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Train Spotting

Wednesday evening, I walked out of a restaurant in Coraopolis. My parents were still inside, waiting to pay the bill (and for the to-go desserts). But Michael was restless, so we went out to the parking lot behind the building.

The restaurant was less than a block from the train tracks that run through Coraopolis. I heard a train coming, and I thought it would fun for Michael to see a train rolling by. We walked toward the street in order to get a good view.

There was a teenager standing on the tracks.

I yelled, and he heard me. He walked to street. He had his phone out.

It looked to me like he was going to do something stupid.

He kept checking to see if I was still in view. I kept standing in view.

When the train started thundering through the intersection, he went inside of the guard rails and stood beside the train. He had his phone up, and I could hear him whooping.

I called 9-1-1.

The train ended before I finished my call, and the kid rode off on his bicycle. I described him to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, and told him that the boy had ridden away.

AND THEN HE CAME BACK, and not only that, he came back with three other children who were younger than he was (two boys and a girl).

I called 9-1-1 again.

Even as I was on the phone, a patrol car rolled up to the children near the tracks. By this time, I was getting everyone in the car, and getting ready to head for home. I turned to my mom and said, “You know, if those kids were black, I would have approached them myself instead of calling 9-1-1.”

And that’s the truth.

Would you have called 9-1-1?

Copyright for featured image: ayo88 / 123RF Stock Photo


My Fitness Journey

When I was a child, I didn’t think about getting exercise. I wouldn’t say that I was an incredibly active child, although I wasn’t a slug, either. I ran around the neighborhood and played outdoors a lot. I rode my bike every where. I even, occasionally, walked home from school (totally unsupervised! I lived to tell the tale!).

In grade school, I started playing soccer, and I played a year of school basketball.

In my teens, I was less active, I will admit. By the time I was 16, I was way more interested in the school newspaper, writing poetry, photography, and (outside of school) smoking cigarettes. None of which are active extra curricular activities. Also: I got a car (that I had to share with the family business and with my brother).

In college, I had to be in some kind of shape to walk the hills of my college campus. But I still wasn’t exercising. I took the occasional aerobics class, but played no team sports. I was involved in campus theater, which did require short bursts of physical work, which were in turn quickly outdone by beer and cigarette consumption at the cast party.

In my early 20s, I walked a lot, I guess. I lived on the South Side and walked to and from campus. When I started working, I walked to downtown, or Oakland, depending. I didn’t have a car, so I either hoofed it or took buses, and I walked everywhere in the South Side: grocery shopping, library, bars.

At some point in my mid-20s I discovered running. Before then, I never would have considered running for me, and today, I couldn’t tell you what inspired me to pick it up. I never raced or ran competitively. I couldn’t tell you how many minutes a mile took me (a lot, I’m sure). I ran about four miles, two or three times a week, plus exercised with some light weights. The year before I got married in 2001, I was probably in the best shape of my life. I continued that exercise routine on and off until I got pregnant with Gabriel.

When I was pregnant, I continued to exercise, although I did stop running. I was plagued with sciatica in that pregnancy. After I lost Gabriel, I did go back to running. When I found out I was pregnant with Flora, I cut WAY back. Some walking and stretching (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it yoga), but losing my first pregnancy made me leery about pushing myself too hard physically. None of my healthcare providers suggested I stop exercising altogether, for the record.

Fast forward to when Michael was two years old. I hadn’t gotten back to a regular exercise routine since Flora’s birth. Dan had finally committed to working out three times a week, and he was getting noticeably stronger and healthier. I sat on the edge of our bed and looked down at my out-of-shape body, and knew something had to change.

Exercise shoes
New shoes!

I was never fat. Neither weight nor food were issues for me. But it’s possible to be skinny and unhealthy.

So I started exercising again. That was three years ago, and I took it pretty easy, starting with short bursts of intense exercise. But I worked my way up to the 30-Day Shred, and I was pretty proud of myself. I never got back to running, though. Four babies and 40s have taken care of that.

Now, in September of 2016, I am getting formal, regular exercise between three and six days a week. Thirty-minute strength or cardio workouts, or a combo of both; yoga once or twice a week, walking, and soccer with Michael or Flora. My workplace has an employee gym, and it’s right across the hall from me. I belong to a FB group of like-minded women who encourage me daily.

