You! Out! A Retirement Story

By Teri Michaud

You know what’s rude? It’s when someone interrupts your lovely thoughts to put their two cents in.

“When are you getting married?”

“When are you getting pregnant?”

“When are you getting skinny?”

“When are you getting tattooed?”

None of your beeswax is my inner-mind, twelve-year-old answer. But we are so programmed to be nice, or at least civil, that we feel we must answer these questions sometimes.

This past September, two people approached me with rude comments about retiring. “I thought you retired!” I’m standing right here with a laptop and a lanyard ID, so no.

Then, “Wow! You are still teaching!?”

If Gary and I want to hop on the motorcycle and flee town, soon we can!

If Gary and I want to hop on the motorcycle and flee town, soon we can!

We are in a training seminar for TEACHERS, so again, nope. But I was secretly thinking about retiring this year. It needed to be a secret or people keep asking questions that they think are fair game.

As a Jam Program founding mother (along with my two daughters), I knew I had to be brave. We three had a lovely dinner recently and we spoke about me ending my 25+ year career. It’s been so great, teaching.

I’ll miss so much: the stories, the staff, the field trips, the students’ telling me their families’ traditions and the names of their dogs. The paycheck. Dressing up, hustling in the morning to be there by 7:00 am, trying to eat lunch in 17 minutes, adhering to schedules, syllabi, protocol, laws.

I will miss meeting former students, ten years later, who tell me they are going into teaching because of me, or that they still write, or run, or sing in musicals, because I was good to them, or for them.

I will miss meeting former students, ten years later, who tell me they are going into teaching because of me, or that they still write, or run, or sing in musicals, because I was good to them, or for them.

So why give it up?

I have a ton of energy, and I want to do something else. I also want to craft my own day. Going to lunch when I feel like it will be amazing. If Gary and I want to go skiing out west, we could go in the fall, when prices and crowds are down; not on school vacations. Another reason I am retiring is that I can. We have helped pay for college and weddings; paid off our cottage and home’s mortgages.

In terms of filling my time, I also work with Gary flipping houses, and I help out with Jam Program.

When I told my friends at work, their reactions were sweet. Two ladies cried. One laughingly said, “You bitch!”. My principal said he was depressed, and had “a hole in his heart” because I did so much for the school and with my students. A secretary wrote: “Noooooooooooo!”. They have touched my arm or hugged me or whispered, “I’m next” or “You are living the dream!”

I gotta be brave for what’s next.

Really, really, why I am retiring is this: I had a mean, old teacher when I was twelve years old. She was an old bag who hated her job and us students, snarling at us from her sloping shoes and frizzy hair. Nope.

That’s not for me. I want to leave teaching while I still love it. Besides, I gotta be brave for what’s next.

For my girls.

Fierce Females Band Together to Alleviate Winter Blues

By Shawna Kitzman

Does winter last half the year? Sometimes, that’s how it feels.

The dark days that start in early November trigger some internal clock that make me want to get under the covers at 8:30pm. Which is about 15 minutes after we tuck our kids in. Maybe that feeling of exhaustion is due to the rhythms of the season and sun. Maybe it’s a byproduct of my full life. Or both?

I write this as my 2-year old battles my laptop with a foam roller, and my middle daughter narrates an episode of Blue Earth that we’ve seen one too many times, and my oldest daughter chills quietly by my side.

The days may be short, but Jam Program makes the most of them to alleviate winter blues!

In January, we hosted a Jam & Drinks in Hartford to help pull other women out of winter doldrums. Jam & Drinks is a new event, meeting up at local businesses. We were delighted to mingle with old friends and new ladies at Hog River Brewery.

These ladies braved the biting cold to meet one another and share ideas, struggles, and hustles. Also, we served home-made cookies!

Fun fact: Hog River is owned by a couple Joy and Ben Braddock, and we aim to support-female owned local businesses whenever possible.

Speaking of female-owned businesses, our February Jamboree co-hosted with Nomi Ellenson of Boudoir by Nomi was a blast. What was the secret Jam sauce? It might’ve been the creative vibe of her Brooklyn photography studio, her make-up artist Jane, who provided complementary touch-ups, or Nomi’s laid back, pro-woman attitude that set the tone.

