So much has changed since I blogged last.
I have a new home in a new state. A new career. A new everything.
It’s funny - when you think it’s time for a change. Be careful. You can go overboard.
People talk about reinventing themselves. Personally, I think that is not a thing.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, we take ourselves along. Reinvention of self is rare if not impossible.
But we can do new things. And that’s great.
Bringing our old selves along to new projects makes new projects so much more interesting.
But actual reinvention?
I don’t think so.
Personal change is possible though, and it is healthy. Adaptation means we’re evolving.
Since I left my parents’ home in Elmhurst IL, after high school in 1976, I have rented or owned sixteen separate abodes, not including dorm rooms.
Kudos to Meyers’ Movers, who assisted in the bulk of those moves.
After 61 years residing in the Chicago area, I moved (in 2020) to a town just outside Detroit.
Seriously. I moved to Michigan. Which is maybe Pure. But maybe not. I do know that I went from a zone 5 to a zone 6, from a gardener’s standpoint.
Which means a few more things can grow here. Hopefully I’m one of them.
Why, oh why, you may ask, would I make such a drastic change, moving two states away, so late in life, away from friends, away from family?
A man was the reason, as is often the case for seemingly nonsensical actions. I’ll call him G.
I met G, or re-met G, in 2019. He lived in Bloomingham, Michigan (town name made up). He convinced me to throw caution to the wind, to join him in MI.
I’m not really a caution-tossing type, but a guy like him doesn’t come into one’s life often, and neither of my daughters were living in Chicago. So I retired. I was ready.
Or so I thought. I put in my resignation, bought a plane ticket to join G in Florida for the winter and placed my condo on the market.
In the short interval of time between flying to Florida but before worldwide hell broke loose, my condo sold. And then the world shut down.
I couldn’t get home to clean out my stuff. And because of the pandemic, there was no place to give it away to. This is where it got really complicated.
Luckily my niece Claire helped me accomplish this Herculean task by packing up my stuff while I rode my bike mile after mile around Naples, Florida.
My furniture went into storage, a few things got dropped off at various places, and everything else got stuffed into unlabeled boxes.
Six months later we moved into a new townhouse in Birmingham, MI.
2020 was remarkable for more than just the pandemic, a fortuitous retirement, and not knowing where I’d left my Instant Pot.
Over the summer, G and I were fortunate to welcome three new grandchildren in the space of twelve weeks. We did a lot of driving and Covid testing.
Winifred, Graham, and Gabriel are all healthy and adorable.
But by November of 2020, I wanted to unretire.
In February of 2021, I opened MēMo Designs LLC. Incorporated. Created a website. Had my first client in the spring.
What is MēMo Designs?
Simply, it is an interior design firm which specializes in helping clients procure and display art for their homes. And I am MēMo.
I hope to bring all 63 years of my weird and varied assortment of skills, knowledge and obsessions to bear on this new undertaking.
One of my greatest skills is that of editor, which I believe is most useful in designing interiors and in curating an art collection.
It isn’t a skill that’s limited to the written page. It’s also a visual skill.
You may say to yourself, wait, what?
To which I respond, Yes. I’ve been doing it for 30 years for friends and family. Time to do it for real.
Any questions, just email.
As we approach the 4th anniversary of when I stopped writing and started cooking (also known as the election of Donald J. Trump), I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts about life in the kitchen.
To be clear, I did not stop writing entirely during these past four long years. I wrote birthday cards. I sent emails. I wrote extensive grocery lists, created inventories of spices and kitchen appliances (must-haves, wish-list items, never-used, extraneous space-occupiers, and if-my-ship-comes-in items), and I sent an awful lot of sympathy cards to friends and family members. But I did not do any writing of the sort that I considered my own, neither of the fiction or the non-fiction variety that has kept me sane over the past three decades and resulted in two published books and a handful of articles. I obsessively read the work of others though, marveling at their ability to keep churning it out, to sometimes turn trauma into content, to tap into their angst and rage. I was not one of those people. Instead, I cooked.
There are times in life when a behavior simply takes over, when you find yourself doing an activity which gets you through a difficult period, and you go with it, knowing better than to question said behavior, that somehow the body knows better than the mind how to pass a quadrennium.
That is what happened to me in November, 2016. I took to the kitchen.
First came the ziti. Why ziti?
The Sopranos had aired in 1997, and I’d watched the first and every episode thereafter. Carmella’s voice became second nature to me. “Ant-on-eee…” I can hear her even now, shrill and annoying, pinging in my ears. For some strange reason, I related deeply to Carmela Soprano. And when a friend or relative died, Carmella made baked ziti. I can only assume that in the Italian American culture of New Jersey in the late 1990’s, nothing said comfort food like baked ziti. I am not Italian, nor do I live in New Jersey. But a cheesy, baked pasta dish is pure comfort food and I craved comfort more than anything. My body knew what to do. On November 9, 2016, I made the ziti. By inauguration day, 2017, I had made six different varieties of ziti. I had also gained 5 pounds. I am not a ziti purist; the best (most comforting) has sausage, and the best sausage is pork. But after the 5 pound gain, I often opted for chicken sausage instead.
