Friday, February 26, 2010

Cookies For Contributions! ...

Every year, I participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 60-mile walk over three days to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. This year's event – in August ... in Chicago (translation: hot and humid) – will be my seventh.

I walk every year. And I will continue to walk until we find a cure.

This year, as part of my fundraising, I've launched Cookies for Contributions!

Make a contribution to my fundraising effort and I'll send a dozen cookies to you. Really. I made all of the cookies in the photos below. So what you see is literally what you'll get. Minus the props.

I want them to arrive in good shape, so I've selected options that will stack and ship well, as well as have broad appeal. Therefore, the choices are:

A lovely cookie for those who like cinnamon. Crispy around the edges, slightly chewy in the center, all coated with cinnamon sugar.

Peanut Butter
A childhood favorite. The crisscross marks make me happy.

My favorite cookie. Cookie alchemy, really; three ingredients combine into cookie perfection.

When a contribution is made online, the 3-Day makes a note of the contributor's e-mail. So I can thank you, and you can reply with your choice!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Of Food ...

Today on The Daily Tip, my Twitterfriend Angelo mentioned that if he had a library in his home, it would be full of cookbooks, that he has cookbooks out of which he's never prepared a single dish, but he likes having them around.

Boy, do I know the feeling. I have to stop myself from buying them. Because otherwise, they would take over my life. This is part of my collection (you can click on the images to see the larger versions):

Want to read the titles? Here, let me save you the kink in your neck:

As you can see, my collection runs the gamut. That red one, at the top right of the vertical image? That's Thomas Keller's Bouchon.

Here's a too-saturated image of the cover. It's more muted and lovelier in real life.

I want to live inside that book. It would be the next best thing to living at Balthazar. The photography is stunning. Hell, I even love the fonts.

There is great comfort in pulling down an armful of books and settling into a comfy chair and reading recipes and thinking about menus.

Sometimes, I even proceed to cook.

My latest kitchen happiness exists in the form of glass storage containers from Frigoverre. I have a couple of rounds and several rectangles. I didn't even realize that there are squares to be had. I'll get those one of these days.

But the smallest of the rectangles thrills me. It's wee, about the size of a brownie if the brownie is cut to an acceptable serving size. Look!:

By the by, I recently realized that Angelo reminds me of my Man Lamp. Or rather, my Man Lamp reminds me of Angelo. I suppose the inanimate object should remind me of the human being, not the other way around. Either way, both of them make me smile. Though Angelo is taller.

OK, enough silliness for one day, kids. Back to work, all of us. Whatever that work may be. Me, I have a date with a Swiffer.

Later the same day ...

You know what else makes me happy in the kitchen? The wee cookie that results from the last bit of dough.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Home Style ...

Late in December (which I remember only because I had saved some of what appears in this post as a draft), I had long, involved dreams, most of which centered on buying, renovating, and decorating living spaces.

So that's what I posted the following morning as my status update on Facebook.

Which prompted my friend Laura to chime in, "Time to audition for HGTV!"

To which I replied, "Oh, a Design Star I am not. I would make everyone's homes look like mine. Probably not what they're going for in a show: 'Beth's House ... AGAIN!' "

Which made me laugh.

I think that would be a funny idea for a design show: A designer who makes every room she designs in every home she enters look exactly like her own home, over and over and over. It would be the "Groundhog Day" of design shows.

I do love to decorate, but I don't know if I could do it for other people. Maybe I could. I've never tried.

For now, though, I will content myself with doctoring my own space. Maybe 2010 will be the year I paint my office. It has a high, slanted ceiling, so I have yet to figure out a way to paint that room so that the color won't overwhelm yet not leave what would amount to an off-white "hat" sitting on top of the colored walls. And what of the tallest of the walls? Do I paint all the way up to the ceiling. Or do I paint all the walls up only 8 feet or so?

Or perhaps I should install molding at a typical ceiling height, and then paint only up to the molding. Ah, another day, another design conundrum. And don't even get me started on how hard it is to find the right shower curtain.

When I became the proud parent of a satellite dish last May, I thought that it wouldn't be long before the Food Network bug was permanently burned into the lower right-hand corner of my TV screen. Because if I have any reputation that precedes me, it's for baking. So naturally, I'd be glued to the channel that's all about cooking, right?

Wrong. I subsist on a steady diet of HGTV. And some days, it's not so much a diet as a bender.

