Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A tale of two Christmases

As of 12 p.m. yesterday, I am off until 1/5, without having to take any vacation days. Ah, the perks of working for a university. :-)

This year, our actual Christmas Eve/Day celebration(s) will be about the least eventful I can recall. The hub's mom and grandma were to come down just this afternoon, and then we would head to 5 p.m. mass, for which J and the children's choir would be singing. But unfortunately the MIL came down with the flu or something, so here we are on Christmas Eve, with nothing much to do. My mom has been in TX visiting with my little brother and his family for almost four weeks now. She should be back this weekend, so we will celebrate, just after the fact. But it is just weird for me not to be around my family (besides my immediate family) during these few days.

I am pretty sure the kid still believes in Santa, so there is that, but I am also pretty sure I will tell her what is what afterwards (or maybe tonight, if she brings up putting out milk and cookies, and I, the terrible liar that I am, won't be able to go along with it). Until then I will enjoy following Santa on NORAD's app/site.

I finally mailed my Christmas cards this morning, which was an accomplishment for me. I was not in the mood to create (i.e., select pictures), write, or send any out this year. Sadie's death affected me so much more than I thought. And I still miss her terribly. Bailey, the new dog, is driving me crazy. I am glad we have her, as it is helping at this time of year, but the amount of things that have been destroyed in our house (not to mention our constantly bitten hands) tempers the excitement. 

But back to the cards. Every year, it seems that fewer and fewer people send cards (at least to us), but knowing that this is the only connection I have to some people, I could not give it up. I tried to put a card together online last weekend, but at that last minute, did not submit my order. I bought some cards on Sunday night, but did not feel like writing anything. Then yesterday, since I was home by early afternoon, I decided to, once again, try to put something together via Walgreen's website, as they can print your cards for store pick up in an hour. I sent our fewer this year myself, mostly just to those who sent us ones, plus another half dozen. But in the end, I am glad I did so.

Here it is, including Jordan and both dogs: Sadie, lower left-hand corner, because she was with us for over 11 months of 2014; and Bailey, upper right-hand corner, because she is our dog now.


I want to end this with a few pictures of one of my favorite places, Phipps.Wishing all of you out there a merry Christmas. May your days be merry and bright.










Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trying to keep the fading magic from fading

J is in sixth grade. She is of an age when most kids do not believe in Santa. In fact, I would guess in her class pretty much no one does; most kids gave that up in fourth grade, some as late as fifth grade. But J? Well, on my birthday last week, after she found out there was no elf that flew away each night and came back every morning (because she straight-out asked me, and I will not lie), I figured she might have stopped believing in the fat guy in the red suit. But she is my daughter, so I knew there was an even better chance that she figured that just because one thing was not true, that did not necessarily mean the other mythical creatures were not real. [When, sometime between fourth and fifth grade, I found out there was no Santa, I refused to ask my parents about the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. Even though I knew they probably were not real either, I decided to hold onto hope and get one more holiday out of it.]

Yesterday, I took J to the Santa breakfast at our church because good friends of ours were going. J loves their toddler and preschooler, and those two pretty much worship her, so J was only too happy to go. She went up with the kids as they sat on Santa's lap, and she stood next to Santa while the two told Santa what they wanted. Later, I told J that I thought Santa was kind of pushy when our friends' little girl said she wanted an Elsa doll, and Santa kept asking her what else she wanted. Then J said to me, "It's not like he's the real Santa"

So that comment leads me to believe that she still is holding out a little glimmer of hope that just because an elf does not go back and forth to the North Pole nightly that does not mean that Santa can't pull off his feat of visiting the houses of millions in one night. I thought about coming clean, and I always said I would never lie to J about it. But unless she directly asks me, I think I will keep quiet. Worth noting is that last year (or maybe it was the year before) she asked if there was a Santa. I replied in my best teacher answer, "What do you think?" J answered that she wanted to believe. And I told her then that she should believe, and that I believe in the magic of Christmas. I threw in something about the "Yes, Virginia" story, and that was that. I did not lie, so I could live with that.

I realize there is a chance that she could talk about it at school, and someone could tease her, and I do not want that to happen. And maybe she does not even believe still.

But I guess I just want to hang on to that last little bit of magic, because I know there are a lot of years in between the wonder and belief you have during childhood until you get to the grown-up version of magic, if you even get there at all.

Here's hoping you can find some magic!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The birthday celebration (dog included)

So I turned Troy Polamalu years old last Friday. If I owned his jersey, I would have worn it, to proudly display my age. :-)

I had a great few days (I try to celebrate for two or three). It started on Thursday with my traditional birthday lunch at Mad Mex with a couple of friends/former coworkers. Mmm, shrimp-mushroom-spinach burrito. 

Friday included wearing of the birthday pin (for the 19th year) and a coworker-made hat (by the coworker who shares my birthday), lunch at Hems with coworkers, early work exit, dinner at Roman Bistro (best of the three meals) with family, Penguins and Pirates shirts as presents, and watching "Girl Meets World" with my kid to end the evening. 

But the biggest part of my birthday weekend was our adopting a dog from the Humane Society!

Since J and I will be off for almost two weeks for Christmas, and the hubby shares about half of those days (plus a few before our break starts), we figured it made sense to get a dog soon. J had fallen in love with Evie, this kind of crazy-looking rat-bull terrier, via the website a week or so prior. And as luck would have it, she was still there on Saturday morning when we finally made it to the shelter. I, on the other hand, was enamored with a black pit bull-lab puppy. Elvis was calm and complacent; Evie was wild and barky. But one look at Elvis's giant paws deterred me. Plus, I know some people were afraid of our pittie mix, which was kind of crazy. 

Anyway, we got Evie, whom we renamed Bailey after a few hours (that was her name at one point, and she responded to it). And life has been crazy ever since! The energy level on this 10ish-month old puppy is, well, crazy. She goes from 0 to 60 in about five seconds, and then right back to calm. Yesterday, she jumped down the last four steps to fetch a ball, and today, she was several feet in the air, spinning around, trying to grab a toy.

