Sunday, May 15, 2016

Picture This



While continuing the never-ending ordeal of organizing boxes in my basement, I came across this sketch. From the reference to "Algebra I," I can date the drawing to my freshman year of high school.

I've changed in many ways since I was 14. But by the daydreaming depictions of a few of my favorite teenage things--music, beaches, animals, and creative writing--it's clear some things haven't changed at all.

A picture of my life at 14.
I ended up flunking freshman algebra. Probably I should have paid attention, shown up more often to class, and managed to receive fewer demerits. Regardless, I made it through the next 40 years without ever needing to use an algebraic equation. Don't most of us?

I'd like to think I've fared better since then, in my pursuit of the knowledge of life. I show up every damn day. I try to be attentive to what matters to me, and I attempt to give it my all. 

Yet I still daydream--a lot. Daydreams often prove to be rewarding, especially when you chase them.

When it comes to the subject matter of Living, I'd give myself a solid B. Over the last few years, I might get a B+ for effort. And as far as demerits? Yeah, some of my life decisions and behavior have definitely warranted a handful of those. But I regret few of them, either. 

As artists of our own lives, we can't erase all our mistakes. But we can always draw a brand new picture.

Whether we're 14 or 84, life remains an open canvas. I suggest keeping a sharp pencil at hand. Who knows what will result?

You can draw your own equations.

How have you changed--or remained the same--since high school? Regrets--do you have a few or too few to mention? How would you sketch the future pictures of your life?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Of Retirement, Ramen, and Really Bad Pets

Looking contrite? Don't feel sorry for him a bit.
So, over the weekend I toyed with some retirement planning. This consisted mostly of pondering how I might still go on fabulous trips and to amazing concerts--while finding 500 fun ways to cook ramen noodles in my makeshift shelter under a viaduct.

My prospects of retiring in 10 years or less weren't looking real promising--until I realized I probably wouldn't be spending half my monthly retirement income on my dog and four cats. With a 10-year-old dog and three geriatric cats, it's unlikely any but the fourth and youngest cat will be here longer than five more years.

It was an abominable and depressing thought. I fed them all massive piles of treats, hugged them, and told them in whispered baby talk that they can never, ever leave me.

When I got home tonight, I discovered one or more of the cats had created two new Great Lakes on my basement floor landing. Along with a small Feces Mountain. Not knowing who was responsible, I cleaned it up while cursing all four.

Then, I wandered outside to get the mail, accompanied by Ringo the Wonder Retriever--who'd obviously become my favorite pet child.

Within minutes, Ringo had scooped up two baby birds. I managed, too late, to get him to drop the first--which I still have not gathered the gumption to remove from the sidewalk. He finished off the second one in a single gulp.

It's inconceivable that my neighbors failed to call the police, with all the screaming entailed.

Now, my entire menagerie is begging me for affection and treats.

Bastards.

I'm tempted to make them live off ramen for the rest of their sorry lives.

How's your retirement looking? Any bad pet stories you'd like to share?

Friday, March 25, 2016

From Strangers to Friends

Two years ago, I invited seven strangers to my house for a dinner party. They didn’t know me, they didn’t know each other, and—as a requirement of my invitation—they each came alone. We ranged in age from twenty-two to seventy-three, and we had little in common.

The night had all the ingredients for Awkward Scenario of the Century.

Yet within hours, we found ourselves sharing our life dreams, highlights, challenges, and most embarrassing moments. We conversed, laughed, and hugged as if we’d known each other forever. I’d never been at a party like this, never met people quite like these.

We’ve stayed in touch ever since. Last night—as we’ve done so many times over the past two years—The 52 Stranger Danger Club, as we call ourselves, gathered once again.

Is it possible for a group of strangers, brought together for a single night as part of one woman’s odd personal journey, to become lasting friends?

Stranger things have happened.

When's the last time you did something for the first time? And did you enjoy it enough to do it all over again?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Back in the Saddle

I've been busy writing, planning some new life adventures over at The52at52Project and--apparently--putting on a few pounds.

Pictured here is my new dieting plan: Before I feed my pie-hole, I've gotta pay the toll.
Genius, yes? Right. We'll see how this scheme works out. I'm crossing my fingers but not holding my breath--because I'm too busy breathing out heavy sighs in the direction of my refrigerator.

Stay tuned for an update on that, as well as news about my new book. I hope to share that soon.

So, what's happening with all of you, out in Cyberland?







Friday, August 7, 2015

Harry, Carrie & Garp


Son #1 and me at Radio City Music Hall, circa 2006
With Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show this week, I was reminded of the time I inadvertently saw him in New York City.

In August 2006—almost nine years to the day of the final Daily Show—I took Son #1 to NYC for a reading at Radio City Music Hall, titled “Harry, Carrie & Garp.” The authors appearing: Stephen King, John Irving, and JK Rowling.

If the author lineup wasn’t blow-you-away-worthy enough, the three writers were introduced onstage by a few surprise guests: Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates, and Jon Stewart.

It was like a real-life version come true of that great party question, “If you could invite any three people to a dinner party…”

Here, thanks to a transcript I found online, were my favorite lines that evening.

