Double.

Who doesn’t want to be a queen, cowgirl or rockin’ skate chick every once in a while?

Alter-egos are fascinating, aren’t they? Even thought I’d consider myself a pretty content, well-adjusted and confident individual, my alter-egos (I have a few) represent a different kind of life that I can imagine myself living for a bit, even though in reality I’d never ever trade the life I lead right now, ever.

I think most people (especially writers and actors) have alter-egos. An ideal persona for themselves that has been crafted and nourished from childhood – one that is acted out through play as children and probably still resides in the subconscious today (in my youth I ran several successful enterprises including the Victoria Sipps Detective agency, the Purple Yak cafe and several private schools among others). I suspect we continue to shape and nourish those identities through our continual experiences and knowledge consumption, pick and choose the parts that most closely relate to our own personalities and then daydream about what it might mean to fully become the other persona. It’s a great escape, sometimes a reminder about what’s great about who you are right now, as well as a way to continually try to improve on the qualities you admire most.

What’s really interesting is how social media (I’m talkin’ to you Facebook and Pinterest) has completely enhanced this creative stimulation. All it takes is a few minutes of browsing recipes on Pinterest or the vacation photos of my book club friend, and I’m instantly transported to a new (usually better) life where a crockpot full of tasty organic dinner and weekends in Door County await me. If FB and Pinterest aren’t enough, I also have my usual blogs (visited daily) where I follow way more interesting women who craft, are into shabby chic, have large families or are uber cool urban mommas – all leading lives that I have felt I could claim as my own at some point or another.

I guess in the end, the voyeuristic nature of social media, blogs and the rest of it is good, provided you take it all with a grain of salt. Yes, it’s good to share ideas, learn more about other people’s experiences and continually try to improve those areas lacking in your own life. However, you also have to remember that now no matter how easy and wonderful the lives of those bloggers/FB friends look on the screen, it’s what you do when you’re offline that really matters.

twenty!

For the bargain basement price of only $140, we can paralyze your face, or more!. Trust us – it’s a great deal! What could possibly go wrong???

So this lovely “deal” showed up in my inbox today. It just leaves me wondering:

  1. What kind of person is comfortable doing discounted plastic surgery, from an email ad? I’m leery of even using discounted restaurant ads, much less something that could permanently paralyze my face.
  2. At what age are you profiled to start receiving such discounts (and are discounted hearing aid offers to be expected soon?)
  3. How much longer until the herd of  “discount  and deal” sites starts to thin? Not that I have anything against Groupon, but it sure seems (based on this email offers and others) to me that this concept has officially jumped the shark.

 

Ah, the joys of marketing in the 21st century. You just never know what they’ll try to entice you with next…

seventeen.

leaf pile

The paths at the Arboretum are lined with carpets woven from thousands of these beauties.

Saturday we celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary. No big parties, no cake, no expensive fancy restaurant dinners (although those all sound wonderful). This year, we opted to do something we all could enjoy – taking advantage a beautiful fall day in the Midwest and taking a long hike through the beautiful woods of the Morton Arboretum.

We first visited the Arboretum many years ago, when our firstborn was new to walking and we were looking for fun places to go with a small child (I think everyone goes through this phase, don’t they? Museums, fun fairs – just about anything to get an antsy toddler out of your house, and hair, for a while). In those early years we mostly stuck to the fantastic Children’s Garden with a small walk around the pond outside of the Visitor’s Center. Now that the critters are older, we avoid that section altogether and mostly stick to the beautiful and uncrowded East Side trails. With many woods to walk through (including my absolute favorite Spruce Plot), it’s easy to forget your everyday worries and concerns and just enjoy some temporary peacefulness and being. It’s a great place for renewal on many levels and well worth the trip.

We walked for a good three miles on Saturday, taking time to enjoy the amazing colors and each other’s company. Taking into the account the significance of the date, I was reminded that a marriage can be very much like a good hike – it requires stamina, some sort of plan or goal, regular periods for rest, continued patience, a willingness to appreciate the unexpected and a keen eye for the small beautiful details that can make all the difference. Most of all, a good marriage requires hard work. It’s not always easy – it’s not always fun. But as long as you have a dependable and committed partner who makes you feel loved all along the path, it’s completely and utterly worth it.