We warmed up from the bitter cold with rich conversations and sharing of ideas, while topping off glasses of Cabernet…and whiskey. Cozy!

Next up – and hopefully the farewell to winter event – is our March 10 Moms Demand Action – and Brunch! Jamboree. We’re co-hosting with the fierce lawyer/mom/activist/general delight Kate Martin, founder the Hartford Chapter of Moms Demand Action, and a few great ladies dedicated to making Connecticut safer from gun violence through common sense gun laws. We’ll take a few minutes out from networking to learn about this non-partisan group over coffee, mimosas, and bagels.

Register here if you haven’t yet – tickets are selling so don’t wait too long!

Kate Martin (left), with two of her children, her mom (center), fellow activists and Senator Chris Murphy demonstrate that it takes a village to get things done.

Kate Martin (left), with two of her children, her mom (center), fellow activists and Senator Chris Murphy demonstrate that it takes a village to get things done.

Lastly, check out this interview that Nan Price did with Shawna of Jam Program, for local blog Innovation Destination Hartford. Thanks for featuring us, Nan!

One Year In: Connecting Women, One Neighborhood Event at a Time

By Ashley Rigby

One year ago, I invited 45 cool, ambitious, kind, and funny women from my Prospect Heights, Brooklyn neighborhood to a ladies’ only networking and cocktail party at my apartment. When nearly every lady invited showed up, I delightfully thought, “WTF!?”

As any hostess knows, that’s an atypical response rate, but also freaking amazing. The invitation (which some of you received) included the following note:

I love entertaining. I also love this amazing group of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. You are all way too talented and fabulous to not know one another. Let’s connect and make things happen, or at the very least, enjoy a cocktail or three with friends, old and new.

The party took place just as my sister Shawna and I were brainstorming blog and business ideas. We both felt underwhelmed by some aspect of our hard-earned careers. We were unsure of what to do next, where and how to lead, and unsure of whom to follow. By tapping into this uncertainty, frustration, excitement, and creativity, Jam Program was born. I have a feeling you know what I’m talking about here, because you feel it too.

The idea for Jam Program started a year ago, when Teri, Shawna and Ashley identified a need to connect fabulous women in real life.

The idea for Jam Program started a year ago, when Teri, Shawna and Ashley identified a need to connect fabulous women in real life.

Like many women, we rely on our mother for many things, and we asked if she would join us. She is the one that taught us from an early age how to create a warm and inviting home, how to be kind and curious, and how create something out of nothing. She’s always been a champion for the underdog and diversity. We needed her then and we need her now. She’s the foundation of our modern village.

Jam Program continues to evolve from month to month as we navigate our constraints (time, money, energy) and tap into our resources (you, our aunts and cousins, mentors, champions, ideas, passion, and courage). Over the past year we’ve hosted nine events (Networking Jamborees and Jam & Drinks) and helped connect, in person, nearly 300 women between Brooklyn, NY and West Hartford, CT. One thing has become increasingly clear: the desire to connect in real life and close to home is an ever-growing need. We’re going to continue to solve for that need as best we can. We urge you to join us. Get your neighbor-lady-friends and family in on it too! 

The desire to connect in real life and close to home is an ever-growing need.
Photographer Nomi Ellenson will co-host our next Jamboree in her Brooklyn studio. She’s skilled at making women feel beautiful and powerful - the perfect partner for Jam Program.

Photographer Nomi Ellenson will co-host our next Jamboree in her Brooklyn studio. She’s skilled at making women feel beautiful and powerful - the perfect partner for Jam Program.

To all of you that have attended a Jamboree or Jam & Drinks: we applaud you. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for showing up, opening up, and sharing with us what it is you need from your community and how you might be able to share your skills and talents.

Can we just agree that life is really fucking awesome and really fucking hard. So many of us are facing big life transitions: babies, careers, marriage, divorce, loss of parents and loved ones, retirement and other challenges life throws our way. No matter what we are going through, we all want support and a sense of purpose and belonging...and we don’t want to have to go the web or commute too damn far to get it.