My weekly goal has gone from three times a week to 150 minutes of exercise a week. “Functional fitness” such as housecleaning and carrying laundry up and down stairs is bonus time. I’ll never be in the shape I was in my 20s, but I am strong and toned. I can kick a soccer ball around with my children. I can do a stress reducing yoga routine.

It feels good to be getting regular exercise. I think that’s the thing I like the most. I am sore most days, but not crippled; I have to see my chiropractor on the regular to keep everything aligned. But I am stronger and less stressed, and happier as a result.

And, my husband thinks I’m still hot. That’s a bonus.

Do you have fitness goals? What does it take to meet them?

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What I Did on My Sick Days

I woke up Saturday with a fierce headache and a sore throat. This is how I made it through the weekend.

A little career counseling for a young writer a bit at sea. We talked digital media, inbound marketing, and next steps he can take to get into a career.
Michael’s soccer game. I sat. A lot. And drank Throat Coat tea.
Flora’s soccer game. I powered through coaching. Lots of yelling encouragement from the sidelines.
Went home, and went to bed.

What I asked for when I went to bed:
The laptop
The laptop charger
Two books: The Girl on the Train, and Man’s Search for Meaning (neither of which I read on Saturday)
A glass of water
A cup of Throat Coat tea
The phone charger
An egg (Dan had to send someone next door for an egg; I made myself ramen with a soft boiled egg and some peas)

I sent Dan to Costco with the shopping list. He took Flora and Michael. Kate stayed home with me. Dan didn’t want to leave me alone, and I quote, “in your weakened state.”

I watched about three episodes of Jane the Virgin.
Fell asleep at some point; woke up at 7:30 p.m. Dan was cooking pizza. I went downstairs for a piece; made a salad.

Dan put the children to bed. He fell asleep.
I made myself a hot toddy, and watched more Jane the Virgin. Went to bed around 11.

Pout-Pout ready to cheer on Michael.
Michael with his classroom pet Pout-Pout. Pout-Pout went to the Pirates game with Flora and to soccer with Michael. Michael read him books. Pout-Pout had a pretty low-key weekend.

Got everyone rolling to CCD and Mass; I stayed home, watched more Jane the Virgin, and sorted through a basket of papers and books that needed to be disposed of. Progress!
Cleaned the kitchen from the night before.
Made myself eggs and toast.
Showered. (Progress, again!)
Took Kate to buy new shoes. She went from a size 3 (last year) to a women’s size 7.5.
Picked up something for Dan to take to his football watching party.
Laid on the couch.
Helped Michael make his Pout Pout book.
Made myself grilled cheese and tomato soup; fed the children leftover pizza.
Read a lot of The Girl on the Train (I’m not done. No spoilers!).
Kate read a chapter of Fortune Falls to me.
Helped children get ready for Monday (pack lunches, organize book bags, and so on). Got everyone to bed.
More reading, another hot toddy, more Jane the Virgin.

Feeling better and went to work. Not 100 percent, but not as sick as I was on Saturday. I’ll take it easy, because I don’t really have time to be sick like that.

How was your weekend?

Copyright for featured image, which accurately represents how I felt this weekend: frenky362 / 123RF Stock Photo

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Seven Things: A Quick Update

1. School started! Flora and Kate have re-acclimated quickly, for which I am entirely grateful.

Flora in car.
This is the best picture I got on Flora’s first day of school.
K and M, day 2.
A very blurry picture from Dan of these two on their second day of school.

2. Flora is definitely becoming more mature and responsible. She comes home and does her homework. She helps Michael if he has homework. She seldom complains about cleaning the kitchen. She remembers to empty the dishwasher more often than not.

3. Kate is not on the same page as Flora — and as I am often reminded, she is two years younger. She is one of the reasons I have adopted my mother-in-law’s phrase, “Do it right or do it twice.” Let’s just say that Kate’s strengths are elsewhere (making friends, primarily; also, doing handstands). She is very sweet. She asks Dan and me almost every day how our days were, and she really listens to our answers. She values interaction over just doing stuff.

4. Michael… *sigh*. Michael has already lost a backpack and a lunch box. We are already dealing with another boy who is bullying him on the bus (OH NO, HONEY. THAT WILL NOT STAND.) If asked directly about school, it’s “boring,” but if given space, he’ll cheerfully chatter away about his day. He tells me about Go Noodle, computer games (that are sneakily teaching him the location of letters on the keyboard), and other little events about his day. So, a little uneven.

