40 for 40: All the Rest

Last year, I made a pact with a fellow friend, who shared with me the momentous occasion of turning 40, to do 40 things to celebrate this life event. I further pledged to do one more thing every year, a total of 41 things to mark my 41st birthday, etc., in future years.

As the lack of posts on this topic demonstrates, I have somewhat abandoned this approach to marking my year. Any undertaking truly worthy of turning 40 would likely be too private to fully write about on this blog, and the list seemed like a chore rather than a celebration.

So instead, I am focusing my attention on living in the moment and being grateful for the opportunity to continue doing so day after day. It is these virtues that will enable me to get the most out of what will surely continue to be a splendid year. Rather than checking items off of a list, I am generating new interpretations of my life which enrich it beyond measure.

40 for 40 #10: Weird Al

weird al

Going to a concert, for me, is always a luxury. I sadly lack the excess resources that would be necessary to partake in all of the potential excursions that interest me, even those that enthrall me. So going to the concert of someone I don’t consider a priority is an even greater luxury.

Poor “Weird Al” Yankovic, always the underdog. No, he is not in my top ten, but yes, I appreciate his work enough to have considered the luxury of his distant company at a concert one evening this June.

To be totally honest, I had a good excuse. It was my mother’s 70th birthday and I thought it would be fun for her. Luxuries become near necessities when it is an opportunity to bring joy to another person’s life. At least for me.

The concert was truly amazing and far exceeded my expectations. The evening began with just about the coolest entrance I had ever seen. He walked (actually danced and sung) through the venue where the concert was held and was filmed along the way (this was projected onto a screen on the stage) until he burst through the rear doors. Having recently worked with some procurement people there, I was familiar with the layout and could, in my head, imagine where he was and where I had been just a few months before. I can’t imagine a more fun and keepin’ it real way to begin a show.

My appreciation for Weird Al and his work had previously heightened when I saw his movie UHF several years ago. Many, many years ago to be more precise. My love of alternative media, along with my family legacy in the television industry, drew me to the message of this film. Of course, I can’t forget how many of his songs I have loved over the years — Ricky, I Lost on Jeopardy, and Amish Paradise, to name a few. At the concert I was introduced to a new favorite song that I had not heard before — Word Crimes. His ability to dissect and reconstruct pop culture is simply stunning.

My only regret is that our seats were subprime. Just about at the back of the theatre, but not really close to the spot where he made his grand entrance. But close enough, and good enough, for me.

40 for 40 #9: Herbes de Provence


Ever since I was a student in Mrs. Scarcia’s French class at Trexler Middle School in the 1980s, I have longed for the perfumed air and transcendent beauty of Provence. Alas, I have yet to visit this much loved region of France.

I recently purchased Herbes de Provence, a fragrant blend of lavender, marjoram, savory, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Admittedly, I purchased it to bring a small order up to the minimum required to qualify for free shipping. But upon reflection, I realize how it is sometimes the little things in life which bring us the most pleasure.

Opening up my jar of Herbes de Provence, I can imagine the rare beauty of this special geographic area. It has a lovely aroma that is as delicate as it is powerful. I love to sprinkle it on simple foods, like potatoes and pizza, to transform them into something really spectacular.

While it isn’t quite the same as traveling and immersing myself in the culture of Provence, I can ‘visit’ Provence any day, even every day, by just opening up my kitchen cupboard! It was a very well spent $6.50.

40 for 40 #8: Blondie

Vintage Electric Guitar

The first time I almost met Debbie Harry I was 26 years old. I was staying in the Grace Jones room at the Chelsea Star Hotel and it was one year after Joey Ramone died. She was to be at a posthumous birthday party for him, and I was to be there with a certain friend.

After traipsing around the city all day, participating in both planned and spontaneous activities, I returned to my room to wait for my friend to call. She had been at a picnic all day and that was the plan.

I waited and waited and waited until I finally fell asleep. At about 3 a.m. the phone woke me up. A friend of my friend called to tell me that she fell asleep a few hours ago. Both parties were over, and I foolishly chose to wait and rely on someone else rather than do what I wanted to do.

Blondie has visited the Lehigh Valley many times over the years. And, even though they are one of my favorite bands, and I feel a connection to many of their songs unmatched by other artists, I have never gone to see them. Until this year.

The Friday before my 40th birthday, I saw Blondie perform at a local venue. And it was fantastic on many levels.

Rapture. At last.

40 for 40 #7: Collecting Mud On My Boots

You might think that I have given up on my quest to do 40 fun things in celebration of my 40th birthday. I have not; indeed, I have been so busy doing things that I have not yet had time to sit down and write about them!


Last year, I expanded my horseback riding horizons by riding in Virginia. It was not only an expansion of my horizons because I had never ridden outside of Pennsylvania, but because it was an adventure ride on steep mountain trails after which I was in so much pain that I had to use my arms pull myself up from a seated position for about a week afterwards.

This year, I decided to ride in two additional states, Tennessee and Kentucky, thus completing my tour of the core horse states. I rode a mule in Tennessee and a spotted draft horse in Kentucky, thus producing two bonus new experiences — riding a mule and a draft horse.

I travel with my paddock boots when I anticipate riding while away from home. I have not cleaned the boots on purpose, because I love the idea that they contain fragments of dirt from all of the places I have ridden. Looking at my boots, I am reminded of the lovely horses who so patiently allowed me to ride them, and of the beautiful moments created by our time together.