 

one thirty-three.

california bungalow

With her once beautiful glassed-in porch, the old girl sits full of woe right next-door.

Some context: we live in an old house (+100 years). The house next-door to ours was built by and for the same fellow who built our home. It’s a beautiful example of a California bungalow and in truth, it’s a much grander home than ours.

It happened again. At exactly 5am this morning, I awoke instantly – regaining full consciousness after having another dream about the vacant house next-door.

It is a house that’s lonely and dying. The house stayed in the family of its builder until the last member (a son-in-law) died in the late ‘90s. He had sold it to a local contractor who then sold it to our (terrible/awful/no good) school district. The district, in turn, rented the property to some no-goodniks who didn’t properly care for their children who subsequently ate some paint chips, and sued the school district. Now the house sits vacant. Sometimes I think I can feel it aching. Longingly looking through its broken windows, fallen ceilings and chipping paint at our home, which we’ve spent years gently restoring and filling with love. Silly, I know – I hear the practical voice of my grandmother filling my ears, “It’s just a house after all.” But to me it’s so much more. It’s got a history. It was built with purpose and love and beauty in mind. And now it’s alone.

In my dreams I am there on the day the demolition crew is there to tear it down. I’m frantically trying to save as much as I can, especially the front door, which our house can use (it’s in much better condition and I’m pretty sure it will fit perfectly). I end up with a bounty of old wonderful things in beautiful condition but eventually the crew succeeds in demolishing the old girl. I never feel good when I wake up with a start.

Years ago we did try to save the house – we fought the school district on the sale and succeeded in getting better landscaping and delaying them a few months. I still despise the townie contractor who sold it them in the first place. I fantasize about winning the lottery and making the district an offer they can’t refuse and restoring the house to its original glory. Ultimately though, I know it will come down.

Like most good things in life, the things you love and value most need regular care and attention. They require gentleness, appreciation, patience and time (all things that are in short supply for me). I think the house next-door dream serves as a warning that unless I slow down and am more grateful for the countless blessings I am so lucky to have, I risk them falling into disrepair or worse. And as much as I hate waking up in such a state of distress, given what it’s trying to convey, I believe I should be thankful for the house next-door dream after all.

four hundred and fifty five.

They’ll probably forget all of the make-up work that awaits them, but for sure they’ll remember time spent doing this.

I’m taking a secret vacation in a few weeks. Not so secret, like the “abandon the running car and notify the police” secret, but one that I’m not really telling many people about. No big calendar countdown. No FB posts. Just getting out of dodge for a few days before anyone really realizes I’m gone.

Here’s the deal: a few months ago Travelzoo promoted an insanely low round-trip price for tickets to a tropical locale. So low, that I could hardly believe it. So low that it would cost more for me to go to Vegas or Florida for the same price. It was amazing.

Even more amazing was my ability to convince my husband to feel as spontaneous as me and actually book it right then (because for these kinds of deals you have to act quickly or they go away). And now that our departure date is getting close, I have to say, I’m quite proud of the fact that we’re going.

I don’t care who you are, or what your situation is, odds are, if you’re a parent, you are a busy person. The very idea of completely placing your and your children’s schedules on hold to do something as seemingly unimportant  as going on vacation during the school year can be daunting and feels strangely irresponsible (especially for Americans). We dread the idea of make-up school work, the work that needs to be done before and after being out of the office for a week, not to mention the fill in the sport or activity sessions that will be missed. It all seems so overwhelming. Which ironically makes one think, “Gee, I could really use a vacation.”

A few years ago I lost both my mother (not completely unexpectedly) and my sister-in-law (completely unexpectedly) within months of each other. It was a devastating time for my family and me. And as terrible as that time was, it did serve a purpose. It forever etched in my value system the need for family time, for connectedness to the ones we love, and the urgency in finding it whenever you can. It reminded me that time moves faster than we can ever appreciate and you damn well better take the reins when special opportunities avail themselves.

