It was in the middle of this lovely meal that I had a devastating memory break through from its comfortable resting place deep within the recesses of my brain.

I was a guest at my future father-in-law’s surprise 50th birthday party.

Now get this straight…I love this family. I love my father-in-law as much as I loved my own Dad, but this memory sent me into fits of sweat and labored breathing.

I remember that party vividly. I remember feeling so fancy schmancy at the country club that I didn’t feel right ordering a beer, so I tried a Cabernet. (Note to self for future autobiography: drop pin here for pivotal turning point in liver function.)

But what I remember most about this party celebrating a man I deeply admire was… everybody was really, really old.

So how the xxxx can I be that same age?

Please, don’t waste your breath with platitudes…

  • Age is just a number.
  • It’s how you feel that matters.
  • Fifty is the new Thirty.
  • It’s better than the alternative.

I know all that xxxxxxxx is true. Especially that last one.

In her book Option B, Sheryl Sandberg writes that she will never again complain about another birthday after the unexpected death of her husband at the age of 47.

I can empathize with that statement. There has not been one decade in my life where I haven’t buried someone I loved at far too early an age. And after posting my essay, I’m No Sheryl Sandberg, Sheryl was kind enough to reach out to me. We had a lovely exchange of emails that left me incredibly moved by the depth of kindness displayed by this world-renowned business luminary.

Which makes it all the more awkward when the voices in my head scream, “I don’t give a rat’s xxx if Sheryl Sandberg maturely responds to our mutual young xxxxxxx widowhood with such xxxxxxx grace and sophistication. I AM STILL GOING TO XXXXXXX COMPLAIN ABOUT TURNING XXXXXXX FIFTY.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out why I’m struggling with this big xxx number. My life doesn’t look like I thought it would at Fifty. I sure as xxxx never thought I would mark this occasion without my husband or either parent beside me. But the pity party is short-lived because I am also reminded that I could never have predicted the multitude of blessings that would have been bestowed upon me in these Fifty years.

With a reversal of tone and content so severe from this foul-mouthed forty-nine year old that it would make even Kathy Griffin’s head spin, the reminder came to me while I sat in church on Sunday.

I share a birthday week with the Catholic Church who celebrated her’s on Pentecost. And she’s super old. I listened to how the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and was reminded of the gifts the Holy Spirit brings us all…sometimes directly to us and sometimes through other people.

I was reminded about the f’in things that truly bring my life meaning…family, friends and faith. I see those gifts of the Holy Spirit at work—in and through the people I love—their counsel has brought me Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding and Right Judgment. Their love has brought me Courage and opened my eyes to Wonder and Awe. And because of them all, I feel immense Reverence for God. Despite the fact every once in a while a xxx xxxxxx might slip out while driving behind some xxxxxxx.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.

Now fueled by these gifts and all the blessings in my life, I will move forward into the wonderful unknown of what is yet to come. But I’m NOT doing it as a xxxxxxx Fifty year old.

I’ve decided to go way, way old school. I think the ancient Romans had it right. They knew how to make Fifty look lithe and likable, lustrous and full of love and laughter.

So, in a few weeks, when I fill out the paperwork for my colonoscopy, it will look like this…

Age: L

You can go xxxx yourself Fifty. I’m going to languor in the lusciousness of L.



The Working Title Is…My Gratitude Journey

As January draws to a close, I am weighed down by negativity, angst, fear, frustration and, who am I kidding, probably an extra 20 pounds. But I have the power to change all of that, and so I will begin today.

For me, 2017 will be a journey of gratitude. And my first step takes me back to fourth grade at St. Margaret’s Grammar School in Syracuse, New York.

Having been taught solely by Franciscan nuns for first through third grades, Miss Crader was a game changer for me. She had long dark hair that she would toss over her shoulders just like Cher. And she wore these big silver hoop earrings that were like nothing I ever saw up close before. I’d sit at my desk with my Dorothy Hamill haircut and unblemished earlobes thinking, “I can’t wait to grow up.”

She was the first person I ever heard say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” She engaged every student in that classroom and made you feel as if your success was all she cared about. She was kind. She was smart. She willingly shared her faith. She had a great sense of humor and the respect of every one of her students.

I’m glad I stayed scrolling through Facebook long enough to see she is retiring because my gratitude journey will begin with her and take me on a mental walk down memory lane to all the teachers who have impacted my life so dramatically. Mrs. Barber, in the seventh grade, who taught us the art of speechwriting and who taught me to love public speaking. Ms. Cooper, who in high school opened my eyes to critical writing and, in doing so, opened my mind to critical thinking. And Dr. Badaracco, who my freshman year at Marquette, lovingly knocked me off my high horse and taught me how to survive in the real world.

I am grateful for the men and women who choose teaching as their vocation. I am lucky enough to know some who share their gifts in the public school system. I have met teachers and administrators making a dramatic impact on student’s lives in Detroit’s Charter Schools. And I have a lifetime of memories from those lay and religious that have shared God’s gifts with me, my husband and our children in Catholic schools.

It’s been forty years since I sat in Miss Crader’s classroom. I can still picture the view out her window. I can recall the smell of the desktop from when we would play Seven Up. I can visualize the walk we would take to the library–single file and silent. But, above all, I am keenly aware of the impact she had on the person I am today. For that, I am forever grateful.

And, I think it’s about time I tell her that too.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”                                                            –Albert Schweitzer