In our quest to connect with amazing women doing cool shit locally, we struck gold when we found Boudoir by Nomi. Nomi uses her photography to bring inner beauty outwards. Her great-grandmother Selma was a bra fitter in Manhattan until the age of 95. She was famous for helping ladies find the right fit, while helping them feel fabulous and confident. Nomi channels that intention in her boudoir sessions. Of course, once Shawna and I found her, we had to do a shoot. I hate my stretched-out stomach and Shawna hates her flat boobs; but we loved our experience and love our photos. Acknowledging what you don’t like about yourself, but not letting it hold you back, is a powerful thing.

Acknowledging what you don’t like about yourself, but not letting it hold you back, is a powerful thing.

Lucky for you, our next Brooklyn Jamboree is Friday, February 1st at 6pm at Nomi’s beautiful Prospect Heights photography studio. Our clothes will stay on, but you can check your inner-critic at the door and get a sneak peek at this body-positive space and Nomi’s services. Join us and please invite other brave neighborhood ladies. Register HERE.

Our West Hartford will be on Friday, January 11, just as the holiday sparkle wears off. See events page for details.

PS - If you’re interested in attending/hosting an event but don’t live near us, reach out at jamborettes@jamprogram.com.

Making Invisible Work Visible

Labor is hard, physical work. Often it’s easy to spot. You feel sore from it the next day.

By Ashley Rigby

Labor. Whether you’ve birthed a child, worked in construction, or moved into a new home with a staircase, we all know what it is. It’s defined as hard, physical work. Often, it’s easy to spot. You feel sore from it the next day.

Sociologists have studied the concept of emotional labor since the late 1900s. Emotional labor (aka invisible work) can be tricky to define and often harder to see. In many cases, there is nothing to see. Some refer to it as managing feelings and expressions, or making sure your loved ones are as comfortable as can be. This guy refers to it as the “the shit someone does that goes unrecognized”. For this post; I’m referring to the latter definition.

For example, no one celebrates when the kids’ talons are trimmed, nor when a stray, shriveled-up baby carrot abandoned at the refrigerator drawer finally gets tossed, or when salt and pepper shakers are, for the love of God, refilled. It just gets done.

Millions of tiny little things, that add up over time, just get taken care of.

Last Mother’s Day, a friend on social media suggested that her followers listen to this podcast. I listened, then made my husband listen to it, per her recommendation. I’d heard the term emotional labor before. I’d had plenty of conversations on invisible work, family management, division of labor, and so on with friends, family members, and certainly my husband.

Emotional labor is roughly defined as “the shit that someone does that goes unrecognized”

But this time, something stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about emotional labor as it relates to raising a family on a nearly daily basis since listening.

Emotional labor impacts all people. It applies to the masses, regardless of status, demographic, geography, sexual orientation, profession, or gender. However, I am most aware of how it impacts married professionals with children, being that I am one, and that’s who I spend most of my time with. Culturally and historically, women do the lion's share of the invisible labor. Our society grooms even the most progressive of feminist women and men to expect - and fulfill - certain roles.

Vietnam Bridge.jpg

To be fair, I love some of the traditional gender roles that Jeff and I take on pretty naturally and enjoyably. For example, on any given day I know nothing about our car. I don’t know where it’s parked or how much gas is in it and would have no idea if it’s been sitting in a tow lot for a week. Luckily, this is Jeff’s domain. In the same regard, Jeff follows my lead regarding the kids health, dental, and social needs.

But regardless of how the labor is split or shared, we can’t solve for the negative implications and burden alone. We need support, collaboration, partnership, awareness, and understanding from our partners, our family, our community, our employers, and our politicians.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by many amazing women. They are hard-working, smart, creative, caring, ambitious, capable, funny, fun, Swiss Army fucking life ninjas.

