Sunday, September 8, 2013

Does Sharing a Room Help Kids Become Successful Resilient Adults?

 We are all within four feet of each other, okay?  We can hear you.  - Emanuel brother about growing up in a small house and sharing a bedroom. 'Emanuel Brothers' Chicago Tribune, April 5, 2013

Is is possible that sharing a bedroom gives kids a 'leg up' in becoming successful resilient adults?  Growing up in the 1960s in Uptown Chicago, the three ridiculously successful Emanuel brothers shared a room.  Ari Emanuel has been described as the "21st century Hollywood mogul" and is the co-CEO of William Morris an entertainment and media agency.  The character of Ari Gold on HBO's show Entourage was patterned after Ari Emanuael.  Rahm Emanuel, Ari's brother, served as White House Chief of Staff for Barack Obama and is now mayor of Chicago.  The oldest brother "Zeke" Emanuel is a doctor and holds a joint appointment at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Wharton school.

Here are boys.

Richard, my oldest son, Marc, my youngest and Rick my husband.

They shared a room from the first night Marc was brought home from the hospital until Richard went to college.  Marc's crib was in the same room as Richard's bed.  At that point Richard was four-years-old.    Richard graduated last year from University of Wisconsin, Madison and is now teaching Physics with Teach For America.  He is applying to medical school for the fall of 2014.  Marc is a sophomore at the University of Michigan.

I recently asked them about sharing a room.  Here is the interview.  (In the interest of full disclosure, neither of my boys were keen on doing this interview.  I definitely twisted their arms.)

Wisdom from Across the Room: Two Brothers Share a Room in a Small Home

Question:  What was the hardest part about sharing a room?

Richard:  I heard Marc crying to be fed when he was a baby.  But I learned to put a pillow over my ears and fall asleep that way.  No big deal.

Marc:   I can't think of one thing.  There was nothing hard about sharing the same room.

Question:  Were there any good things about sharing the same room?

Marc:  Yes.  I knew everything about 'sex and girls' before my friends.  (Big laugh.)

Richard:  I don't think of it as good or bad, it just was.  I will say this, Marc and I are very close.  We disagree on a lot of things, but I'm his biggest defender.  Don't get between me and my brother.

Marc: If there is one person in my life I look up to, one person whose approval I want, it is my brother's.  A big part of that is sharing a room with him and knowing him so well.  I respect my brother more than anyone else, except maybe my mother and father.  To use a term from 'The Godfather' a movie we have watched together over and over, Richard is my 'consigliere'.  I don't want to let him down.  (Richard gives Marc some kind of complicated 'guy' hand-shake and hug.)

Question: You did not have a computer or television in your room.  Was that a problem?

Richard and Marc answer together:  No problem at all.  We had a computer and television in the basement and used that for homework and video games.  And it worked out great because we could bring our friends down there.

Question:  You both lived in dorm rooms at college.  Did sharing a room help prepare you for college dorm living?  

Richard:  Oh yeah!  My college dorm was much bigger than my room at home.  It was great and I was used to sharing my stuff with someone, so it was no big deal.  I also lived in a fraternity which also was no big deal.  Once you share a room with your brother, you got the routine down.  Stuff doesn't bother you.

Marc:  Yeah, dorm life was nice.  I had more space, it worked out great.  I'm living in a fraternity now and like Richard said, it's no big deal.  I don't feel crowded and I don't need my own private bathroom.

Question:  A couple of questions about living in a smaller house.  Most of your friends lived in bigger houses and had their own rooms.  Did that bother you?  Did it make you less popular?

Richard:  What?  That is a dumb question.  No one cared about the size of our house.

Marc:  I'm not even going to answer that.  Stupid question.

Question:  Sometimes you threw parties at home while we (your parents) were out.  Even though you cleaned up all the evidence, we always found out.  Do you think this was because the home was smaller and the neighbors could hear you and always told us?  And of course the house was small so we always noticed if something was out of place.

Richard and Marc together, interrupting each other:  What are you talking about! Where are these questions coming from?  Yeah, you always caught us and yes the neighbors always told you if anything happened.  Having a small house definitely hurt our party reputation.

That was the last question I asked my boys.  If you have questions, I can try to get those answered for you, but no promises.

Talk to you soon.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Friendly Fridays - The Triplets

This is one of the triplets!  Three darling houses near my neighborhood all lined up in a row.  That is why I call them the triplets.

