Three Years of Pittsburgh + Blogging

So it’s been three years since I started this blog. Three year since we packed up and moved here to Pittsburgh. This blog was originally intended to be a place to share pictures with my family back home in Florida. It started out as a kind of chronicle of our relocation to Pittsburgh. And it’s turned into something else.

It’s still my love letter to Pittsburgh.

But, it’s also become a very public journal to share personal stories and traumas and anxieties, a place to share my increasingly addicting and expensive as all hell gardening hobby, a parenting diary, a scrap book, a soapbox and recipe log, too.

I love how it’s morphed and changed into whatever it is, now.

I love this space.

I recognize that I’m just navel gazing, here. And maybe, just maybe I take myself too seriously, sometimes.

I will go back and forth feeling like blogging is kind of dumb and sort of trite, or whatever.

And it kind of is.

I’ll feel like who really who cares about how I feel about this thing or that thing anydamnway?

But you know what I always come back to?

The fact that I’m awesome and I know you really do care what I think?

Sharing is awesome.

It really is.

It’s fucking awesome.

And it’s worth it. It’s worth putting myself out there and looking kind of dumb sometimes.

But it’s pretty terrifying.

My most cathartic and most read posts usually leave me with a vulnerability hangover. I will write exactly how I feel and I often end up regretting it in someway.

Like, I will wonder did I say too much?

Whose feelings will I hurt?

Do I want to say all that?

Because you can’t take it back, once it’s out there.

But its usually always worth it.

And really, just living life and having feelings about stuff can leave you susceptible to judgey douche bags. Just telling the story of your own life, according to you, can end up hurting people’s feelings.

It doesn’t mean I should keep my mouth shut, though.

The major thing I’ve learned doing this blog is that sharing is so awesome because somewhere out there someone understands. And they’ll be so grateful you shared and then they’ll tell you so.

And that is fucking awesome.

This three years of blogging coincides with 3 years since we showed up here vulnerable and ready, with our heavy suitcases in hand, to offer our lives up to Pittsburgh.

I’m so glad we did.

And relocating here is just the manifestation of me and Jesse having this weird awkward dream of something different and better and then going for it, even if no one really got it, at the time.

We just kind of went for it.

We got really lucky.

It seemed nuts.

We had no idea what we were doing.

We hurt people’s feeling because we were leaving them for this unknown thing.

We could have failed so spectacularly hard.

In spite of that, we couldn’t resist loudly proclaiming our intentions and expectations of being successful and making our life, here.

And now here we are. Three years later.

(We are so lucky.)

Carrots, Tomatoes and Happiness – A Garden Update

Remember when I said I’d be obsessively posting about the garden?

Well here I am! Obsessively posting, here.

So, today the sun was shining, it felt like spring and I walked out on my patio to discover my carrots had finally sprouted!

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It was like a hug for the soul to walk out, barefoot, into the warm sunshine and see the tiny rows of green leaves sprouting out through the lush black soil.

It seemed like they took forever!

And I was starting to think I’d done something wrong. I’ve read that carrots can be kind of temperamental. So I just figured maybe I’d try out this technique where you sprout the seeds before you plant them.

Anyway, I’m just so happy with how things are growing.

Gardening just makes me so happy.

My tomato seedlings are chugging along pretty great, too.

I got my seeds from Seed Savers, again. I’m a customer of their’s for life, now. I love their tradition of saving and passing on endangered heirlooms. And keeping gardening accessible for beginners like me.

I’m growing all the same heirloom tomato varieties as last year, Gold Medal, Moon Glow, Italian Heirloom, Dester, Lemon Drop and Red Velvet. As well as a new variety called Cherry Roma.

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I’ve transplanted tons of tomato seedlings into biodegradable pots because they’ve been growing so well that lots of them have outgrown the seed starting kit. They’ve taken over my kitchen.

Starting to feel like déjà vu.

Sadly, the cucumbers and lettuce I started haven’t done as well as my tomatoes.

The cukes just grow so quickly!

