m wood pen



i’m giggling about something…my latest quandry.

the other night i found myself swaddled by the love and older faces of a few dozen grade school pals.  thank you, yes, oh god of social media, for making something this inexplicable happen with the click of a few buttons.  (and the dispensing of several last minute signs to help direct guests to my bat-cave like secret hideaway).

in the merriment of reconnecting after….38 years (but who’s counting), i found the energy high, the liquor flowing, the smiles cracking past the ear lines, and the love of grounded familiarity ever-present.  i felt instant reconnection to these people, who all fell immediately into close legions of hilarity and recollections.  it was fabulous!

as the evening swept along, i found that my hostessing tasks were keeping me from digging into some of the pow wows, and i longed to hear, too, what the heck these people had been up to for nearly the last 4 decades.  ever ready with unusual ideas, i gathered in the kitchen with jo and omg that dashing ricky, to share my plan.

“a circle of truth?” they replied, sounding a little alarmed?  no doubt, they first thought i meant to orchestrate a pagan ancient rite that involved long brown robes and some sort of sacrificial goings on.  after all, we were all little children together sitting earnestly in rows listening to the hell and brimstone ‘talks’ given by a handful of priests and nuns ‘back in the day’….

i explained to my pals that no, the circle of truth wasn’t a creepy thing, but really just one of those “get to know you” games that teachers and retreat leaders seemed so eager to introduce to groups.  they eased into my plan, though with a few caveats: we need a time limit! (3 minutes was agreed upon per person)…. we need category prompts! (two dozen notes with scribbled ‘category’ topics was whipped out, stat)….we need to get their attention so that they will play the game! (harder to do, someone brought jagermeister…).

finally i was able to corral these people into the living room, forming, yes, a circle.  it took quite a while, and i longed for the day when mr. mullinex or sister bernadette would take out a whistle or a stern beady-eyed glare to get these people obediently moving!  but, eventually, yes, they all refilled their glasses and little tapas dishes and gathered round.

hilarity ensued, like, i mean, hilarity!

one of the gents had a second hand on his watch, and was the timekeeper. (though his eyesight shot, i think he took to just counting “one one-thousand, two one-thousand…”)  the pool of ladies sitting nearby took it upon themselves to thwack the restaurant/hotel desk top bell thingy to begin each ‘talk’, or hit it again eagerly if someone was boring or droned on too long….RING!

fun stuff.  and i got the ‘scoops’ that i was missing during my earlier hours of running, fetching, greeting, hugging, and delegating.  (single gal that i am, i’m prone to accept and rely on the kindness of gentlemen who volunteer for beer, wine, coat or recycling duty).

so here’s the part that i was just giggling about.  as we went around in alphabetical order (which is totally apropos as we all learned the alphabet TOGETHER), we finally wound over to the W’s which meant, as was the st. anne tradition, i was last.  believe me, i was grateful for this, though in the 60s when i was the last to make it back indoors after a freezing recess in the icelandic-ly cold streets, i’d longed to be an A.

anyway, i flew through some sort of engaging cliff note version of my life post the age of 14, landing smack dab into my fabulous current life as a goofball creative 52 year old.  sensing the crowd was sated with my update, i reached for my prosecco, eager to give the floor to anybody else.

out of the blue, my sweet dear old friend leaned forward and said, “missy, can i ask you a personal question?”

oh dear.

here it comes.

uh oh, my reputation proceeds this party……

i took an extra gulp of that italian bubbly beverage and steeled myself for whatever she was poised to ask me.

she leaned forward, intent, and her pose made me prepare for the worst…

“when did you stop being preppy?”


omg, that was the last thing i expected to be asked, and the question so threw me, i was without words or thoughts for several moments…seemed like forever until i put together some sort of unintelligible reply…found my funny side, “oh those teen daughters of mine make sure i look hip so as not to totally embarrass them”, etc. and as i spoke, i felt like i was BETRAYING something deep within me that really…did…like…being…preppy.

