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Why I Take Selfies

I missed National Selfie Day (yes, it’s actually a thing), and I’m a little disappointed.

In my cursory research for this post, I learned that taking selfies is good for teens and tweens. But moms should absolutely not take selfies, especially if their children are in them. (Go ahead, google “moms taking selfies.” NSFW, in case you couldn’t figure it out.)

I take selfies.

I take selfies with friends.

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With OC (original cast) members of Pittsburgh’s LTYM show, taken at this year’s show.

I take selfies with Dan.

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Me and my boo.

I take selfies with the children.

Golf cart selfie with Kate.
Golf cart selfie with Kate.
Michael selfie
Michael and I on his “graduation” day.

And they are some of my favorite pictures. Of me, of me and Dan, of me and the children.

The selfie serves another purpose, as well.

If you haven’t yet, look through a portfolio of victims from the Orlando shooting.

Notice how many of those pictures are selfies.

God forbid I am ever the victim of a violent crime that ends up on the national news (or any violent crime). I pray every day that my husband and children return to me safely.

But if they don’t, I have this.

Arts Fest Selfie
Arts Fest selfie.
I have us smiling and laughing and being silly.

I have us loving one another.

Cook Forest kitchen selfie.
Cook Forest kitchen selfie.

I could be next. Any of us could be.

How will the world remember you?

Arts Fest Selfie

Summertime, When the Living Is… Not As Difficult

I’ve talked about how much I like having a nanny during the summer, yes?

I was reminded of how much I like it yesterday.

  • I get myself up and ready and out the door in the morning. I only have to get myself going, and I leave a houseful of sleeping darlings.
  • I come home to a clean kitchen and some dinner prep done (when I remember to ask).
  • The girls keep their room cleaner.
  • The children get to sleep in. They go to stuff at the library. Flora and Kate will be attending summer camps in July. They get to go to the pool.
  • Sometimes, Kim goes to the store for me! This is a fantastic time-saver, I can’t even tell you.
  • She helps with special projects around the house.

I love being home by 5 p.m. Some evenings, Kim meets me with the children at Aldi or the farmers market, which means weekends are for fun and not errand running. Some evenings, she can stay a little later, so I can attend Stephen King events or happy hours.

Evenings involve much less rushing around. Tuesday night, we had eaten and were done with clean up by 6 p.m. Michael and I went for a walk; the girls elected to stay and do an hour of tablet time. Michael told me a long rambling story about Bob, his deaf wife (“She used her hands to talk.” “Yes, that’s called sign language.”), and the doggie toy they bought. He asked a bunch of questions, some of which I could not answer (how do you explain radio waves to a 5-year-old?), some of which I could (we can’t go to the sun because it’s far too hot). Then we all played Sorry! I won.

Then it was 8 p.m.!

Last night we met at the farmers market, and then Michael and I planted herbs in the backyard.

Having a summer nanny gives me breathing room. Yes, it’s more expensive than sending them to daycare, but not by a lot. The tradeoffs are worth the extra expense.

What is your favorite part about summer?

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The Girl Who Loved Stephen King, Part II

Stephen King, who talked about his books as his children, was asked if he had any books out there that he would take back. He said there were three works that he had less than happy feelings about. Two novels — Tommyknockers and Dreamcatcher — were written when he was stoned out of his gourd. He’s not exactly proud of those puppies (Tommyknockers was written in the middle of a cocaine binge, and Dreamcatcher was created when he was on painkillers are his near-fatal accident).

The third work he talked about was a slim little book called Rage. He wrote a first draft of Rage in high school in 1965; later as a successful novelist, he rewrote it, and submitted it to his publisher under the name Richard Bachmann. In 1997, he asked his publisher to pull the book. It had been found in the possession of a number of school shooters. He says he feels it was the right thing to do, while still admitting to having mixed feelings.

In a small essay (available on Amazon), Guns, King writes the following:

“My book did not break Cox, Pierce, Carneal, or Loukaitis [the four high school shooters found to have read Rage], or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken. Yet I did see Rage as a possible accelerant, which is why I pulled it from sale. You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it.”