I didn’t have enough room or light to keep them satisfied. They got all leggy and weird. It isn’t quite warm enough for them to go outside, yet. And they grew so tall and then just turned white and died. And my lettuce sprouted, but it never really went anywhere. It got kind of stunted and didn’t really progress.

I’m also growing some Prickly Caterpillar and some Rosa Bianca eggplant, as well.

Here’s what my little setup looks like.

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Pretty sweet, huh?

My husband made me that rolling kitchen island turned indoor gardening table for my birthday.

I’m so lucky.

It’s looking like I’m gonna need a couple more plant lights if things keep going so good. And I can’t freaking wait to start hardening off my seedlings and get them transplanted into 5 gallon buckets.

Gardening gives me so much joy because there is always so much satisfaction watching things grow and so much delicious anticipation waiting for the next flower or fruit to pop up.

I love it all!

Happy Growing.

A Moment for Franklin Regional High School

This morning, the day after the tragic stabbings of some 20 plus kids at Franklin Regional High School here in the Pittsburgh area, I can not stop thinking the same thing over and over.

These types of awful incidents really rattle my core, because practically everyday I hand my kid over to a teacher at a school and I just suspend myself in this state of belief that he’s perfectly safe. And no one can hurt him and he’s protected.

And then I just go about my day.

In the hours after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I, like tons of other people, sat glued to my iPad scouring Facebook and news sites for updates. I was stunned and heartbroken for the families and for those poor children and for innocence and childhood, in general. I was surprised and a little appalled at how quickly we turned this tragedy political and how just like that, the conversation turned to gun control.

Not just the media, but my friends and family, too.

I felt equally as sick when Wayne LaPeirre, Executive Vice President of the NRA released his statement, a week later.

I guess I know that everything ultimately turns to politics and that schools aren’t really any safer than anywhere else. Even though we all want to believe so hard. We pretend. But our schools are really just a product of our society and so, I guess politics do matter. And I really can’t get over how schools are just tiny little ecosystems that mirror our own larger, completely fucked up world, where people use violence to work out their problems and safety has just as much to do with luck, as anything else.

I’m sitting here, now. After just walking my kid to school, looking to all of you, out there to help me make some sense out of how close to home this feels, to me. And the only thing I can think, over and over is I’m so glad that kid didn’t have a gun.

I am so glad that kid didn’t have a gun.

My heart goes out to the families directly effected by this mess. I can only begin to imagine how helpless and devastated they must feel. I will carry them in my thoughts, today.

Being Vulnerable and Sharing Some of My Story with My Kid (And You!)

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Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.” - Berne Brown

Here’s some of my story.

So, last week Damien brings this blowed up blue balloon home from school.

And the other day I’m sitting up in my room watching Bridezillas and I hear him start weeping, downstairs. Not like a stomping his little kid feet throwing a fit kind of crying. But devastated heartbroken crestfallen little boy sobs. I go see what’s wrong and he tells me it’s this week-old blue balloon he got from school.

it’s popped.

And [he] really really loved that balloon!

Anyway, I’m comforting him and indulging his feelings. I mean, he is really crying. And I’m kissing his tear streaked cheeks. And I’m doing my best to calm him down.

It’s quite an emotional ordeal.

There’s some sputtering crying, that gives way to full on break down.

I want to laugh because, I guess I’m heartless

and you know it’s a just balloon, right?

Anyway I tell him it’s OK to be sad and cry, but this was bound to happen and isn’t it really pretty great that the balloon lasted a whole week?

I say all this sensible mom stuff to him and he nods and agrees but, he doesn’t snap out of it right away.

And I’m feeling so bad for him and I can’t believe he’s this upset over a friggin balloon.

I suggest he call his Daddy and ask him to bring home a bag of balloons from Rite Aid and maybe some Haribo Happy Cola Gummies (our favorite!) on his way home and then we can spend the rest of the afternoon playing with balloons and stuffing our faces with candy.

This works and he right cheers up.

End of drama.

I pretty much went right back to watching Bridezilla’s and he went back to playing. And that was the end of balloon-gate.

