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It's just another New Year's Eve

If I were a betting a woman, I would bet that I have used the above post title before. I will try to remember to check before I post this.

Here it is, another New Year's Eve. Unlike Barry Manilow, I don't feel the need to make it the best. This night really is just another night for me. My guess is that I have stayed up past midnight only once in the past decade (old-cough-old). Tonight will probably be no exception.

I will be going out to dinner with my mom and the kid. We waited until yesterday to make a reservation, so we will be dining at 4:30 (speaking of old). My guess is if we had tried this in the Burgh, we would have been out of luck (we are at Mom's in Indiana County). But the worrier in me likes to be off the roads pretty early anyway.

Mom has been in PA since Sunday night, just before midnight. For some reason almost an hour elapsed from the time her plane landed (around 11:50 p.m., not exactly a prime flying time) until her suitcase made it on the luggage spin…

Keep Christmas with you (or at least some cookies)

I hope all of you had a lovely Christmas. If yours was anything like mine, you may still be in some sort of a food coma. I started eating a lot of cookies Christmas Eve and since then have stopped eating (not just cookies) only when I was at church, in the car, or sleeping. A lot of my pants are too big anyway...

Anyway, now that the secular season is winding down, I wanted to share some observations:

Even though I have been listening to Christmas songs since the 19th of November (Light-Up Night is the "official" start of the season in the Burgh), I am not ready for the radio stations to stop playing the jolly tunes. This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Christmas songs on two stations, but I am guessing that is for us Church folk, who are still in the Christmas season.  I like to think that I have finally accepted that no matter how many times I ask my MIL not to buy Jordan a lot of gifts and/or spend a lot of money on her for Christmas (and birthday, for that mat…

Wishing you peace, joy, and love

The above post title is the sentiment/closing on our 2010 Christmas card (below, not that you can really read it). Nevertheless, with those things in life, life is good.

Happy Birthday, Jesus. Emmanuel. Wonderful. Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas!

My shining star

I have been a posting fool the past few days. But I wanted to get Jordan's little solo on the blog before I forgot/while I was on the computer.

My baby sang one line, three times, for "Mary Had a Baby" during the school Christmas concert. Of course, I am biased when I say she is good. But I think I am right. And just watch her bob her knees to the music. You would never have known that she was nervous. And so was I, but only because she was. So proud of my little angel.


Enjoy these last few days before Christmas. Try not to get too stressed out. Remember the reason for the season, whatever the reason for you may be.

Oh, Christmas tree

I realized I never posted my blow-by-blow account of our getting our Christmas tree, which was such a fun experience that I had to share. If you have never gone to a tree farm to pick out and cut down your own tree, I recommend you do it at least once or else go with someone who is doing it (this is our second year). And in case you think it is bad for the environment (what, killing an innocent tree and all), know that these trees are grown specifically to be cut down for Christmas, and many trees are planted each year to take their places. Plus, you are supporting a local tree farm!

So here goes our little story. And by little, of course, I mean long-winded.

We went to Flemings in New Alec, which I would guess is about 45 minutes east of downtown (yes, Pittsburghers really do measure distances in time, rather than miles). They also have a bigger location in Indiana, the Christmas tree capital of the world (or so Indiana likes to say).

First, we walk through the field (forest?) and pi…

I like to think it is because I was right!

Back in September, I ranted about having to pay a $25 copay for my annual gynecologist visit because apparently that is considered a special office visit (the copay for a regular office visit is $15).

Imagine my surprise and delight when just a few days ago, I received a $10 check from the practice for "overpayment" for that September visit.

I thought about calling the 800 number to find out why I was getting this $10. But I am pretty sure it is because I was right.

Now nurse friends especially, please resist the urge to tell me otherwise. I just want to have this small victory.

Can you ever go back?

If you have been reading this blog regularly, then you know my mom was hospitalized about two months ago, and once she got out, she headed to Texas to stay with my little brother and his family. Up until that time, Jordan and I spent a night or two at my mom's about every other week. Today, we drove to Indiana County, where she lives (lived) for the first time since.