The essay is worth a read: measured, funny in parts, serious in others. King articulates a not-uncommon perspective in America: that of a responsible gun owner, who disavows the NRA, and advocates for common-sense gun control laws. He outlines a few proposals at the end of the essay that we could see enacted pretty soon — because of the horror show in Orlando, and because a Democratic filibuster that took place to force a vote on said proposals. He’ll need another prologue.

Someday, anyway. One day.

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The Girl Who Loved Stephen King

When I was a child, I read everything. And I mean everything, and all the time. I was reading Nancy Drew mysteries by the time I was 8. I tackled The Yearling (although, if I finished it, I don’t remember the ending) while still in elementary school. I was a solitary, quiet child who preferred a good book to just about anything.

My parents never suggested I *not* read something, and they were both readers themselves. One day, my dad came home with a book by an author we hadn’t heard of before.

“My coworker really likes this guy,” he said. The book was for him to read, but I eventually co-opted it. Because it was something to read.

The author was Stephen King. The book was Firestarter.

I was 12.

**

Stephen King finds it pretty fucking incredible that he’s a famous writer. He is floored that more than 600 people stood in line in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, to buy tickets to see him speak live. He is also grateful, and honored, and funny as hell.

To paraphrase King, who was paraphrasing John Grisham, he said, “John said to me, ‘We are famous writers in a country that doesn’t read.’ So thank you for that.”

When he finished the evening, giving us nearly 90 minutes of his time, and we all stood to give him a standing ovation, he applauded us as well.

++

The true story of my ticket is that I didn’t buy it. I stood in line for close to six hours, and I was six people away from the door of the Penguin Bookshop when they sold out.

I was glad I had sunscreen in my purse, because what started out as a cool morning was 80 degrees by 2 p.m. I didn’t have water, or cash, or snacks, though, which was a little sad. I really could’ve used water.

When we handed in our contact information to the owner of the bookstore, and we were all dismissed from the line, I walked across the street, got myself some water and a bagel sandwich, and went home. It took all my strength not to cry. I was seriously disappointed. I was also berating myself. Why hadn’t I gotten up earlier? Why hadn’t I gone to wait in line sooner? Some people CAMPED OUT OVERNIGHT. I had fucked up my only chance to see my favorite author of all time. I posted a “poor me” post on Facebook, and went to eat my late lunch.

And then Meghan texted me. “Hey, do you want my extra ticket?”

Uh, are you serious?

“Sure. I was going to do a give-away at the library, but I feel bad you stood in line so long.”

Yes. YES I WOULD LIKE YOUR EXTRA TICKET. Please.

So, last night, Meghan and I met up at the Sharp Edge for dinner, then walked over to Sewickley Academy, and settled in.

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I met Meghan through our children’s daycare. Her older son and M are friends, although her son is one year older than M. We spent one field trip to Riley’s Farm talking Stephen King books on the back of the bus. We follow each other on social media, and take our sons on the occasional outing together. She’s great. Also, she did this, which is pretty awesome. I’m the friend mentioned near the end of the article.

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++

Stephen King is a tall, shambling guy, 68 years old. He’s a little stooped, and all over gray-haired now, but the facts that he’s 1) alive and 2) able to stand up and walk around a stage at all, are pretty amazing, and King recognizes that. He is dressed in jeans, black sneakers (that his grandson bought for him), and a black tee-shirt.

He didn’t read from prepared notes, he just told some stories of Pittsburgh, and of writing. He read a soon-to-be-published short story, not from the just-published End of the Watch. He explained how he got his ideas by launching into a rambling lecture about odds.

“The American Insurance Group says that in a group of about 500 people, about 5 or 6 of them have forgotten to lock their cars. And, the American Insurance Group says, that statistically speaking, out of a crowd of, say, 1,000 people, one or two probably forgot to lock their houses.” We in the crowd start giggling nervously. “So, yeah, a few of you probably forgot to lock your cars. Or you left the house unlocked because you were so excited to get here.” He invokes the image of the maniac with a knife, an unlikely character; even King and the American Insurance Group know that. “I don’t want you to think about it, don’t even let it cross your mind, but you’re going to get in your car to go home later tonight — ” more nervous laughter. “You’re going to go to bed, and when you get up to go to the bathroom, you’re going to look at your shower curtain and think, ‘Did I close that before I went to bed?’