The hub has left her downstairs for a few hours while he was out the past couple of days. The toll? A slipper, a dress shoe, the top of a plastic stapler, the lid to a bottle of hand sanitizer, and part of a Scooby hat. Sigh.

Oh, Bailey, what have we gotten ourselves into?! :-)


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Looking on the bright side

I decided a couple of days ago to do a "bright side of December" thing for Facebook. Last year, so many people did 30 days (or however many days there were until Thanksgiving) of thankfulness. No one I knew did that this year, and I realized I kind of missed it. So I figured I, who am often optimistic, would put my own spin on something.

On Monday, I had to get my windshield replaced. This was the second time in five years (almost to the day), and in between I had some cracks/nicks replaced. Having to spend $100 (deductible) on something like that so close to Christmas does not make me happy. But the shop ended up doing it in only 20 minutes, and it cost $80 instead. So I decided to think of it as saving $20, not spending $80. Bright side! Oh, and I no longer have to look at the cracks in my windshield.

Yesterday, even though I left work 10 minutes early, it took me longer than usual to get home. But I decided that morning to put in a CD of my music ministry's Lessons and Carols service we did a couple of years ago. Listening to that in the morning really calmed my usual cranky-because-I-am-in-traffic self down, and it had the same effect on me last evening.

One of the things I like most about the holidays (and I am considering the holidays as beginning on Thanksgiving and ending New Year's Day night, with my birthday in between!) is the music. I am a singer (not a great one, but I can hold my own), and I can plunk a few songs out on the piano. And there is just something about a lot of the Christmas songs, particularly some of the slower ones.

I also very much enjoy lights and decorations. Some of my best (but briefest) childhood holiday memories are of our tree and looking at the decorations of others around our neighborhood. Every evening when I look out our back window and see houses below us with their lights, I can't help but smile.

And I will soon be headed to Phipps to experience their Winter Flower Show. I was so mesmerized by it last year that I joined a week later. I have been there at least eight times since. It was the best $85 I spent this year. I have to imagine even the most anti-holiday, hardened person would be moved by what they see there.

For today's bright side of December, I am thinking it is the fact that I am home taking a sick day. I woke up with an upset stomach and for the second night in a row got about 5 hours of sleep. But being home allowed me to take a long nap this morning, get in a load of laundry, and not put on any makeup or do my hair. Bright side!

Here is hoping you can find a bright side to things. I am pretty sure I am going to have to look long and hard when I get my tires replaced this week. My guess is that my brakes will also need to be replaced and something else will come up when I get my car inspected on Monday. So I better really take this to heart. :-)


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankfulness

As I get ready to head over a river (well, a man-made lake) and through some woods, I wish all of who still happen by these parts a happy thanksgiving. May your day be a good one, and may you not be alone, unless that is what you want. And most of all, I hope you can find at least one thing to be thankful for. I know I get down at times, frustrated by various things. But I am thankful that I can be thankful. 


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jagoffs are everywhere and perception is reality.

Last night I watched, on live TV, some jagoffs smash the windows of several businesses in Ferguson. I saw even more people steal bottles of liquor. My suspicion is that most of those thugs don't care about Michael Brown or his family. Some of those same criminals would have probably at least vandalized businesses even if the grand jury reached a different conclusion.

So thanks to those idiots (and I really want to use a stronger noun), people are painting the entire town and/or supporters of Brown with the same brush. And perhaps as unfortunate, their actions may discourage peaceful protesters. And most unfortunate, there will be those who say (and have already done so on social media) that the actions of those criminals somehow prove that Michael Brown was a thug and that his killing was justified and/or the officer who killed him did so with reason. 

All of this because some goons committed multiple crimes. And I bet if you asked them if they felt bad for what they did and how it tainted perceptions, most would not care. 

It makes me so sad, how the actions of a few can have such far-reaching effects and so greatly affect perceptions. You go to WVU? You must like to burn couches! You are a Ravens fan? You must think it is okay to hit a woman. You are a Republican? You must hate the poor. You are a Catholic? You must think it is okay that priests molest boys.

Racism and discrimination are still happening. Police brutality still exists. People commit crimes. And sometimes people get it wrong.

Be thankful if you are not on the giving or receiving of end of any of the above.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

I may hate furniture shopping even more than I hate going to Walmart!

Our couch and leather recliner in the den are pretty much destroyed, thanks to Sadie, who never met a piece of furniture or carpet that she did not want to dig at. I never much cared for the couch anyway, and it is almost 13 year old, so we decided to replace both of them.

The hubs had this brilliant idea of getting a sectional with a cup holder feature in between one of the love seats. I am not a fan of those, but I gave in, mostly because he had me sold on the chaise. Yesterday, while J and I were at my mom's, he went to a furniture store, found a set he liked, and emailed me a pic of it, which included a chaise. I liked it okay, so the three of us went to see it today.

I was expecting to be in and out of there within 30 minutes. We went over to the set, and I liked it  better in person (though still did not love it). But once he sat on the chaise for a couple of minutes, the hubs realized it was not as comfortable as he thought. Worse was when you reclined the chaise (which I thought was cool), you were left with a gap in the cushion where the small of your back would be.

So we looked at many other sets and pieces of furniture. J and I found a nice one, with a chaise large enough to fit both of us. I was sold, and even willing to spend more money, until the hubs measured it. Unfortunately, our den is an odd shape and quite small; we basically have 8'x8' to fit furniture. This long chaise would pretty much give us a foot between the end of that and the TV. Maybe. So we examined many other possibilities, and we still could not come to a decision.

I suggested going to another, typically more expensive, store, against everyone else's wishes. Turns out they were right: This store was advertising prices of 50% off. But with that discount, most sectionals were still between $1,500 and 3,000. Which means they were regularly priced between $3,000 and $6,000. Who would pay $3,000 for a loveseat?! (Unless you were wealthy, of course.)

