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The Californian

Californian contributing columnist Heather Ijames.

This middle-aged business is quite a pickle. It comes with this feeling that I'm stuck between two parts of life, filled with both pros and cons.

PRO: I earn more money.

CON: Earn was the operative verb, not have. Nowadays, I have to worry about bigger expenses such as life insurance, saving for retirement and higher taxes. Then, what's left of my paycheck is siphoned off quicker than what a Tijuana pickpocket can do. Who are the Tijuana pickpockets of my middle-aged life? My children.

One would think 30 pairs of socks would last a kid a couple of months, but no. How about shoes? Does the schoolyard have equipment with metal teeth on it that's shredding those soles? If so, it's getting the knees in their pants as well. I'm aware that next I have braces, dances, insuring testosterone-riddled drivers, et al. Parenting is quite the money sucker.

PRO: I am more health conscious and want to take better care of myself.

CON: This means I don't skip doctor's visits anymore. This is a good thing, except the older I get, the more the doctor visit borders on a physical assault. Years earlier, the doctor would poke this and prod that, and send me on my way. Nowadays, the doctor pokes this and prods that, and then adds a few procedures that are surely still illegal in a few states. I walk out wondering if I shouldn't have requested some sweet talk first, but knowing I would have at least settled for a lollipop.

Another con on this health kick is all the ridiculous exercises I subject myself to in order to stay strong and mobile. Consider the "burpee." The first time a trainer told me to do a burpee, I said, "A . . . uh . . . what now?"

When he told me what it was, I said, "No."

When he made me do it anyway, I asked if he had bone-density impact studies on hand for this maneuver because I was afraid I'd crack in half.

PRO: I finally figured out who I am and my opinions have solidified to support such.

CON: Solidifying my opinions is a bedfellow of being wise enough to know that unless I want to alienate my friends and family, I probably need to keep my mouth shut about my opinions.

PRO: I've figured out how not to sweat the small stuff.

CON: However these days, there is abundantly more "small stuff" flooding into my life on a daily basis, ranging from my children -- aka the Tijuana bandits -- to wondering if I'll do one more burpee into paralysis. I fear the higher incidence of "small stuff" might skew the overall results.

For example, if someone was only counting how many times I actually freak out in any given period, it might look like I'm still sweating about the same as before. But, if you consider actual percentages, a small-stuff-to-freak-out ratio, I'm doing awesome. At least that's what I tell myself.

PRO: I'm finally comfortable in my own skin, which makes me think I can wear whatever I want.

CON: I really can't wear what I want because pajama bottoms say something that I'm not quite willing to communicate. And, I do believe my next fashion movement should be the relegation to capri pants and sensible shoes. I'm not there quite yet, but I do look at my high heels as if we have limited time together. Mainly because they're sadists, and my feet are more of the pacifist type.

PRO: I'm able to appreciate the "now." This sometimes means that when my kids trash the living room with a Hot Wheel racetrack, it's adorable instead of inconvenient because I know there won't always be toys scattered over the house.

CON: If the husband or I trip on one of the left out toys, we won't be able to get back up. I remember the last time my husband had a fall:

Me (standing over him): "Are you OK?"

Him: "I don't know yet."

Me: "Will you let me know when you figure it out?"

Him: "Of course."

Me: "Are you going to want eat dinner down there?"

Him: "That'd be great, thanks."

Middle life seems to be filled with its ups and downs, but at least I realize it's when life really happens. And for that, I'll take the good with the bad.

-- Heather Ijames is a community columnist whose work appears here every third Thursday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. Send email to her at