The Dulli Effect

“You’re going to what?” asked Flora, her face a picture of confusion.

“Wait,” said Kate, all anxiety. “How far away is Cincinnati?”

I had just gotten done telling the girls that on Friday morning, they were going to have to remember the treats they needed for their respective activity days. They were going to have to help their dad get up and get them out the door. I informed Michael that his Aunt Irene was picking him up from daycare on Thursday.

I said again, “I’m going to go out of town for the night. I’m driving to Cincinnati to see a show.”

It was something I hadn’t done since becoming a mom, traveling on a weeknight. It’s something I hadn’t done since college, probably. I had gone to Cleveland for a couple of shows — Lollapalooza when Jane’s Addiction was at the helm, and Erasure. My first solo concert had been Depeche Mode when I was still living in Erie.

But until now, I hadn’t purchased a ticket to an out-of-town concert that was taking place on a Thursday night, figuring out the logistics for my children, and informing my husband once every detail was covered.

So their confusion was understandable.

But when I heard that Greg Dulli, frontman for Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers, was embarking on a solo tour, I didn’t hesitate to buy a ticket in October for a show on March 17. I almost bought a ticket to the Chicago show, too, but between finances and logistics, I decided that would be pushing it.

This is what Greg Dulli will do to you.


I meticulously planned my children’s life the week of the March 17th show. I didn’t want to miss any detail. I had requested PTO in February, so that was covered. The Flex had new tires. A fellow Pittsburgh-based Dulli fan had contacted me via Facebook, and so I had a traveling companion and someone to split the cost of a hotel with.

Michael had a ride home from daycare; the babysitter was booked; reminders for the girls were left. Dan was on board, even if a bit reluctantly. He was dealing with a lot; his friend has succumbed to her cancer that Monday, and his father was in and out of the hospital with his own cancer. But Dan didn’t breathe a word about me not making the trip; Kate was more worried.

“I don’t think you should go,” she said baldly. “I don’t like it.”

How to explain it to children? How to explain it to anyone who wasn’t a Dulli fan?

It was something I needed to do for me. It was something I needed like air and writing — something mine, something I didn’t share with my husband or my children, with whom I shared just about everything.

So I went.


Cincinnati was an easy drive. My traveling companion was good company — totally easy going, chatty but not overly so, undemanding. She told me about other Afghan Whigs shows she had traveled to, usually solo, usually driving back to Pittsburgh afterward. She was glad she didn’t need to do that on this trip.

We met a group of fans at a restaurant across from the venue. All of us headed into the show together, stood as a group at the front of the stage, saved spots when someone needed a drink or a bathroom break.


We cheered for spoken word artist Derrick Brown. Screamed for Dulli and for the Afghan Whigs when most of them took the stage for the second encore. AW had been born in the Queen City, and John Curley, bassist for the band, still lived there with his family. Heck, Dulli’s mom still lived in Cincinnati; she was at the show. Curley was at the show as well; he had come to say hi to some of the group I was with beforehand.

Yes, John Curley came up to the group I was standing with, greeted a number of them by name, talked about leaving his daughters home for the evening (they are teenagers, brave, brave man).

And this is the thing that is hard to capture about this experience. Yes, something about Greg Dulli is magnetic, is compelling. It goes beyond the old cliche of being a rock star that women want to fuck and men want to be. Far beyond.

Dulli captures a darkness in his music that many of us have dwelled in. The addictive appeal of the bad relationship, the desire to be in pain and to cause pain, and the plain old nature of addiction, the inability to break free. I have often wondered at how many men are Dulli fans, but then again, we’ve all been there haven’t we? With the wrong person, hopelessly in thrall to their spells or to our own fears of loneliness.

This is the appeal of Greg Dulli, this and the pure virile swagger of the man, undiminished — nay, nearly enhanced — by the years. This plus the sheer normalcy and sweetness in the rest of the band. Of Dave Rosser and Jorge Sierra coming out to chat after the show, taking pictures with and offering beers to those of us still hanging out. Greg is there too, signing autographs, and making Derrick Brown take pictures of him with the fans standing in line for a moment to chat.