You know who I’m talking about. It’s the lady you secretly fantasize about catching an impromptu flight with, dipping out on routine and responsibility for a long weekend and hitting up a spa, a show, and a cool rooftop hotel bar (and certainly without creating blow-by-blow instructions and pre-cooked meals for those left behind). Amiright?! These ladies are partnered up with some of the best spouses out there.

So, if quality characteristics are plentiful among us, why do we struggle with emotional labor, division of labor, and family management? These seem like problems we could solve with a large pot of coffee, a white board, some 90s hip-hop, and a stack of post-its.

Why do we struggle with emotional labor, division of labor, and family management? These seem like problems we could solve with a large pot of coffee, a white board, some 90s hip-hop, and a stack of post-its.

Here is an exhaustive list of all that we manage in attempt to create healthy, safe, engaging, and enjoyable lives for our families. If you think this list too long to read in detail, it’s even more ridiculous that we do many of these things on repeat, day after day. I manage some parts; my husband manages others, and we delegate what we can.

What’s on your list that isn’t mentioned here?

This doesn’t even include all of the many non-kid activities (some visible and some not) that we do, such as watch T.V, waste time on social media, exercise, socialize, have fun, travel, have sex, kick-ass at work, pursue side gigs, volunteer, and spend time making our communities better.

Come on, smart people, can’t we solve this? If we make “invisible” work visible, won’t it be easier for us to appreciate the work, delegate roles and responsibilities, create more sustainable practices, policies and cultures, and just stop doing shit that doesn’t really matter?

When a Face Tells a Story

by Shawna Kitzman

I manage public engagement for my job, which takes me to places all over the northeast. I speak with stakeholders about projects or plans that will affect their community, to better understand their concerns, to educate them, and to answer questions.

Today I worked an event in my town, my hometown. We met with seniors at a housing fair to get the word out about a project.

I tabled with a representative from the town, Cathy, who wanted me to meet her friend.

The woman introduced herself as Eva Espinosa, the former Zoning Enforcement Officer for the Town of West Hartford. She was cute – petite and zippy. She had cropped grey hair and red glasses. I started my spiel, when she leaned in and said, “I don’t give a shit about this project,” with a bit of a laugh. Her spunk matched her look.

Three generations of Leonards (and our noses). Taken at my grandma’s retirement party in late 90s or early 2000s.

Three generations of Leonards (and our noses). Taken at my grandma’s retirement party in late 90s or early 2000s.

I interrupted her. It wasn’t because of her negative feedback (I’m used to it), but did she say her name is Eva? My grandma Rita was a town employee for many years, and the name rang a bell. “I’m sorry, but did you happen to know my grandma, Rita Leonard?”

Hard stop. She stared at me. “Yes! Rita was my friend! We white-water rafted the Grand Canyon together!” She looked at me fondly, searching my face, and asked which one of Rita’s six kids I belonged to.

“Teri,” I told her.

“The school teacher! Oh yes, I see it now. You have that Leonard face”. She touched her arm, “You’re giving me goosebumps, just thinking of her”.

I could see her looking at my nose; it is such a trait of my mom’s family. And one that I’ve been analyzing profusely lately. I don’t love my nose, but it’s true to my roots. My mom, my aunts, and uncles - we all have her nose.

My grandma died in 2007 from cancer. Eva motioned to her face, “I still get a tear when I drive past Exeter Street.” Exeter was my grandma’s stomping grounds, where many memories - good and bad - were made.

I remembered that Eva was one of her close friends, her colleague when my grandma was the town’s Sidewalk Inspector. They went on adventures together, they traveled. Rita worked with engineers, planners, and public works staff, much like I do now. If on a job site, Rita wore a hard hat. I do too.

Me meeting Eva. The look on her face….

Me meeting Eva. The look on her face….

We said goodbye. It was clear we both loved and admired this woman. Rita had that way about her - she had an intense personality, and she made her mark on those who knew her.

Later, I walked over to Eva, now sitting with her friend drinking coffee. I handed her a Jam Program card and invited her to join our tribe of ladies. “We’d love to have you”, I said, and I meant it.

The wit. The blunt honesty. The love. That was so much like my grandma.