By this time, we had been gone for close to two hours, so we stopped at a local Mexican restaurant for lunch. That was our third and last time at that place, let me tell you. Over 30 minutes into our being there, when our drinks were empty and there was no sign of our lunch arriving, the server apologized for the slow service because of a large party. That info would have been nice from the get-go, or at least 15 minutes earlier. Once we got our meals, he never came back to check on us. And when we got our bill, I almost choked--the guacamole and sour cream I had asked for on the side/as an extra cost $5.50. That was more than half the cost of my lunch. When I gave the server our credit card, I told him that I wish he would have told me the cost of those things when I asked for them, as I never would have gotten them (I did not notice them as an upcharge on the menu; Mad Mex, which I love, charges $1.50 for guacamole; sour cream is free upon request).

Not particularly happy, the three of us tried another furniture store, which was just about as expensive as the second one. So we headed back to store number 1. We decided to get a reclining loveseat with the console/drink holder, and then find a coordinating second love seat. After about 15 or 20 minutes, we thought we knew what we wanted. Then the hubs explained to me that the second loveseat would actually be in front of the "fancy" love seat; the two pieces would not be shaped like an L, as I had envisioned. Thinking about how silly that would look, I said to forget it. Then hubs had another idea: What if we got the reclining loveseat and then just a chair and ottoman perpendicular to that? At this point, close to four hours after we had left home, I did not care if we bought bean bags. So we found a red (!) reclining leather chair with ottoman, that would at least not be in front of the loveseat, and we ordered it and the fancy loveseat.

I don't love either of them. What is worse (for me) is that we can now seat fewer people (two on the loveseat, because it has the console in between, and one person on the chair) as compared to the four or even five we fit on our couch and recliner before. And I would have loved to have spent that money on five other things.

But I just could not stand it anymore. I had to get out of there, and we had spent so much time that I hated to come away with nothing.

Walmart: You are looking better and better.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The little things still get me (but I'm doing okay)

About 72.5 hours removed from saying good bye to my dog and I am getting through it. 

As I have said over and over, I did not think it would be that/this hard. But I did not have much to compare it to.

Waking up Tuesday was pretty bad, just knowing I no longer had Sadie. It was so sad peering down the steps and not seeing her there, either waiting on the other side of the gate or sleeping beyond the gate in the living room. Of course the gate wasn't up either. And there was no dog to take out or feed, yet we still could not leave on time.

I managed to get through work on Tuesday, not without tears a few times. I was glad a coworker suggested lunch out. I cried even then. But by mid-afternoon, I was able to get on Facebook and post a small tribute to my dog. I cried on the way home and several more times that evening. I was dismayed, for some reason, that I left my bedroom door open, when I had felt so sad about not having to close it when I left my room that morning. I swore I heard Sadie a few times; I did look for her once or twice. Most of the evening was a blue. But I did hug my kid really hard a few times. :-)

Yesterday was better; I could actually talk to coworkers. My eyes welled with tears just a few times. Choir was a good diversion. 

This morning, unlike the last two, Sadie was not my first thought; she was my second. Progress. Later in the morning, the Western PA Humane Society, which is where we adopted Sadie (née Shorty) from, posted a pic of a dog who looked a lot like Sadie. That was sad and weird, and for a brief minute I decided that we had to get another pit bull. Soon. I am mostly over that. Mostly.

I think I have gone several waking hours without crying today. Progress!

I feel bad that I practically scoffed at people who seemed so upset at the death of a pet. I get it now. I guess when a dog is part of your life for over 12 years (longer than I've had my kid), it makes sense that you would be greatly affected.

I know I will be okay, although I am sure I will miss Sadie for quite some time. But I know I am not alone.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I did not think it would hurt this much.

Two months ago, I started a blog for/about our dog Sadie, just after we found out she had cancer. I was hopeful writing would be cathartic; I was particularly concerned how J would handle it and thought if nothing else, it would give her a chance to write happy things about our beloved dog.

As with a lot of things, J started out enthusiastically, but in time, she did not have much to say. Plus school got in the way. 

But I managed to write a good bit and post some good pics. I hope to continue it for awhile. 

But just 23.5 hours removed from Sadie's death, I am still devastated. I never would have guessed it would have affected me this way.

Sure, I'm a crier, but as been documented here, I cry for strange things. Not for my own wedding or birth of my child, but for strangers on TV. I definitely cry for tragic events (9/11, in particular), but I also cry when I see certain commercials. I did not cry when my aunt or Bri's grandfather died a few years ago, yet every year when I see Penn State THON canners canning, my eyes well up.

I was sure I would cry when Sadie went, and I have teared up a bit this weekend, particularly Sunday night. But I did not anticipate the gut-wrenching feelings that would ensue once she was gone. I got home last night and cried for almost an hour. It felt as if someone was sitting on my chest. I kept saying her name. It was unimaginable how much I had missed her. I would stop for a few minutes (TV was a good distraction), but start back up. J cried a bit, but God bless her, went back to studying for her math test. 

I spend the night at my mom's about once a month (it used to be every other week), and I would kiss Sadie good bye, but not necessarily miss her (though I always asked the hub about her when J and I would call to say good night). So how could it hurt so much so soon?

Probably 14 or more years ago, a coworker at my last job sent an email titled "Unspeakable Grief." In it she said her dog died. I thought the title was dramatic and profound, but I could not relate. Yet that title was burned into my memory, as I often wondered if I would someday feel a similar way.

So many years later, I know now just how she was feeling. Because I can't really speak about it. I don't want to talk about it. I can write about here, because no one will talk back to me as I write these words. I have yet to answer texts from well-meaning friends. 

And I cannot bring myself to get on Facebook, which is amazing for me. Sunday night I posted a funny pic of Sadie; a friend commented on it, asking how Sadie was doing, and I commented back that she was not well and that we were saying good bye the next day. Friends that happened to read that comment posted a lot of thoughtful and supportive comments, but I could not bring myself to acknowledge them. Maybe when I get into work, I will feel differently.

I so just want to stay home today and feel sorry for myself, but that will do no good. And thankfully I am busy at work, so hopefully that will help. But I dread walking in there. Because my coworkers know what was going to happen. And as soon as the first person says something, I am going to cry. And let me tell you, waterproof mascara apparently does not mean tear-proof. Or maybe you can cry only so much before it fails.