40 for 40 #6: Sourdough

I have always been curious about sourdough, but when I recently read that it both had a lower glycemic index than other breads and offered beneficial bacteria I decided to give it a try. I promptly ordered a starter that originated in the 1700s and a nice airy jar in which my starter would reside.

If you haven’t worked with sourdough before, it requires a bit of TLC. If it is kept on the counter, it needs to be fed with water and flour every day. If it is kept in the refrigerator, which is what I do, it only needs to be fed once a week. Each time it is fed, half of the starter needs to be used or thrown away. As a Pennsylvania Dutch person raised with the motto of “waste not, want not,” I of course need to fund a use for my starter each week. I have been eating a lot of blueberry pancakes.

I’m one of those people who tends to go overboard as soon as I latch on to sometime. I had an idea about how I could travel throughout the world with my sourdough starter — incorporating bacteria from every state, and finally every country, so that I could bake peace bread to provided sustenance to people in need. While I haven’t yet started this project, I am tempted to put my starter in the backseat of my car, neatly tucked in a seatbelt with a pillow for support, the next time I cross over into the nearby New Jersey border.

40 for 40 #5: Hat’s On

I bought myself my first big fancy hat. Not only is it de rigueur for the Devon Horse Show, the event at which I first wore it, it protected me from the lobster-like sunburn which I involuntarily acquired while sitting and walking out in the sun for hours on end at last year’s show. Hat shopping wasn’t fun; after more than six months of searching I finally found something that looked fabulous in a sea of mediocrity. I felt very self-conscious while wearing the hat at the show since it is not something I have ever done before. But I did receive two unsolicited compliments, and I think it put me among the better, though not necessarily the best, dressed ladies at the event.

I almost bought a hat at last year’s show. It was very pretty, but a hairy black spider took up residence inside and I decided not to disturb her habitat. At this year’s show, the usual array of hats were available for sale, but prices tripled since last year. And that does not include the big fancy hat shop, where I didn’t even look at the prices lest I drop over dead from not shock but sheer jealousy over the fact that what is to some a casual hat purchase is to me a mortgage payment (or two).

This is just be beginning of my big fancy hat odyssey. Perhaps I will purchase one new hat every year, to mark the occasion of my birthday — or to wear to a horse show.

40 for 40 #4: Thongs

I have always thought that flip flops are ugly and uncomfortable. But there are times that they prove to be quite convenient, like during strolls along the beach and after pedicures. I once bought a pair of Minnie Mouse flip flops while staying at a Disney resort for a family literacy conference, and thus ends my adult thong allowance. This year, I indulged in a beautiful pair of gold orthopedic flip flops. They were very expensive, and I don’t often tend to splurge on things like that for myself, but I figured they would be useful on certain occasions. I now find myself wearing them at other times, when they aren’t even necessary, and thus I have joined the legions of modern women around the world who swear by the thong sandal. I even wore them on a semi-lengthy neighborhood walk and afterward my aging, arthritic feet did not ache one bit. The thrill of thong underwear shall have to wait for my 50th birthday.

40 for 40 #3: Beautiful Bathroom

When I first moved into my 150 year old house almost eight years ago, I immediately began the process of cleaning up and updating the house. The initial cosmetic work to be done was endless, from painting the walls to ripping out carpet and urine soaked floorboards to removing asbestos tiles in the hallway. I did not anticipate the amount of work and money getting my house in order would require, particularly because I did not anticipate my kitchen ceiling falling in three times due to plumbing problems, a furnace that completely stopped working because it had a hole in it which the pre-purchase home inspector failed to find, and all of the other little bits and pieces that add up over time. I also did not anticipate that when I removed the ugly, peach-colored, seashell-themed wallpaper in my upstairs bathroom that the disintegrating plaster walls behind would come along with the wallpaper as I peeled it away. In addition, the tub accumulated mold due to a poor caulking job (that of the prior owner followed by my own) and the tile floor became more and more cracked as time passed. Not to mention the ugliest medicine cabinet ever, its look finished off by an unhealthy dose of rust. Finishing the bathroom was cast aside as I dealt with the more immediate needs in my home. But this year, despite earning much less than I have in all the years I have lived in this house, I decided that enough was enough. I could no longer live with a half torn apart, uglier than ever, possibly unhealthy breeding ground of a bathroom. And so, with some of my own work and the help of a contractor, I have transformed that bathroom into the loveliest room in my house. Everything has been redone — the floor, bathtub, lighting, and, of course, the medicine cabinet. It makes such a difference in my everyday life to wake up in the morning and take a shower in a beautiful space that has a bright and natural, rather than a depressing and decaying, feel.

40 for 40 #2: An Evening with Andre

OK, so it wasn’t the first time I had ever seen Andre Watts. Nor was it the first time I ever saw him at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. And it really doesn’t compare to that magical night in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens last spring. But my yearlong celebration of my 40th birthday would not be complete without a night with Andre. No one can play Rachmaninoff like he does, except of course for the maestro himself. Hearing Andre play is always an ethereal experience during which I feel suspended somewhere between reality and a magical world where I embody my idolized purple pegasus and soar around the world at least 20 times. I always need to constantly remind myself to be present, to be focused on the experience, when I hear him play because, no matter if he is playing Rachmaninoff or a less favoured composer, he takes me to another world.