Somehow we want to communicate to him that he touches us, that he has reached us. He takes it all in stride, giving each person his attention, his total focus for a minute or two.

And we are refreshed, our faith is renewed. We turn away, alive again.

Some fans travel on, back to their home bases, to their normal lives; some fans, more than a few, go onto the next show, and the next one after that.

Me and my travel buddy — we headed back to Pittsburgh the next day. I had a phone interview at 3 pm, and then many more child-related things to tend to. My father-in-law was back in the hospital; my husband needed me.

And I was there. I was there because for a few hours I was able to be away.

To have one thing that was all mine. Just for me.


Know Thyself: On Second Thought

More things that are making me regret my decision to give up alcohol for Lent.

10. Lots of emotions regarding my father-in-law’s illness.
9. Two work-from-home days (one unplanned) with all the children at home.
8. Better Call Saul.
7. I am hosting the Battle of the Books meeting tomorrow evening.
6. Dan keeps saying, “Are you sure you don’t want a drink?” #enabler
5. A lot of people in my social media feeds enjoy wine, beer, and/or cocktails, and they insist on sharing.
4. Two bottles from Wigle in my liquor cabinet.
3. Work reorganization! Another one!
2. I wiped out on ice yesterday, and bruised my coccyx.
1. The 2016 Presidential campaign. (On a related note: We know when Dad M has had a good day because he will get in a fight with us about politics.)

My last cocktail, a Wigle Old Fashioned. *sigh*
My last cocktail, a Wigle old-fashioned. *sigh*

Know Thyself

It didn’t take long for me to realize something about me and alcohol.

I think I felt the first inkling around 8:30 on Thursday night, when I was being pulled in four directions. Should I finish decorating M’s Valentine’s box? Should I bathe Michael and get him into bed? Should I answer this email from work (yes, at 8:30 p.m.)? Should I help Kate with her homework?

I’m not going to lie — when M whined at me that he didn’t want to take a bath, I cried a little tiny bit.

By the time Friday night dinner rolled around, and I was on the verge of an acute anxiety attack, it hit home.


I am an anxious person. I have jagged edges and a short temper. Relaxing is not easy for me, and neither is being chill when I am placing a host of demands upon myself.

A drink — and I mean A SINGLE DRINK, even a single sip of a single drink — rounds my edges. It makes me feel smoother internally. It slows me down enough to give me space to not lose my shit in anger.

A beer, a glass of wine, help me relax. (Admittedly, the cocktail after the children go to bed is more ritual and something for me to share with Dan.)

I am not going to lie: I have been struggling since Thursday. To relax. To be patient.

It’s not really going well.

I am concentrating on some other things to help me: meditation; yoga; writing. These rituals and practices do help — they do. But they also take time. I cannot do a 10-15 minute guided meditation while I am cooking dinner.

My practice during Lent has always been to go the whole time from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday making the sacrifice (or adding the practice — I have added a daily rosary, meditation, etc., in other years). As in the past, it has been pointed out to me that Sunday, technically, one does not have to make the Lenten sacrifice (h/t to my Uncle Ron for pointing out this article).

I am seriously considering for the first time indulging in my voluntary sacrifice on Sunday. I am thinking about a big glass of red wine today. Just one. Probably with dinner. Or soon after dinner.

(FTR: Dan bathed Michael, and I put M to bed. Kate finished M’s Valentine’s day box. I did answer that email, and I helped Kate with her homework.)

I have never made it a secret that I am dependent on alcohol — I knew that going into Lent. I did not realize HOW dependent. Like, seriously a-nicer-person-with-that-daily-dose dependent.

And I have to work through that. In a big way.

Starting again tomorrow.

Glass of wine
I miss this, not gonna lie.

Ever give something up and realize it was a big fat mistake?

Forewarned Is Forearmed

I am giving up alcohol for Lent.

Yup. The one thing I said I’d never do. I’m doing it.

I always asserted that I’d never give up alcohol for Lent because I have already given up alcohol for long stretches of time (i.e. the majority of four pregnancies).