My name is Beth, and I am a design-show junkie. I only record three of them, though: "Divine Design," "Color Splash," and "Rate My Space."

I love Candice Olson and her penchant for sparkle. I love David Bromstad and his paintings. And I love Angelo Surmelis, his easy laugh, and his knack for designing in so many styles.

You know when a room's been designed by Candice. They're all different, but they all have her stamp. David's rooms are sometimes too bold for my tastes. I like color, but David likes COLOR.

But Angelo is a design chameleon. None of his rooms look like "Angelo" rooms. Instead, they look like rooms that the homeowners would have designed for themselves if they knew how.

Angelo is also Greek, and have you ever met a Greek you didn't like? Me neither.

In addition to hosting his show and designing his line of furniture, he also hosts a video segment on his site, angelo:HOME and on his blog called "The Daily Tip."

But the segments aren't just about the tip. Oh no. They're little programs. Or maybe they're little auditions, because I wouldn't put it past Angelo to have a master plan that includes a daytime lifestyle show, because he's not just a designer, he likes to cook, too. And he's delightfully chatty. (And frankly, I wouldn't mind if he knocked Rachael off her perch.)

Anyway, for the purposes of this post, my point is that last week, I tried to define my decorating style.

I'd seen and heard and read several sources that all recommended defining a style, but I'd never bothered. Because I'm lazy. And because I thought "eclectic" was enough.

But when I was reading Domino: The Book of Decorating (which Angelo recommends), I decided that it was time to put a little effort into defining my style, so I grabbed a pad and a pencil and started jotting down words that I thought applied.

And you know what I came up with?

A list of words.

No "style." Just a list of words.

My friend Jim suggested that I write a decorating style haiku, an idea which I loved, so I wrote one:

matte, patinated
comfortable, eclectic
relaxed, muted, hewn

And it was still just a list of words, albeit in a different shape.

So I pinged Angelo and asked him for help. On "Rate My Space," he's always tossing around styles, so I decided that he was the one to ask, him and his fluent designspeak.

I expected him to request a few photos and then make his pronouncement.

Oh, he made his pronouncement, all right. Today, during The Daily Tip, which you can see here, on his blog (a direct link), or here, on his site (not a direct link, but you can toggle to full-screen mode on the site, which you can't do on the blog; look for Episode 125).

It's way above and beyond what I expected from him; he even plugs my blog, the doll. Not that you need to know about my blog. You're already here.

But I am very grateful for his assistance. He didn't offer one description of my style. Oh no, not Mr. Overachiever. No, he offered four. All of which are variations on the same theme, but the one that struck me was "Modern Vintage."

I love it. On the one hand, it's an oxymoron – modern is of the moment, and vintage is of the past – so "Modern Vintage" would seem to cancel out itself, but on the other hand, it's the perfect description of my space, because my home is indeed made up of a mix of things both new and old.

He confirmed that my style is eclectic, broadly speaking. But I like having a description of my eclecticism. I was bothered by the fact that I write for a living yet I couldn't string together two or three words to describe the style of my decor.

I had said that I didn't think my style was "country" or "cottage," and of course it is both those things. But it isn't just those things, and I needed words that conveyed that fact. And now I have them.

Doreen once referred to my house as Calico Corner. Nick, likewise, once referred to my home as a Laura Ashley House. Yeah, I have a few floral prints in my house. Hey, I'm a girl. But it's not like my home has been swallowed by a giant bolt of chintz.

Angelo encouraged me to consider pieces outside of my style, which I will. I do. I've long been a believer that if you love something, it will work in your space.

But now I feel more at ease, having words to use as part of any future decorating conversations, thanks to him.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Process Of Writing ...

Who am I to disobey?

I was just sitting in my office, my feet propped up on my desk, reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird – yes, still; I'm almost finished with it – when a vague idea popped into my head for a blog post about the process of writing.

I continued reading, but the idea kept expanding, so I grabbed a sticky note to jot down a few words about what I might want to write about later, and the idea became very insistent, so I stopped reading, grabbed my laptop, plopped down on my loveseat which is where most of my writing takes place these days, and here we are.

I've been writing for forever. When I was three, my mom taught me to print my name, and while I wasn't writing any great masterpieces in crayon, I do have rather early memories of folding a few pieces of paper in half to make a little book and then setting about the business of writing and illustrating.