“And, it’s cool, you’re laughing now because you’re all together, and we’re safe. But sooner or later, you’re going to be alone.”

This is what Stephen King, the author, does. He reminds us that sooner or later, we’re all alone.

++

King has always said that to be a writer, one also has to be a reader. As a child, he says, he was a voracious reader. And one of his older neighbors called him on it one day. “Hey, Stevie. I see you all the time walking around with your nose in a book. What do you read so much for?” King says in the moment, he was a little embarrassed to be a reader; he felt like he was doing something wrong. “But if I could go back to that 9- or 10-year-old boy, I would’ve told that man, ‘You only get to live one life. But with these books, man, With reading, I get to live ten thousand lives.'”

++

The picture at the top of the post is just one shelf of the Stephen King books I own.

My favorite of all his works is The Stand.

Thank you, Meghan.

Thank you, Steve, for giving me, and all your Constant Readers, ten thousand worlds in which to walk.

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13

I have a few teenage boys in my life now.

They peer at life sideways, through long bangs. They play instruments and sports — guitar, drums, hockey, soccer. They swim; they go to school. They excel.

They probably drive their parents nuts, in the ways of teenage boys. I’m sure they can be frustratingly quiet or enragingly mouthy, and I’m sure their parents don’t know which one they are going to get at the dinner table, if they even sit at the dinner table anymore, because they are busy, busy boys.

One nephew is the spitting image of my brother, although I don’t remember my brother being so lanky. One nephew has moods as changeable as the Pittsburgh skies, but his laughter is worth waiting for. One boy is such a special kid, son of one of my special friends in Erie, and I don’t get to see them enough. Our godson is a serious boy who invites my husband over for breakfast burritos.

I will have a teenage son in the house in about eight years.

For now, I do not have a teenage boy.

++

At Michael’s soccer game on Saturday — his final one of the season, the one where he got his participation medal, of which he was ridiculously proud — there were two little boys named Gabriel. A white butterfly fluttered across the field.

I have a good life full of love and blessings.

And I have a missing piece, an empty cradle. And having the former doesn’t erase having the latter.

Copyright: vectorinka / 123RF Stock Photo

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The Best Laid Plans

I am a planner — I have to be. Part of it is my anxious nature: I want to know what, when, how much, and where. Part of it is simply the fact that much of my time is not my own.

I meal plan. I schedule. I put everything in my phone: to-do lists, shopping lists, soccer games, school activities, date nights. Everything goes in there, with a reminder, at that.

I have summer planned nearly through the end of July. It’s not set in stone, to be sure, and a good thing too, as I already had to change my plans for this weekend.

Instead of enjoying a day of soccer (Saturday) and a lunch and shopping trip with my SIL (Sunday), I have been moving furniture and cleaning. We are getting new bedroom furniture — I thought we could get it last week, but that didn’t work out.

Unfortunately, we didn’t plan adequately. We don’t have any where to put our *old* bedroom furniture, so things upstairs are cattywampus. Michael’s room has gained a dresser and a roll-top desk; the girls have another dresser. I was hoping we would be able to wash walls and start painting last night, but I finished washing the wall about five minutes before I sat down to write this post.

I get a little burned out on all this planning. It keeps me from being overly anxious, sure. But when things to need to change, sometimes I feel like I don’t want to do *anything*. I get decision fatigue; I don’t want to plan anything else. And forget “planning” on the fly. If I can’t sit down and make a to-do list, I get totally overwhelmed.

It’s not pretty.

I also have a problem with minutiae. I want to plan every last detail — what and where we are eating, or feeding the children; what time we’re supposed to do what. My poor family.

Anyhoo, I have about another five things on my to-do list before the furniture arrives, so I’m going to go cross them off. And then piles of stuff to sort through. Part of this process has created piles of stuff to go through, most of which probably has to be tossed. Dan did go through his closet last night and got rid of at least 20 shirts, which is amazing progress. Now to convince him to part with some pants (and not in the fun way).

Are you a planner? What happens when plans need to change?