To anyone out there who has lost a pet and felt the heart-crushing loss, I now understand your pain.

And I so very much wish I did not.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Note to self: Know what you are taking your kid to see

I am a big fan of performances. I particularly love musicals. For many years I had a subscription to Pittsburgh Musical Theater (nee Gargaro), but then my husband opened a restaurant, I had to take a 25 percent pay cut, and I had a baby, all within a six-month period, so that ended that.

About five years ago, we discovered Gemini Theater, a wonderful production company that puts on reasonably priced interactive performances geared towards children. We attend a few show every year, but J is kind of old for them. 

Earlier this year, PMT put on Le Miz. I had never seen it but knew a little about it. Some of it was adult-related, but the musical director (my former choir director) assured me those things would go over J's head, so I took her. He was right; the brothel scene was just a dance hall for all she knew. J enjoyed the performance, as did I, though she admitted parts were confusing. 

This summer, PMT had a preview performance for their upcoming season, which included A Chorus Line. I saw that (via the movie) over 20 years ago, and really liked it, but was recalling some of it was not suitable for kids. 

Fast-forward two months, I bought two tickets for me and J, completely forgetting that several parts were not kid-friendly. Sunday afternoon, about 10 minutes into the performance, I finally remembered! Oops!

The cursing made me cringe a little, but I could live with that. The dialogue about wet dreams, erections, and sex, on the other hand, made me wish the show would hurry up and end, which was a shame, because it was so good. 

Then one of the characters started talking about her tits, using that very word. I am pretty sure I stopped breathing at that point, because I remembered one of the songs I had completely forgotten about: "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" which is also known as "Tits and A$$." Looking at the program, I was guessing I had a few minutes before that came on, so I considered just leaving. I don't normally care what others think, but I was convinced at that point that the people on either side of me thought I was an awful parent, and that bothered me as much as J's hearing the sex, boob, and F words.

I apologized to J for the inappropriateness of the musical, and then I asked if she wanted to go, reminding her we did not eat lunch. She said she wanted to stay. So we did.

We got through that, though not without my wishing the floor would swallow us both up. When a character started taking about being a drag queen, it was a welcome relief. Before I knew it, the excellent performance ended, and as we left, I did discover J was not the only kid under 13 there (a number of performers and musicians were in high school). 

In the end, I am not sorry I took my kid. The theater is important to me, as is supporting local arts. And I have certainly sheltered J more than most parents would.

As long as she does not start belting out "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" when she sings in the shower, I think we will be okay. :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

First place!

So I ran in my first 5k in two years this morning. I ran in the Race for Pace, which is one of my favorites because it is local (10 minutes from where I live) and Pace School does great things for kids with emotional and behavioral disorders.

I initially wanted to finish in under 35 minutes, but once I realized that I ran the race in 28:55 two years ago, I decided I had to do better than 35. Even though back then I ran, swam and did Zumba weekly, and I was two years younger, I refused to settle for something six minutes slower. For the love of FloJo, I am not that old and out of shape.

So I set a new goal of 33 minutes, though I was really, really hoping to do it in 31 minutes.

Ladies and gentlemen: This Supergirl finished in 29:21.

And, best of all, I got first page in my age group, 40-44 (or 40 and Fabulous, as I like to call it).



It turns out there were only three people in my age group, but I was still first! (If I had finished third, I would have been pretty bummed) I finished 67/159 overall. For someone who is apparently middle aged and past her running prime, I am proud of myself.

Supergirl!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What kind of guy would wear a shirt like this?

I started running again about five months ago, somewhat sporadically. But about two months ago, I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could run in a 5k again. So I figured I had better start running once a week, if I had any hope of running the entire thing. Once you are fully entrenched in your 40s, it is a little more difficult to just run a few times over the course of a couple of months and go out and do a 5k. Or so I would imagine.

The 5k I am running in next week is the Race for Pace. This year, they are having a super hero theme. Me being me (well, I being I) embraced that wholeheartedly and decided to wear something super hero-ish. At first, I thought I could go as the Flash. I figured it would be ironic because I was probably going to finish in the bottom 25 percent (maybe worse, but let's not think about that). People would see this middle-aged woman panting and barely jogging as she was halfway through the race, and they would laugh. I am always happy to provide a few laughs. :-)

But yesterday, I headed to Dick's and found this nice Superman (maybe Supergirl?) Under Armour t-shirt. It is subtle for sure, but I am pretty certain I would not embarrass myself, no matter how slowly I end up running.


I next went to Target to get a few things, and I happened upon this gem of a shirt. In the men's department, no less.

That red piece of fabric coming off the back shoulders? A mini cape! Of course, I had to buy it. And it was about a third of the price as the Superman UA shirt.

I so totally want to wear this shirt, although I have some qualms about the muscle definition in the front. I have pretty decent abs and all, but not a male six pack.

But honestly, the big thing that would keep me from wearing this shirt? The small part of me that thinks I can run the race in a decent enough time that I just don't want a cape slowing me down.

Stay tuned for what I end up wearing. But as my title asks, what guy would wear a shirt like this? Or maybe the question is where would a guy wear a shirt like this? Because I want to know!




Sunday, October 5, 2014

Decisions, decisions

On Friday, I had planned to leave work a few hours early. Because the bus I ride runs every 30 minutes that time of day, some planning is involved. So after being too busy to make the 1:19 bus, I left at 1:44, which would give me 5 minutes to make the 1:49 bus.

As I was about 2/3 of the way down the street, I saw two buses at the stop, across the street. I looked at my phone and saw it was 1:47. Since it was early, I told myself it was unlikely either bus was mine, so I decided not to run the rest of the way down the hill, knowing the light would change before I got there. Fortunately when I got to the bottom of the hill, I saw the buses, now a block away, were not mine. Less fortunately was it was raining harder than a sprinkle, and I had yet to replace my recently broken umbrella. 