The first triplet is a gray colonial.

The brick on the lower half is painted a light gray.  The siding up above is a complimentary shade of gray.  The roof, shutters, gutters and front door are all black.  Accents are in bright brass - notice the kick plate and front light to the right.  The landscaping is perfect - pink hydrangeas next to azaleas - which look gorgeous in the spring - boxwood, pink impatiens to the left and white begonias along the front walkway.

The second triplet is a red brick colonial.

This is a classic!  Red brick on the lower half and traditional white siding up above.  Shutters and roof are black.  Notice the small windows on the front door mimic the garage door windows along the top row.  The landscaping again is lovely.  A mixture of grasses with azaleas to the right - this are a gorgeous purple in the spring.  The shrub next to the front door also blooms in the spring, but I'm not sure of its identity.  It might be a star magnolia.

Here is my favorite triplet.

A stunning little salt box!  I would take this charmer any day!  The house is brick painted white, a black roof and black shutters.  Notice the wrought iron side fence at the entry way and the brick walkway.  I also love the dormer windows and the front lantern.  As with the other two triplets, the landscaping is lovely.  Azaleas and boxwood are the foundation plantings with pachysandra for ground cover.  The tree next to the garage is wonderful serviceberry.

And now for my favorite part of my favorite triplet.

Take a look at the half-moon window above the garage. Above that is a tiny chimney with a black weather vane.  I could not get close enough to capture the weather vane, but take my word for it, the whole effect is like something out of Mary Poppins - really just like a fairy tale.

Someday I will be brave enough to ask the owners to go inside for a peek!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Jewel Box® Home Book: Smaller House, Happier Life!

If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.  
- Charles-Louis de Secondat, 17th/18th Century Philosopher

Hi All!  Earlier today I launched The Jewel Box® Home Book: Smaller House, Happier Life on Kickstarter.  What does that mean?  I am using Kickstarter, a funding site, to raise money to publish the Jewel Box® Home coffee table storybook about my story from big house envy to falling in love with my smaller home.  To take a look at the project click  HEREThis link will also let you make a pledge to fund the project.  Typically people pledge small amounts ranging from $1 to $25, but please don't feel obligated.  Your good luck wishes mean so much!

By the way, Jewel Box® is already generating a little controversy.  I hear some people on the North Shore may be offended by the phrase 'Smaller House, Happier Life'. They are very happy in their bigger houses.  I really don't want to offend anyone.  Happiness can exist in any size house, I just happen to believe, that it is easier to come by in a smaller home.  Of course size is relative.  Warren Buffett's house is a Jewel Box® compared to Bill Gates house.  Also, some of my very best friends live in large houses, but they have lovely Jewel Box® touches that make their homes warm and wonderful.

I am also hearing some grumbling from tiny house fans who think Jewel Box® is too big to be considered a small house.  The lively discussions Jewel Box® is creating about house size are terrific!  I love a good debate!

Again, the link to the Jewel Box® Home Book project is HERE.  Looking forward to making this journey with you!!!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Random Scenes From The Jewel Box® Home

Some random scenes from the Jewel Box® Home as I continue to adjust to life without my father. work clothes and heels doing a little gardening just after coming home from the office  - notice the work id hanging from my neck. 

...our new cavalier puppy Walter Peyton named after the all-star Chicago Bears player.  Buddy, our Blenheim cavalier, died shortly after my father passed away.

...close up of Walter on the back patio.

...the peach trees are doing well this year.

...our patio has a new look.  I stopped trying to grow grass, thyme or any small plants between the patio squares.  (There were too many empty patches, it was never going to look like a Southern Living magazine.) I have now filled in all empty 'cracks' with pea gravel. 

I know, the chairs need cushions, but it has been low on my list.

...back entrance to patio.

....a recent arrangement in my kitchen window.  Annabel hydrangeas from my front yard and young pears branches from my trees in the side yard.  Full disclosure, the apples are from the store.  LOL.

... photos of my dad and mom on the side board in the kitchen next to the back door.  I spend most of my time at home in the kitchen and love having these happy memories nearby.

... a favorite new spot to read and relax in the sun room.  I chaise is an old chair I recovered from my bedroom and brought down next to the patio door.  On nice days I open the door and love to cat nap by the breeze.  The pillow with Walter's name is from Ballard Designs. 

...Walter likes the chaise too!

