Monday, November 28, 2016

Calamityware for unique holiday gifts

I have been really lousy at blogging during 2016, for several reasons (some of which I don't even know). One big reason is time: Between working full time and helping promote Calamityware, plus having a small family and doing the occasional social thing, there is not a lot of time left to put thought into blogs. [Sadly, I can put hours into FB, but that is mostly my reading and not thinking, and perhaps writing short comments. :-)]

Anyway, since we are now in the middle of the holiday (shopping) season, I thought I would again promote Calamityware. If you are like me, you have a few people on your gift list who are really challenging to buy for. That is where Calamityware may come in handy. Following are the unique, quirky, fun, and even some beautiful items you can purchase here:
  • Various porcelain plates adorned with fun things like frogs, zombie poodles, pterodactyls, tentacles, a volcano, a vortex, and more; buy a plate or one of the series of four
  • Soup bowls with fly (1 fly per bowl!) and small plates with ants (ranging from 1-4 per set)
  • Mugs with a dozen calamities and mugs with "classy" cursing (the former is on back order, but should be back around 12/15; the latter should be online within a couple days)
  • Puzzles (Bad Neighborhood and Evil Twins, the latter which just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign and should be online around 12/15)
  • Bandanas (black Spirited Bones, blue Angry Paisleys, and purple Space Worms, in sets of 3)
  • Pocket silks (frogs, bad neighborhood, sea monsters; they are based on other products)
  • Sea Monster notecards
  • Sea Monster shower curtain (Do you notice a sea monster theme? There was a print at one time, but that sold out)
  • Prints (Octopedestrians and Remembering Albrecht)
Please consider stopping by to see if any of the little works of art may work for you, your loved one, your friends, or even your boss. If you happen to read this in the next 3 hours, you can get in on the "spend $100 and get a free gift" Cyber Monday promotion.

Or just check out the site to learn more about the products, the story of Don (the designer behind it), or just to read some of the interesting blog posts. Calamityware is also on Facebook and Twitter (@Calamityware).

Thanks for stopping by on this Cyber Monday. Hopefully within a couple of weeks, I will have something meaningful to post. :-)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The speed of life

Life just keeps zooming by. Not sure how it happens. Would love to slow it down (except during an awful workday or a painful conversation). But, alas, on we go.

And speaking of living life, I have found a way to spend even more time on my phone (the hubby did not think that was possible). I finally replaced my iPhone 4 with an iPhone SE. It is nice to be on an operating system that came out in the current year (My 4 was still on OS 6, which was updated in 2013, just not by me). And to have actual memory on the phone (I went from 8 to 64 GB). I can have more than 12 apps! My desktop computer (on which I am typing this post) is older than a lot of grade schoolers, and I keep clinging to XP, but at least I have made technical progress somewhere!

So what else? Hockey season is back. Yeah! Please just no one else hurt Sid (including Sid). The Steelers' football season kind of hit a skid with Big Ben's injury, but it ain't over yet. And Penn State beat then #2 OSU in a spectacular game last week. Still get the feels about that one. Pitt continues to throw away some games at the end, but not all, so there is hope!

I am trying to step up my volunteering by encouraging the kid to volunteer with the youth group and then helping out. She also joined a service group at school. I am really trying to impress on her the importance of helping others and giving back. Even though we are currently a 1.5-income family (soon to be 1), as long as I can help some out a little, I will. Locally, I do this in the form of helping small businesses. Maybe some day I can do more.

I am still helping my friends out at Calamityware. The holidays will be here soon, and if you are looking for a unique gift, please check out the site, which has plates, puzzles, mugs, bowls, pocket squares, notecards, bandanas, a shower curtain, and even fun t-shirts. Our crazy white menace Bailey was made less menacing via the Spirited Bones BADbandana. :-) Bailey also was recently selected for #FurryFriendFriday by #1 Cochran (where I got my Forester this spring) with this pic.

I won't even go into the election, other than to say it is sad when you don't want your 13-year-old to watch the debates. Sigh.

And speaking of 13. Boy is having a teenage daughter fun! I tell everyone that she can go from sweet to Satan in 60 seconds. Lord, help me. Fortunately, thanks to my low vitamin B12 levels, my memory is not great, so I often forget the really trying times.

And that is true for most anything. I really, really try to be positive and look at the bright side (monthly trips to Phipps help), though I sometimes need a reminder of this. But as we go headfirst into the holidays, I will keep trying to be grateful for what I have and remind myself that I don't know what battles others are facing. Kindness can go a long way.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

It's just a game!

Today, I went to the Pitt-Penn State football game. The last time I saw Penn State in action was also the last Pitt-Penn State game, also in Pittsburgh, way back in 2000. It was and I am quite different this time.

