By Mary Duggan
Let’s just say the girls went garbage picking for my birthday. And it worked out beautifully.
In the weeks preceding the Big 60 there was much gnashing of teeth and sighing coming from my sisters about the plans for my 60th birthday celebration. Now the girls are big on doing it up really big when it comes to the milestone birthdays. When I turned 40 it was a Wild Women Road Trip to the Badlands. And they topped that one with a whopper when they took me to Paris for the Big 50. Like I said they are crazy generous and enthusiastic sister-friends and both times they pulled out all the stops with itineraries so jammed packed with fun that it defied belief. So what were they to do with 60 to celebrate and no cash available?
I tried desperately to let them off the hook. I adore organizing and had noticed that Container Store was running a sale on some specialty shelf liners that I had coveted for years. No really. I had always wanted them. I love to clean and organize and my kitchen needs them desperately. I actually suggested a gift of shelf paper. Really, I did. Of course I came quickly to my senses and then withdrew that particular suggestion. But I was determined to help with the party plans and pull the weight off their shoulders by taking all expectations down – way down.
I came up with the idea of really enjoying yet another stay-cation. I mean we live in Chicago, not some sleepy little hamlet. And we never make the time to just plain enjoy Chicago. So I proposed a bloom where you are planted – don’t forget to enjoy your own garden kind of shindig. Better still, I said, let’s build it around the Printers Row Lit Fest, which is always held on my birthday and which I never go to because I am always having some kind of big birthday fun with my sisters. Once I proposed a theme that we could all get behind, all that was left to do was peruse the daily Tribune build-up to the big event and circle the authors and events on the enormous 2-day calendar that interested me.
Just a smidge more fun than shelf paper? Not in the hands of my sisters it’s not. And not when the party girl is a word nerd from way back. Every day I read articles about who was coming to town and I sifted and sorted through the options. Gluten-free food bloggers competed with celebrity chefs. There were local authors like Amy Sue Nathan and old friends like Billy Lombardo. Even Sting was on board with his Narrative Project. Then one day I came upon author Porter Gale who intrigued me with her “Your Network is Your Net Worth” take on entrepreneurs and marketing and other business-y matters. And despite apprehensions that it would trigger work thought, I added her to the list and even did the nifty little exercise she suggested. I shared the exercise with my sisters. (more…)