5. Taking the tablets away was definitely the right move. It forces them to focus on what needs to be done; it sparks their creativity in play. Now if I could get them to *read books* I would feel even better. Kate and Michael will play together sometimes; they will also do gymnastics in my living room, which isn’t awesome. Flora will draw. And draw. And draw. She wrote a short story recently (I haven’t read it yet), so maybe I can encourage more of that.

How do I encourage them to read actual novel-like books? The girls, I mean. M and I do his sight words every now and again; I could get better at doing this. But the girls seldom crack a book at home.

6. (I am an actual paid blogger. My job is going gangbusters. You can check out some of my stuff here.) (I’m whispering because I don’t want to jinx anything.)

7. Dan and I need date nights. Like, not just social nights out as a couple. We did a lot of seeing people over the summer, attending events and get-togethers. But we stopped spending time together as just a couple. The dinner date thing isn’t really doing it for us either. I’m trying to find other stuff for us to do, not too expensive. I’m thinking one month (or even every six weeks) he’ll pick and plan our date, and the next time, I will. For the record, I am thinking this may be fun. We like exercise, booze, and music, basically.

What’s going on with YOU? Oh, and if you have ideas about getting my girls to read, that would be great.

Copyright for image: markusgann / 123RF Stock Photo

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Making America Afraid Again

I went grocery shopping after work the other night. As I pulled in, I noticed a Trump sticker on a car in the lot.

“Whatever,” I thought to myself. Everyone’s got an opinion.

In the store, I shopped with an older Korean couple, a Spanish family, an African American family, and two women in hijab who were with their children. There was also an older white couple, a younger white couple, a few people on their own, and a mom who looked harried to the nth degree with her two rambunctious boys. I seriously wanted to say to her, “It’s okay; I’ve been there.”

After noticing the women in hijab, and hearing the Korean and Spanish families speak their native languages, I got a little tense.

I thought to myself, “What if someone here starts something? What if one of these people tells the Spanish family, ‘This is America. We speak English.’ What if someone confronts one of these women in traditional dress and starts yelling about terrorism, tells them to go home?”

(I am guilty of assuming the women in hijab were Muslim.)

I was worried about my safety, as well as worried about the safety of these minority and immigrant families.

I was afraid of people who look like me. I was afraid of someone acting deplorably toward a fellow human being.

I was also tensing myself to intervene in the case of confrontation. I practiced the steps in my head: Talk directly to the person being harassed. Be friendly, make small talk, ignore the harasser. I was even planning how to escort someone to her car if needed.

This is the public climate in this country right now.

I have never been afraid of someone who looked different than I look, or a person who follows a different religion than I do. Never in my life.

And yet, here I am, in 2016 worried about defending myself or another person in public. Defending a person who looks differently than I do. But a fellow mother, a fellow human being. A person who has done me no harm.

God help me if the person doing the harassing should happen to have a gun.

Copyright for the featured image: peus / 123RF Stock Photo

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Of Broad Brushes and Baskets

[Spoiler alert: I’m still voting for Hillary Clinton.]

This summer I read A Raisin in the Sun, a play by Lorraine Hansberry. One of the plot points in the play revolves around the decision of the family’s matriarch to buy a house in the suburbs — the very white suburbs. As the family prepares to move, a white man shows up at their apartment, which is in a building in the inner city of Chicago.

The man makes the family an offer: We’ll buy your house back from you, with extra. You just agree not to move to our neighborhood. Ever. His earnest point: People should be around people just like them. Because sometimes people are uncomfortable around people who are different. And he wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to this black family or to the neighborhood in which he lives with his white neighbors.

This argument is still present in modern-day America: that like people should live around like people. As a matter of fact, this philosophy is the cornerstone of the alt-right movement. They want to have freedom of association. They only want to associate with people who look like them and share their heritage. White people, who have European heritage. That’s not racist, people in the alt-right insist. It’s human nature, they insist.

To paraphrase further, people in the alt-right movement (there’s no leadership insists the man in the interview I’ve linked above) think that the greatest danger in America today is the fact that white, European culture — on which our country was founded! — is in danger of being subsumed by other cultures. So the white culture needs to come out swinging, and of course, vote for That Guy. This will keep brown people away from white people.

Walls must be built. White people must be protected. White people should not be forced to associate — nay even live near — non-White people.

How is this not racism?


You can argue that Clinton, a very smart woman, said a pretty stupid thing. And she did walk it back, saying that she overgeneralized and probably shouldn’t have said “half.”