Of course, Jess brings home balloons and candy and Damien is happy and Daddy is great.

The End.

But the whole thing kind of eats at me. It’s nagging at me for a couple of days later.

Why do I have such weird conflicted feelings about the crazy sad balloon freak out?

I mull the whole thing over in my mind, later.

And you know what?

I’m not sad for the kid. I have this sort of knee jerk reaction, where I want to be sad when I think back about how sad he was.

But I’m not.

I’m not sad I think because that’s exactly how childhood is supposed to go. It occurred to me that the fact my kid weeps over popped balloons and cheers up over hugs and candy is a good thing. I think it means his childhood is good and wholesome and it’s kind of supposed to happen this way for kids.

The fact that my kid’s world is built around balloons and candy and phone calls to daddy means he isn’t worried about that other shit.

You know, that other shit.

Like he doesn’t have to deal with living in a house where his mom gets beat up by his dad, sometimes. And the lights get cut off because there isn’t any money to pay the bill. He doesn’t have to hide in his room when there’s yelling and stuff is breaking and his parents are fighting. He’s not confused or afraid because his parents smoke pot in front of him, and he’s pretty sure that’s bad. He isn’t told by adults he trusts that he’s just imagining things and they aren’t as bad as they seem.

I’m so glad my kid isn’t worrying about that stuff.

I did, though.

And I’m only just now figuring out how it’s affected me.

I connect these dots in my mind and I compare my own childhood with the one I’m giving my son.

And I do feel sad, deeply sad, but mostly for little girl me.

I stop and ruminate about his honest mundane kid moment that sort of ended the way its supposed to, with a secure and happy kid getting the love he needs, when he needs it and then going back to play.

When I tuck Damien in later, I lay down with him. I hold his head on my chest. And I tell him I’m sad about the balloon popping, but I tell him that I’m happy, too. Happy that his only worries are popped balloons.

I tell him his daddy will always bring him treats home, if he’s sad.

I tell him how lucky he is. And that I hope he always remembers to be grateful.

And then on impulse I tell him that sometimes I saw my daddy hit my mommy, when I was little and that it scared me.

I tell him that I didn’t always feel safe at home. Sometimes my parents lied to me and I felt like I couldn’t trust them. I tell him how I often worried about adult problems as a kid, because of things that went on in my home.

I don’t tell him everything.

There are so many things.

And I can’t be sure I said the right stuff or if I explained it all in best way. But I wanted him to know that we are so lucky. And not everyone has it so good.

I want to protect my kid, from all the things out there, but in that moment for that second I want him to know that some people are damaged.

And I want him to know that it’s OK to be vulnerable.

 

I can’t explain this impulse to reveal my childhood traumas except to say I often grapple with how to make sense of the way my parents chose to do things when I compare them to the way I’ve chosen to do things.

I used to worry so much about parenting.

I worried a lot.

I used to think that it mattered what kind of stroller I had or if I fed my kid a bottle. I worried that he didn’t play outside enough or that we didn’t read enough or that my house is too messy and that all these things were somehow going screw up my kid.

Lately I’ve begun to really examine the things that have happened to me and how they have made me into this person that I am. I have given myself permission to unearth long buried things. It’s OK to talk about mental illness and abuse now, and I’m not sure it always was. In doing so I’ve gained tremendous perspective on parenting.

And I’ve kind of just arrived at this place where I really feel like all kids need is someone to love them and bring home candy. Kids just need a safe secure place to freak out and be vulnerable when they’re convinced their world is ending over a popped balloon.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? .

Anything Is Possible and We Have All The Time

It’s here!

Spring.

It’s finally here.

I’m so thrilled for the return of Spring and the warmer weather and the sunshine. It seems like winter went on for. ever. and. ever.

It did. Didn’t it?

I’ve already started some seeds, indoors under lights.
I pulled out my trusty bright orange 5 gallon buckets. I planted some beautiful purple carrots seeds directly in some soil. They’re on my patio already soaking up the little bit of sun we’ve had.