Today, two jagoffs Pitt fan did things that I find reprehensible. About 1.5 hours before kickoff, I was walking down West General Robinson Street with a ton of others. All of a sudden, when I was nearly at Art Rooney Way, some a-hole in a Pitt shirt cross-checked my shoulder so hard, I spun slightly and dropped my water bottle. I was stunned. But being the middle of a fast-moving crowd, I picked up my water bottle and continued on. There is no way he could have accidentally done it. He just looked straight ahead right after and kept going. After I recovered, I could not help wondering what kind of a person does something like that to a complete stranger, a woman especially, presumably just because I had a Penn State hat on. I guess I will never know. But I feel sorry for his girlfriend/wife, if he has one. Ten hours later and my shoulder still hurts. I am mostly glad the hubs was not there, because when I told him about it, he said had he been there, he would have leveled the guy and then probably ended up in jail. My shoulder will recover. My memory won't fade too quickly.

The other instance happened when I got to my heavily-dominated Pitt fan section. Some guy behind me looked right at me and shouted, "F_ck you!" I said, "Hey, I am a Pitt fan too." He repeated his profanity. I then asked him if he kissed his mother with that mouth, and he said it a third time. Throughout the game, I listened to him refer to Penn State as F__ing homos. He said F-U to the Penn State fans who came late and cheered. Basically he was a profane arse every time Penn State did something good. I am surprised people (all Pitt fans) who brought their children were okay with it 

Since I was in Heinz Field, which is Pitt's house, and because I am a decent human being who is not equating this game with life and death or curing cancer I kept pretty quiet. I stood up a few times and/or I clapped when Penn State had a good play or scored usually rather reservedly. I never cheered loudly. I never bragged or got in anyone's face. I just wanted to enjoy the game. The guy next to me repeatedly said he felt sorry for me that my team was going to lose. He said other various negative things. But he never cussed at me. He never touched me. Sure it was annoying, but I will take that over the other crap I went through. And, unfortunately, when Penn State came within 3 points and was close to scoring again in the final few minutes, I left my section. Fortunately, I was in the club level, so I could watch the rest of the game on my choice of dozens of TVs in air-conditioned comfort. I just knew I did not want to be there for the ending if Penn State pulled it off. I was 95 percent certain I would have had stuff thrown at me or at least been the victim of a verbal tirade.

But here's the thing: Unlike too many others, I don't paint people with a broad brush. There are jagoffs everywhere and in every category. Young and old. Male and female. Black and white. Gay and straight. Christian and Muslim. Pittsburgher and Clevelander. Penguins fans and Flyers fans (mostly in the latter category here). And, yes, there are plenty of Penn State fans who are douche canoes. Pitt fans may not outnumber them. After all, I am a Pitt fan. :-)

If I do go back for the game in 2018, I don't think I would risk wearing a Penn State hat again, sadly. But I won't let today's unfortunate instances mar my experience. It really was a great day. I got to meet and talk to many nice Pitt fans. I saw/heard the Blue Band play just outside of Heinz Field. I caught the last 30 minutes of the Alumni Association tailgate and sang "Fight On State" and the Alma Mater. And I got to take my picture with Mike the Mailman! He even hugged me!

But most of all, today and all those idiots who kept saying "Joe knew" and "Ped State" and "Penn State sucks" reminded me of something important: I am proud to be a Penn Stater. Penn State forever. We are Penn State!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Swearing with style

Before I launch into some random thoughts, I first wanted to make a push for the latest Calamityware project on Kickstarter, the Classy Curse Kit. Each element of the Classy Curse Kit includes a colorful and typographically refined, all-purpose curse in a socially acceptable form—the euphemism graphic ($%*?&!, which starts off with a lightening bolt). The kit contains 2 mugs, 2 decals, 12 note cards, and 12 calling cards with customizable Banner-Hulk scale. I really hope it funds, because I look forward to raising my coffee mug during boring meetings where someone says something annoying. I especially want to place the decal on the back of my car with all the jagoff drivers in and around the Burgh. And it would be pretty nice to slip a calling card with a personal, pointed note underneath the windshield of a car that parked stupidly. If you are like some of my friends and most of my coworkers, $48 may be a bit steep. But I encourage you to talk to a friend and split the kit. What do you need two mugs for anyway?! :-)