“Thank you, dear. Now go away, you’re going to make me cry!” I knew my face was a trigger. I said, “I have her nose, don’t I?”

The wit, the blunt honesty, the love. That was so much like my grandma.

What a treat for Eva - and Rita - to pop into my day.

A Girl Grows in Brooklyn

By Ashley Rigby

In fall of 2005, shortly after my 23rd birthday, I moved to New York City. I always hated New York City. I wasn’t a “city” girl. I loved trail running, mountain biking, Dunkin Donuts, shopping at big box stores like Target and Marshalls, driving around in my 2000 VW Passat blasting the Garden State soundtrack and feeling safe with people around me that also felt, thought, looked and smelled exactly like me.

I moved to New York City. I always hated New York City.

But the people I loved, including my girlfriends, my boyfriend Jeff, and my sister Shawna, loved New York City. They were either living there or were headed that way. And I loved them more than I feared the City and so I went. I sold my car and left my bestie roommate Kelly, our cute West Hartford Center apartment and a job (also in the Center) that I loved. I told myself I would go for a year or two, expand career options, and then move right back.

The first year in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn came with ups and downs. Our apartment was great, but the neighborhood had too many rats and too few amenities. There was concrete for days, and barely a tree growing in that section of Brooklyn. I was interviewing like crazy and temping for a weirdo lawyer for $20/hour. I was nervous riding the subway and often had panic attacks commuting to and from work. At this point, I still loved the people I moved there with, but had mixed emotions about the city. The nightlife, the food, the city exploring, the opportunity and the energy pulled me in, while the lack of greenery and ease of daily living were bringing me down. But I didn’t want to leave the city, feeling like it beat me. I’m competitive like that.

I was conquering my fear of city-living and honestly, the fear of living in general.

Within the first few years there, I read books about anxiety, learned to control my breathing and my mindset. I had sessions with a few nutty therapists until I eventually found a great one. I was conquering my fear of city-living and honestly, the fear of living in general. We moved to a new Brooklyn neighborhood full of trees, with very few rats. I landed a great job, which eventually led to another great job.

They say if you can make it New York City, you can make it anywhere and I like to believe that’s true. The city will change you and you have to be open to learning, growing, and changing with the City. I don’t mountain bike anymore and rarely hike but I feel like I’m ascending a mountain daily. It’s exhausting, dehydrating, enthralling, intimidating, and 13 years later I’m mentally, physically, financially and emotionally stronger than ever before. I fucking love the city and all it’s given me. I made it here and will make it anywhere I choose.

Ashley outgrows her fear of city living and this too-small bike.

Ashley outgrows her fear of city living and this too-small bike.

Taking Chances Pays Off for Musician Jen Allen

Guest Post by Jen Allen

As a woman in jazz I often struggled to find my voice and place. Feeling the tension of being a stay at home mom and wanting a career was so uncomfortable. Many years went by and I existed in this tension but I never let myself really go after what I wanted for one reason or another. 

I didn’t even think what I wanted was still possible for me. I’m too old, I'm too far behind, I'm not good enough, and I missed my chance were just a few of the negative phrases I told myself often. 

In the last few years I began to realize that I was trapped in a bad cycle by this way of thinking. I started to slowly take chances. I tried new things here and there but still held on to the cautious way of living. Good things would happen but I still felt stuck. 

Then after my mom passed away last July, I decided that life was too short to care what others thought about me. I let go of the negative self-talk and I began believing that my desires in life were really important. I decided to step out and make the things that I wanted to happen - happen! 

I let go of the negative self-talk and I began believing that my desires in life were really important.

This year I started a house concert series to encourage community and the arts. I also applied for and was accepted to a prestigious composer’s collective, the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. I have also taken my first gig as a leader at a club in NYC - just to name a few! 

Jazz musician Jen Allen, delightful and badass as ever.

Jazz musician Jen Allen, delightful and badass as ever.

All three of these steps were scary but have produced amazing results. The house concerts have been a success, the BMI workshop has had me making new connections and I was chosen one of 9 (from the 40 who were accepted into the program) to have my composition premiered next week, and my single gig in NYC has led to a whole week for my band at Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center in September!