Writing has always been very easy for me, so much so that it took me most of my life to understand that there was any real value in what I was doing. Nobody makes a big deal out of breathing. Most people can do it. It's unremarkable. And that's how I think about writing. I just do it. When I write for myself, that is. I open up a blank post on my screen and start clacking away and I hit "Publish." Unfiltered. I just write. Sometimes it makes more sense than others.

But every so often, when I have to write something for someone else, writing suddenly seems much more difficult. Not the writing, exactly; once I hit my stride, I'm off to the races. But there are those moments, staring at a blank piece of virtual paper, when the lede won't come. I tell myself to type whatever I want to type, that no one will see it, that it can be the worst sentence ever constructed and it won't matter because I'll write something else.

But very often, I'll sit there, stymied, trying to compose in my brain before I commit anything to the screen. Eventually, something comes. But often, it doesn't feel right. It doesn't hang together. It doesn't ring true.

At which point, what's called for is to start over. Which is when my writerly brain really implodes.

It feels so wasteful to throw out a lede. So much effort went into cobbling those words together. How could I possibly ignore them in favor of something completely different?

And yet, I do. I have. And it's always a little sad.

Years and years ago, when I worked at the Chicago Tribune, I had an assignment. I do believe it was my first assignment, which was notable because I was not a writer for the Trib. I was an Editorial employee, but my legitimacy in the newsroom was one notch higher than the Polish ladies who vacuumed, loudly and always on deadline.

I remember sitting in front of my computer, stuck. I'd type a few words and then backspace them out of their brief existence. And then I'd type a few more.

Gary Dretzka, who was some high-level features department type and whose office was very near my desk, noticed my lack of clacking. I do believe I made a comment about being unsure of how to start. And he told me to write past the lede, to write a throwaway sentence and get into the story, that I could come back later and write the right lede, the lede that fit, the lede the piece deserved.

Eventually, I started writing. I remember filing to my editor and hearing a lot of ensuing clacking as she reworked my piece. But that is another story for another time.

Some days or weeks or months later, a call was transferred to me from the switchboard. The person on the phone was wondering what had happened to G. Gordon Liddy's radio show. I had no idea. I wasn't aware that he had gone off the air. But it was decided by people who made far more money than me that the answer to the caller's question might make for an interesting story, and so it was assigned to me and Rick Kogan.

Rick is one of my all-time favorite writers. His words flow with an ease I've always admired. One day, near Christmas, we went out for a holiday lunch, and walking back to the paper, I read a piece of his about holiday decorations that ran on A1. I vividly remember reading the phrase "seasonal Cezanne" and literally stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. Say it out loud: seasonal Cezanne. It's almost another language, the most exquisite alliteration. I have read millions of words since that day, I'm sure. But those two stay with me, like a small treasure I keep tucked away.

I had never worked on a story with Rick. And even though we were friends, I was a bit awe-struck at the notion of sharing a byline with him. But once we'd received our assignment, he plunked down at a terminal on the rim of the features copy desk and told me to pull up a chair so we could get started.

"We don't know anything yet," I said.

Oh, I was so young. Rick didn't need to report anything first. Rick started writing. He had a lede in mind, so he wrote it. And then he kept writing. And when he came to a detail we lacked, he typed in "xxxxx" and kept writing. We'd go back and fill in details later.

It was fascinating to watch. It never dawned on me to start writing first.

I was, and am, a very linear writer. It's my process. For assignments, I do research, I do interviews, I transcribe interviews (though I'd rather have my gums scraped), and then I write.

Well, I stare at my blank screen. And then I write, eventually.

In Bird by Bird, Lamott writes of putting "down one damn word after another, which is, let's face it, what writing finally boils down to."

Just one word after another, but oh, what mysticism lies therein, what power. Each word, itself, stands alone and may or may not excite or inspire. But words, combined, just so, paint pictures and transport, evoke and entertain and inform.

And now my brain has stopped churning. On this topic, it's had its say. For now, anyway.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Writing ...

I've written quite a lot this week, I just haven't written it here.

And now, I'm writing in bed, which I don't usually do. I keep a blank bound book, black, next to my bed to jot down thoughts as they come to me, usually bits of dialogue for the screenplay I'll finish someday, but this morning, instead of setting up on the loveseat in the living room the way I usually do, I waited until the coffee was done, poured a cup, grabbed my laptop and wandered back to my room.