 Now on to a few other random things:
  • I still don't know whom I am voting for. If I had to do it today, I would vote for Gary Johnson, who appeals to my libertarian side. I could and probably will change my mind by November. In the first presidential election I was able to vote, I voted for Ross Perot. Not for very good reasons, but I did not like the other choices. In all seriousness, I am scared for this country no matter who gets elected (but, for the record, I am much more scared of what happens if the Donald gets the nod)
  • In a few weeks, I will be the parent of a teen. Some days are really challenging now. I can only imagine how much harder it will be in a couple of years. 
  • I have developed a bit of a negative attitude over both local and national events. But I still am trying to make the world a better place, in whatever small way I can. Locally, I pick up litter, just about every single day. And, as often, I get frustrated. I am almost ashamed to admit, as I pick up my 10th cigarette butt during my daily dog walk, I often mutter something like "I hope your lungs turn black." Or, when I pick up my second McD's bag of the week, I say something equally as awful as "I hope your arteries clog." A part of me wonders if I should not just stop picking up the trash, if that is going to be my attitude. But seeing litter lie on the road makes me even more frustrated. 
  • I hate that I live in a slight and "odd" fear about some things. I am not really concerned about my driving through one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city every weekday, a neighborhood that has had shootings in broad daylight, yet I would not drive there in the later evening. Similarly, there are places I go to only in daylight, such as the movie theater and the mall. I won't stop going to some places that have had shootings, but I am trying to minimize my risk, I guess. I am sad, however, that I was too afraid to go to a "dance with/for Orlando" event a couple of weeks ago. It came on the heels of police/civilian shootings, and I was just too afraid to be a part of that, even though it was in the middle of downtown, in broad daylight. 
  • The Pens are still the Stanley Cup champs. :-)

Sunday, July 3, 2016


About a month ago, I embarked on a freelance gig spreading the word about Calamityware—quirky porcelain, paper, and fabric projects that my friend (and former boss) retired graphics designer Don Moyer has come up with. I am charged with trying to find newspaper and magazine people as well as bloggers to talk about these fun, practical, and (sometimes) beautiful items.

The Calamityware series started in 2011 when Don inherited a traditional, Willow-pattern plate and decided to redraw it and add the excitement of a pterodactyl. Over the next few weeks, he drew several more plates—each with a different calamity. When he posted his sketches to his Flickr site (, people encouraged him to reproduce his drawings on porcelain, and the first in a series of successful Kickstarter projects, a plate with flying monkeys, was born. Since then, Calamityware has seen 10 plates, a mug, a set of small plates and bowls, a puzzle, 4 bandanas, and 2 letterpress prints. Just a few days ago, Don launched the Sea Monster Jamboree Shower Curtain, based on his letterpress print of sea monsters. Kickstarter named it a "Project We Love." It has 28 days left to fund, and is already almost 3/4 of the way there. 

I never really followed Don's projects until I was asked to do this. But since then, I have an appreciation for them. If you are extremely traditional, Calamityware might not be for you. But if you like looking at things a little differently, if you have some specific or unique tastes (poodles, frogs, robots, sasquatches, sea monsters, pirates, volcanos, skeletons, space worms, etc.), or if you just want to liven up your china closet, wardrobe, or handkerchief or puzzle collection, chances are good you can find a calamityware product for you or someone else.  

Below are a few pics of the products. If you are already thinking about the holidays and gift-giving, consider backing the shower curtain on Kickstarter (or checking back next month for another launch; you can view the past products here). Or visit the online store at

Bad Neighborhood puzzle (750-piece jigsaw puzzle with bonus "warm-up" puzzle)

Calamityware Plate 5: Pirates

BADBandana 1: Angry Paisleys

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Health Insurance Angst (part 17, probably)

As noted here and on FB, the hub's previous employer had pretty crappy health insurance, for which he paid about $1,100 a year for single coverage. I pay less than that per year for my individual plan (which has far better coverage), but adding him would have cost another $2,100, year. Since he has been to the doctor about three times in our many years of marriage, we had decided when I started my job a little over three years ago, it was not worth the extra $ to put him in on my better plan (J is on it). We were right. :-)

Sadly, the hub's new employer's plan makes the last plan seems like the gold-star option. If B goes on this plan, which he could not get on until August, he would pay almost $3,000/year. But on top of that, he would first have to pay a $1,500 deductible. If our entire family was on the plan, almost $19,000 would be deducted from his yearly pay, plus there is a $4,500 deductible. Coinsurance (no idea what that is) is 30% after the deductible. And the co-pays range from $30-250 (PCP-ER). The family dental and vision plans add another $700-$1,500 per year. After taxes come out of his pay, I bet my husband would net well under $10,000 in salary.


Is it any wonder that people have gone without health insurance?!

As you can imagine, I will be adding B to my employer's health insurance plan, which will result in about $175/month less in my pay. Yee-haw. But much better than the alternative. [Sure hope I continue to stay gainfully employed...]