Copyright for featured image: mexrix / 123RF Stock Photo

ETA: This apparently goes for my plan to blog daily this summer. It’s 9:42 p.m., I have yet to clean the kitchen, and I do not have a good post in me. I don’t even have a bad post in me. Thanks for playing along, I do wish others the best of luck!

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The Instant Post

We went to see Leon Bridges last night. He and his merry band are AMAZING. The back-up vocals on “River”… I still have chills.

I promise to actually *write* another post, and soon. Although today’s prompt from Sugar Pill is “instant”, so I feel like I’m being true to my 99 days project.

Plus, a good date night and a good night of sleep are helping me get over the “fried from this week” feeling.

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I Got 99 Problems (But This Blog Post Isn’t One)

Here are my strategies for blogging for 99 days in a row.

1. My favorite Christmas gift, which Flora bought for me.

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2. A virtual writing retreat from Sugar Pill. They are posting a word a day on Facebook for June. (If you want to join, I think I can invite people. Shoot me a comment.) So while I may not follow along exactly, I will have this if I need an idea to spark.

3. A calendar with ideas written on it — a less formal version of a content calendar. So far I have about 20 days filled in. Again, this isn’t something I have to follow rigidly. It’s just a way to map the way.

4. Other people doing this. Pittsburgh Bloggers, Emily’s 100 Days — she ended each day with a thought-provoking question — other blogs and writers.

5. Ideas from BlogHer and NaBloPoMo sites.

6. Instagram. I’ve been playing with this site more, and if nothing else, I can always post a picture. It’ll be worth a thousand words, right?

How do you get ideas for writing?

Copyright: jezper / 123RF Stock Photo

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Kate’s Close Call

When Kate was 2, she ran into the street and almost got hit by a car.

We were leaving a Steelers viewing party on the South Side. As we were saying goodbye to our hosts, Kate darted out of the house, across the sidewalk, and in between two cars, heading for the playground across the street.

I screamed her name.

I don’t know if the man driving the pickup truck heard me or saw Kate run across the sidewalk. He had turned right onto the street that Kate was about to cross, so fortunately his rate of speed was not very high.

He braked. Kate stopped. I would estimate there were about 12 inches between her and the bumper of the truck. Maybe less.

I also have no doubt that had he been traveling straight, through a green light, or if he had been driving drunk, we wouldn’t be talking about how Kate almost got hit by a car.

I have nightmares about it. You know the phrase “heart in mouth”? I know what that feels like — it does indeed feel like my heart tried to exist my chest through my mouth.

And if we had ended up on the news, I’m sure I would be judged as a bad mother. For all I know, that pickup driver still thinks of the time that idiot mom let her child run into the street.

This incident with Kate has been on my mind for days, since the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo. I have seen several posts calling the mother an idiot, saying she’s a bad parent, and just all around blaming her for the fact that the gorilla had to be shot and killed.

And I find them infuriating. My friend Jennifer has an *excellent* post on this, titled “My Child Would Never Fall in the Gorilla Pit Because I’m an Attentive Parent… and other lies we tell ourselves.” She nails it.

If any experience in this life should lead to the mantra, “Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”, parenting is one of them. I have, without question, lost track of my children for 30 seconds or longer. My children have darted away from me at stores and in parking lots. I will never judge another mother or parent for the speed and impulsive behavior of her/his child.

And when those judgmental posts come from child-free people? Do. Not. Even. And don’t give me, “Oh, I’ve spent time with my niece/nephew/neighbor’s kid/friend’s child.” Until you’ve done the job with multiple children on a daily basis for an extended time, you have no room to pass judgement. As Jen says: Shut your piehole.

Actual bad parents exist. Children die (and kill) as the result of unsecured guns every single day in this country. Where is the daily outrage about those tragedies? Children are left alone for days while parents go on benders on their addictive substance of choice. An idiotic couple in Japan left their son in a bear-infested wood as a punishment, and he’s still missing.

Go judge those parents. Or, better, fight for better laws, better foster care, better adoption in this country. Let’s actually protect children from real threats.

Leave this mom alone.

Copyright for featured image: tommroch / 123RF Stock Photo