I arranged all my pillows for leaning, and now here I am, feeling rather Princess and the Pea. Though slightly more terrestrial.

At my desk, earlier, on Twitter, I wrote, "It's very grey outside this morning, as though the gloom is trying harder than usual."

"And my orange juice is more acidic than sweet. Hmmph. I do believe the best course of action is to pour some coffee and retreat to bed."

So here I am.

I have a piece I've been mulling, a personal piece, not something I'll publish on here. Because while I'm happy to share most of my life, the mundane, the minutiae, the occasionally profound, some thoughts are too personal to publish for all the world to read.

Those with Internet access, anyway.

But another thought I've been mulling is about the relationships in my life, and how some lie somewhat dormant for ages and then reappear – like the ladybug I saw making its way across the floor yesterday; where did it come from, this ladybug in February? – and how others you thought would always be are necessarily not.

And that there needn't be a formal end to them. They just trail off. And those inauspicious endings say a lot about what they meant – or didn't mean – in their prime.

It might be nice to have the power, just for a day, to change the things I wanted to change but to maintain the things I wanted to maintain. If I didn't want someone to go away, they wouldn't. If I wanted someone to go away, they would. And apply that power to whatever I chose.

I'm sure I'd quickly tire of it, I'd miss the unexpectedness of life. And I should learn to cherish that.

There may have been a point to this post when I started it. But now, I think I'd rather get more coffee, power down, and read. I'm returning to reading in a more substantial way. I've missed it. My life has gotten too electronic.

As I wrote to my friend Mike the other night, on Twitter, of course, "I plan to spend the evening ... reading a book! It's a design book so there are many pictures, but it doesn't run on electricity!"

To which he replied, in good fun, "No electricity? But...but? So, it has a battery? No, wait, batteries have electricity. So how does it *go*? Head...hurts...."

So I wrote, "I wish I could send a schematic to you, but it's like this: You hold it, and then, with your hands, you open it and turn pages!"

And then he responded, "Sounds like witchery to me! WITCHERY! Can't work without power - UNLESS IT'S POWERED BY THE DEVIL. *lights firebrand, advances*" Mike is British and charming and always fun.

But none of the books in the teetering stack next to my bed looks to be Satanic, none are warm to the touch or smell of brimstone. So I think I'll be quite safe, whatever I choose. Every one of them has been started. It's just a matter of which one I'd like to finish first.

I may not even turn on music today. Perhaps today's soundtrack will simply be the occasional hum of my furnace and the sounds from the cars outside.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What I Don't Know About Wine ...

Longtime readers of this blog will remember the story of G. It was a good story, while it lasted. And then, one day – February 1, 2006 to be exact (it's not seared into my memory, I had to look it up, thank you very much) – it ended, two weeks shy of Valentine's Day.

But one day, before then, out shopping, he took my hand and pulled me across the street to a jewelry store where I proceeded to pick out a pair of earrings that closely matched the pin on my coat and he proceeded to buy said earrings. He told me that they were an early Valentine's Day gift, as we wouldn't be spending the actual day together. At the time, I thought he meant that we wouldn't be spending the day together because his mother was going to be in town from Germany. But maybe he meant that we wouldn't be spending the day together because he had decided to break up with me. Regardless, the earrings were more akin to a lovely parting gift, like on a game show: You're goin' home, but you have something nice to remind you that you were there.

Perhaps he wanted to be sure to be done with me before Valentine's Day because of all the expectation it brings, but dude really should have stuck it out if only because his gift from me was going to be this.

He already knew a fair amount about wine but wanted to learn more, and I was happy to give him the gift of knowledge.

But since he broke up with me before the big day, I kept it for myself. It resides, heavily, on my bookshelf among my many, many cookbooks. Too many, really, but hey, a girl's gotta have a vice.

At the moment, speaking of vices, I have a bit of dark chocolate within reach – 72 percent cacao is ideal for me, anything less is too sweet, anything more is too bitter – and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, poured from a bottle given to me by Qusai for my birthday. The label is very pretty, which is one of the ways I choose wine.

I don't read wine magazines My knowledge of wine is all first-hand. I drink it and if I like it, I try to remember what it is I'm drinking so that the next time I'm out to dinner or at the wine store, I can order a bottle or pick one up.