Jon Stewart (the story about Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant had broken that same day): “I was running a little late and I was talking to my friend Mel Gibson on the phone. He hopes that tonight's mishigas puts a smile on your panim.”

John Irving: Irving’s short talk was terrific, but the highlight was when he read a passage from A Prayer for Owen Meany, one of my very favorite books of all time. *swoon*

JK Rowling (on the perpetual female attraction to bad boys): “Oh you girls and Draco Malfoy. (She shakes her head.) You've got to get past this.”

Kathy Bates: “It’s no wonder at all why I have been asked to introduce the first author (Stephen King). After all, I am his #1 fan. I used to be the #2 fan up until about 15 years ago when a woman named Annie Wilkes came off the list and the top spot opened up.”

Stephen King (on what scares him): “How about standing in front of 6,000 people? And checking to make sure that you've zipped your fly. Everything scares me so I just try to turn it around. That's the best I can do, I mean. Elevators— they talk about power blackouts in New York and I get in an elevator and I think, ‘Oh my god!’”

Whoopi Goldberg: “Harry, Carrie, and Garp. Somebody maybe should have put them all together a long time ago. Did you know, if one of those boys from the Hogwarts School had asked that poor girl—you know, the one at the prom—if somebody had just asked that poor child out for a date, a lot of people would have been saved a lot of grief.”

What an evening. And so, the question begs to be asked: If you could invite three (or in this case, six) people to a dinner party, who would they be?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lalalalala--I Can't Hear You (Still)!

This is me. Far too often. But don't I look pleased?
I haven't touched base here on the old blog for a while. Most of the action has been happening on my Facebook page, The 52/52 Project. I hope you're following along there, but I promise to spend more time here, too. Here's what's up:

Over the past three weeks, I’ve needed a dryer repair, a central air repair, new tires, and new brakes. All said, it totaled just short of a gazillion dollars. And Mercury isn’t even in retrograde.

It brought to mind a similar cluster a few years back. I had told myself then that I had to tighten my purse strings with a triple knot. I would allow no superfluous spending for three months.

Yet later that same day, I found myself in the middle of this conversation with myself:

Wednesday, 1:45 P.M:
Sensible Sherry: "So, that's that. If this spring's financial fiasco wasn't a wake-up call, this week's emergencies surely were. Broken rider lawnmower (beyond repair), car air conditioning (quoted fix of $600-$1,200), and central air (replacement costing $2,500), You need to make some significant changes in your life."

Stupid Sherry: "Yes, yes, you're right. I will change my lifestyle right now. I will start by playing the lottery every day and by switching to Natty Light beer."

Sensible Sherry (glaring): "What I mean is truly tightening your purse strings. No more eating out, no more vacations, and no more spending a fourth of your grocery bill on adult beverages."

Stupid Sherry: "Wow. You are a tough taskmaster."

Sensible Sherry: "I am. And from now on, you shall be my bitch."

2:15 P.M.
Sensible Sherry: "Um, excuse me? Is that you, clicking around on Orbitz.com?"

Stupid Sherry (glancing around and whistling): "Who, me?"

Sensible Sherry: "Jesus. It's like I don't even know you."

Stupid Sherry: “But listen to this! Remember back in April, when I found that unbelievable deal for taking the Megabus to New York City? A round-trip ticket from Toledo for $4.50? Four dollars and fifty cents! I booked it right then, just in case I could make it work."

Sensible Sherry: "It WON'T work. Cancel it. And walk away from the computer."

Stupid Sherry: "But I just managed to change my bus reservation! Instead of spending three nights in Manhattan, I'll only spend one! Look at the money I've saved myself already!"

Sensible Sherry: "So, you will sit on a bus for 12 hours, stay in New York for a single day and night and then turn around and spend another 12 hours on a bus?"

Stupid Sherry: "Yes! What an adventure it will be!"

Sensible Sherry (sighing): "That's what the Donner Party said."

2:38 P.M.
Sensible Sherry: "No. Tell me you didn't."

Stupid Sherry: "Can you believe my good luck? A hotel room, on Manhattan's lower east side, for only $100!"

Sensible Sherry: "Did you notice the fine print, about the 'shared bathroom'?"

Stupid Sherry (shrugging): "I won't shower for 48 hours. And I'll cross my legs."

Sensible Sherry: "What about bed bugs?"

Stupid Sherry: "Bed bugs? The hotel amenities didn't list those."

Sensible Sherry: "Right. And what will you do in New York, with no money?"

Stupid Sherry: "Oh, there are tons of fun and free things! I'll visit the public library. I’ll walk through Central Park. I will pass by homeless people and learn to truly appreciate my life."

Sensible Sherry: "Mm-hmm. How will you eat?"

Stupid Sherry: "I plan to pack a bag of peanuts and six PB and J sandwiches in my duffle bag. And drink from public water fountains."

Sensible Sherry (closing eyes and shaking head): "You are so full of shit."

Stupid Sherry: "You’re right. Not realistic or practical. No, I’ll survive on $2 hot dogs from street vendors. And I will ask for extra mustard packets and make an entire meal out of them."