Before I knew it, 10 minutes had gone by, as did five other buses, and I started to fret. Maybe my bus had come early. After all, the drizzle did not seem to be enough to justify a delay. 

When a couple more minutes had passed, I was wet, cranky, and wishing I would finally get into a campus parking lot, so I could give up the bus. After all, in about 15 months, I had not only gotten into my third choice of lots (which I turned down), my name had also moved up about 40 people for my first choice.

Eventually, I had come back to reality. The bus showed up, 15 minutes late, and I got over my ire fairly quickly. However, ironically enough, when I checked my work email a few minutes into the ride, I saw an email from the parking people. I had gotten into my lot!

My first reaction was almost dread, because I would have to decide whether or not to take it. To some people, it would be a no-brainer; jump on it. But for me? I had some real debating to do.

I pay nothing to ride the bus, as my employer pays for it. A monthly lot permit costs $85. Sure, I paid almost twice that the first 4.5 months at my job when I parked at a cash lot (one of the cheapest!), but I have gotten used to what essentially became a $156/raise. 

And I hate driving home in traffic, something I largely avoid busing it. Then there is the additional wear and tear in my car and more money to spend in gas.

But, of course, there are positives to parking. I can come to work late (which I almost never do because I drop my perfect-attendance-seeking kid off to school daily). If you get to the bus lot much past 8:30 or so, you might not get a parking space. I can also leave when I want. Having to time that with a bus has been an issue. 

And this lot is a 2-minute walk to the office. So I would save time there (but would get less exercise).

I have to drive to and from the bus lot, so there is wear and tear on my car and gas expenditure.

I have 1.5 weeks to figure it out. If I turn it down, I can get back on the list. But the last person on the list is #47. When I got on the list 1.5 years ago, I was #37. (In the same amount of time, I went from 529 to 205 for my second choice, but if I turn down my first choice, I lose my second choice, as I understand it.)

I am slightly leaning towards yes. I figure I can still take the bus a few times a month, although I would be paying for a lot I am not using. But it is an option. 

Decisions, decisions...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Second chances

I thought I would wait until the ire surrounding the Ray Rice/domestic violence in the NFL died down a bit before posting some thoughts. Of course, with an ongoing investigation, it is still rare to go more than a few days without seeing that incredibly disturbing video.

So here goes my thoughts about various topics around the saga and domestic violence in general:

  • Enough with the video. Can someone please think of Janay, Rice's wife. And I feel sorry for their daughter who in just a few years will probably be on the Internet and come across that. Just stop.
  • It does not (much) matter that the extremely damning video came out later; the Ravens and the NFL should have done more knowing what they knew months ago. Rice said he hit his fiancée, and at the time there was video of his dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. For the love of God, why wasn't that abhorrent enough to warrant more than a two-game suspension?
  • It is never okay to strike a woman. Closed-fisted, open-handed, it does not matter. If a woman has wronged you, hits you first (which is also wrong), or badgers you verbally for hours on end, you need to walk away. Punch a wall if you must. But not a woman. Never. I might even go so far as to say even if she is 6 feet tall and 250 and you are 5'6" and 140 pounds wet. But you know what I mean, hopefully.
  • Women who stay with abusers don't deserve scorn. You probably have no idea why they won't leave, but to them, it is a really good reason. And often there are many reasons: fear, forgiveness, thinking divorce is a sin, fear, their children, embarrassment, fear, money, thinking it is their fault, fear, self-esteem issues, bad advice, fear, not wanting to be alone, thinking they will never find someone else, fear. Yes, I said fear. A lot. Based on my experience volunteering at a DV shelter many moons ago, fear was up there and a big motivator to stay (because really, if your man points a gun at your head and says he will shoot you if you leave, I am guessing that would be enough to make most women stay). But again, many, many reasons.
  • Most batterers hit again. Ask any woman who has ever been hit. Some change, but it is probably not worth it to take a chance and find out if said person is a new man. But see my next point.
  • Once someone has been suitably punished (and Ray Rice has not been yet, as far as in the eyes if the law, but he has as far as the NFL is concerned, if he misses the entire season), and in some cases, once there is enough passage of time, we should move on. See my next point for more about that. But when I say "we," I do not mean the victim of DV; I mean the rest of us.
  • Former Steeler James Harrison slapped his girlfriend many years ago. The Steelers, particularly Dan Rooney, did not handle it well. I am pretty sure I blogged or wrote a letter to the editor about it. But that was years ago. Since Harrison has not gotten in trouble for anything DV-related since then, why punish him now? I would say this for any person, any team. Otherwise, why not just leave every person in prison and never let anything go? And, yeah, for me this applies to all wrongdoings. I don't hold Ben Roethlisberger in the highest regard as a person. But he was suspended for what he did (and keep in mind he was not charged with anything nor was there proof). So I am over it. 
  • Again, I am saying this as an outsider, not the girlfriend or wife of an abuser or sexual assaulter. Because those people have no obligation whatsoever to move on as far as forgiving and forgetting. But if they do? Again up to them.
  • Finally, we make our own choices. What we do is rarely the fault of our team, family, coworkers, school, teachers, etc. Dont hate and/or blame entire entities for one person's screw up. I root for entire teams. I refuse to hate a team because of the things a few did. Just as I would not quit my job if I found out a coworker or boss drive drunk and injured someone. And just as I would not shun an entire family if one of their kids was a drug user and seller.

Now giving someone a third chance? That is different. Still working through my thoughts there.

That is all for now.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

42 going on 22, going on 37, going on 63

Can someone please tell me I am not alone in feeling as if I were a different age on different days?!

I am 42 3/4, and quite comfortable sharing my age with anyone. This is due mostly to my mom's shaving four years off her age and my finding out about it in the seventh grade, via looking at her yearbook at Grandma's. But the other reason I don't bother hiding my age is because if you are not getting older, then you aren't doing anything (except, perhaps decaying in the ground). You are welcome for that visual!

But feeling and/or looking a certain age is another matter entirely.