But that is the easy part. 

My employer's vision plans range from just over $200/year to $285/year for a family; I am currently on the high-end individual plan and pay about $115/year (B had all three of us on his plan and paid about $170/year). If J continues not to need glasses, it would be the least expensive for me to continue to pay $115/year for my plan, for B to pay $71/year for his new plan, and for us to pay $65/year for J's eye exam. Pretty sure it is not worth it to save $35/year, especially when his plan has co-pays for various lenses (we will both need bifocals soon). So one problem solved (right here as I typed this!). But there goes another almost $175 out of my pay. 

But wait, there's more!

Dental is the real crap-shoot. Under B's previous plan, he paid $307/year for our family; both my and J's dentists were in the plan, and our bi-annual cleanings and x-rays were covered. That was a good deal/well worth the cost. People, if you have dental coverage, and cleanings are included, go to the dentist twice a year! Otherwise, you are throwing money away.

Unfortunately, my employer's dental plans for me and J (B never goes to the dentist, so I would not add him) are anywhere from $432/year to $632/year. Neither of our dentists is on the one lower-end plan, which covers what Bs former plan did. The other lower-end plan would allow us to go to any dentist, but we would have to pay a $100 deductible each year. Not sure that about $525/year would cover 2 dental exams each for me and J plus X-rays. Neither cover orthodontics, which J may or may not need. The highest plan, as I understand it, covers half of orthodontics, but the lifetime maximum is $1,500, and the annual plan year maximum is $1,000. That is very confusing to me; I am presuming that means only $1,500 would be covered for braces, and that would have to be over more than one year. We would have to pay the same $100 deductible for anything other than a cleaning or X-rays, and things like cavity fillings and crowns would be only partially covered. Sigh.

B's new employer's plans are a little less expensive, but I cannot determine which dentists we can use. The cheaper plan ($475/year for family) seems to cover more orthodontics, but if our dentists or orthodontist (which we don't yet have) are not included, not worth it. I would not go with the more expensive ($1,300/year for family) plan since B refuses to go to the dentist anyway.

Sadly, the enrollment for my employer ends on Tuesday. Two days. The timing is awful. If I had to decide now, I would probably just go with my cheap(er) dental plan for me and J, and hope and pray our teeth need nothing, since we would have to go to a dentist that we don't know (and, quite frankly, is probably not the best, since so few choose to participate). I am going to call both of our dentists tomorrow to see what they charge out of pocket. My guess is that the cost of 4 cleanings (two each) plus X-rays (J has never had them) would be more than the cheapest $432, but not sure. If I go that route, I will have something like $30-50/month come out of my pay for the HSA. We get the tax benefits either way, so this may make the most sense.

There is a enrollment seminar tomorrow, but it may be very general, and if many people show up, I might not get to ask questions. Here is hoping for the best.

One more thing that really irritates me: It seems extremely unfair that family coverage is the same if you have 1 kid or 7 kids. I have bought many family memberships to things over the years, even though I have one kid. Those things are "wants" or luxuries. Why can't health insurance, something so very expensive, go with some sort of a tiered coverage?! People want to complain about the ACA subsidizing so many people (which it does). But why do I, the parent of one, have to subsidize families with many kids?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Some stuff

A few things have been weighing on my mind lately. Most notable has been the hub's job. The company he has worked for for more than 7 years has not been doing well for, well, years. Paychecks have been late for at least a year or two. His salary was cut long before that, never to be brought back. And, even though the economy is better than it was earlier this decade, it still is not great, thus keeping the hubs at that job. Still, we both knew the biggest advantage of his job was that he got to work from home. Being able to get out of bed just before your starting time, particularly when you are not a morning person, is pretty great. Not having to sit in traffic most days, also pretty great. And being able to take a late lunch so you can get your kid from school and bring her back home, saving on after-school care, also pretty darn good.

J will be 13 at the end of the summer. We had decided that we were going to transition her to staying by herself by letting her do that 2 or 3 days a week, knowing that B would be home most of the time (he does site visits most weeks, for a couple of hours at a time). The place she has gone to the past 3 summers goes up to age 11, for some odd reason (to me), but they were fine with letting her come back a final summer.

So we had a plan.

And then things changed.

Another company is buying out a portion of the company B currently works for. This company is large and established, so it is mostly a good thing. If nothing else, I am 99.9% sure he will be paid on time!