Yes, I know it’s frowned upon to pull your critters out of school mid-year for family time on an island paradise. Yes, I know my friends and extended family will comment on our lack of structure and question whether we can really afford or need this vacation (yes and yes, in case they ever read this). But here’s one thing I know: life moves fast, and one little week of disruption to bask in the warmth of the sun and those whom I love most dear (even secretly) is just about the most important thing I can do.

three.

Why Bedmaking is important

Love conveyed: a well-loved plushie atop a well-made bed.

Three minutes – that’s about all it takes to make a bed (provided you’re not one of those really fancy dancy people whose decor includes twenty decorator pillows, a spread, a fur throw and a ladder.). Depending on your perspective, those are three minutes you can use to do something else more meaningful or, if you’re like me, you’ll use those three minutes to make the beds in your home, just about every morning.

The main argument against bedmaking seems to be, “why bother making something you’re just going to mess up later in the day?” And yes, I agree, from a purely logical standpoint this makes sense. Why bother indeed? But for me, the effort it takes to make a bed is far outweighed by the psychological benefits a made bed offers. Think about it for a second: regardless what chaotic state a room is in, a made bed suggests a sense of care and order. A made bed connotes a level of effort that goes beyond the status quo. A made bed indicates someone thinks it (and the person who sleeps in that bed) matters.

Years ago, in the earlier days of this country, immigrants didn’t rent rooms so much as they rented beds. After laboring for so many hours in the day, they’d return to the boarding house just in time to hop into the bed still warmed from the previous occupant. Clearly there was no time (or need) for hospital corners.

Today, we’re busier than ever before, with many more riches than our early immigrants could have ever anticipated. The morning ritual of making a bed may seem somewhat antiquated, or viewed as an unadulterated sign of a true control freak. And yes, I suppose that’s hard to argue with. But for me the small gesture of taking some time to bring the tiniest bit of order into an insanely unruly life is time well spent.

And, after all, it only takes three minutes.

thirty-eight.

It’s Saturday. 5pm. And that usually means one thing: I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner for my family and listening to A Prairie Home Companion (which recently celebrated their 38th year on the air).

Now I don’t consider myself a bluegrass fan, a folk music aficionado, nor do I find the weekly exploits of Dusty and Lefty overly entertaining, but for me, listening to Prairie Home Companion every week is a ritual. It’s a form of time travel. The first opening strains of violin announcing the program immediately take me back to my childhood kitchen. The smell of hamburgers (or hockey pucks as we referred to them) wafting in from the grill outside. Listening to it makes me feel younger, nostalgic and homesick all at once.

The funny thing is my parents were never huge fans of Garrison Keillor either. They got into the habit of listening probably due to a need for some background noise and a lack of desire to tune into another station. But whatever made them regular listeners, it doesn’t much matter. Prairie Home Companion has become a tradition and is here to stay as long as NPR allows it.

I rue the day that Garrison Keillor retires, or worse. But for now I take comfort in turning on the kitchen radio, checking the roast in the oven, and awaiting those first few strains of violin to come thru those little under counter speakers…

eighty-seven.

Ah, the year of my high school graduation. Just thinking of it takes me back to some well-formed memories in my mind:

The smell of the high school lounge area where I religiously ate my lunch of coca-cola, small fries and peanut butter cups (no wonder I was so thin)

Having tall bangs that I would plaster into place with Loreal hairspray

Having mono and being so ill that I couldn’t do much of anything but watch television and sleep for the last quarter of high school

The feel of the steering wheel of my amazing ’77 Chevrolet Impala, that could easily fit 10 of my friends and never left me in the lurch – ever

Simple Minds “Don’t you forget about me” which was the theme for our prom (I didn’t go) and became the de rigeur themes for proms into infinity

I was never a popular kind of gal in high school. My strategy was mostly to find a few friends who were equally comfortable flying under the radar and who appreciated eighties english bands as much as I did. I didn’t dislike high school, but I didn’t love it either. For me, it was a sort of means to an end. It was someplace I had to be. It was what it was. I wouldn’t want to repeat it, but if I had to, it wouldn’t kill me. I do think it’s interesting to have friends with whom I experienced this period in life who feel much differently. It might kill them if they had to repeat it. Makes me wonder just how much I realized what they might have experienced. Two people. Same experience. Completely different perspective and recollections.