It felt weird to drive on those roads again after that hiatus. I was at once sad thinking about how long it had been and comforted by the familiarity. But I was not going to see my mom; rather, we were headed to spend a few hours with some cousins followed by dinner at an aunt and uncle's (they all live in the same town Mom did/does).

Between destinations, I decided we might as well stop by Mom's house to "check on things," something that probably was not necessary since my aunt had just been there a day or two before.

As we neared Mom's house, I noticed the car of a neighbor whom Jordan and I…

Do you ever just want to run away...

Yesterday's post was a rant about a fairly pointless two-hour delay. For the record, if it is snowing in the morning or if it has snowed throughout the night, I am not against a delay; the road crews have a lot of ground to cover. It is unfortunate for those who still need to get to work and are left scrambling to find child care or have to go in late. But I am all about safety. It is the temps that are clearly going nowhere any time soon that do not warrant a delay, again, in my opinion. It will be cold all day today. Having another delay today, once again, seemed pointless, but I am over it.

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I had a rough weekend, and I have debated whether I should write about it. As my mom and one of my brothers are so fond of saying (though I will be paraphrasing), "Once you put it down in writing (on paper or in an email), it will always be there. You can't take it back." For that reason, when things weigh heavily on my mind, I don't always share them in this blog. At…

And so it begins

As part of my embracing the holiday/Christmas season, I am trying to be chipper about the snow. Seeing as how we most likely will be seeing a lot of that white stuff over the next three months and all.

Well, maybe chipper is pushing it a bit. I guess I am going more for not loathing it just yet.

But, already, we have had our first delay of the school year. A delay that was rather pointless, in my opinion.

Sure it is cold today. It was maybe 18 degrees with a windchill at or just below 0 degrees when I woke up around 6 a.m., turned on the TV, and discovered we were on a two-hour delay (FYI, this "discovery" took some time; our school's automatic call system did not go through this morning, so I found out about the delay after staring at the bottom of the TV screen until we got to the saints). The low temp was no surprise; the weather people had been calling for it for days. The same weather people did not, however, tells us that by mid morning, the mercury was going to s…

Getting caught up in the wrong things

This holiday season (for the record, I am referring to it as the holiday season because Christmas does not start until December 25 and it seems a little too narrow to refer to it as Advent), I am doing just what I said I would not.

Well, I am doing what I said I would a few weeks ago, which is embracing the season. I listen to Christmas music every day in the car (mixed in with some sports radio, of course). I am trying my best to be extra pleasant to people while waiting in long lines. More often than usual, I let cars in traffic get in front of me. I have worn my various Santa hats (PSU, Steelers, red) several times , including yesterday during lunch duty. I bought a gift for the angel tree at church and have given a donation to the food bank. And I finished my Christmas cards before Thanksgiving and painstakingly waited to send them out until November 29 (just could not wait until December 1).

The thing that I did not want to do was get caught up in the presents, which is exactly w…

Here's to a great end of the decade!

In less than an hour, I will be 39. I have no bad feelings about this. No feelings of impending doom because I will be 40 next year (God willin' and the creek don't rise, as dad always said). No feelings of sadness because I have not yet accomplished a lot of great or impressive things.

I just want to be glad that I have made it this far. Proud because I am in pretty darn good shape, thanks to running, swimming, and just keeping active in general. Thankful that I have a roof over my head, food in the house, a healthy family, and a still-working husband. Grateful that I get called in to substitute (even if it is not as often as I would like, considering the day I had on Wednesday, I should probably be glad). Lucky and blessed that I have been able to spend the amount of time I have been with my kid over the past 1.5-plus years. Fortunate that I live in the US, where we have freedom of speech and religion and the right to vote. And happy that I am able to write this blog (and f…

Now that we got THAT out of the way...

Yesterday, the Burgh woke up to a bit of snow. Just a trace amount where I live, but enough to dust the roads and create some slick spots (it was worse in other areas). Pretty much every year without fail, the first time it snows, I get a teeny bit freaked out. I worry about sliding my car into another or getting stuck trying to make it up the hill out of our area. And our steep, downhill driveway is no picnic either.