But B will now have to go into an office. Fortunately, the office is only about 10 minutes away. But this muddies the waters of our summer plans. And it means B can no longer get J after school and bring her back home. Even if this company would let him take lunch at 2:30 or 3, it would take his entire lunch hour to get her, bring her home, and then come back to work. And, unfortunately, B won't have health insurance until August. But even then, he will pay quite a bit more than what he paid at his current (now former) job. So he will go on my plan, which will mean about $200 less in my monthly pay. :-(  And that does not even include dental and eye, for which J and I were on his plan, and they were much cheaper. And whereas he had to be "on call" 1/4 weeks a month (he had to answer help calls 24/7), this new job will require that 2/4 weeks, and this time, he will have to drive places after normal work hours.

So, as is so often the case, it feels like two steps forward and two steps back.

But, looking on the bright side, as I try to do, change is inevitable, and sometimes good. This could turn out to be a good job opportunity, with growth. And perhaps there are other advantages I am not even realizing. I sure hope so.

My dad said to me years ago, whatever decision you make, you will make it the right one. So we will make it the right one. Right?

Now let's go Pens!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

You are different from me, so let's not be friends!

This election season, which pretty much started 3 years ago, has been particularly contentious. I can't believe we have another almost 7 months until the general election and then another almost 3 more months until the inauguration. Lord, help us.

But what bothers me even more than the bitterness, hate, and name-calling is when people say things like this on Facebook:
"If you support _____, unfriend me right now." 

If you have just met me or read my blog for the first time, the best way I can describe myself is a liberal Republican. Facebook reminded me a few days ago that my hubby had called me a "bleeding heart liberal" 2 years ago. Not surprisingly, my liberal friends were pleased and said things like "what a compliment" and "thank him." In fact, only one conservative friend made a comment, which was "If the shoe fits..."

As I have said several times here, my (somewhat confusing and conflicted) political leanings often put me on my own island. Alone. By myself. Some of my liberal and conservative friends are truly bothered by me because I am not what they are (I am pretty much like no one!) In fact, a few friends in those camps have unfriended me, most likely for those reasons.

But here is the thing: my politics don't define me as a person. 

I am an honest, ethical, hard-working, fast-talking, loyal, procrastinating, caring, sensitive, church-going, faith-wavering, open-minded, sports-loving (Steelers, Pens, Penn State, Pitt, Pirates), worrying, second-chance-giving, cluttered, pro-life, information-seeking person

I am 99 percent sure I am not going to vote for Trump. I won't say 100 percent because almost everyone I have supported is no longer in the running, and, for various reasons, I will not vote for Hillary if she is the last Democrat standing. But more likely, I will just write someone in come November. Wasted vote? Maybe. But (I hope) it feels better to vote my conscience. 

I can see merits of every candidate. I mean that (but some more than most). Even Donald, whom I do not care for in the least. I get why people support him, Bernie, Hillary, Cruz, and Kasich. Some reasons seem a little misguided and frightening, but some reasons are logical.

If people want to defriend (or stop being friends with someone IRL) because of their politics more so than how they are as a person, I cannot get behind that. Sure, if someone is a Donald supporter and is spewing hate, then don't be friends with them. But if you like Sally, are you willing to give up your 20-year friendship with her just because she is conservative and won't vote for a Democrat? Or just because Mikey thinks Bernie is the second coming of Jesus, are you going to ditch him just because you despised the Affordable Care Ac?

I want to understand the rationale, but I don't. Maybe someone can help a sister out.

Until then, I will do the exact opposite of my post title.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Racism, prejudice, entitlement, and saying the wrong things

Simple Definition of RACISM
• : poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race
• : the belief that some races of people are better than others

Simple Definition of PREJUDICE
• : an unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, etc.
• : a feeling of like or dislike for someone or something especially when it is not reasonable or logical

I certainly don't treat anyone poorly or commit acts of violence against them because of their race. I don't think one race (or my race) is better than others. And I do not have a feeling of dislike for anyone or any group, other than litterers, drug dealers (of the hard stuff; not marijuana), and murderers. But I can tell you that great disdain for those three groups is not based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. It is all about the actions of those people, and I certainly don't think it is unreasonable or illogical to feel that way about people who do disgusting things.

But, in light of the Wendy Bell WTAE firestorm (based on many comments), I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that I am not somewhat prejudiced or racist (whichever causes me to avoid questionable neighborhoods at night). In fact, I think many people are and may not realize it.

I am not talking about the hateful kind. The kind that causes, for example, a white person to say he would never date or befriend a black person. The kind that presumes if someone in the city was shot, that a black person must have done it. The kind that refuses to let any Muslims in the country because they are probably terrorists.

No, I am talking about the type where we as white people don't think before we speak and make assumptions. And, yes, I am generalizing here. And honestly I am confused by what exactly qualifies as racism or prejudice.