Happily, the folks at the wine store are usually good for some recommendations, but I'm perfectly happy to gamble on a bottle based on a pretty label and decent price.

My palate can distinguish between good wine and bad wine, but when it comes to really good wine, I'm at a bit of a loss.

A couple of years ago, I had dinner with a group of co-workers at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas. Our party had the private room adjacent to the wine cellar, which was not a cellar as it was not underground. We had a wine tasting before dinner, and I wasn't a fan of any of the three and the room was too dark to properly see the wine anyway, but after dinner, the sommelier invited us into the cellar. A few of us joined him and he offered a brief tour, pointing out, among other bottles, a few that cost many multiples of thousands of dollars.

I've had some nice wine in my life, glasses from bottles that cost a couple of hundred dollars. But at some point, I'm quite sure my palate wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a wine that cost $200 and a wine that cost $2,000. Does the $2,000 bottle taste 10 times better? Perhaps it does. I expect I'll never know. I can't imagine me or anyone with whom I'd be having dinner ordering that kind of bottle. If I have $2,000 to spend, I'd rather take a trip.

The bottle from which I'm drinking right now tastes like it exists in the $20 range. And I just looked it up, and it does. (Gauche to look up the price of a gift, I know, but it was in the name of research.) It paired well with the dark chocolate, and it's fine for sipping as I clack away on the laptop and strains of Miles Davis emanate from the other room.

But there is much more research to be done. My friend Steve and I once whiled away a long winter afternoon at a wine bar on Michigan Avenue. With his favorite go-to Cab no longer on the menu, he asked the server for a recommendation. Steve was a regular. We were treated very well. She poured tastes for us from the first wine she suggested. We tried it. We didn't like it. She tried again. She tried four times before she hit on a wine we liked. Two glasses (plus the four tastes) later, I was happy for a walk in the winter air.

Sadly, Steve's since left the job that brought him to Chicago on a regular, extended basis. And my wine-drinking habit waxes and wanes. Often, I open a bottle, seduced by the idea of a glass, and then pour most of it down the drain a month later, having forgotten about it. I have a vacuum-sealer pump and rubber stoppers but those keep a bottle drinkable for a couple of days, not several weeks.

Something about the past few days, though, has me in the mood for these heavy reds and for now, all that goes down the drain is whatever's left in a glass on the coffee table once I've fallen asleep.

And someday, I want to visit some Greek isle, find a taverna with a charming view (this could do nicely), and while away an afternoon with many glasses of Roditis, along with a loaf of bread and a plateful of taramasalata. In fact, I'd like to do that right now.

Alas, the cold night is here. And Greece is a quarter of a world away.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pride ...

The Latin for "pride" is "superbia."

Doesn't that sound like a nice place to live?

On Monday, Angelo Surmelis, the host of HGTV's "Rate My Space," posted an entry on his blog about his Davis chair. In addition to being one of my three favorite hosts (David Bromstad and Candice Olson are the other two), Angelo also has a line of furniture. Among other many other endeavors. Truly, I wonder when the man finds the time to sleep.

The post features lovely photography of Davis decked out in various fabrics and leathers, each shot styled with flair.

But what struck me most about the post was the disparity between the pride he felt for his new offering yet the need he felt to apologize for expressing it.

Here's what he wrote:

I just love this chair!

I know. I know. It's completely uncool to talk about something you had a hand in designing in such a self congratulatory way. I should be a bit more reserved and humble about it, BUT I can't.

Actually, I can't even take all the credit. I have to give a lot of it to Tom, my manufacturing partner. He made it possible to be a large sitting chair, engineered in a way that doesn't cost as much as a chair like this normally would. It sells for $299.99!

This is the part where I sound like a proud parent....they are even better looking in person! You should see how big and strong they are.

I'll be quiet now. It's probably a good thing I don't have kids. I'd be THAT Dad. You know the one--going around with pictures and videos boring everyone to tears.

If you've ever seen Angelo on his show, you know that the man has a true gift for design. His rooms consistently knock me out. Recently, I watched an episode in which he created a master-bedroom suite and when it came time for the reveal, I was literally pointing at my TV and yelling, "That's awesome!" Everything about the bed was asymmetrical. The artwork over the headboard was hung left of center. The pillows on the bed were arranged from tallest to smallest, left of center. Ditto the ottomans at the base of the bed.

