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Where We Are vs. Where We Thought We Would Be

Text and images by Meaghan Mountford

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Hello Paulette’s world,

Thank you for letting me visit today! Paulette is a dear friend, so I’m honored to share space with her here. I’m selfishly relishing the opportunity of Paulette’s convalescence to delve deeper than my sugar bowl. Usually I’m over at my own blog decorating cookies and drawing on marshmallows.

It stumps me when people ask what I do. How do I concisely sum up my day without trivializing what I do, or without making it more important than it is? I say I’m “sort of a food writer.” Maintaining a blog, let alone building it, takes a heckuvalot more than just throwing cupcakes in the oven and painting on marshmallows. Then again, I’m not curing anything. I make money blogging, which lets me say it’s a real job. But it’s not much, so it’s not really a real job. But I wrote two cookbooks, so that’s something, right? Oh yeah, I’m home with a newborn and a five-year old. That sucks most of my day right there.

Why over-explain? Because no matter how good a place I may occupy, I’m not exactly where I envisioned with my work. It’s more than simply not being there yet (though given the unrealistic perfection I demand of myself, I never will be, but that’s a discussion for Paulette’s next surgery). It’s about where I’ve ended up at age 40 and the need to convey to others (and by “others,” I mean “myself,” of course) that it’s big enough.

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I reached this current moment as most reach their current moments: Through a course of events that happen so organically, you don’t even notice. One day, I took a job decorating cookies in a shop that had just opened, even though I had never picked up a bag of icing. I expected to stay a few weeks. I stayed for almost ten years. During my time at the store, I earned two masters degrees, still on the hunt for my career. When I left the store in 2007 to have my daughter, I started the blog, landed a gig for another blog writing about food, and I was then this “expert” in edible crafts. I’ve had the writer’s itch for years, and so I merged this compulsion with my food “expertise” (note I still need to put that word in quotes) to write the cookbooks. This should be enough, I suppose. I love creating fun food. Fun food has been good to me, if not to my bank account. Then why do I feel I’m not quite where I should be? If Oprah sanctions me and I roll around in a Bentley caressing diamonds, maybe I’d feel it then?

I wanted to do other things, too. I wanted to write memoir. I suffer from auto-immune disease, and I had five major surgeries before my twenties were over. I’ve had organs removed, reconstructed, my insides pulled through the outside of my body. I’m marked by over two feet of scars. How am I not exploiting that?!? No, seriously, how?!? Wouldn’t you? I wanted to write children’s books. To live in England. To get my phD in Children’s Literature. When I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then an architect. Somewhere in my old bedroom at my mom’s house, my 7th grade self stuffed hundreds, maybe thousands, of floor plan drawings in a green Trapper Keeper. Now, I create cute cookies and get excited when I come up with an idea for decorating marshmallows that hasn’t been done. Yet I can’t help but miss those things I wanted and didn’t go after, just a little.

We end up places seemingly unexpectedly, but we are guided there by our own choices. Sure, these choices may be informed by experiences beyond our control, such as my illness. But don’t we trust our earlier selves to have made the right decisions no matter what the circumstances? To have gotten us where we are not by being devious to our future selves, but by being as wise as we could be at that time? Perhaps I need to rephrase that as we should trust our earlier selves.

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There will always be at least some disconnect between where we are versus where we thought we’d be. With each choice and passing year, our options dwindle. This isn’t meant to be a depressing notion, it’s just a fact of time and physics. There is simply no way we can do everything. We have to make choices. When we are five, we might still be an Olympic gymnast if we wanted. There’s time to train. But at age 40, it’s not likely I’ll be a gymnast, especially since I’ve never even been able to do a cartwheel. And I can forget American Idol, I’m way too old.

And on top of missing what I chose not to do, I rue, a bit, those things outside my control. Sure, I wish I was given a better singing voice, gymnastic ability. I wish I wrote better. Every day I grieve at least once over living in a body compromised by illness. Given all this moaning over what we don’t have and didn’t do, how can we possibly age gracefully? Because to be happy, we have no choice. Regret is a tricky thing. We can’t change what already is. It’s no stunning revelation that fixating on what was lost risks tearing down what wasn’t. So I may linger on thoughts of that other life I might have led in the English countryside writing picture books, all my organs intact. I may still strive for what I haven’t yet achieved. And I should probably celebrate more often what I have gotten. My family. My friends. Those cookbooks I mentioned.