I don't know WTAE news anchor Wendy Bell personally. But the wording and descriptions she used in a recent (since deleted, but easily found) FB post could be construed as racist. I don't think she meant it in a negative way. I am pretty certain she was speaking her heart, as she seems to do in her posts. And the reason I say "construed" is because I just don't believe Wendy comes from a hateful place. That said, I was shocked by her wording. It was offensive and condescending to many and understandably so. You cannot and should not presume that whoever murdered those six people and shot three others can be described this way, as she did:

You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday. I will tell you they live within 5 miles of Franklin Avenue and Ardmore Boulevard and have been hiding out since in a home likely much closer to that backyard patio than anyone thinks. They are young black men, likely teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have been in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested. They’ve made the circuit and nothing has scared them enough.

About the only thing you could presume, and I still would not, and she certainly should not say it, is that whoever murdered those people have committed other crimes. I am no expert on criminal behavior, but I am pretty sure a nice, law-abiding person just does not walk into a backyard cookout and shoot nine people, six of them dead, as his or her first crime. Just as it is highly unlikely (though not impossible) that someone sticks a needle full of heroin in her vein as an entry into drug use.

Yes, Wendy has freedom of speech, but a person in the media, particularly one whose FB "name" includes her TV station, should not say that. Maybe statistically it is likely that the two shooters are black. If one presumes that people tend to hang out with their own race, then it is more than likely that the shooters were black. (Again, I am generalizing and making presumptions). But she took it a bit too far, particularly breaking down the family dynamic. And to the people who said, "If the shooters turn out to be black thugs who have committed other crimes and have multiple half-siblings, then the anti-Wendy people better apologize." I disagree. And I don't even care that some black people, including some black clergy people, have stood up for her choice of wording. 

I know of four people who sold drugs and have gone to jail for it. All are white, two males and two females (two of the females dated one of the males; one of the females has since died from drugs). I don't presume all drug dealers are white just because that is pretty much all I know. It just stands to reason that I would not know too many black drug dealers since I know very few black people well. And I hope that is not a racist statement, but I am sure someone can find at least a hint of prejudice there. And I am saying from a place of just not knowing.

The other thing that Wendy said which might have even been more offensive (though not to me, but I think this comes back to my being white and not being stereotyped for my race) was her portrayal of the black teen who was working the restaurant where she and her family were. Again, I truly believe Wendy meant well in her post. She was trying to point out a positive example (and some people are so racist that they need this reminder) and to end her post on a more hopeful note.

But there is HOPE. And Joe and I caught a glimpse of it Saturday night. A young, African American teen hustling like nobody’s business at a restaurant we took the boys to over at the Southside Works. This child stacked heavy glass glasses 10 high and carried three teetering towers of them in one hand with plates piled high in the other. He wiped off the tables. Tended to the chairs. Got down on his hands and knees to pick up the scraps that had fallen to the floor. And he did all this with a rhythm and a step that gushed positivity. He moved like a dancer with a satisfied smile on his face. And I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s going to Make It. ...

It will be some time before I forget the smile that beamed across that young worker’s face — or the look in his eyes as we caught each other’s gaze. I wonder how long it had been since someone told him he was special.

I can say that I needed people to show me what was wrong with that description. I am sorry I did not get it before, as I was focused on a positive story, but I get it now. "Hustling" and "rhythm" and "moved like a dancer" may not have been the best word choices given black stereotypes, and I can see where people may think the "down on his hands and knees" comment was emblematic of being a servant. And if I were a black mother, I would probably be upset that a white mother would presume my child was not made to feel special, that I needed a white person to do it. But as offensive and stereoptyipcal as those statements may have been, I just don't think they come from a place of hate. They were not appropriate, and she should have apologized for them, which she, more or less, did (many have argued that saying you are sorry if someone viewed what you wrote was racist is not an apology). 

But when does it end? What does she have to do? I have read horrible comments from people who have said hateful things about Wendy. She did not murder anyone. If you have read other posts of hers, I think you would see she is genuinely caring and open (perhaps too so, but I am like that) person. I know someone who is friends with her. I can go only on what she said, and I won't go into specifics, but it seems to confirm my opinion.

To the last part of my title: Lately, I find myself worrying if my choice of words will offend someone. I think that is a big problem today: Someone is bound to be offended. I rewrote quite a bit of this post, for fear of offending someone. And if more than a few people came here, I am certain at least four things I said would be offensive to someone, even though that is not my intention. I am a kind, open-minded person. I don't try to incite hate or negativity as so many people seem to do (though as a Catholic, registered Republican, Penn State alum, I have experienced vitriol, indirectly and directly). And I guess that is why I find myself mostly defending Wendy.