...and before I go, a big thank you to Laney who still sends me emails everyday!!!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cottage Cheer

Last year when my father was sick and I was sad, a good friend invited me to her summer home in Green Lake, Wisconsin for a little get away.  And it worked!  I laughed with good friends, drank wine and we all told stories about the good old days when we were 20 years younger. Thank you, Jo Ellen!

One of my favorite rooms in that gorgeous house was the 'Cottage Suite'.

Twin spool beds...

Your own pink teddy bear...

And the perfect nightstand out of colorful luggage to hold a lamp with a rose print shade for reading that can't put down book.

The two mornings I spent in that sweet room were glorious.

And the nights were heavenly.

I miss my father and would give anything to have him back.

But my good friends are keeping me company through my grief and can make me laugh even through my tears. Cindy, Jill, Juliette and all the SJA Soul Sisters, you are AWESOME! And Laney, what would I do without you! Someday we will meet!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Dick Ervin (left) skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho 1947.
Last year in October, my father died.  My favorite photo of him is above, as a young man, skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho with friends.  He was an excellent slalom skier and qualified as an alternate in the Olympics during the late 1940s.  He was also a salesman for materials handling equipment and a business owner in the same industry until he retired.  During World War II he was a B-17 pilot in the European Theatre.  His last year of service was spent flying 'high pointers' to Morocco for the final leg of their journey to the U.S.

After the war my father married my mother, Genevieve.  The photo below is my mother on Mount Hood in Oregon where she met my father while skiing.

Genevieve Ervin skiing on Mount Hood.
My mother and father celebrated 34 years of marriage and raised three children, my brother, me and my sister.  They had tremendous affection for each other and managed to build a strong family even though they were not near parents or extended family.  In June of 1987, my mother died.  For a long time, the loss of my mother was the most important event in my life.  She did not live to see me engaged, married or have children.  Yet her love of life and stamina to meet challenges gave me the endurance to weather stress and laugh a little along the way.  Her response to the internist when she entered the hospital the last time is a good example of her wry humor. While going through the standard list of admitting questions, the doctor asked do you have your appendix, your tonsils, and so on.  My mother replied, "I have everything except my virginity."  Everyone in the room was laughing out loud!

A couple years after my mother died, my father married Geneva and moved back to the Northwest.  My step-mother, Geneva, is a lovely woman who was married to my father for almost 20 years.  I remain close to my step-mother and her family who all cared deeply for my father.

The pain of losing my father has been unparalleled in my life.  When my mother died, I was blindsided.  But my father was there with an emotional safety net.  Now, I'm living without a net.  Until shortly before he died, I spoke to my father nearly every other day.  We talked about everything, my work, his grandchildren, politics and the weather.  We disagreed on many, many things, but my father encouraged different points of view and we both loved our colorful discussions. 

For me and my family, the most tangible gift from my father is the financial support he gave us over the last four years during the economic recession.  He paid our mortgage for several months and co-signed a loan so my oldest son could finish college.  I thanked my father for his generosity many times, but I would also like you all to know that my father saved this family.

I have been blessed with many things, but perhaps the greatest of these is the love and generosity of my father. 


Monday, September 24, 2012

Empty Nester!

I'm now an empty nester!  It's bitter sweet.  I'm so happy to see them move forward with their lives.  But I miss them too.  It didn't really hit me until they both moved out in September.  My oldest left for his first job with Teach for America and my youngest moved into his college dorm. 

My two sons and hubby at high school graduation.

My older son just before he left for his first job out of state with Teach For America.

Mt. McKinley in Denali, Alaska.  From left to right, my nephew, a family friend, my youngest son and my brother.
So what am I doing now that both boys have left the nest?  One of the first things I did was cry, a lot!  Crying jags still hit me, especially when I'm cleaning out their bedroom and virtually everything reminds me of them.

But now I have time to do chores at a more leisurely pace. Here I am giving Buddy a bath in the kitchen sink. And believe me, he was sorely in need of a good washing.

Washing Buddy in the kitchen sink.
And I have always enjoyed the feel of freshly ironed kitchen towels and linens. Now I have time to do it. I also find it strangely soothing! I like to do my ironing in the kitchen on the counter. I use a heavy table pad covered by a clean sheet. Then I dial my iron to the highest setting, use a spritz of spray starch and press away. My favorite things to iron are pillow sets and hand towels. So easy to do and the end result is so nice!
Ironing in the kitchen.

Towels that have been ironed and folded ready to be put in the closet.

See you soon!