But I gave up alcohol then because I was other-motivated. I gave up alcohol not as a sacrifice, or in order to evaluate my relationship to alcohol, but because I was pregnant, and too much alcohol when you are pregnant is not good for the baby. (In each pregnancy, I had the occasional glass of wine in my third trimester.)

This time I am giving up alcohol as a sacrifice.

Good-bye, Chicago craft beer! Until we meet again!
Good-bye, Chicago craft beer! Until we meet again!

I am giving up alcohol for forty nights — it’s really the nights that are important here — in order to evaluate my relationship with alcohol. Why do I drink it? Will it be difficult to not drink it? How will I deal with temptation? What will I use as motivation to get me to Easter? How will giving up alcohol affect my health, my sleeping, my writing, my relationships?

I told my children I was giving up alcohol for Lent.

“Why?” Flora asked. “You’re going to die,” she predicted.

I’m not going to DIE!

I mean, I don’t think so. I don’t drink that much.

An honest account of my alcohol intake is two drinks a night. Occasionally on a Saturday, three, but usually not.

And I look forward to it. And I like it.

And I’m sure I will miss it. It’s a ritual, it’s a rite.

But it’s gotta go for forty days*. (*I reserve the right to have a cocktail at Acacia for Dan’s birthday, and a beer at a concert I am going to in March. But then again, I may get that far and decide not to drink as well.)

So if you see me out and about, and notice I’m not imbibing, please do not ask if I am pregnant (I AM NOT PREGNANT). Do not take it personally if I do not have a beer with you. Heck, be encouraging! (Even if you aren’t a Lent-type person.) Isn’t taking stock good for a body?

I will try not to complain too much — although that would be illuminating in itself, would it not?

Troublemaker Red Wine
Not for 40 days, I’m not.

Wish me luck!

When’s the last time you had to give up something? When’s the last time you choose to give up something?

The Death of Romance

Until this weekend, I was sure that I was the only person who hadn’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Turns out that is not quite the case. Lots of people still have not seen it, and some of them are not going to see it.

If you haven’t seen it, but still want to, I have a spoiler alert a little ways down.

But first: A few facts about me and my Star Wars history:

A grew up with the original trilogy. Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope was the first movie I saw in a movie theater. My dad took my brother and me; I was 6. I think my dad may have been more excited than I was.

Until the movie started.

I won’t claim any kind of Star Wars nerd-dom. But I saw all three of the original trilogy films in the theater. I remember not liking The Empire Strikes Back; it was too dark, I thought. (The irony is not lost on me.) I enjoyed Return of the Jedi, Ewoks and all.

And Princess Leia, guys. She was the princess of my childhood, not those Disney floozies.

When the prequels rolled around, I was excited. I was curious about the origins of Darth Vader, and what had happened to the Jedi.

Needless to say, I was, along with the rest of the Star Wars fans in the world, disappointed, to put it mildly. The CGI was over the top and distracting, the acting was wooden (Ewon McGregor being the exception), and, frankly, the whole reason for Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vadar was unbelievable to me. I just didn’t buy that a broken heart could cause such evil.

So when the franchise was making a comeback last year, I was very MEH. Fool me once, and all that.


J.J. Abrams was at the helm.
Reviews were positive.
People were excited again.
My husband went to see it on opening weekend, and was excited. He wanted us to see it together.

Here’s that ** SPOILER ALERT**.

We went to see it yesterday, a 3D matinee, as part of my birthday weekend. Six weeks after opening weekend, and the theater was still crowded.

Those opening words scrolled up the screen, and I was transported to my 6-year-old self, and the magic of movies again. Albeit with 3D glasses.

Guys, I gasped when the Millennium Falcon was shown on the screen. GASPED. And cheered.

I pretty much went along in that vein for the entire movie. I was completely engaged, cheering, laughing, even tearing up on occasion.

When Leia and Han — she, now a general; he, still a scoundrel — faced each other for the first time in the film, I cried.