Back when my kid went to an at-home, city neighborhood daycare just off a hilly street, I was pretty much a nervous wreck anytime it snowed. With cars parked along both sides, you had just one lane to drive up and down the street, often making it impossible to turn around. So I was often forced to head down the very steep perpendicular road near her caregiver's house. Said narrow street often had cars parked along the side. Gives me the willies just remembering the many times I had the car in the lowest possible gear, holding my breath and clutching the steering whee…

Some head-scratchers

I have a bunch of thoughts swimming around my head. But since they center around things that are currently perplexing and/or bothering me, I am forgoing a "random ramblings" post title. Here goes nothing.

I love Joe Paterno. But I am not sure if he should keep on coaching. On the one hand, he has done so much for the school, and he really is a great, funny (at least he was when I met him about eight years ago) guy. But on the other hand, considering he is almost 84 and seems to have lost a bit of his step, shouldn't he hang it up?Is there an intelligent reason that about 13 million people are still paying off last year's Christmas purchases? I saw this stat on the local news and was appalled. Other than someone's buying a car or perhaps a computer, IMHO there are no other purchases that should not have been paid off within a few months (for the record, if I get to the point where I have to carry a credit card balance, it would not be for gifts, but I am trying to …

Many things to be thankful for (or for which to be thankful)

I am guessing that in years past, I have listed things for which I am thankful. Might as well continue down the path. So here goes my list. I hope every single one of you can find something, even many things, for which to be thankful.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving, Toforkey, and Slapsgiving!
Family (especially Jordan and Brian), friends, and Sadie tooRoof over my head and food in the fridge and cupboardsHealthFootball and hockey, particularly winning seasons for the Steelers, PSU, and Pitt football teams (as well as my fantasy football team) and the PensRunning and my improved timesPittsburghFreedom of speech and religion and the right to voteTenacityThat Jordan likes schoolThe most wonderful time of the yearThat I actually have my Christmas cards ready to go (just waiting to mail them so people don't receive them in November)Funny thingsFood (I kind of already said this, but I just love food, particularly on this most special food day of the year)Hope It is always good to have …

Looking fear in the face while embracing the season

If you live around the Burgh, you have probably heard by now that some idiot apparently shot himself on Light-Up Night (as an aside, apparently there is no hyphen in the official Light-Up Night moniker, but I am choosing to put one in anyway). I had wanted to take Jordan to that event, but Brian thought it was too dangerous. I scoffed at that, but relented to his wishes, as much for the all the traffic as for anything else. It turns out he was kind of right.

However, since Light-Up Night was actually a two-day event this year, I decided that we would go to the second day, during the afternoon. I was not about to let a little shooting and some fights stop me from heading downtown. Any time I read about what I consider an isolated incident at a place I would normally go to (or at least would considering going to), I make it a point to get right back on the horse or to try it out if I had never been there before. When there was a shooting at Boyce Park this summer, hours after we had …

Embracing the season

This morning on my way to school, as I hit my preset for Wish 99.7, I was greeted by B.E. Taylor singing "Mary's Boy Child." For a second, I thought I was mistaken, but then I remembered what today is, Light-Up Night.

As all Pittsburghers know, Light-Up Night, which is actually going to be a two-day event this year, kicks off the holiday season. Now I don't get all worked up about what people call this time of year (though I am glad the city has abandoned the stupid "Sparkle Season" moniker). I am a Christian so I celebrate the Christ part of Christmas, which to me also includes the giving tree at church. But I love the secular aspects of it as well. I am all about the lights, the carols, the decorations, Santa, the reindeer and elves, the Christmas specials, the food, the goofy sweaters, my silly jingle bell necklace and Santa hat. I cry a couple of happy tears as soon as Westinghouse puts up its tree light decoration along the Parkway East. And the Eat …

Tell me lies (or "Die" is in diet)

If you have read this blog for awhile, you know I try to keep my friends and relatives out of it. At the very least, I don't get into super specific things because I figure these people may not want their stories "out there." You probably have also noticed I very rarely blog about my husband. About the only post that was (mostly) about him centered on a birthday gift I got him which he did not appreciate so much. I have long gotten over that, and believe me, we have much more petty (and important) things to discuss. But this week I went where I had never gone before, and I am ruing the day.