I’m off now to go meet a HS friend for lunch. Someone I thought was amazing in ’87, but had lost contact with until I literally almost ran into her on the street a few months ago (she was crossing in front of my car and I recognized her immediately). We connected on facebook and now get to see each other every now and then when schedules allow.

I love that we’ve reconnected. I love that despite all these years old friends remain as cool as you remember them. And I guess, despite being a huge 80s cliche, Simple Minds might have been right: there are just some people not worth forgetting.

forty-three.

Forty is fabulous, or so the old cliche goes. Thanks to those ageist baby boomers and the wonders of plastic surgery, hair color and modern cosmetic advancements, turning forty is no longer considered the end of life – or worse – old age. Instead, today turning forty is more like turning thirty used to be – young enough to still be considered vital (at least by anyone over the age of 25) but old enough to have some sense.

I turn forty-three today, and to be honest, I feel much more grateful about it then I thought I would. Yes, it’s true that you no longer get carded. It’s harder than ever to maintain a healthy weight (and fashion sense). And you start actually noticing more of those little aches and pains that let you know you’ve been around for a while (I actually think it’s OK to notice them, but to actually acknowledge them, notsomuch). For me, I have to admit to really enjoying my forties – here’s why:

Your forties are amazing. It’s the age you officially start worrying less. You’ve got enough experience under your belt that you can prioritize better. You’re more confident in your decisions and you can more clearly identify lost causes. You realize that time really does pass quickly, so you waste less and less of it. 

I also think it’s an age where you can still change and are still developing – whether it’s a new interest, a new group of friends or a new way of thinking, but you can also rely on the stability and consistencies you’ve established along the way. 

So yes, would I love to have the energy (and metabolism) of a twenty-something me? Absolutely. But would I trade it for the wisdom and experiences I’ve had over these past 40+ years? No way.

So year forty-three? Bring it on. I can’t wait to see what you bring this year.

why twelve tracks.

Lucky enough to have attended the Mashable conference in March, I was inspired by the founder of Soundcloud.com. A thin Scandinavian hipster, complete with oversized glasses, he posited that sound (specifically as it relates to digital experiences) is much more important than we realize. In support of his argument, he suggested watching any scary movie with the sound turned off – and see how the emotion flattens out. The more I think about it, the more I agree with him: audio and music matters. Aside from smell (the knockout king of emotional bonds) no other sense more strongly transports you to places and memories from your past.

Building on that idea, I decided to challenge myself to compose a personal soundtrack of my life. An album’s length – twelve tracks total. No more, no less. Not a song list of my favorite bands, or even my all time favorite songs – but a list of music that equally represents a period in my life. Heck, some of them aren’t even songs I would choose to listen to again, but if I randomly heard them, they’d elicit a specific memory or emotion.

So that said, my list is listed below. In the off chance that someone else actually stumbles across this blog I encourage you to try it yourself, maybe even list your list below. It seems difficult, I know, but may be easier than you think. And at the very least, it will hopefully create a bit of an audio DeLorean and let you relive some of the good times from your past. Who wouldn’t love to do that?

 My twelve tracks (no particular order):

  1. Caledonia (Dougie MacLean)
  2. Home (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros)
  3. Ghost in You (Psychedelic Furs)
  4. Home (Jenny Bruce)
  5. Afternoon Delight (The Starland Vocal Band)
  6. Float On (Modest Mouse)
  7. Six Months in a Leaky Boat (Split Enz)
  8. Hook (Blues Traveler)
  9. Save a Prayer (Duran Duran)
  10. Friends in Low Places (Garth Brooks)
  11. Sweet Home Chicago (Blues Brothers)
  12. Crackers (Barbara Mandrell)