And when Han Solo died, I sobbed. SOBBED, people. I think I alarmed the guy next to me — and my husband. (I’m a little emotional writing about this, to be honest.) I knew something bad was going to happen; I was actually expecting Chewbacca to die in some heroic sacrifice when they were placing explosives.

Nice head fake, Abrams.

Han Solo was my first movie crush. The chemistry between Leia and Han was my first romance! (Which probably explains a few of my later relationships.) And here he was, back in the movie, same old cynical Han, swindling his way across the known galaxy, returning reluctantly to service of the rebels/republic.

So when Han tried to talk his son away from the Dark Side, when he tried to do what his son’s mother and his former lover asked — “Bring him home” — and that same son put a light saber through his heart, I lost it.



It was rough. A day later, I am still feeling the effects. I guess I was more invested in those Star Wars films and characters than I thought.

I’m probably not alone.

I’m probably not alone.

Anyhoo, I have to hand it to J. J. Abrams. He truly made a movie that not only reinvigorated my faith in the franchise, but he made me curious as to what came next.

He also made me want to indoctrinate my children. I may have lost Flora — she’s already quite a critic — and Kate may be on the fence. But I can get the 5-year-old, I bet. He’s got some buddies into it (yay for positive peer pressure), and he’s enjoyed the original movies with his daddy and me.

What movie franchise are you overly emotionally invested in?

The Middle

If today were going to mark my middle age, then I would live to be 90 years old.

That’s pretty good.

If I can stay in good health (*knocks on wood*), physically and mentally, I don’t mind the idea of being 90 years old.

Middle age, so far, has not been horrible. Here’s a little secret out there for you 20- and 30-somethings: you don’t die when you turn 40. Your life is far from over.

40 doesn’t mean that one’s creative or sexual life is over. I can’t speak to every 40-year-old, of course, but I know for me, these first five years of my fourth decade have seen a creative and a sexual resurgence. The latter I was not expecting, and I am pleasantly delighted. As to the former, I think I wrote more in the last year than I ever wrote in any year in my 20s.

I have also experienced many new things since turning 40, and none of them are anything to complain about. My 45th year finds me stronger as a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a Catholic, and as a person. And I truly believe that even better things are yet to come for me.

This is the face of 45... in good lighting, anyway. :-)
This is the face of 45… in good lighting, anyway. 🙂

Thanks for all the well-wishes, my friends. It’s going to continue to be an adventure.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Because what’s a good FB meme if you can’t turn it into a blog post?

Without ANY prompting, ask your children these questions. It’s a great way to see what they think. My thoughts/responses in italics.

Flora, age 11

What is something I always say to you?

What makes me happy?

What makes me sad?
When we don’t do what you ask.

How do I make you laugh?
By imitating us in funny ways.

What was I like as a child?
Smart. I love her.

How old am I?

How tall am I?
I have no idea.

What is my favorite thing to do?

What do I do when you’re not around?

What am I really good at?

What is something I’m not good at?
Drawing. This is true.

What do I do for a job?
You write articles and put them on the Internet.

What is my favorite food?
*gusty sigh* No clue.

What do you enjoy doing with me?
Going out. Like, running errands and stuff.


Kate, age 9

What is something I always say to you?
No. I’m sensing a theme.

What makes me happy?
Me. True.

Eating powdered donut holes and making me happy.

What makes me sad?
Me. Also occasionally true.

How do I make you laugh?
By being you.

What was I like as a child?
Beautiful. I love her, too.

How old am I?

How tall am I?
Oh, I don’t know this. I’ll guess 5 foot 7. Pretty close, 5’9”.

What is my favorite thing to do?
Work. Not even close.

What do I do when you’re not around?
Watch TV.

What am I really good at?
Working. She’s not wrong.

What is something I’m not good at?
Cooking dinner. *laughs wildly* Just kidding. You’re bad at paying bills. WHAT? Am not.

What do I do for a job?
You work for [company name]. You’re a writer.

What is my favorite food?

What do you enjoy doing with me?
Roller skating.


Michael, age 5

What is something I always say to you?
Yes. Hm. This actually surprises me to hear.

What makes me happy?