A couple of nights ago, during a Pens game, I mentioned to Brian that I thought his stomach looked bigger and I was worried about his weight. I realize saying something like to another person will go poorly probably 99 percent of the time. But I am concerned, I have noticed this for quite some time, and I want my husband to be around for awhile.

Once Bri got over his anger at my sayin…

And now I feel even worse for Skippy

Surprisingly (at least to me), the Steelers cut Jeff Reed today. Sure, his percentages were down this year. Yes, he missed a chip shot as well as a handful of kicks from 40 to 49 yards. And he did have a penchant for drinking and getting himself into trouble as well as running his mouth off. But that still did not seem to be enough (for me, anyway) to cut Skippy halfway through the season for some guy many of us in these part have never even heard of, former Washington Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham. I'd like to think Skippy would have picked his game up. After all, the Steelers signed a couple of former Steelers this year, even though they are certainly no younger and seemingly not better than they were when they were last here.

Clearly, I will never be a coach or owner of a professional sports team. I just would not be able to do figure out and then act upon things of that nature (those last three words were a Tomlinism, in case you did not know that).

Sure, some paper towel dis…

I feel kind of bad for Jeff Reed

When Skippy missed that short field goal last night, I said, just as I did last week when he missed another short(ish) one, "The Steelers must have known what they were doing when they did not sign him to a long-term contract."

Not that it would have mattered. The Steelers were totally schooled last night. I did not care so much when they lost to New Orleans. After all, the Saints were the defending Super Bowl champs, who perhaps did not take the Browns (aka the Clowns) as seriously as they probably should have. Plus, the Saints are in the NFC, so no biggie. But for the love to Pete, the Pats, who are, unfortunately, in the AFC, sure seem to have the Steelers' number.

As much as I do not like Big Ben (as a person), I thought he played pretty well last weekend (and, yes, I realize, that was against the Bungles). Sure some throws were low or high (I forget), and he probably had an ill-advised pick (who can remember), but he just looked good overall, particularly the way h…

Money and the people who spend it

For the fun of it, I looked at the labels I have used for various posts. Money was number 2, well ahead of most others, other than football, which was a close second. {Kids was the runaway label winner, more than double that of money. I am speculating, however, that the kids posts are as much if not more about kids in general, thanks to my teaching, as they are about my kid.}

Money. I have so much to say about the subject, but as with many things in my life, it confounds me.

I read mostly useless financial advice from various sources. I can't imagine too many people don't realize that they could save money by not going to Starbucks every day or by forgoing the water in plastic bottles. And, duh, who does not know that it is more expensive to go out to eat or go see a movie versus cooking at home or renting a movie?!

Yes, I am aware that I should be contributing money to a 401k, something I did as soon as I was able to at my first job and continued to up until my last month at …

At least I didn't have to lie!

My kid seems to be a little accident prone. A couple of years ago, Jordan fell backwards into a register, thus necessitating a trip to Children's Hospital and subsequent rants about health care. Less than two months ago, she had the mystery injury at recess. Last night, while swimming (thanks to my mother-in-law we have a six-month pool membership at a nearby hotel), Jordan said to me, "Mommy, I think I chipped my tooth." This immediately caused flashbacks to when I was about 10 and chipped my front tooth while going backwards down a water slide (yes, that was a stupid thing to do, but technically I chipped my tooth as I was turning the right way, once I realized just how dumb I was being, so I was probably more stupid doing the right thing). Anyway, I walked over to Jordan, who was clutching her mouth and crying a bit by now. I asked her to open her mouth, upon which I discovered she no longer had her top front teeth. Eek!

For a couple of seconds, I panicked, but then r…

How does that giant thing fly?!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I traveled to TX for a few days because of my mother. As I also have mentioned in at least one other post, I do not like to travel in general. I am a homebody. Boring. Don't like change or to get out of my routine. As significant is that I hate to fly. My little brother does that for a living, and every time I have to get on a plane, it is not good.

On the way to the airport, I was in tears. Not just a few runaway droplets, mind you, but full-on sobs punctuated by halted breaths.This was partly due to the exhaustion and stress of the previous two weeks and partly due to car trouble (I see a future post there). But more than those things, it was the thought of leaving my kid for more than three days, particularly when I had to get on a plane. Rationally, I know that flying is pretty safe, even post-9/11 (and maybe more so). But there is just something about a large object becoming airborne, literally leaving the ground. How is that p…

A huge valley

Although I am so very glad I won't have to suffer through dozens of political ads for at least a little while, it looks as if I will be listening to, watching, and reading the strong opinions of friends, relatives, bloggers, the media, etc., for the foreseeable future.