it seemed like my answer was a flop.  where was my clever banter that has been my sidekick since i was 5?  worried that they’d think i’d grown up and gotten B O R I N G, i made sure i threw in a few more bon mots to keep my avid audience from frowning.

but since then, i’ve wondered…when did i stop being preppy?  have i? huh?

so here’s the thing.  growing up and making it through the cotton of the 60s and the quiana of the 70s…by the time the 80s came and lisa birnbach’s bible made it to my eager hands, i did feel (get ready for a big fat cliche here, folks) like ‘coming home’.  i mean, how else would i feel when the verbage, illustrations, nicknames, architecture, weekends, expressions, menus, geography and attitudes were things i’d already grown up with.  lobster.  tennis.  sailing.  horseback riding. lacoste. sperry. ll bean.  brooks brothers…a veritable roll call of americana with a bent towards haberdashery history!

well, i don’t know about you, but i grew up with a television.  and on that black and white screen i spent countless hours (added up i’m sure it’s years, oops) learning and living alongside of katherine hepburn’s tracy lord and cary grant’s dexter in ‘the philadelphia story’….plus the hundreds of iconic glory days of starched shirts, shiny loafers, thick leather ladies handbags, summer lobster boils depicted in movie after movie after movie…(hello, doris day’s ‘it happened to jane’…see what i’m saying?).

yep, i grew up staring and learning and assimilating this world that here, sure, aims more towards the east coast than my little sleepy chicago suburb, and it was this button-down shirt with rolled up sleeves world that i wanted more and more of.

duck shoes, penny loafers, top-siders, baggy jeans, crisp white cotton tshirts, headbands (yes, i did do that for a while….), plaid skirts, irish wool sweaters: who wouldn’t embrace this world of natural material and sensible colors and patterns?  and the bloody mary’s….

i could go on.

so, basically, the day that i was given an autographed copy of the preppy handbook (which later fell into the pool from my imbibing on too many preppy g&t’s) was a clarion call to embrace and love the first lifestyle i really had been exposed to, and one that was a mainstay in our culture.

fast forward to life here over fifty, i still have my preppy days, of course i do.  but along with the decades of life since the 80s, i’ve dabbled a bit into something to be described as ‘fashionable’…or at least, again, according to the teen gals in this life of mine, ‘cool’ and ‘hip’.

being creative comes with a burden of attempting to look a bit, well, ‘out there’…but i can assure you, well, at least assure my pal who was compelled to ask me that riveting question: if you hung out in my room and dug a little into my shelves of folded and hanging clothes, you’d surely find enough traces of preppy stuff to know, wholeheartedly, that it’s firmly rooted as part of my bizarre, kookie lifestyle dna.



it’s a funny day, this valentines day thing.  it skewers the population right in half…or at least, on clearly opposing sides: those that have, and those that have not.

i remember the devastation of adolescence where, each and every valentines day in high school found me, ridiculously, longing to have my name called as cupid’s volunteers hand-delivered single stem carnations to the lucky ones in my classrooms.

i have to laugh: i couldn’t get a date in high school if my life depended on it.  why on earth did i presume that, on this bright pink day, a mysterious secret casanova would suddenly appear to woo me? so, rubbing my bruised heart strings, i’d just get through the day as speedily and less dejectedly as i possibly could.  i remember that craving to know what the heck love felt like.  who really likes cheesy carnations anyway?!?  crazy.

a particularly wonderful year in college, i got my revenge on cupid’s coldhearted passing me by years earlier when i was treated to a madcap mountain of flowers: my room mate and i comically managing the que of suitors, coming in one door, up the stairs, buzzing me from the lobby: ah the feeling was sweet for sure, if not certainly fleeting.  none of that year’s swains was able to capture my heart, but at least it was a hell of a better way to spend the day than in years past.

since then, i’ve had feast or famine, both deserts and tsunamis of blooming champagne feasts.  i know all too well both the parts of meg ryan bounding towards tom hanks, or bridget jones bounding towards chocolate, the telly and some cabernet. i know why cupid carries an arrow: you really do spend the day acutely aware of that darn arrow and it’s potential to sting.