But if you look at poll numbers, “half” of Trump supporter is close to the mark.

And let’s not forget, Clinton is aware of and wants to reach out to Trump supporters, those she knows feel disenfranchised by politics and by changes in America. I talked about them in my Nothing to Lose post.


Those in the alt-right and white supremacists such as David Duke support That Guy because That Guy wants to build walls. He wants to close borders. He wants to keep brown people away from white people.

The irony of That Guy’s campaign calling for apologies because they claim Clinton made gross generalizations about hard working people is laughable. That Guy has said terrible things about Mexicans, black people, women, the disabled, and Muslims.

Yesterday, he referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas! He casually slanders and insults anyone he doesn’t like.

“Deplorable” may be a strong word to describe some of the people who will vote for That Guy because they support his policy positions on immigration. But it’s not too strong a word for people who feel emboldened by his campaign to swear at my friend, who is of mixed race, in Target with her baby, or set a Muslim woman’s clothes on fire.

I’m still with her.

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Latchkey Kids

I was a latchkey kid.

Once I was in sixth grade, my mom went back to work full time. When my brother, sister, and I got home from school, we let ourselves into the house.

I honestly cannot tell you what we did once we let ourselves in. We probably had some milk and cookies. I recall watching 4 p.m. cartoons. Mom was usually home in time to make dinner.

I certainly was not in charge when we came home, which is to say that I didn’t tell my siblings what to do. For all I know, Krissy was watching TV as soon as we walked in the door, and Timmy went to the neighbor’s house to play. Seriously, no clue. I don’t think I did homework until after dinner.

I don’t remember being stressed or my mom being stressed.

So why am I so stressed about my children being, technically speaking, latchkey kids? Although I haven’t heard this term recently, so maybe it is no longer in the parenting lexicon.

Flora comes home first, and Kate and Michael are home an hour or so later. Everyone usually checks in with Bella next door, and/or texts me as soon as they are home. I come home about 30 minutes after everyone is there, so it’s not as if they are on their own for a long time.

I’m not worried about them needing to call 9-1-1.

I want them to come home, do their homework, and do their chores. If they have a snack — and given that Flora is eating lunch before 11 a.m. at school, I fully expect her to have a snack — I want them to clean up after themselves.

I would lament, “Is that so much to ask?” But given the state of my house when I get home, apparently it is.

The tablets have gone away. I have told them the TV is not to go on until I get home and give permission. I come home to homework scattered all over the kitchen table. I come home to a room that looks like the toy box, pantry, and the arts and crafts drawer exploded. I come home, and feel like I have to start barking orders. “Flora, empty the dishwasher! Kate, set the table! Michael, pick up your toys!”

I don’t want to come home and start ordering my children around.

Flora and Michael each have one evening of soccer practice; Kate will be starting gymnastics in a couple of weeks. Pretty soon, also, Flora will be bringing home her violin to practice, and Kate will either be bringing home a trumpet or a glockenspiel (according to her, this is an option).

I was a quiet, solitary child. I’m sure that I came home, had a snack at the kitchen table (probably didn’t clean up after myself), and dove right into a book. And that’s all she wrote. We had after-dinner chores: clear the table, rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, wash the dishes. Timmy used to *love* washing dishes. He would fill the sink up with water, bubbles, and dishes, and he would take forever about it. He hated rinsing dishes, though; he was totally grossed out by leftover food.

Yeah, my brother, the dermatologist, was grossed out rinsing food off plates.

I didn’t think about it that much. I liked clearing the table the best, because it was easiest and fastest. Homework was done in the dining room or at the kitchen table. I didn’t hate homework. I didn’t love it either. Much like chores, it was just something that needed to be done. I’m sure I had to be *encouraged* to practice piano.

But I feel like I am stressing out my children with my expectations of finished homework and a clean house. Are my expectations too high? Should I try to come home sooner and walk them through the process of after-school activities (it’s not undoable, just means I will have to fit in another hour of work at home after dinner — flashbacks of after-dinner homework).

As far as bedtime, for Michael, it is unmovable. Little dude cannot make it past 7:30 now that he’s in a classroom setting all day long.

We are only a week into the school year. I’m not going to survive. I either need to lower my expectations, or find a way to encourage my children to step it up.

How do you manage after-school time?

Copyright for featured image: naypong / 123RF Stock Photo


Wherever Is Your Heart

My dearest Daniel,

Fifteen years of loving you, of choosing you every day. You are (as the card said) my one and only.