I think I look around 37. I don't know why I have that age in mind, but I am quite convinced few people would guess I was in my 40s. In fact just recently, two gals in the choir, who are somewhere between late 20s and early to mid 30s seemed genuinely surprised I was 42. I told them I think of myself as 37, and one said she thought I looked even younger. (She is my new best friend.) The other one said that 42 is the answer to everything. So there is that!

A few weeks ago when I was riding the bus in Oakland, where there are several universities, some older woman (she was in her 80s, maybe she said 84 or 86) asked me if I was a college student. I laughed and told her, "Not for over 20 years."

I walk around campus with a backpack, because I can carry more things. But I am not going to lie: There are times I pretend I am a college student and imagine that people (i.e., students) think I am one of them. Which is, of course, ridiculous. Although, as my one coworker said, that 85-ish woman probably thought I was a grad student, or she just had poor eyesight!

Then there are the times when I feel young(er) and within a matter of minutes or hours, I feel about 20 years older. 

Yesterday, I went running, which is something I started to do again, but only 2-4 times per month. I started out, as I typically do, feeling like I was all that, convinced that anyone who saw me was impressed with my great shape and form and probably thinking I was this pretty 35-year old. However, within five minutes, I felt every bit of 42. And by the time I got to the second-to-last, killer hill, just over 20 minutes into my run, my heart rate had gone beyond the max it should, I was panting more than a dog on a warm day, I was dripping with sweat, and I felt as if I were pushing 60. Afterwards, I was sore for hours, and I felt old, sad, and out of shape.

Today? I don't know. I guess I feel 42. But in a young mom kind of way. :-)




Friday, September 12, 2014

Can't cry hard enough

Pretty sure I've used that as a blog post title post before. But it fits. 

Yesterday, we found out Sadie, our nearly 13-year old dog, has cancer and likely only a few months to live. She had a growth by her tail, which hindered its usual question-mark shape. I had thought it had to do with her injured ACL (maybe she was overcompensating). But when I really looked at it, I decided maybe we should get it checked out. 

When we walked into the vets's office a few days later (last night), the vet took one look and said it was bad. No need to biopsy. He knew. And because of its location, he could not operate (though at her age, I would not put her through that anyway). He said things will probably get bad; she'll have trouble going to the bathroom, particularly if/when the mass grows. She is struggling with that now, but she can still go; everything else seems okay. She did get sick a few times this evening, but I am hoping it is a fluke and not the beginning of the end. I am counting on those few months and selfishly hoping for more.

I am not ready to say good bye yet. I cried so much last night. I did not even sleep for two hours last night. Thank goodness I was able to stay home, rest, and just be with girl, the original reason I was called "Mom."

I have been quite upset about the Ray Rice/NFL crap. I had wanted to write a post about that, mostly to express my disappointment with the NFL. But I never got around to it. And last night, it mattered less. (Though my feelings about it have not changed; they are a mixture of anger and sadness.)

J and I decided to start a blog about Sadie (sadiethepitbull.blogspot.com). I like to think I/we will do a better job of keeping up with that than I do around here. I hope it helps us. 

Because I can't cry hard enough.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sometimes it is easier to focus on others' problems

Let me start off by saying I have much to be thankful and grateful for. And I am mostly positive and optimistic, so that helps. 

Some days (mostly, fortunately, just hours or even shorter periods), I feel frustrated. Angry. Sad. Other things.

I might yell. I most likely will cuss. Sometimes I even cry.

I wonder how things got that way. Why this happened to me. When things will get better. 

I like things to make sense. I believe people should treat others as well as animals and nature with kindness and/or respect. To this day, I just don't understand why people do otherwise unless they have been badly provoked (for the record, I am pretty sure the empty McDonald's bag you just threw on the street did not provoke you, but I could be mistaken).

I don't get it when people are always negative and can't see the upside to anything. I get annoyed when people complain about things and do nothing to try to change the situation. I don't understand why it is so hard for people to admit when they are wrong. And I get frustrated when people get upset and give up easily. Whoever said life was or should be easy?!

All of this does not take into account depression or mental illness (and I am hopeful that not all or even most people who fit the above bill are depressed or mentally ill, though I am fairly certain some are).

Is it selfish of me to think it's okay when I get mad or sad, but get annoyed when others do it so much more? Maybe. 

Am I better than the people who seem to talk about others often just because I do it only once in awhile? Probably not.

Just because I can admit I need to be better at something but choose to do nothing about it, is that somehow more acceptable than those who rant and rave about a situation but can't see their part in it? Not really, I suppose.

I really have no idea where I am going with this. I just know that sometimes I want to scream, and tonight, for about 15 minutes, was one of those times. As was a time late this afternoon. And briefly yesterday. And probably 12 other times in the last couple of weeks. 

Sometimes I feel as if I am failing, which bothers me. And other times I feel as if others are failing, and that bothers me too.

And I just don't know what to do. 

But the good news is that the positive optimist that I am won't dwell on this.

But, alas, it will come back.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

I took a vacation day yesterday. Things have been slow at work, so I figured I might as well take the day (even though I will probably want/need that day this coming school year when J has about a dozen, somewhat random, days off). J and I were finishing up a visit to my mom's, which included my adorable, but somewhat whiny and very good storyteller, nephew. I did a little cleaning and laundry at home, nothing too exciting. Mostly I was just glad to be off on a Monday because who likes Mondays?

Except by "losing" my Monday yesterday, I got punched in the gut by Monday's evil sister, appearing on a Tuesday.

It started off as it had for the last week, which was with a slight pain in my back from something (cyst maybe?) that I will now most likely need to have removed. Try not to visualize that too much.