Unexpected, that. And therefore very cool.

But what I really love to watch on his show are his reactions during the reveals. Invariably, the people for whom he's designed the rooms get very emotional, and he responds to those emotions in a very real way. I find that so endearing.

And so his recent post set me to thinking about pride, which – thanks, Catholicism – is not just one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but which, Wikipedia tells us, is the mack daddy of 'em all.

Behold: "In almost every list, Pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris, is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante's definition was 'love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor.' In Jacob Bidermann's medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the titulary famed Parisian doctor. In perhaps the best-known example, the story of Lucifer, pride (his desire to compete with God) was what caused his fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan. In Dante's Divine Comedy, the penitents were forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on their backs in order to induce feelings of humility."

I beg to differ.

Frankly, I think there's not enough pride in the world. We should take pride in our work, in our relationships, in everything.

To my mind, pride is fine. Boastfulness is the problem.

Nobody wants to hang out with the guy who constantly talks about how great he is, that's annoying, sure.

But when we create something wonderful, why should we feel as though we have to apologize for being proud of our achievement and for telling others about it?

Humility is yet another example of too much of a good thing.

I'm all for being humble. But there's a balance to be struck between humility and pride. And too many artist types I know don't allow themselves enough pride, lest they be judged.

Happily, everyone who responded to Angelo's post (myself included) told him that he had every reason to be proud. And he does. He's doing his part to make the world a more beautiful place, from without and from within.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Difference, Please? ...

There's an e-mail circulating that begins like this:

"And to think that Ronald Regean would not even take off his suit coat in the Oval Office because he respected it so much. Then we had Clinton and now this jerk.

If your representatives are worth your salt you will confront this narcissist head on!! Has he no respect for our country history and the people's property??? What a jerk!!

Does this photo of President Obama in the Oval Office convey anything to you about his attitude?"

And then includes this image of Obama in the Oval Office:

So I ask you: What does this image say about George W. Bush's attitude?

Can we talk about important issues, please?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

To Settle Or Not To Settle, That Is The Question ...

A little more than eight years ago, while celebrating my mom's birthday at my favorite Greek restaurant, my niece, who was then quite young and somewhat fresh off a turn as an angelic flower girl in her uncle's wedding, turned to me and asked, "When are you gonna get married? 'Cause it's taking a long time."

I couldn't help but laugh. Which upset her, prompting her to say, "You don't have to laugh at me!"

"Oh, honey," I replied. "I'm not laughing at you. I would never laugh at you. But someday you'll understand why that was funny."

And here I am, eight years later, still unwed. Taking a long time, indeed.

The other night, I was watching a few minutes of "Sex and the City," the movie not the show, the scene in which Carrie crawls into bed next to Big and says, "Lean," and he picks up his arm to allow her to nestle in alongside him.

And I said to myself, out loud, "I'll never have that."

If I'd had a mirror in front of my face at that moment, I would have looked at myself as if to say, "What? Where did that come from?!"

Of course, I could be wrong. I've been wrong many times before. At least two or three. (Badump-bump!)

But seriously, folks. Marriage may yet be in the cards for me. One never knows.

Stories of older people who get married warm my heart. It's truly never too late to find love.

But I've given up on dating. I recognize that you've gotta kiss a lot of frogs, yada, yada, yada, but apparently my interest in finding that special someone isn't strong enough to overcome the wearying notion of wading into the shallow pool that is the world of dating.

The last two men with whom I've had any involvement, I met online, though not on dating sites. I've long, long ago given up on dating sites. BLECH. But Facebook and Twitter and such lead to conversations that sometimes lead to something else.

My friend Eddie once told me, pointedly, "You're too picky."

"No, I'm not!"

"Yes, you are!"

Well, OK, yes, I am, sort of. I'll cop to "picky." But not "too picky." As I explained to him that day, I don't expect a man to bring any more to the table than I do, but, if you'll allow me a brief moment of ego, I bring a lot to the table.

So, you can imagine my hackles when I saw this feature in the current issue of O: "Should You Settle?"

Um, in a word? No!

The title of the book in the feature in O is Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.

I've long told friends and family that I'll stay single before I'll settle. (See? I'm doing it right now, here, on my loveseat, with my coffee and Patricia Barber's jazz to keep me company.) My point being, I've waited this long. I'm not about to settle for Mr. Good Enough. I could have married two Mr. Good Enoughs.