So many people think their way is the only way. But is it possible there is not just one right way? I can see the beauty of gray, so why can't others? Why must so many refer to those on the opposite side as crazy, extreme, out of touch, socialist, racist, greedy, idiots, morally bankrupt, gun-toting, stupid, lazy, uncaring, religiously fanatical, and smelly? I am only partly kidding about that last adjective, but I do find it sad that conservative and liberal have become "bad" words for many people.

I am neither all-knowing nor able to predict the future, so I have no idea how this will turn out. I do find it a little sad that a lot of young people who were so jazzed about the 2008 election did not bo…

No answers, only questions (Part 1)

Late this afternoon, I arrived home from a three-day trip to Texas. This trip was not really for pleasure; unfortunately, my mother was recently hospitalized for a handful of things. Before she got out, my brothers decided that she would be better off, at least in the short-term future, living in Texas, where she could stay with my little brother and his family and have access to better medical care than what she was receiving in the small local hospital in her area. I went to Texas to spend some time with her and help her and my brother and his family in the best way I could.

I am kind of numb about the whole ordeal. For over a week, I spent an insane number of hours on the phone talking to doctors, nurses, and many relatives and family members. I went back and forth to the hospital, a two-and-half-hour round trip, a few times. A car issue, still not resolved, further complicated matters.

Nine years ago this weekend, I was riding in a truck with a friend en route to visit my brother…

Confessions from a helicopter parent

As you may already know, I am pretty much a helicopter parent. There are a number of reasons for this, including that I had overprotective parents and that I am the parent of only one child. I am really trying to be less insane about my hovering, and reading the Free-Range Kids blog has helped. However, I have to comment, in true helicopter parenting style, on one of their/its recent blog posts.

The abridged version of this post is that a free-range mom (FRM) wanted her 9 year old kid to walk home alone from his friend's house two blocks away, something the kid wanted to do as well. The helicopter mom (HM), however, refused to let said boy do so, and had a woman who was visiting her home (a woman FRM knew) drive FRM's kid home. FRM wants to know what to do/say next time as HM disregarded her wishes.

Here are my thoughts, some of which I included in a comment on the FRK's site:

We are free to raise our kids as we wish. The FRM can tell HM that she wants her kid to walk home…

I finally won something!

I have complained a few times about how I used to be lucky but then I pretty much stopped winning anything. I was particularly dismayed that I had never won a contest with Pittsburgh Mom, despite the fact that I had entered probably 50 giveaways and some of them had only 30 entries, for the love of Pete. Well, that changed just over a week ago when I became the winner of a Nicole Begley mini photo session, courtesy of Pittsburgh Mom.

This past Saturday, Jordan, Brian, and I had a bunch of pictures taken at a nice park in the Cranberry area. Of course, Brian and I argued about what to wear; he pretty much has no dress clothes and I don't own a single pair of jeans that fits me decently, hence our dilemma. Ultimately, we decided to wear gray, and we were overdressed (really, who wears dress pants or a dress at a park on a cold fall day?), but, hey, we got free pics!

You can see a few of the photos on her blog. I just love the last one of Jordan. The ones of me? Not so much, thanks t…

Trying not to be cynical

Ah, election season. Who does not love watching snippets of lies, exaggerations, empty promises, and unflattering photos (good thing I avoid getting my picture taken as often as possible)?

I am a regular voter. I try to vote even in the primaries, even when there is not much at stake. After all, about 90 years ago, women could not vote in the US. As I have stated in previous posts, I have taken Jordan with me a number of times, to hopefully instill the importance of this right. But I can see why some people never bother. It seems as if so many candidates promise a bunch of crap and don't bother (or are unable) to fulfill half of it.

I remember when Tom Ridge first ran for governor of PA. One of his campaign promises was that he would not vote himself a pay raise. That was all I needed to hear; he got my vote. But, alas, he broke that promise at some point during one of this terms. And I have never forgotten that, as small of a thing as it was.