You support me, you celebrate me, you are my teammate and partner. I hope you know how much I value you, and how I strive to do and be the same for you. I have had some creative and career successes (and challenges) in this past year; you have had a devastating loss. We are stronger together, and I hope you know how much I want to be here for you. How much I AM here for you.

You are my biggest cheerleader, and you keep me grounded. Thank you. I look forward to so many more years with you, the challenges and tears, the triumphs and successes. I don’t want to do any of this with anyone else, ever.

I love this song, and it makes me think of you. Happy Anniversary, husband.

Your ever-loving,

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Set Them Free

I haven’t worn a bra since February.

It mostly happened because my old bras didn’t fit any longer due to being over laundered and/or my changing shape because I am regularly working out. I didn’t feel like shopping for new bras. And frankly, I think bras were contributing to the anxiety/panic attacks that I was having in February and March. A bra that doesn’t fit, especially if it’s too small, makes it hard to breathe.

It’s difficult to find a bra that fits and is comfortable — this is a universal truth. Bra-off o’clock is a thing for a reason.

It may surprise you to hear that having small breasts doesn’t make it any easier to find a comfortable bra; as a matter of fact, it may make it as difficult as for large breasted women. Bra makers don’t consider making good bras for women who are flat-chested. I am less than an A cup, and finding a non-wired, non “push up” bra that fits well is time-consuming and frustrating.

The main problem with sizing is that it seems to me bra makers assume if you are small chested, it is because you are a still-developing woman. So the styles are targeted at younger women. Bands are small, or when they do fit, the cup sizes are for at least an A cup, leaving wrinkles or gaps, which don’t look good under clothes.

So I just gave up. I usually wear camisoles and tank tops under my tops, from t-shirts to professional blouses. It usually works.

To be clear, I am not at all complaining about the size of my breasts. I was excruciatingly self-conscious about it as a teenager and younger woman. At this point however? I have fed babies and they seem to keep my husband entertained. They don’t get in my way when I workout. Back pain due to their weight is not an issue.

I should probably invest in a bralette or two for those moments where a cami isn’t enough (hello, nipples). Shopping is not my strong suit, and hasn’t been for a while. The time! The money.

I have a tentative date on my calendar to take myself shopping for new clothes. Maybe I’ll look at bras — or, bralettes — then.

Can anyone be pro-bra, really? How do you find the perfect bra?

Copyright: jaywebde / 123RF Stock Photo

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Summer’s Over

The nanny has been back at her real job (full time teaching) since Aug. 15, so Dan and I have been doing a mix of WFH, children to his office, and help from MIL to keep the children cared for. I am grateful my MIL is willing to watch the children even just one day a week.

Michael and Kate have new school orientation tomorrow.
Michael, my baby, is starting kindergarten!
School starts next Wednesday.

Sports activities will be starting up next week, too. Stay tuned to see if I end up being a soccer coach.

I am back to being the primary cooker, cleaner, and shopper. Ah, well, it was good while it lasted. The children are getting better about doing their part. Kate even cleaned both bathrooms this weekend, and cleaned well. Toilets and all!

We haven’t told the children about our decision regarding the tablets yet.

I did start talking with the children about some changes regarding snacks and “night time treats.” I am going to phase in more healthy choices for packing lunches and snacking, and we are going to move away from daily night time treats. I’m not even going to buy cookies or other sweets. Snacks will be fruit, nuts, yogurt, and string cheese. We have to reduce the sugar intake in the household. Sweets will be for special occasions. Or we can bake cookies on weekends.

Of course, there was some push back about this idea. Michael kept saying he didn’t like nuts. I kept pointing out pistachios were nuts. “Oh, yeah, I like bistachios.” I know, little buddy. Flora proposed rice rollers, apples, and peanuts. I told her I was fine with those choices.

Kate just sang, “Nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts” over and over again.

I think mealtime may need to move or be flexible, which is one reason night time treats need to go. The race home, cook dinner, and get people to their activities by 6 p.m. — three times a week, mind you — was simply insane last year. A solid after-school snack while they do their homework, then the activity, then dinner at home afterward (then bed!) will work better.

This remains to be seen. But that’s the loose idea for now. That combined with maybe the girls cooking? Or me doing a better job of figuring out freezer meals, and prepping on the weekends? So many options!

What do you do to manage the after-school runaround?

Copyright for image: natavkusidey / 123RF Stock Photo