Except that they weren't Mr. Good Enoughs. They were Mr. Weren't The Right Ones for Me.

Lori Gottlieb, the author of Marry Him, says in the O piece: "We want the ten, because we think we're a ten. But we're missing the fact that we're not. Nobody is. Men have flaws, but we have flaws, too."

Ms. Gottlieb? I'm not missing the fact that I'm not a ten. I'm well aware of the fact that I'm not a ten. I'm well aware that I have flaws. I am not waiting for a ten.

I understand, perfectly, that everyone has flaws, that there is no such thing as perfection. (Mind you, that doesn't stop me from trying to achieve it, which is stupid, I know.)

She says, "There are so many really wonderful men out there, men who want commitment, who want to be married, who are attractive and smart and interesting. They may not be movie-star attractive, they may be awkward at first, they may not fit our cultural image of who Mr. Right or who Prince Charming is. But we shouldn't pass them up."

Indeed we should not. But it's been my experience that men really don't want commitment because they come up with endless reasons to avoid it.

The last man I dated told me, six weeks into things, "I don't want a day-to-day relationship." Which came as a bit of surprise, given that we'd started spending a fair amount of time together.

But OK. Not everyone wants a day-to-day relationship. If that's the case, though, it'd be good to mention that up front: "Hey, I'm just looking for someone to hang out with, to go to movies with, to have dinner with."

A few years ago, I met a guy on who ended things because they were becoming serious and he wasn't looking for a relationship.

Really? Then is probably not the best place for you, bub. There are sites that cater to those who are looking for, shall we say, more short-term gratification.

Mind you, I'm well aware that both of those men very well may have left off the words "... with you" from their reasons.

Which is fine, as feelings need to be mutual for a relationship to progress.

But, no, I shan't be settling, because I cling to no delusions about Prince Charming arriving on his valiant steed and view everyone who falls short of that standard to be unworthy. Not at all.

Though, a girl's gotta have some standards.

Mr. Beth's Husband, should I ever meet him, will not, for instance, shovel food onto his fork with his fingers. Especially on a first date. At a nice restaurant. The last age at which that behavior is acceptable is somewhere around 4, not 40. (Mind you, I dated such a person, well past the first date, figuring that that behavior could be modified over time. We didn't last long enough for that to happen.)

He will be able to construct coherent sentences that display a knowledge of spelling and grammar because he will understand that I can be wooed with words. I don't need epic love poems, but I do need more than, "You're stunning. I'm interested. Tony," an actual message that I received on years ago in response to my profile, which stated right at the top, "I'm attracted to men who can express themselves well."

In a larger sense, he will have a curiosity about the world and a desire to experience it. He will be able to teach me things and will want to, likewise, learn from me.

None of which seems like too much to ask: use utensils properly, write coherent sentences, want to see and do new things, continue to learn.

And, of course, the key to it all: want to do those things with me.

Perhaps one day we'll meet, me and Mr. Reasonable Qualities. (I'll have to ask Eddie if he still considers me to be too picky. I think I've culled the list to a manageable, realistic number of traits.)

Until then, though, I'm perfectly happy to have the whole pot of coffee to myself.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The 2010 3-Day: Fundraising ...

Hello, walkers!

Fridays, for many, are paydays. So what better time to talk about fundraising?

I know, I know, I know that in this economy, raising money seems like a Herculean task.

But it's not. Yes, there may be more challenges than in years past, but "challenge" ≠ "impossibility."

And the 3-Day is all about personal challenge. You're going to walk 60 miles in three days, my friends! No one signs up for the 3-Day who isn't up for a challenge! Go, you!

Often, when you ask people for contributions – and note that I call them "contributions," not "donations"; I think people react differently to being asked to contribute something versus being asked to donate something – they feel as though they need to contribute a great amount or nothing at all.

And while more is certainly better when it comes to raising money to find a cure for breast cancer, we're all aware that the economy is taking a toll.

But people haven't stopped spending money entirely.

The 3-Day web site has plenty of ideas for fundraising, but here are a few quick ideas:

Wear some 3-Day gear when you train. Make yourself a walking billboard. Invariably, someone will ask you about the walk, which in turn will give you the opportunity to take a moment to chat about the event and breast cancer, and then ask if they'd consider a contribution. The 3-Day provides "business cards" that you can print out with your walker information and hand out to interested parties. Or you can use a company such as Vistaprint to create inexpensive cards with your information and a personal message.