Sensible Sherry: "You need professional help. Although you can't afford that either."

Stupid Sherry: "Come on! How could anyone let a practically free trip to New York go unused? That's like telling Ed McMahon to go away when he shows up at your door with a giant check."

Sensible Sherry (checking dead-celeb dot com): "Ed McMahon died in 2009. If he happens to show up at your door, promise me you'll tell him to go away."

Stupid Sherry: "OK. But I am definitely going to New York."

Sensible Sherry (rolling her eyes): "Fine. Go ahead. Spend 24 hours squeezed into a bus seat and another eight hours sleeping in a frightfully cheap hotel."

Stupid Sherry: "Yes. Yes, I will. Sounds delightful. Jeez, you're such a worrier. I mean, with a great plan like this, what could possibly go wrong?"

Sadly, I found myself with a scheduling conflict, and I had to cancel that trip. I’ve made up for it with loads of amazing trips over the past few years. But this week I proclaimed another moratorium on traveling.

As I recalled that cancelled plan yesterday, however, I found myself curious about the going rate for Megabus tickets to NYC. I hopped online and randomly searched travel dates—purely for research purposes, of course. Round-trip fares were mostly in the $60 range. But then I spied it: a trip to NYC for $15 and a return trip for just $1.00. Round-trip from Toledo to New York for $16.

And, I then discovered if one was truly SERIOUS about a frugal roadtrip of this sort—which I wasn’t—one could still find a hotel near Soho with a tiny cabin room and a shared bathroom for $100 per night.

Within fifteen minutes, I had my room and travel booked. Two nights instead of one, because over the past few years I’ve grown far more practical. And I made certain my reservations were refundable, in the event my transmission dies in the next two months. Or in case I come to my senses.

I figured the long bus ride would allow hours of writing. An ultra-efficient use of my time, really. And the hotel/hostel commenters on the internet mentioned how interesting it was to meet other guests, while sitting out on the roof or the fire escape. Chalk up another fascinating life experience.

I planned a single year of strange new adventures, through The 52/52 Project, to be a mere one-off period in my life--before I returned to my regularly scheduled program. Yet, here I am.

I may need an intervention.

Are you a traveler or a homebody? What's the craziest thing you've done lately?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Just When I Never Expected They'd Find Brotherly Love

When I was a young mother, I grew skeptical of that so-called light at the end of the tunnel. Based on my life with two battling boys, I knew it would be just another freight train barreling through.

My newest story on Huffington Post offers hope for all you war-torn parents:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sherry-stanfastanley/when-i-never-expected-theyd-find-brotherly-love_b_6449926.html

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stranger Things Happened in Milwaukee

Yowza, did we get happy last Saturday night on the Partridge Family Party Bus Stranger Party adventure in Milwaukee! What a wild and wonderful evening!

Our initial cozy group of ten met at a fireside table at the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery. ("Best Place" is the actual and very apt name.) After introductions and small talk, we hopped onboard the bus—with our traveler cups—to set sail that day for a six-hour tour. A six-hour tour… (Are you singing along? Because we sure did, all night.)

By our second venue, we were feeling so comfortable together and enjoying ourselves so much that our server at Bryant's Cocktail Lounge, Milwaukee’s “oldest cocktail lounge,” warned us twice to keep the noise down. It was a lovely place with terrific PERSONALLY TAILORED cocktails, but we moved on to where our loud enthusiasm might be better suited.

Over the next several hours, we cruised downtown Milwaukee, visiting a total of eight bars and pubs. They varied from Victor's on Van Buren, a hot local dance club that my 23-year-old son cringed about going to with his mother (oh, I danced, just to embarrass him further), to Who's On Third, Milwaukee's Pub (the BEST cheese curds in Milwaukee), to the Old German Beer Hall, where we sang the E.I.O Polka and took shots from a wooden shot-ski. (The last time I did a shot in a bar? Probably in the eighties. The next time? Don’t hold your breath.)

Midway through the night, our Partridge Bus morphed into the Pied Piper Bus. Our passengers more than doubled as we made adventurous new friends along the way, including a middle-aged couple, their power-lifting pro daughter, and their delightful companions. And, a special shout-out to Taylor, who was a hard-core trooper.

In between our stops, we sang, did classic TV trivia, laughed nonstop, and annoyed the hell out of our somewhat patient bus driver.

It proved to be one of the craziest and most entertaining nights I’ve ever had, accentuated by the company of a handful of close friends plus many new and random ones.

Ten other outings remain on the Stranger Party Tour over the next year, including our Jan. 24 events in Chicago, to cave-spelunking in Austin, to a scavenger hunt in Boston. The bar’s been set pretty high by the first two outings in Orlando and Milwaukee. Yet I have a feeling we’ll find a way to match that fun.

When’s the last time you did something for the first time? Those of us who joined in on the Partridge Family Bus escapade in Milwaukee can say: Just last weekend. 


Read about other upcoming events on The 52/52 Project's National Stranger Party Tour here: https://www.facebook.com/The52at52Project/posts/395041997326397