what’s your “what if” upgrade?

I began this blog over six years ago. In that time I’ve posted about wants and dreams and pie in the sky ifs. I’ve also covered disappointments and the danger of having unrealistic expectations. I’ve discovered one of the keys to happiness in the element of surprise, and I’ve learned that what I crave isn’t always what I really want. All along the way, I’ve been called materialistic, shallow, self-centered, and I’ve owned up to a lot of it. But one thing I’ve never apologized for is dreaming. Big. Fantasizing a fanciful life keeps me moving forward. Every once in a while, though, there’s some spring cleaning to be done, where I step back and reassess my assembly of ambitions, giving them an occasional upgrade. It’s time to trade up.

dream kitchen
Images from Better Homes and Gardens: Kitchen Bath Ideas

In grammar school, I drew idyllic landscapes on construction paper. Homes with garden beds and shutters on windows. Sometimes they included a white picket fence, usually a lone tire swing hanging from a bear of a tree, with a red front door, like Elizabeth Arden. I loved imagining the home I’d one day occupy. I still do. Only now, because it’s happened to me—on this blog, wishing for homes with dimmer light switches and steam showers, a husband, a baby, to make it as a writer—I believe in the power of putting it out there, and of upgrading. Of dreaming bigger, no detail too small. My most recent wish list needs a once over. No, not needs, wants an overhaul. Because dammit, it’s fun to dream, to escape, to imagine tangible ifs. It’s why people buy lottery tickets, just for a chance to play the what if game. What’s your what if, today? (I’m still working on mine)



  1. My husband and I are constantly negotiating what we want in our dream house. I want a house that has a library with rich brown leather club chairs, a huge mahogany desk, built-in book shelves in every wall, and a liquor cabinet stocked with decanters of whiskey, bourbon, rum, port and vodka. I already have the books, decanters and booze, so now I just need the house to put them in. Since my husband’s list includes a cigar room and a wine cellar, we may be retired by the time we’re able to afford the house. It doesn’t hurt to dream, though.

  2. What a blessing to come from a place of plenty to dream for more. I, too, come from that rare place.

    I wish for the babies to be successful in college and in life. I want them to make every sane, safe choice, but still live life to the fullest. I want them to live long and prosper.

    I want my parents to age gracefully, in good health, live long and happily, and when the time comes, drop dead with no fuss and no muss.

    Instead of dreaming bigger as I have done in the past, now I’m dreaming of smaller. A smaller space to live in peace and plenty by myself. Smaller obligations to keep me tied to that space.

    More time to go back to school, to learn to do my job better that I can possibly imagine, to save lives of children who are affected with genetic heart conditions, to maintain the passion, commitment and joy I find in my work. To live more lightly, not grounded in ‘stuff’. To be able to pick up on a whim and fly away when needed or wanted.

    A little cottage on the ocean. Laundry always done and put away. An extensive wine collection. A personal relationship with my favorite vineyard. An amazing speaker system to infuse my home with beautiful music. Flowers year round. No pain. More brie. Wisdom. Tranquility.

    It’s closer than it’s ever been – this dream…

    1. Nice! There is a book called ‘The Not So Big Life’ and it RULES! Very much like what you are saying. Meaning.. you’d like it:)

      I strongly recommend to all of you it’s a nice read:)

      Good post SK- putting it out there is the first step to making those dreams heard. Sounds simple but why do most of us need reminding of this?

    2. Now see, your last paragraph is where my dreams are today. You could have plucked that out of my head. So very different from what I wanted when I was younger. Once my glitzy youthful dream was fulfilled, I could feel myself evolving toward something less grand, but more tranquil. I’m still quite materialistic and suspect that I’ll always be attracted to luxury, but it’s not as high on the priority scale as before. Health and peace of mind for myself and loved ones is probably what dominates my thoughts the most these days.

  3. I love this post.

    What is life for if not to dream big? To open our arms and mouths wide and touch and taste everything we can? I don’t like thinking of there being winners and losers in life but I still often say, “What’s the point of aiming for second place?”

  4. OK, help me dream then! I’m about to renovate an apartment I’ve just bought and will need to install a new kitchen and bathroom and have NO IDEA what to do (apart from wanting one of those drinks fridges where you can regulate the temperature of each shelf + a steam showers with a seat) – if you had carte blanche and a reasonable budget, what would you do??!!

  5. You don’t want marble countertops. They’re nowhere near as durable as granite. Perhaps a marble slab for rolling out piecrust. (I store my 14″ slab in the laundry room & haul it out when I’m baking.)

