44 Thoughts About Turning 44

Cartoon courtesy of Andy Singer

Cartoon courtesy of Andy Singer

1. Last year I felt good about my birthday. We had a party in the park and I raised money to help an innocent man who is wrongly in jail. This year I wanted to skip my birthday (which was yesterday), and didn’t want a party. I used to think that every year you get older life gets better, finances get more stable, and you are one year wiser. I don’t believe that anymore. At least not this year.

2. The grief I feel at the untimely loss of my mom hasn’t gotten any lighter.

3. Milestones make grief worse (see #2).

4. Going horseback riding on a parched grassy trail under a blue sky along the Talent Irrigation Ditch on the back of a rescued Arabian who loves to run with three children grinning ear to ear on top of their horses is the best way to spend a birthday morning. Thank you Cityslickers!

5. Insomnia sucks.

6. Everyone I know on Facebook seems to be going on a fabulous adventure–hiking in the Alps, on a retreat in Europe, on a cross country drive. I am envious as hell.

7. It’s easy to forget that those of us who aren’t going anywhere don’t crow on Facebook about how broke, depressed, or stuck we are.

8. It’s better to be outside than on the computer.

9. The most important conversations take place in person. Not on email. Not on the phone. Not even via Skype.

10. Movies have become too expensive unless you go to the early show and sneak in your own treats.

11. Despite #10, it’s way more fun to go to the cinema with your family than to watch a movie at home.

12. I like to read books that have spines to open, pages to turn, and smell like books.

13. Soon Kindle will have an app that adds new book smell to your virtual reader (you read it here first). See #12.

14. Homemade gifts are better than store bought gifts.

15. Parenting opinionated children is hard. A mom friend  of four from a wealthy famous family with whom I served on a committee told me years ago, “Jennifer, sometimes the most difficult children to parent make the most interesting adults.” I hope she’s right. Check back with me in about ten years.

16. Avoiding a problem doesn’t make it go away. It makes it grow bigger. See There’s no Such Thing as a Dragon for details.

17. Our neighbors on three sides smoke cigarettes. I wish my family didn’t have to breathe their drifting smoke. It’s the only thing I don’t like about eating outside every night (besides the flies).

18. How people act in public and how they act in private are often very different.

19. Anthony Weiner is an embarrassment to the Democratic Party and should not be running for Mayor of New York. His simpering wife is acting almost as badly by staying by his side and publicly humiliating herself alongside him. Weiner needs to step out of the public light and find a new career. I don’t actually care what he does with his penis, his underwear, or his online activity but he is not a man who should lead people. He tells lies, and is unable to control himself. Weiner needs a therapist, not a job as mayor. The Republicans are right. He’s not psychologically qualified to be mayor.

20. If you care about something, put your money, time, and thought behind it.

21. People like to give to charity or projects but hesitate to give money directly to individuals. But if you donate to an individual (see #20), you know exactly where your money is going. When you donate to charity you are often paying for someone’s lifestyle luxuries. I know. I used to work for a prominent “non-profit” aid organization in West Africa. Donated money paid for the expatriate staff’s air conditioning and luxury all-terrain vehicles. Rarely did the people in Niger who the money was slated to help see ANY benefit from it. Annual reports are a sales tool used to attract more donors. Those reports cleverly massage what is happening on the ground. I went back to that NGO 13 years later. The country and its people had become more impoverished but the charity’s offices had doubled in size.

22. Single malt is my liquor of choice but girly drinks like lemon drops and detective drinks like gimlets are definitely more fun.

23. If you want to know how tidy a potential renter will be, walk him or her back to the car and peek inside.

24. It’s always okay to say, “I need more time to think about it,” when someone asks you to make a decision.

25. If you write an email or a text message when you are really angry and upset, hit Draft not Send. Re-read it once you’ve cooled down. You probably won’t want to send it.

26. It helps to commit to doing things that are hard for you out loud to people you don’t want to disappoint.

27. Dyed hair does not make women (or men) look younger. It makes us look our age, only with fake-colored hair.

28. My friend had a tumor removed from her left hand, exactly where she holds her iPod. She will find out next week if it was cancerous or benign. Will we start to see a rise in tumors from the use of handheld devices?

29. 44 is a big number. I’ve been alive for a long time. I’m only on 29 and running out of thoughts.

30. American novelist Stephen Crane died when he was 29.

31. English novelist Emily Brontë died when she was 30.

32. Steve Jobs died when he was 56.

33. My grandmother died when she was 63. My mother died when she was 73. If my life follows the pattern of my maternal line, I have between 19-29 years left to live.

34. I’d rather be too hot than too cold.

35. I was a lot more fun as a babysitter in my teens than I am as a mother in my 40s.

36. Some writing is like fine wine, it gets better with age. Other writing sucks, no matter how hard you try to fix it.

37. It’s better not to quit your day job.

38. Many people I know have plenty of money. They still struggle with psychic angst.

39. If you’re feeling bad there are only three things that are guaranteed to make you feel better: 1) A kind deed for someone else; 2) Exercise; 3) Sex

40. When people disagree with your research and ideas for emotional, ignorant, or ill-informed reasons, they resort to personal attacks.

41. I have a B.A. from Cornell, an M.A. from U.C. Berkeley, a Ph.D. from Emory. I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship by the U.S. government to teach, as well as to research the status of a child survival campaign in West Africa and a project for handicapped artisans. I am a former contributing editor at Mothering magazine and have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, on the cover of Smithsonian magazine. I am also a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. I’ve won several awards, including inclusion in Best American Science Writing and an award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I’ve written/edited/co-written five books. My latest book, which exposes how corporations, greed, and for-profit medicine harm new moms and babies, is the culmination of nearly ten years of research and three years of writing. Yet, according to one misogynistic internet troll who believes, among other things, that promoting breastfeeding is antifeminist, I am a wootastic journalist (see #40) and according to one anonymous Amazon reviewer who gave the book 1-star, it’s shocking that I ever went to college.

42. The way we overpraise our children hurts their self-esteem.

43. No matter how thoroughly you clean the house, it’s never as clean as you’d like it to be.

44. Done is better than perfect.

Related posts:
43 Things I Know Now That I’m 43
Summer Time Blues

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Categories: reflections on life.


  1. Neutopia

    To be able to write a list like that one in honor of your 44th birthday is an accomplishment. Keep up the struggle for truth and love in our anti-child culture.

  2. Marya Propis

    The one thing I would add to your through and lively “44” list of thoughts is to #39. Sometimes the only thing that makes me feel better is sleep, and the older I get I realize that this must replace other things in life if I want to recharge my batteries and center myself again. And your #40 made me feel badly because I very much appreciate your willingness to put your astute convictions out there, and I have seen the personal attacks. At least when I then read #41 I thought hmmmm, well she’s got that amazing dossier and record of accomplishments. Maybe add reading that unbelievably impressive background to the #39 list too. I can’t imagine looking over all you have accomplished wouldn’t be a surefire way to perk up a bit. I’m starting my own list of 45 to commemorate tomorrow so thanks for the great idea. If I come up with any really stupendous insights I’ll send them along!

  3. Tangren

    My favorites are 39, and – so glad you are at least 44 – 44! I’m going to write that one down and pin it up somewhere! My commiserations on living with opinionated children. My only refuge was to remember what I was like at that age!

  4. This is a great list Jennifer. I enjoyed reading it. So much wisdom here. Happy belated birthday. (I am 44 as well).

    And Jennifer, I acknowledge your grief about your mom, and would give you a long hug if I could.

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