After I was nearly ready, I went in J's room to wake her up. I act as her snooze, which allows her to slowly awaken over a period of 5 to 10 minutes. During that time I feed the fish and do my hair. I noticed when I dropped the fish flakes into the tank, that Mr. Goldberg, the very large fish, was not swimming around. I quickly looked around, then looked to the top and fortunately did not see him floating. Instead, he was inside this long, but not huge, log at the bottom of the tank. Mr. Goldberg is too big for the log; he has never fit in there. Yet somehow he managed to cram his entire body inside. This did not look good. But I thought his fins were moving. Until I realized they probably were not. I decided, at first, against telling J. I went down to get my coffee, which I have set on a timer. It smelled great, much stronger and more obvious than usual. Then I realized that I must not have put the pot completely underneath the basket, and the coffee was spilling over the top and onto the butcher block. That took quite a few minutes to clean up. Because I need my morning coffee, I strained the coffee through a coffee filter into my cup, since the coffee/water that made it into the pot was full of grounds.

Running late, I asked Jordan if she had checked on the fish. I told her that Mr. Goldberg was in the log. She went to check and noticed that he was upside down. Crap. Tears ensued. I struggled to get him out, but could not, what with a dressy long-sleeved blouse on, so I told the hubs about it. And I told J we could have a service for him later.

J got into the car a few minutes later, and more tears came. Within a few minutes, she told me that the tooth fairy did not come last night. Sonofabeech! Then, when we were nearly there, she said we forgot her water bottle, which she uses at her day camp.

At this point, I was ready to cry myself, convinced that this Tuesday was worse than any typical Monday. But I could barely hear myself think as my already loud car (I think it has something to do with the tires) was rattling like crazy from the dashboard.

As we walked into her day camp, and she went over to her hook, she also reminded me that we did not bring her towel, as we do at the beginning of every week. Fortunately, it was a little chilly for water day. But for the love of Pete, could I have forgotten one more thing?!

Naturally, I missed my usual bus, but the next bus was running late, so I made that. I was only a few minutes late to work, so there was that. And it was not hot, which is awesome for July. I was finally busy at work (hooray) but we found out a staff meeting that some cuts were made and more may come, so, sigh. I was mostly annoyed by my back pain, but more annoyed that my dermatologist cannot see me for over three weeks. Sigh, again.

At least the day ended on a positive note. I came home to a good meal, as I am lucky enough to almost always do. The hub had dug out a hole in the side year and prepared a "casket" as well as a stone that J wrote on. And the three of us had a lovely service for Mr. Goldberg, complete with Jordan's musical selection of "Hallelujah" playing on her iPod. Once that was done, we headed to Rita's for some much-needed therapeutic sugar.

I still want to punch this Tuesday in the face, but I guess it just goes to show you (me) you can't outrun a Monday!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Oh, beautiful, the city view

Yesterday I took my dad and my kid up the incline so we could get a great view of the city. I ended up with some nice shots. I only wish I had thought to have brought my camera; the iphone does not do the view justice.

Nice view of Heinz Field and the three rivers (mostly the Ohio and Allegheny)

The edge of the Point, with Downtown and the Mon River


Mostly the Point

View of the Ohio and a little of Heinz Field

The Ohio



We ate at the Grandview Saloon, which I have not been to, I am guessing, since before J was born. We were fortunate that the waiter got this nice shot of the three of us with the view in the background.

dad, J and I, with our fair city and a couple of rivers in the background (plus some random guy to my left)


We also took a Gateway Clipper one-hour cruise, which allowed me to get a handful of nice city shots as well.

View of Downtown from along the Mon River

The Point from the Mon


The Point from where the three rivers meet


The Point from the Allegheny (because you have to see if from three sides)

Heading down the Allegheny

Rivers Casino along the Ohio

View heading towards Downtown from the Ohio


View of the Northshore and Downtown from the Ohio


Pittsburgh, how I love (most of) thee!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vacation all I ever wanted!

We had a fabulous vacation in Ocean City, Maryland, last week. I highly recommend doing a mini-week there if you are within six hours away. Being at the beach for seven nights is a bit much for us; my skin could barely take the four days we were there. And by staying just over half a week, we saved money, obviously. But I do admit I would have loved one more day.

Food was an integral part of our trip. I love to eat. I really love to eat seafood, so I made sure that was part of every lunch or dinner. I also managed a tasty beverage with every lunch or dinner as well. That is part of what vacation is about.

Here are a couple of pics of those:

Delicious lobster bisque

Strawberry blonde ale at brew pub on the boardwalk

Steamed clams from Jonah and the Whale at the end of the boardwalk
You gotta love shrimp in your bloody Mary. But the siracha-sauce soaked beans I could have done without! This was from the Crabcake Factory.
On our way out of town the last morning, when it was pouring rain, we stopped at a "cute" bakery in Fenwick Island.

As a kid, we spent hours at the beach daily (we went to OC pretty much every year). I don't know if it is just that my skin is older, the ozone layer is depleted, or what, but I ended up burnt and with a rash by the second day. This despite my drowning my skin in sunblock multiple times. Still, nothing can beat the ocean.

Here are some shots of that; the waves were pretty tough:

I took this as soon as we set foot on the sand, our first day there. Hello, ocean!


These were the waves our last full day there. We did not go out as far.

 As a kid, our trip to OC was not complete without a trip to an amusement park and mini golf, so we made sure to do both of those things. Many of the rides at Trimper's on the boardwalk are still there, 20 to 30 years later. Unfortunately. I could not get J to go on the ones I wanted to. The four of us did ride the giant Ferris wheel, which gave us a spectacular view of the beach below.

Lost Treasure mini golf

Fore!
View from the Ferris wheel

The place we stayed at was on the bayside, though our place did not have a water view, unfortunately.

Here are couple of shots from our neighborhood:

This was the view behind our place.

Assawoman Bay, at the end of our street.

Geese in the water


Since I am doing my best to maintain my fitness level, I made sure to walk and/or run every morning. It was quite humid the first few days, but being able to walk near water helped temper the 80-degree temps. I save my longest run for the last full day, when it was overcast. I had not run on the beach since I was a teen, I am guessing. Even then I am not entirely sure I did that. It is quite the challenge running along the ocean, but there is not way I could have handled the "regular" sand.

Here are some pics from that morning:

Selfie of my running

Cool shot, I thought

I ran along the ocean. I am pretty sure I ruined my tennis shoes, but I think it was worth it.