Honestly, I don't remember if I…

Why can't we all just get along?

If I am not reading about another shooting right here in the Burgh, I am inundated with tragic headlines about teenage suicide. Or, at the very least, I see road rage on an almost-daily basis as well as kids being mean in the Catholic school where I regularly substitute.

Sigh.

Have we become this appalling of a society? This self-centered, unfeeling, uncaring, and just plain mean? And worse, of course. I am afraid the answer is yes. But it does not have to be this way.

Two of my favorite classes in college were psychology and sociology. I am very interested in human behavior and the whole nature-versus-nurture debate (full disclosure: I have not read much about this theory since college 17 years ago). I tend to lean on the side of nurture; if you grow up surrounded by hate, you will probably continue down that same path.

I don't remember kids being so mean to each other (and disrespectful to authority) when I was a kid. Sure, some would make fun of others (I was much more often o…

Is change really possible?

It is not often I pose a question in a blog post (well, at least not in a post title), but today I am doing exactly that.

Can any one of us really, truly change in a fundamental way, or are we pretty much destined to be who we are (meant to be)?

I know a recovering drug addict. Said person is clean again, as far as I know, for at least the second time (not counting "forced" bits of sobriety). Do I think this person will stay that way until the sun sets, so to speak? I want to believe that this time is really it, but history and statistics tell me that the odds are not good. I also know people with drinking problems who I think even if they got help will struggle with alcohol for the rest of their lives. But I am also pretty sure in both cases, no one is ever really "cured"; every day is a challenge.

I know people with bad tempers. Some have damaged physical things. Even worse, a few have hurt others physically and mentally. I realize that some people want to chang…

Another health care rant

As I have ranted and rambled about before, Brian has rather crappy insurance, which I unfortunately had to get on at the beginning of the year because we could not afford paying the monthly Cobra payment. But, as I learned in econ or some other class, "opportunity costs" or something like that. So to save several hundred dollars a month for the right (er, privilege) to have insurance, we have to hope we don't need much of it. If one of us gets sick, well, then, it may have made more sense to pay more money monthly.

When I went to my annual day of torture on Friday (i.e., the gynecologist), I was surprised that my copay was $25. On my insurance card, there is a line for Office Visit Copayment, for $15, and there is another line for Specialist Office Visit Copayment, for $25. There is nothing special about going to the gynecologist. It is something that I am pretty sure women should do yearly once they become "grownups" or younger, if they start doing the horizon…

I don't do sick

I just finished a bagel. That would not normally be noteworthy except that I last put a bite of food in my mouth about 23 hours ago. My going without eating for more than a few hours is rare. Almost 24 hours without food is downright apocalyptic.

Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling a little ill and a lot tired. I don't sleep well if I am not in my own bed. And sharing a room with Jordan, my little brother, his wife, and their three kids, aged two months to four years, only exacerbated the problem. After a couple of cups of joe, I managed to get through the baptism of my newest nephew, probably helped by his entertaining crying through the entire ceremony as well as his two brothers punching each other during part of it. I forced myself to eat at the brunch after because I love food, particularly breakfast, but it was not easy. I could not even manage a bloody Mary, my favorite brunch drink. :-(

The Steelers (I heart Charlie Batch!) game kept my exhaustion and upset stomach in che…

People are stupid

I have been pretty nice over the past year and a half. Well, generally speaking, I have always been a nice person; not too many people would describe me as mean, moody, or bitchy. But as much as I try to be kind (or at least not hurtful or rude), today I just have to say that some people are stupid, as mean as that sounds.

Yesterday, some idiot on a bike biked right in front of me. Why was that stupid? Well, I was the second car in line waiting for the green light. Once it turned green, the first car went. Then I started to go. Except I had to stop because this moron bicyclist crossed right in front of me when his light had been red for at least 10 or 15 seconds. And he was biking on the sidewalk. At least he was wearing a helmet...


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 Last week I received a letter from a law firm that represents Duquesne Light (you may recall, we had our second power surge in just over eight months, and many of us think DL is responsible). The letter asked that we complete an inventory sheet and …