When I was in college, before people had cell phones or email, I sent Christmas cards to all my close friends including someone who was Jewish. I was not that religious, so you can bet the card did not reference Jesus, but Christ is in Christmas, so...  Anyway, I still can remember my Jewish friend laying into me when we returned from winter break. I remember how belittled and embarrassed I felt. I don't recall how I reacted. But I never made that mistake again. I was just trying to include the friend, but it backfired.

Sometimes we, as humans, may have the best intentions, but due to ignorance, insensitivity, or lack of experience (on either party), things may not come off or out as we intended. 

I will try harder to put myself in others' positions, knowing I may not be able to successfully do so, mostly because I have not lived it. But I will also try to be more forgiving and understanding. Something I think many of us could benefit from.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I'm glad that is over with!

This past Monday, I officially became (one of the things) I had wanted to for my last two car purchases: a Subaru Forester owner. :-)

I wish I could recall what made me want to own one, way back in 1999, just before I had bought my (used) Ford Explorer. At that time, I was down to a Honda CRV and a Subaru Forester, but the latter was going to be more expensive to insure, so I nixed it. Plus the Forester was boxy, so I don't know what the appeal was. In any event, the dealership I was dealing with did not have any CRVs in, and my lease was running out; then the Explorer presented itself. It was a good (large) car that served me well for many years. But then repairs started to pile up, and I started searching again. This time, I was down to, once again, a Subaru Forester, which was slightly less boxy, but still not "pretty," and a Hyundai Santa Fe and a Tucson. When Saturn offered 0% financing for 5 years for a Vue, I moved that car up from #5 to #1. It too served me well for many years.

My original plan was to keep the Vue for 10 years. But, as with my previous car, I was starting to put $$ into it, and the car was approaching 100k. And even though my mechanic found nothing wrong with my car when I had it inspected a few months ago, it continued to make noises. I figured the longer I waited, the less money I would get for my car, so I started to look, once again, at the Forester, which was now good looking! It is one of the safest cars, and the commercials get me every time.

So began a few weeks of intense searching for a used Forester, and along with it, much anxiety and stress, as I analyze (i.e., over-analyze) all purchases and often worry about money. Finding one with low mileage and a decent price was no easy task. I had nearly given up when I saw that the dealership (#1 Cochran) was offering 0% financing for 48 months on a new Forester or Legacy (the latter entered the race for that reason). Buying new was not appealing because of the depreciation factor, but considering how little Subarus seem to depreciate, I changed my tune. Plus, the last time I bought used, I had repairs before I finished making payments. (Lesson learned: Spread out your payments for no more than 3 years when you are buying used.)

I did more research, and I finally made it to the dealership last Saturday to test drive both models. I then had to decide between the two. The Legacy was a premium model (Heated seats! Heated side mirrors! Windshield wiper de-icer! Leather steering wheel!), so that tilted the odds in its favor, but I was not sure I could give up the height that comes with an SUV. But premium model! Then the hubs noticed the car was wider than the SUV. With my poor depth perception, I often struggled backing out of our garage, and scraped my mirrors more than once (my Vue was about an inch wider than the Explorer). Getting another car that was a 1/2" wider than my last one would not bode well for me. Once I realized the Forester was actually 1.5" less wide than the Vue, I knew my decision was made (though I was a little teary about giving up the "good stuff").

So, I told our no-pressure salesperson what I had decided, we talked about my trade-in, which was more than I expected, only thanks to a coupon that was missing fine print (which we had to fight for). The final price was slightly less than what suggested. (I very much appreciate the no-haggle policy: I think Cochran calls it "clear-cut pricing.") So I signed on the dotted line. Unfortunately, the dealership finance department was backed up, and I had to come back two days later to sign papers since I had some where to be. But they did let me keep the car in between, which was surprising to me (I think they felt bad that I had an appointment, and I was there 3 hours). The worrier that I am, I fretted that someone would steal my identity over the weekend and/or that my credit was not as stellar as I thought.

But when I came back in on Monday, much to my relief, all was in line. In fact, my lowest score was 838 and my highest was 870, which is all that and a bag of chips! So I am a Subaru owner! There are some things I need to get used to, including having to lock my doors and not having a leather steering wheel (never thought I would miss that). But I very much love having a backup camera and being able to talk on the phone via my car. But truly the best thing is feeling safe. Such an upgrade from a plastic car with only two airbags. 

Just don't tell Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey that I bought new (but buying for 4 years instead of 5 might buy me a little of their forgiveness). I'd like to think they would appreciate my good reasons for doing so. :-). 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Second chances and bad decisions

I've been thinking about second chances and drugs a bit lately. This has been mostly spurred by the HONY series on inmates. I find  a lot of their stories to be fascinating, and in many cases I feel sorry for them, even empathetic. Some of those people were dealt a bad hand in life. Others got caught up in a lifestyle. One guy justified his actions (dealing drugs) by his giving neighborhood kids money for the movies and helping someone pay a bill. Robin Hood of the hood!