Being a good mom, friend, wife, AND musician is possible with a little vision, will to persevere, good friends to encourage, and a whole lot of faith!

The ups and downs (but mostly ups) of 61

By Teri L. Michaud

What is good about being my age? Lots! I have two games that I play with my grandchildren or students.  One, if they say a word, any word, I try to think of a song I know, and I start to sing.  Most of these children think I can sing well, because I belt out only a few bars.  The second game is the Dictionary Game.  I have the kids vs. me, and I give teams names, like The Rutabagas, and I will be The Turnip.  Same/same, so what?  They can open the dictionary to any page and ask me any word that isn't a proper noun, and I tell them its meaning.  I know a little bit of Latin and Greek roots, but the rest is basically recall and brain search and please-God some sort of connection.  Then I do the same and ask them words.  I win, usually, but they do too, because they are exposed to kayak, cardiovascular, and tandem. 

The other things that I like about being my age (61) is that I have these two fantastic daughters: Shawna and Ashley.  Then they had the good sense to marry Dave and Jeff.  Brilliantly, they then produced five amazing children: Edie, Colette, Emmeline, Julien and Miles. I've been married to Gary for nearly 40 years, and we still make each other laugh, not swoon, but laugh. Add to that, we have a little dog that will tear your face off if you mess with any of us.

Whether viewing a derelict flip house or hosting a swanky dinner party, our mom Teri is always put-together, practical, and looking on the bright side.

Whether viewing a derelict flip house or hosting a swanky dinner party, our mom Teri is always put-together, practical, and looking on the bright side.

I've got brothers and sisters who I know would give me a kidney.  Or a kick in the ass.  We get together every Christmas and St. Patrick's Day.  Randomly, we get together on other holidays, and depending on ability, hike, ski, golf, camp and bike.  They all also have kids/in-laws and out-laws who come to our celebrations. Once we had an engagement party for niece Michelle. We fashioned it after The Amazing Race, with teams of four, wearing matching bandanas.  The contests included shooting a beebee gun, sinking small boats in a kiddie pool, swimming to a dock in a relay, and wearing a prom gown on a scooter racing down a hill.  Yup, they all did it--including Jan, who was on an early date with my brother. Ten years later, and they are planning their wedding.

I live on "The Hill": a row of three houses--with one interloper home in between.  There's Teri and Gary, Jim and Mary-Ellen, and Kitty and Steve. Kitty, my sister, I've known all my life; Jim came next, when we were in third grade--friend of above-mentioned brother; Steve, grade six, another friend of above-mentioned brother, and boyfriend of Kitty; Mary-Ellen, Beach Weekend at Misquamicut in Rhode Island, girlfriend of Jim; Gary my grade 8 CRUSH--not yet a friend of said brother. We celebrate everything together--marriages, football, snow storms.

Lucky me, I also have friends who love theater, the arts, nature, NYC, food, coffee, books, running, walking and wine.

The down side of 61?  My mom is gone, and I miss her.  I have bunions, and that’s such an old-lady word, but I used to wear great shoes.

The down side of 61?  My mom is gone, and I miss her.  I have bunions, and that's such an old-lady word, but I used to wear great shoes. My knees and hips hurt whether I run or not.  I suck at technology.  My glasses are a permanent fixture on my face.  When I go into the attic, I bring my phone in case I fall down the stairs.  Not gonna do a climbing wall or jump out of a plane again.  And, although, I am a competitive runner, my “placing" days are numbered, even in my age bracket.  Those whippersnappers are gonna dust me pretty soon.

Looking to Our Parents for Inspiration

Ashley with our mom Teri and dad Gary, who demonstrate a hunger to sweat, laugh, cry, celebrate, seek new experiences alone and together that keep them young at heart.

Ashley with our mom Teri and dad Gary, who demonstrate a hunger to sweat, laugh, cry, celebrate, seek new experiences alone and together that keep them young at heart.