decades have passed since those sad little days in high school, my dan fogelberg records worn thin from overplay.  but what buoys me up, scouts honor, then and to this day is my realization that since valentines day is all about love, i’m good to go: i’ve been swallowed up, surrounded, basked and warmed by a life brimming with amazing, wonderful, constant, loyal, tingly, hilarious love.

there’s a stack of diaries to testify to plenty of romantic playing footsie since high school; there’s that cool thing called my amazing true-blue family; there’s a life spent with the dearest, kookiest friends imaginable, and (drum roll please) the sprinkling of yumminess sweet enough to last a lifetime: the best love of all embodied in the goofy, heart-bursting warmth of my children’s smiles.

happy valentines day indeed: no matter what it looks like, love does make the world go round. and boy, does it feel good.



2.12.12  as i type todays date, i’m taken by the synco-pattern of these numbers, all strung out, a one and a two, a one and a two…which brings to mind, well, lawrence welk, but also dancing, music and today, the shrouded grammy day which will now forever be known as the year that whitney houston died.

i’m first to admit that i was really sad when, after an evening at the movies with my gals (btw: “the vow”, seen from the second row in an inexplicably packed theatre, will give you a very stiff neck and a bit of malaise…didn’t quite hit the mark), followed by a festive dinner at the lucky monk, i heard the news.

after being talked into ordering a grilled cheese hamburger by our very chatty, former thespian and now full fledged foodie waiter (really, i was only after the deep fried pickles, but bring on the carbs!), our conversation bridged subjects ranging from channing tatum’s good looks, the brilliance of amanda bynes in “what a girl wants”, and happy reminiscences of last years trip to nashville and our shared love of, yes, deep fried pickles enjoyed amid the honky tonk country twang of music city.

out of the blue, corey interrupted our conversation by reading aloud from a text that had pinged itself into our late evening dinner.

“dad said that whitney houston died.”

“what?” was my shocked reply…how could this be?  plus, i never knew he was a fan.

“yes, she died an hour ago.” added hallie, “some girls in the bathroom were just talking all about it.”

i don’t know really what was more surprising: the news, or the unexpected litany of messengers who carried it to us.  the mood definitely shifted, as i pondered a bit as the gals chatted away.

the pickles arrived, and i found them to be incredibly soothing as i wrestled with my feelings.

48.  a mom. a deeply talented woman.  a star.  but…also, a woman who had boarded a train headed for a big derailment.  so really, was i surprised?  wasn’t the writing on the wall?  didn’t we all see this coming?

well, maybe.  but maybe, too, for the pollyannas like me out there, we cling to that eternal torch. the light, bright, hope that somehow, the sufferers, the addicted, the weak, can just hold on for that one sunny “me” moment that will kick start the strength that’s gotta be buried somewhere in a darkened soul’s vault, profound and resilient and determined enough to grab a choke-hold on the demon and send it to the trash where it belongs.

so i guess that’s the saddest part.  this communal outcry of grief all across the flickering social media boards carries, for the most part, the same message.  we hoped that she’d overcome it, we’d felt the power of that voice, & that dazzling smile belting out a generation’s iconic anthems.

and on top of that, benighted by clive davis, whitney houston was music royalty, carrying that dionne warwick, cissy houston & aretha franklin royal soul sister torch into the millenium.  how could she not persevere?

we were all rooting for her: rise above, whitney, rise above.

sure, there were demons, and i’m happy to throw a punch to bobby brown, just as i eagerly threw a virtual karate chop to that ridiculous, sketchy, ego-maniac dodi al-fayed who played a partial hand in the death of that other earthly princess.  but we all know, diana didn’t need to get into that mercedes.  and sadly, we all know that whitney didn’t have to keep riding on the spiral down.

the tragedy, as i see it, is as simple as this: when mere love isn’t enough, where is the hope?

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