What makes me sad?
Me. Also sometimes true.

How do I make you laugh?
By telling me a joke.

What was I like as a child?
You were like beans.
Me: I was like beans?
Michael: Yeah, you smelled like beans all the time.

How old am I?
42? I love him.

How tall am I?
66 meters.

What is my favorite thing to do?
Look at people on Facebook.

What do I do when you’re not around?
You’re at work.

What am I really good at?

What is something I’m not good at?
Cooking. Now he’s just being silly.

What do I do for a job?
Recycle paper.

What is my favorite food?

What do you enjoy doing with me?


Re: My favorite food — I don’t know what my favorite food is, frankly. I eat a lot of different things, so I’m not surprised that the children don’t know this one either. I do like strawberries and broccoli.

What would your children say you are good at?

My Powerball Fantasy

Question Mark
Image source: quka

We all have one. As a matter of fact, Dan and I have always wanted to write a book of psychological profiles around lottery fantasies. We would have plenty of material if we started now!

I don’t think my fantasy is anything extraordinary.

I have to say, I would give my employer notice — I wouldn’t quit on the spot. As satisfying as it sounds to think about marching into work and saying, “I quit!”, I wouldn’t do that to my team. I would give some notice, tell them I’d work until they found a replacement, even train that person if they wanted. I’d set a deadline, for sure, maybe even ask to work part-time while they looked for a new person.

Also, I don’t think I would completely stop working. I’d pursue freelance writing and editing opportunities; I would definitely spend time on my own writing and publishing. Again, in theory, the idea of never working again sounds appealing, but honestly, I’d be bored after a while. Winning loads of money would give me freedom to make my own career, not to stop working altogether.

As far as the money: first, I would pay off all our debt, including the mortgages on our two properties. I’d pay off my car, and we’d buy Dan a car free and clear. I would create savings and college accounts for the children so we could stop worrying about that. Dan and I would decide on our investments and retirement accounts as well.

Once we didn’t have to worry about money anymore, it’s true, we would start spending again. We’d probably send the children back to Catholic school, and invest for high school as well.

We’d tear down and rebuild our house. Start from scratch. I think I’d stay where we are; we live in a good district; we have access to the city; and it’s a nice parcel of land. But I’d make our house much bigger, first of all. A five bedroom house — actually, I’d give Dan and me a separate wing, practically. Two bedrooms, a big master bath, two walk-in closets, maybe our own little sitting room.

The children would each get their own room. This would be hardest for Kate, and I suspect we’d still find her sharing a bed in the middle of the night with whomever wouldn’t kick her out. They would have their own full bath; maybe I’d give Flora her own half bath for morning/evening privacy. Their rooms would be big enough for a bed, dresser, nightstand, closet, and desk. Although, maybe what we should do is give Michael a half bathroom with standup shower, and a vanity in the full bath for the girls.

We’d keep the full compliment of rooms that we have downstairs: a half bath, or powder room as we call it; dining room; eat-in kitchen, fully renovated; a family room; and an office. I’d like to install a mud room in the back. Possibly, we would have an attached two car garage, with the office above it. We’d have a finished basement complete with children’s room, laundry room, wine cellar, and workshop for Dan’s tools. Outside: new shed, paved driveway, a full deck/patio, covered. We’d renovate Dan’s office, as well.

I’d have a budget to have someone clean all this house. And I’d make the children responsible for their own laundry. And we’d cover the back hillside with solar panels for power.

We’d travel, of course, and we’d be able to fly places we’ve driven in the past (Chicago, Wilmington). We would tithe to the church, and we’d give to charities, although I expect we’d have to discuss which ones. We’d eat out more, do more cultural stuff, volunteer.

Through donations and volunteering, we’d find ways to assist others. We each have causes that are important to us — mental illness, cancer research, women’s issues — and we’d look into how we could make a difference for organizations.

And I’d finally let the children get a dog.

Oscar at window.
Good doggie!

What is one big thing you’d spend money on if you won the Powerball?