Next came the cutlet. I had never before made a cutlet, but soon there wasn’t a cutlet I hadn’t attempted, and multiple times. Pork, chicken, even veal (and I gave up veal decades ago!). I switched up the cuts of meat, the purveyors, the methods of pounding, instruments for pounding, flour vs. no flour, panko vs. any other breadcrumb, egg whites vs. whole eggs. I served them on a bed of arugula, I served them with mozzarella and parmesan and spaghetti. I never tired of the simple cutlet, its outcome depending entirely on my own restraint.
I boosted my skills with fancy new kitchen tools. The sous vide machine proved invaluable and changed tough meat preparation permanently, while the Instant Pot felt more like a 21st century version of a Stone Soup tureen, generating millions of unreadable, ad-laden blog posts and perhaps four worthy recipes. (Food blogs are a pet peeve of mine.) The Instant Pot does a decent chicken curry and an outstanding pulled pork, but takes up an enormous amount of space and stinks up the house. Overall, the irony of figuring out where to store both my pressure cooker and my slow cooker does not escape me. The immersion blender remains a personal favorite, but my first one died young and required immediate replacement. The good ones are pricey.
I learned to flip an egg last year. During Covid. I’m not a flipper by nature. The act involved a few mishaps and a lot of cleaning, and I would not say that I’m a pro, by any means. But I like that I proved to be more open-minded than I ever knew. So many years settling for sunny side up or scrambled, when I wanted over-easy. Was it my own fear? Or simple complacency?
If we’re in for another quadrennium of this administration, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I suspect cooking alone might not get me through. I remember that my therapist’s therapist couldn’t get out of bed for a month after the election in 2016, so I like to think my coping/cooking was relatively resourceful and effective. The 5 pounds eventually turned into 10, but it didn’t turn into 50. One thing I know now is how to imagine the worst.
The next project could be: cookbook for the apocalypse. But hopefully not.
It's been a hard year so far. I turned 60 in April, and have had a
bit of a miserable time with it.
No one, it turns out, is sympathetic. Well, no one except for other people who are also turning 60 and who are equally freaked out by it.
Major life milestones have the advantage of not sneaking up on us. We know they're coming. They give us time to prepare. And yet that very prep time also provides us with a certain relentlessness, or inevitability, that intensifies the meanness of the whole experience. You can't just go to sleep and wake up to find it's over. You can't sleep for six months. That had been my preferred method of dealing with birthdays in the past.Friends and family asked if I wanted a party.
I most certainly did not.
Instead, I decided to use my accumulated American miles on free tickets to travel hither and yon, and visit those friends and family members who live out of town, who I don't see often enough. I wanted to find out how they were dealing with life in the seventh decade.
I found a variety of experiences, a group of people mostly retired, often beset by a variety of medical issues (some minor, others not), showing their age to a greater or lesser extent. And Lordy, it was a wake-up call I wasn't particularly hoping to hear, but I heard it nonetheless.
I realized that I have to take better care of myself going forward, because this next ten years is critical. But I'm not entirely sure I know what that means. I'm only beginning the process of figuring it out, beyond the usual...getting enough rest, eating right, exercising, etc. It seems to me that to "take better care of myself" has become fraught today. Everyone offers advice. Infrequently do I want it.
I suspect this is too much to explore in a single blog post, because I have an awful lot to say about the subject. But I want to share something I saw this morning that inspired me.There is a retrospective now at the MOMA of an artist named Adrian Piper, whose work explores themes of race, gender, philosophy, and abstraction. She paints and draws and does performance pieces, as well as teaching in university settings. Embedded in this article from Alyson Walsh (It's Not My Age blog) is a performance piece that Piper did in the Alexanderplatz in Berlin at the age of 60(!).
This is the most inspiration I've found in ages.(I'd been looking for inspiration. And not finding much.Which is one of the issues with this whole stinkin aging thing.)
Suddenly, I don't feel quite so bad about being 60.
We register people, cars, ovens. The one thing that deliberately kills people in this country we don’t register. This article is worth a read. Especially this week. How the US government hobbles the ATF...https://www.gq.com/story/inside-federal-bureau-of-way-too-many-guns
I found this interview with former Adm. James Stavridis on Quartz this morning and felt the need to share it. It's a couple of years old, but illustrative nonetheless. Stavridis is the Dean of Tufts' graduate school of Law and Diplomacy. He makes a cogent case for reading fiction. He says simply that, for the vast majority of people, stories are the best way to learn. http://themillions.com/2015/04/the-admiral-in-the-library-the-millions-interviews-james-stavridis.html?mc_cid=1687a08303&mc_eid=8d42a7110e