By Ashley Rigby

Age fascinates me and the meaning one derives from their age and the age of others, fascinates me even more. I am in awe by the ownership and pride my kids express over their age, I’m bummed when people say they are “too old” to do something, and really love when I beat younger ladies in road races. Whenever I meet someone or discover an article on someone who owns their age, yet defies if at the same time, I am hungry to know more. How? Why? What else? What next? May I join your club?

Luckily, I don’t have to look too far for inspiration. Friends and acquaintances, who have met my parents, often comment on how young they are. They had my sister and me in their mid-twenties, which was the national average for the early eighties, albeit steadily trending toward early and mid thirties. So yes, my parents were and are statistically-speaking young parents and grandparents. But typically the remarks on how young they are come after meeting them, but before their age is known.

My Mom and Dad are athletes. They downhill ski, cross-country ski, slalom water ski, run competitively, mountain bike, golf, road bike, motorcycle and hike. Honestly, if someone has the gear and extends an invitation, they are game. But consider yourself warned, they will probably kick your ass at your own sport. Also, consider yourself warned again, as my Dad cheats when he fears a loss, which I chalk up to his competitive charm.

They will laugh, dance, shut down the party and walk away holding sweaty hands in one and a drink in the other. They celebrate everything and nothing.

My Mom and Dad are physically hard workers. My Dad is a contractor and my Mom is a middle school reading specialist. On weekends, weeknights and school breaks they work together to fix up their home, rental properties, flip houses, and a small lake cottage. If my Mom isn’t mowing a lawn or painting a trim, she’s about to. If my Dad isn’t at Home Depot, replacing kitchen cabinets, or installing a window, he will be tomorrow.

My Mom and Dad are partiers. They are the ultimate wedding guests. They will befriend random party guests, they will take full advantage of your open bar and four-piece band. They will laugh, dance, shut down the party and walk away holding sweaty hands in one and a drink in the other. They celebrate everything and nothing. Here are a few reasons they might have a party; it’s a Monday night, impending snow day announcement, they have leftover booze and food from a previous party, someone died, a baby was born, someone might be born someday.

I know people who are my age who don’t do half the shit that my parents do. They don’t do it now, and they probably won’t do it when they are 60 either. Age is not the factor. It’s the hunger to sweat, laugh, cry, celebrate, seek new experiences alone and together.

As I write this I realize perhaps I am already in the club. There are no dues, permission slips, or meetings. Don’t worry about your age. If your parents are like mine, follow their lead. If not, follow the example set by your children…just go find a party, a playmate, a play date and say yes to adventure.

30s are the new 20s

Jem jams and so do I. Also, Jem isn't creaky.

Jem jams and so do I. Also, Jem isn't creaky.

By Shawna Kitzman

I’m happy I’m still in my 30s. Some of my friends and my husband are 40. I don’t know why I’m happy to have a few more years in this age bracket. What difference does it make?

I remember packages of black napkins at a party store in West Hartford Center called Bennett’s. They were black with white writing: Over the Hill! I learned in design school that historically, black packaging was associated with death. Those black napkins inferred the inherent doom and gloom that comes with turning 40. I don’t think it’s all downhill from 40. When people lived to 60, sure, 40 was old. But now people live to 80 and up, so 40 is no big deal.

Recently I felt creaky after not working out for a few months. I woke up with sore a back and hips, from my lack of physical activity. It was unacceptable. I’m too young to feel creaky. I started running again, three days a week. And I’m not creaky anymore. I know it’ll happen eventually but not yet. Not today, friends!

One of the freedoms of being 37 is confidence in who I am. I can say with certainty that I don’t like fantasy as a genre, I have no idea how the game of football works, I loathe shorts, and if I had to live on one food for the rest of my life, it’d be cheese, no question. I’m glad I don’t have to feign interest in shit to impress a date or people I want to be friends with. I can say I like this or that, or I stand for this and against that. I know who I am, but I’m open to trying new things.

The moment I close my mind to other ways of thinking or reject feedback…that’s when I’ll turn to a crusty old bird.

It’s refreshing to know myself in a way that wasn’t possible when I was younger.