Fifty Bands

Because I like lists — I like lists a lot — and I like music and I like Uncle Crappy, I decided this one was a good one to tackle. I thought it would be hard, but mostly, it just took time to find time to sit down and write it.

According to Uncle Crappy, who got this idea from GoonSquad Sarah on Facebook, “Sarah specified just a few rules: 1) Be sure to note your first concert. 2) Bands you’ve seen as openers or as part of festivals count, but try to come up with 50 headliners first. 3) Don’t worry about what order these are in — a stream-of-consciousness list is fine. And I’ll add one more: 4) Any additional notes you want to add are encouraged.”

1 Air Supply — This was my first concert. I went with my parents. I’m still embarrassed to have to say this is my first concert, but facts is facts.

2 John Cougar Mellencamp — Also attended with my parents.

3 Depeche Mode — NOW we’re talking. This was my very first, on-my-own concert. I went the summer I was 16, with my friend Carrie Anne. I DROVE TO PITTSBURGH — okay, Star Lake — ON MY OWN TO GO TO THIS CONCERT. I got a speeding ticket on my way home. My parents’ Acura was way too smooth.

4 Erasure
5 Pixies (2x) — Once opening for #6 (RIP Syria Mosque) and once when they played on the Station Square Amphitheater.

6 Love and Rockets
7 Black Keys (2x)
8 Eric Clapton
9 Wallflowers
10 BB King
11 Keb Mo’
12 Afghan Whigs
13 Jack White
14 Sarah and Tegan
15 fun.
16 Beck
17 Ben Folds Five
18 Ben Folds with PSO
19 Red Hot Chili Peppers (2x)
20 Jane’s Addiction (2x)
21 Pearl Jam (2x)
22 Smashing Pumpkins (2x)
23 Toad the Wet Sprocket
24 L7
25 Belly
26 Lumineers
27 Joseph Arthur

28 Rush — Dan goes to see Rush every time they are in Pittsburgh. One year, in the not too distant past, he texted me.
“I have a weird question for you.”
“Okay, shoot.”
“Will you go see Rush with me?”
“That is a weird question. Yes!”
Considering all the concerts I dragged him to, starting with Elliot Smith when we were dating, I owed it to him to see one of his all-time favorite bands. I’m glad I can say, “I’ve seen Rush.” Neil Peart is a *machine*.

29 B-52s
30 Grateful Dead
31 Spin Doctors
32 Psychedelic Furs
33 Rusted Root
34 New Invisible Joy
35 U2
36 Primus
37 Yo La Tengo
38 Billy Branch
39 Jonny Lang
40 Sheryl Crow
41 John Mayer
42 Old 97s
43 Fountains of Wayne
44 Crowded House
45 Tori Amos
46 Radiohead
47 Salena Catalina
48 Elliot Smith
49 Green Day
50 Ocean Blue

I could probably, with some time, add notes on all of these. Where, with whom (maybe), when. When I first saw Uncle Crappy’s post, I didn’t think I’d ever reach 50. But he was right, it’s really not that difficult. And I’m sure this isn’t all the bands I have seen live.

Got 50?

— Afghan Whigs, photo credit Brad Searles

Yesterday in Tweets

So this happened:

We were in a meeting — six women, one man — and my supervisor said, “To each his own.” Without even thinking, I responded, somewhat amused, “You mean, ‘To each her own’.”

He laughed, and said, “You’re absolutely right!”

I feel I made an appropriate point, and I also feel that my boss handled it with humor and grace. Good on both of us!


Then this happened:

My girls had their “Buddy Lunch” yesterday, and they invited me, and Bella and Tadone. We all accepted, and I used some of my PTO to be able to attend.

And I stand by what I said. I like being a WOTHM — even if we didn’t need it for financial reasons, I would want to work outside the home. If we didn’t need me to for financial reasons, I’d like it better. I could find a position on my own terms.

I’ve been at this job long enough to have three weeks of vacation time, though. They don’t pay me to NOT take it. And they really don’t pay me enough to forgo special little things like Buddy Lunch with my children.


I felt good yesterday. It’s amazing what a new hair style, some sleep, and sunshine will do for a person.

How was your day?