I think my goal for the next forty years is to bid farewell to what didn’t happen, enjoy what has happened, and be excited for what is yet to happen. And I’m leaving a message to my 80-year old self right now: Trust me. Appreciate me. I’m making the best decisions I know how for us.

Be well, Paulette!

meaghan

Kathleen Thinks I’m Blogdiggity!

“Self Portrait in Favorite Outfit #1” Black Eileen Fisher pants, black/white bracelet-sleeved, collared jersey from Land’s End under short-sleeved black jersey from Macy’s, black/white/gray striped scarf from H&M, vintage cerulean blue plastic bracelet. Not pictured: beloved, much used and abused, rubber-soled red booties from a shop on the Boulevard St. Germain in Paris. Can’t remember what earrings I was wearing.

So my friend Kathleen Kirk—ace poet, ace actress, aces all around—sweetly gave The Home Beete! a Blogdiggity Award the other day. Here are the rules, such as they are . . .

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass along the award to 15 bloggers you think are hella awesome.
4. Contact said hella awesome bloggers & let them know you think they are the blogdiggity.

So, first, a huge THANK YOU to Miss Kathleen, whose own lovely blog Wait! I Have a Blog?! (Musings on What We Read and Why) can be found right here. (She also has a new chapbook out from Finishing Line Press, so go order it already, okay?)

As for the seven things about moi:

1. My favorite romance authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Wiggs, and Elizabeth Lowell.

2. I’m somewhat obsessed with biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs by and/or about literary women, such as Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, May Sarton, and Joan Didion.

3. I can’t walk in high heels. Don’t think I’ve ever been able to walk in high heels except for a very brief period in high school when I wore wedges, which—at the time—were neither fashionable nor actual high heels.

4. My favorite place to write/work/live is in my bed. And yes, if I had room, I’d upgrade to a California King so I could pile even more books, magazines, etc. into bed with me.

5. I love Zoolander. There, I said it.

6. Most people think sunny days are great for getting out and about. I think they’re great for lying in bed, dozing in a big patch of sunlight. Clearly, I’m part cat.

7. I drink way too much coffee, yet I’m hopeless when it comes to operating any type of espresso machine. Well, except for Doug and Cara’s. I’m really good at operating Doug and Cara’s lugged-home-from-Sweden espresso machine.

Here are 15 bloggers who I think are hella awesome, and who I will someday—when I’m not napping in a patch of sunlight—finally add to my blogroll.

1. A Cup of Jo: I love her personality, her sense of style, her sense of humor, and I want to be her best friend. For realz! (Oh, she also does great giveaways.)

2. White Lightning: Ditto. The poet in me just delights in the way she fractures and flings around language—talking about applying pressure to the page, as Henry Taylor used to say. (The downside is that I’m now craving a pair of yellow hasbeens (which are coincidentally Swedish!)—anyone have an extra hundy I can borrow?)

3.  Aesthetic Outburst: I love how her nicknamed family—PRH (her hubby) and EZ-E and Kicky (her kids)—show up in her posts about home, crafts, etc. I’m pretty sure I could spend an entire pot of coffee chatting with her.

4. Black Eiffel: Okay, the word “Eiffel” is in the title of this blog. Do I really need to go on? In case you’re still not getting it, I also adore the mix of recipes, home style, art, and fashion that shows up on this blog. A blog right after my own heart.

5. Camilla Engman: It’s thanks to blogs like Camilla’s that I’ve become a huge Swede-o-phile. Nuf said.

6. Chasing Light: Doug Kim is a NYC photographer. I think his work is gorgeous, and I also love that he features work by classic and contemporary photographers. It’s a great way to get an education by looking at some amazing visual work.

7. Creature Comforts: Again, this is another blog I love because I love the writer’s personality. My heart broke for her when she went thru a rough patch lately and absolutely cheered when she came out the other side. Again, she mostly blogs about a good mix of art and home and fashion.

8. Decor8 Daily Updates: Ask anyone who loves home design blogs who to read, and Decor8 will be on their  list. Again, she has an amazing personality, and I’ve discovered a lot of other great blogs and stores to look into thanks to this blog.

9.Door 16: I want to be the couple behind Door 16. I’m just saying . . .

10. emmasdesignblog: Another Swedish blog that I absolutely love, and one that you’ll definitely see referenced on a lot of other blogs. One of the things I love about the Swedes I follow is that they are able to create stylish, livable interiors, with the emphasis on livable. They get how to use IKEA (natch!), and they prove you don’t have to spend oodles and oodles of cash to have a beautiful home, you just have to keep an open mind and train your eye.