Remind would-be contributors that contributions start at $5. Ask your caffeine-addicted friends and family to skip one weekly trip to Starbucks for a month – just four visits – and contribute that money to the walk instead. They can brew coffee at home or take advantage of the office coffee on those days. (These days, many offices buy Starbucks to brew, anyway.)

Ask people to save their change between now and a month before the walk then cash it in and contribute the total to your fundraising effort.

Throw a party, an Oscar party or a Opening Day party for your favorite baseball team or a We Don't Need A Reason to Have a Party party or any other theme. Be very clear on the invitation that it's a 3-Day fundraising party. Have your computer set to your fundraising page for folks who want to contribute online, or collect their checks and send them in with corresponding donation forms after the shindig.

Ask local business owners if they'll agree to contribute part of a day's take to your fundraising effort, either a percentage of the day's total or a fixed per-sale amount.

— This is the most important thing: Remember that you never know who your angels are. Here's something you can do right now to jump-start your fundraising effort: Go through your e-mail address book and pick 10 people (or 7 people or 5 people or whatever makes sense for you) who weren't part of your original e-mail solicitation and ask them for contributions.

I do this every year and without fail, at least one of those people contributes. One year, within minutes of sending out such a mini-blast, my e-mail chimed and when I checked my mail, I saw that someone had made a contribution.

I clicked through and gasped when I saw that someone I had worked with on a project a few months earlier had contributed ... $300!

I wrote to him immediately to thank him, and he replied that his niece had recently passed away, not from breast cancer but from another form of the disease, and his contribution was one of the ways he was honoring her memory.

You never know who wants to support your effort until you ask.

I know it might feel very foreign to some of you to ask people to contribute. Even after doing events for many years, I'm still not entirely comfortable with it, either. It's just not part of my makeup. But I remind myself that breast cancer touches everyone's lives, directly or indirectly, and that many, many people want to contribute.

Will everyone say "Yes" to your request? No. But many will. Fundraising is a numbers game. Keep asking.

And then make it as easy as possible for them to contribute. The online tool is as easy – and safe – to use as any e-commerce site, but for those who might not have a computer or who might be hesitant to put their credit card information online, I print out donation forms for them and fill in everything but the amount of their contributions. I also address envelopes for them and stamp them (with a breast cancer stamp, of course). That way, they can easily submit their contributions, or I can do it for them if they mail the checks to me.

Of course, you already know to thank your contributors, and the web site enables you to keep track of your contributors and whether or not you've thanked them. Personally, I jot a e-mail (from my personal e-mail account, not from the 3-Day site) to each contributor as soon as I receive word of their contribution, and then I follow that up with a handwritten thank-you note, too. People like to receive mail that's not of the junk or bill varieties.

Opportunities abound. People are generous by nature. Put the two together and you'll meet – and exceed – your goal.

Update: In the comments, veteran walker Nicole posted this reminder: "Another thing that seemed to help influence some people was realizing they could choose multi-payment options to breakup their contributions. So in their minds, $100 over 4 months seemed much easier to handle at $25/month than all at once."

Excellent point! The remember the multi-payment option. It provides an opportunity for contributors to spread out their contributions but also affords you an opportunity to raise more money. Some folks give more when they know that the payments will simply appear monthly on their credit card statement.

You have lots of arrows in your fundraising quiver. Use them all!

Thanks, Nicole!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

One Year Ago Today ...

Unintentionally, I sat down to write this exactly at the stroke of midnight.

The moment when yesterday touches tomorrow, a seam in time.

One year ago today, Dave slipped away.

Officially, February 3rd.

But, for many, February 2nd is the date we surmise.

It is trite but true to say that it is hard to believe that a year has passed. How has time not stood still?

As I wrote in a piece a year ago, there is a lifetime more to say. I could say that there are endless stories, but of course, all stories end.

But I am grateful beyond measure for those I have come to know, who have formed a circle of love which forever holds him inside. With them, I am enriched by stories I never knew and shared moments that only family and friends can understand.

He is our common language.

And even as we continue the memoir, we begin new chapters on fresh pages, together.

Missing him, but each of us writing new narratives.

Stories, intertwined, that we will share with him.


My love and gratitude to all of his family and friends. You are, each of you, an inspiration.