  6. I stopped dreaming quite some time ago. It grew tiring living in constant disappointment with my reality slapping me in the face each time I ventured a hope, dreaming of a job I didn’t dislike so intensely, an apartment that had enough space to that I didn’t have to purge things that have been kept for a lifetime. Too late to get the education and / or experience to work at something worthy and fits more to who I am. Having to be practical is safe and there is a comfort in that sense of safe. But I admire you and others like you who don’t allow practical to prevent you from at least trying to venture a dream you have. Keep doing it. Otherwise you wither up and end up empty handed and empty hearted. And for so many things it IS too late; that is a lie people are told. Just keep living your dreams and watch how more come true for you.

  7. Thanks for this. It validates my need to be selfish, to see things, to want more, to be all I can be, because I can and nobody can stop me.

  8. I sooo get this way of thinking…dreaming. I,too, spent most of my childhood dreaming of the perfect home. As an adult, I was living in my house for more than 3 years before I realized I was living in the exact house I dreamed of as a kid. Seriously…the exact house, including the upstairs porch that ran the length of the house, overlooking the big backyard tree. My kitchen had the same white and lemon color theme. The style and feel of the house…it was THE house!!I was stunned when it hit me. For the next few years, I appreciated my home more than than I had the years before. Then one day, I realized that I wanted something totally different :-)

  9. I’m going on maternity leave in August and the wish list I have regarding how to spend that time (other than with the new baby) has people scoffing at me. But I think that taking the year, not just to adjust to new motherhood, but to make my new house a home, build my photography business and make time to cook gourmet meals (and OK, workout) isn’t unrealistic. I refuse to believe that I can’t make my time work for me. Thank you for the inspiration, Stephanie.

  10. I wish for a house that is completely accessible for my children with disabilities. I hope and dream that they will always be able to live in this family home and not know the horror of institutionalization.

  11. My favorite thing to do, EVER is to fake online shop. I go to an online store, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Anthropologie, whatever, and I just go through every category and every item and, if I want it, I put it in my cart. Egg poachers, 8 different sets of tablecloths and cloth napkins, a month’s worth of dresses, it all goes in. And then I print out my shopping cart, and look at everything I want, and it’s ALMOST like I’ve gotten everything. Then it’s fun to go to one of the stores, get something off that list, check it off, as if I was actually going to go about buying all $4500 worth of candle holders. But many a slow work day has been spent daydreaming.

    I love the concept of a single accent color (I currently have an all-white apartment, with no accent color, because it’s dawning on me how terribly stressful figuring out what my accent color should be).

  12. I’m from the South (Charleston, SC) currently landlocked in Denver, CO. I love my Denver bungalow, but would trade it in a second for a colorful Charleston row house with a garden behind a wrought-iron fence and a sound view.

  13. Ooo… fun, here’s my “what if”:

    A gracious and airy farmhouse in the city surrounded by old trees, where my husband, children, and dogs tumble about. Friends drop in frequently and sit on the porch to catch up. A room of wall to ceiling books in bookshelves. A beautiful, state of the art kitchen with a sofa in it, through the door you can see the pizza oven in the backyard. My husband and I have continue to have careers that complement us and challenge us.

  14. Mmm warm peach cobbler and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream? I only enjoy such luxuries when I'm home!

  15. This post made me realize I do not dream enough these days! One of my dreams is to live in a beach house with a view of the ocean. Right now we live in a small house with a view of a lake. That will have to do for now! And our trips up to Newport to stay at Castle Hill will have to satisfy my hunger for the ocean. . .

  16. When we build our dream home my kitchen will be the second largest room in the house.If it takes the rest of my life to have it just the way I want it that is how it will be. Sub Zero frig, atleast a 6 burner range, I don’t want dishwasher drawers after reading the reviews online….nice idea but most of them have leakage problems instead I’d like a dishwasher with an adjustable upper rack, a warming drawer that can double as a proofer, and hardwood floors.I also want a summer kitchen for canning and preserving that will have a wood burning stove.

  17. So… why don’t you paint your kitchen cabinets white (if they’re not already) and get rid of non-red accent pieces? You can chip away at your wishes piece by piece. I’ve realized at 45 that I’m probably earning the most I will ever earn, and I still don’t have all the material things I could ever long for. But what I do have is really just fine.

  18. There is nothing wrong with dreaming. Dreaming big (even if its for material things) can be good. It can motivate us to keep moving forward & work hard towards the things we want in life. What I’ve learned is this: when you vocalize your dreams & put them out into ‘the universe’ they not only become more tangible, you also become accountable to them, meaning they become things you can actually attain. Also, I’ve learned that by putting this stuff out there the universe has a funny way on conspiring to help you achieve these things.

    My dream: a perfect little house for me with palm trees in the front yard & a pool in the back.

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