I also watch the show Pit Bulls and Parolees. I find myself rooting for the guys there too. I want them to do the right thing. And I think most of them will. 

But it is so easy, I imagine, to fall back into the fast lifestyle. When you can make hundreds or thousand of dollars a day working just a few hours, slinging burgers for $7.25/hour for 6 to 8 hours a day seems a lot less appealing. And the addiction. I know how difficult it is for me to not eat sweets or to stop biting my lips and my nails. I can only imagine what addicts must face on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Honestly, after seeing a couple of relatives go through it, for the most part I believe it is when, not if, they will go back to it.

When I see some parolee on that show saying he wants to turn his life around, I often say out loud, "Do the right thing. Make good decisions." I always watch the show with my kid, who is a sensitive soul, with a huge place in her heart for animals. I typically remind her of the poor decisions these guys have made, but that they are trying to turn their lives around. Seeing Joe in yesterday's episode provided a good cautionary tale; during his drug-dealing days, he was shot at in a car dozens of times and lost an eye. But we have relatives who have done things and have allowed me to give my child some excellent examples of how drugs can ruin your life. I can only hope and pray the lessons take.

These are things that I think about, particularly as my child is hurtling towards the teenage years and my not having a clue as to where she will go to high school or who her friends will be. I think about drugs because they are in the news so much. Part of me wants marijuana to be legal because it does not seem to warrant prison, most of which are already overcrowded. And I don't think it is particularly dangerous; most people I know who smoke do it to relax. You just don't read about people who have died from smoking a joint. 

Yet people who do or did hardcore drugs did not start by sticking a needle in their arms. My one relative started with weed. Unfortunately it did not end there. 

So as with most everything in my life, I have mixed feelings about this and no answers. I don't know how to get people not to buy, use, sell, or get off drugs. I just have to hope it lessens, and hope even more it does not hit home. And I am still going to forgive and give people second (and sometimes third) chances. Especially people I care about. But I know people fall back to their old ways and/or may not deserve the chance to begin with. But that is life. At least the one I am living in.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

So much to say, and yet nothing really

Another month has passed without my blogging. I (sometimes) long for the days when I would blog several times  a week. I am just in a weird place now, and I am not sure blogging will help. Plus with the rather boring life I lead, there really is not much to say. But I will try to say a few things that are on my mind.

The Steelers are the playoffs! I used to be so excited by that. And I am still a little. I will certainly be watching the game. I am wearing my Hines jersey as we speak. But I no longer get really worked up by a game. I don't cry when my team loses a big game. I no longer post a lot about the Steelers as I used to on Facebook and a little on here. This season is the second in a row I did not go to a single game, which is now my longest streak. My family got season tickets when I was in high school (can't remember when). I went to a game or two a year then. In college, I probably went to only one per year. Once I graduated and up until I had Jordan 10 years later, I went to the majority. But she came, and she became my priority, and tickets kept going up and up. I think our seats are now $105 per ticket, maybe more. Throw in parking and food, and that is a pretty expensive day. I can take Jordan to a Pittsburgh Musical Theater show with either my Pitt discount or a Groupon and spend between $20 and $60 for both of us. Live theater is great. Football on HD TV is pretty good too. :-)

My kid is growing up. I still mostly hate that. I definitely hate the mouthiness and moodiness. We are starting to leave her alone for periods of time. Also very difficult. I worry. So much. But I am getting better about her spending the night elsewhere. So there is that. And I still regret, pretty much weekly, that J has no siblings. I really don't want another child (at 44, that ship has sailed). But I know it bothers J she is an only child. It makes me sad that she will never know what it is like to grow up with a sibling or have a sibling relationship as an adult.

I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. But I am actually fairly okay with that. I think I have finally come to accept/realize that life is unpredictable and nothing is written in stone. And if I am doing something different next year, and a thing different from that in 5 more years, that is okay. I would very much like to stay at my job for a number of reasons (not the least of which is J would have her college paid for), but if my org does not get the funding it needs/the restructuring does not go as planned, come this summer, I will have to figure out what I want to do for the next chapter of my life. Which could be a few months, a few years, or even a few decades. But I will just see how it all goes (and think about it when I lie awake at night).

So there you have it. I wrote a post. Probably won't be back here for another month, and that is okay. It has to be.

Go Steelers (and Pens, who also play tonight, but will take a back set to football after about a period and a half)!