11. Every Person in New York: This is the companion blog to Jason Polan’s drawing project, which is—literally—to draw every person in New York. I have a huge crush on Jason. Partly it’s that wonder and amazement at people who can whip out a pen and just start drawing, and partly it’s because, for me, his projects provoke a lot of questions about “well, is this art?”—a very useful and necessary dialogue to engage in, especially as an artist, I think.

12. greige: This is a new favorite. I’m officially in love with the color grey, particularly that moody, bluish grey I associate with Paris in the rain (not that it actually rained when I was in Paris, I don’t think, but I digress . . . ). This blog showcases muted interiors that are still spellbindingly evocative and provocative. It turns out that a muted palette doesn’t have to equal bland, but instead can provide a near-luminous backdrops for textures and objects.

13. Lena Corwin blog: Lena’s blog was one of the first ever to populate my Google reader, and she continues to be a favorite. I love the beautiful books and artwork she produces for her own shop as well as the many beautiful shops and fellow artists and artisans she showcases. I never fail to get a whopping dose of inspiration from reading Lena’s blog. (I also never fail to want to move to Brooklyn after reading Lena’s blog . . . sigh . . . )

14. Shiny Squirrel: This blog is one of my faves for seeing what’s out there in the world of fashion. I love that her faves cover everything from three-paycheck looks to Etsy. It’s been a great way to learn more about the field, to find designers to fall in love with, and basically to figure out what look is most authentically me.

15.  The Decorated Cookie: This blog is by Meaghan Mountford, who I’m so blessed to call a friend. She’s an expert when it comes to edible craft projects which are both eminently achievable and eminently delicious. My secret wish is that she’ll have her very own edibles store someday where she’ll give me unlimited credit, or at the very least, she’ll start dropping off little baggies of gorgeously decorated mini-cookies at my apartment each week some time in the near future. (Hint, hint, Meaghan!)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and—quite honestly—I’ve left off at least another 15 of my favorites,  such as one fine day, The Selby, The Sartorialist, Oh Joy, and Unhappy Hipsters, just to name a few. Sooooo, I have a litte vaca time coming my way, and I’ll try to get busy with ye olde blogroll. In the meantime, hope you’ll check out at least a few of those I’ve mentioned.

And thanks again to Miss Kathleen for making me feel all Blogdiggity inside!

Hitting the Links (9/16/09)

Wingsfor Web

Wings  in the breezeway at Ragdale Artist Retreat in Lake Forest, Illinois,  circa 2001

You can dress’er up. . . . I’m in serious heart with this vintage dresser, which I discovered courtesy of an Apartment Therapy house tour.

Take a breath. Okay, so I have two air purifiers that I never use because, well, they’re ugly. Maybe I can trade them in for enough cashola to buy this gorgeously organic-ish model, which I discovered by way of Cool Hunting.

Wallflower? So I’m still traumatized by the pink/green plaid wallpaper that hung in our kitchen in the house I mostly grew up in. Not to mention the hunting scene paper in my room and  the oversized foil floral in the master bedroom. (I liked the flocked shades-of-olive stripes in the dining room cause they felt nice.) But if I ever do splurge on wallpaper-aversion therapy, my first stop after I’m cured will definitely be Hang & Paste.

Guinness is good for you. Two of my faves in one–Hugo Guinness’s beautiful drawings and John Derian’s store. (And yes, I’m excited even though I’m really only catching a glimpse of the Derian store wall here.) Rumor has it that Mr. Derian now has a store in Provincetown, just one more reason why I need to get another fellowship there soon! (Thanks to dear ada for giving me today’s guinness fix.)

Don’t let the door hit you in the . . . A gallery of colorful and gorgeously rusted door hinges curated on Flickr by the fabulous ArtbyChristy. Can’t decide which one I’d actually want to hang on my wall as they’re all so evocative. Talk about “significant objects!” Think I may print them all and use them to jazz up my new office digs.

Domino redux? Launching this fall is Lonny magazine, an online-only decor mag from a former Domino editor. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

DIY to die for. Easy peasy how-to on creating a fabu fabric-covered headboard thanks to Grace the Groovy over at Design*Sponge.

Shady Lady. My friend Meaghan Mountford, who usually riffs on excellent edibles over at The Decorated Cookie, just bought a new house. Which means we get to “eavesdrop” as she puts her formidable DIY skills to use decorating her new digs, like making these nifty roller shades.  Given that this woman can draw Elvis on an Etch-a-Sketch, I’m planning on paying careful  attention.

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