I admit my eyes welled up with tears as we drove home. I grew up a spoiled child who vacationed at least once a year. For a couple of years my family had a house on the bay in OC; unfortunately, between two working parents and a six-hour drive, we never made it there more than three times a year. After that we had a house on Indian Lake, which we did visit often. But towards the end of high school, we had some money problems; my parents' divorce followed a few years later, and all of the sudden we were struggling. That experience turned me into a frugal person, which is mostly a good thing. I truly appreciate experiences like these. When you vacation only every few years, you savor the moments. But you also can become sad knowing that you have a few more years until the next one.

I am just glad we had a great time, that J got to have a fun vacation. I appreciated being off work for a week, and the hubby, who hates his job, really was glad to be off. Hopefully my rash will fade soon! But I am more hopeful the memories will linger on.

Here's to the next adventure!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

An update

Once again I have slacked off with posting. I did write about/sing the praises of RiverQuest, an educational boat ride on the North Shore, so please check that out in my previous post below!

Anyway, here is what has been going on in my life since last time.


  • J is done with 5th grade. Hooray. This was a tough year for a number of reasons. She had a lot of HW up until the end; she had only one homework-free weekend the entire year, which I disagree with. She also was no longer friends with the group of friends she had been (their friendships ended at the very end of 4th. Looking on the bright side, we saved some money by missing out on birthday invites, and I did not and will not have to worry about taking time off work to get her to various gatherings held during the week. :-)  I tell J that I went to an even smaller Catholic school and also did not have a lot of friends, but high school and college were different, each better than the previous.
  • Things are still going well at the job. We are slowing down, but I know that won't last too long. If only I had more vacation time, I would take one day a week off during July. But still happy to be employed. 
  • That is one of the things about my working. I finally have money to do (some) things, but I don't have much time. Pre-job I had a lot of time...
  • We are taking our first family vacation in five years this summer. It will also be our first vacation with just the three of us. I am really looking forward to it. I will hopefully have a good post around that. After our failed attempt two years ago, I do worry.
  • We don't have a lot planned for the summer. We did the RiverQuest boat ride a few weeks ago, Kennywood the last day of school, mini-golf the weekend after, and the zoo last weekend. Not sure what else will happen. But June has definitely been busy!
  • I have been getting in to better shape. I participated in a 30-day challenge (30 minutes of exercise) in 30 days. It was a challenge, but I did it. I am still trying to keep up with it, but I am okay with six days a week with close to 30 minutes per day.
  • Someday I will write that post on healthcare. :-)
I hope all of you have a great summer. And I hope I get back here before another month goes by. Oh, and I hope the Pens can find a good coach soon. Who is left?!

RiverQuest

This past fall, I had the wonderful experience of being a chaperone on a field trip to RiverQuest, a non-profit educational organization that operates a river learning center for students, teachers, and the community of southwestern Pennsylvania. During the four-hour boat trip, the students got to examine organisms under microscopes, test water, learn various facts about plant and animal life in the river and environment, and much more.


Recently, I looked up RiverQuest on the great big internet, and I discovered (or perhaps just remembered) that the organization offers Saturday cruises. So I decided the family should go. After a long walk around the North Shore on beautiful sunny day, we boarded the RiverQuest boat on the Ohio River, after having purchased our tickets at the nearby Science Center.

The one-hour trip did not disappoint. The hubby, who was still slightly under the weather, appreciated time in the sun. And J and I did various learning activities. She was particularly engaged in looking at things under the microscope, including some rarely seen phytoplankton. I had fun doing a sand activity having to do with sediment! :-)




We were one of only two families on the boat that afternoon, so we had the undivided attention of the educators. Ever the money-minder, I told them I felt bad that so few people took advantage of this educational and extremely reasonably priced boat ride ($6.95 for children and $9.95 for adults; you would pay way more than that for a ride on the Gateway Clipper). Unfortunately, the org is hurting for money, but they are exploring a partnership with Rivers of Steels. I really hope that works out. I talked to someone at RQ yesterday who was optimistic. She said there was a good chance the Saturday sails would start up again the weekend after the Fourth; right now the last one is scheduled for next weekend.

If you live in or are visiting the Pittsburgh area, please consider taking one of their Saturday cruises. It would be most ideal if you had a child to bring, but I am sure they would be happy to have grown ups as well. Hopefully next weekend won't be the last one. But you may want to check them out on the web at riverquest.org. I am optimistic that we will get the chance to enjoy another ride before the summer ends. I sure hope so!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Have I mentioned how much I love Phipps?!

Back in December, I posted some pics from an afternoon/evening at Phipps Conservatory. I so enjoyed my time there that I went back a week or so later to get a dual membership. Probably the best $75 I have spent on anything. (And it was more like spending $54 since I was able to put the $26 I spent that evening in December towards my membership.)

Including that time, I have been to Phipps at least five times, sometimes with others and sometimes alone. I have gone to the winter show, the spring show, to something in between the winter and spring show, and then J and I went today, for the summer flower show.

Maybe I will do a post of the spring show, for posterity's sake. But here is the summer show!

Here are some pictures of random, pretty flowers and plants  (I have no clue what is what):


Purple is my favorite color, so of course this is beautiful





Right now there are trains in many rooms.

Love how the yellow and pink/red mix


Here are some pics of the Butterfly Forest. We watched some butterflies come out of their chrysalises, which was really cool.
So neat to watch the butterflies emerge.




Here are some pics of various rooms. We saw the beginning of a wedding in the first room below (we took this pic about 1.5 hours before the wedding started). The last two pics are of my very favorite room there, the East Room.




 Some cool thing outside.


Finally, here are some pics from the Center for Sustainable Landscapes; the last one is a view of the Tropical Forest. Very cool.





Going to Phipps puts me in my happy place. Even better is when I can go during lunch during the week. Well, I can be there only about 35 minutes, plus time to walk there and back, if I want to keep to my lunch hour. But there are so few people there; it is quite peaceful and relaxing.

I said to J that when I retire, I want to work there. Maybe I will!