I love the hopeful optimism of spring.

Do you know what I mean?

It seems like anything is possible and we have all of the time. I can grow the biggest garden. I can do all the things.

Everyone seems happier.

At least around here, they do..

Everyone’s out walking their dogs. Kids are playing outside, again. Everyone is smiling and nodding and saying “Hi.”

It’s the best time.

And I just I love how the air smells crisp and kind of dewy.

Sometimes I get a whiff of a certain breeze and it smells just like when we first arrived here in Pittsburgh. And I remember all the same anticipation and hopefulness of starting over.

I have so many plans for the longer days and warm balmy nights coming up, just like I had so many plans of starting over.

Porch drinking. And BBQing. Plenty of time in the garden. Dirty hands. Sweaty face. The sprinkler on in the front yard. Sunshine. And new beginnings.

I’m excited to be expanding the garden, a little. I’m adding lettuce and carrots and peas and eggplant this year. Of course I’m growing a million different heirloom tomatoes varieties and cucumbers and herbs.

Here is a look at what I’ve been up to.

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I’m probably going to be obsessively updating the blog, here with garden updates and warm weather adventures. There are so many more things to do and talk about in spring. I’m coming back out of hibernation. My winter slumber is over.

Invincible Winter

It’s funny how the polar vortex will skew your perspective about what’s really cold. We’ve had some record low temperatures around here lately. Like one day, recently it was -28 with wind chill! Today it snowed, but it was only 25 degrees and not very windy.

So, Damien and I went out for a for a while.

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Damien, like most kids, I guess, is completely unafraid of busting ass in the snow. He doesn’t mind falling down or getting a face full. I, on the other hand, walked really slowly and yelled at him to be careful, a lot.

We had a pretty great time.

We managed to stay warm.

Damien wore his snow suit. And I had on my wool socks and a big puffy jacket.

See, when winter gets really wintery, people back home in Florida take to the Internet to brag about how they’re at the beach sipping daiquiris, while the rest of us schmucks are up here shoveling snow and wearing parkas.

And, I guess that could be true.

I’m not jealous, though.

Florida is beautiful in the winter.

But, I’ve been to Florida in the summer. It’s what hell must be like! Really unbelievably hot. The mosquitos are the size of rats. And it’s usually around 100 degrees, every friggin day. For months. And don’t even get me started on the giant flying cockroaches.

You can keep your humidity and your smug weather memes. (You know who you are. 😀)

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And anyway, I love all this snow.

I wouldn’t trade winter, for all of your summers.

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Look at my face. Do I seem like I’m lying?

How To Really Change Things

This is one of my favorite Andy Warhol quotes.

My whole life I’ve sort of subscribed to the notion that “time changes everything” or some such romantic nonsense.

And I’ve been guilty of this thinking in my relationships. Let enough time pass and things will be OK or they’ll go back to the way they were. I’ve often thought this. Or time will change things, in whatever way I imagine they should change. I think I learned this line of magical thinking at home. My parents would have horrible arguments and nothing would ever be resolved between them.

It was like, enough time would go by with them, and they would start acting normal towards each other, again.

(They went around and around in the same circles, arguing and pretending until they finally split up.)

Things would slowly go back to normal, for them.

Of course this isn’t really true, at all. When you don’t work through things they never go back to normal. You don’t relax into normal when you push things under the rug or tip toe around the truth.

When you’re busy pretending that elephants aren’t in rooms, you’re always on edge, always afraid. Afraid of being found out. Or afraid of getting the pretending wrong. Afraid of violating the unspoken covenant about what you can’t speak of.

It’s tough coming to terms with this. As an adult I’ve struggled with this. It has hurt figuring it out. I’ve made a fool out of myself with this line of thinking. Failed at so many relationships.

Lately my kick ass/ take names motto is “You gotta do the work.”

It’s the opposite of “time changes things.”

You gotta do the work.

It’s good, right?

It means what Andy Warhol said.
You change things.
You work; things change.

Damien is learning to read. He is getting harder and harder words and so he’s struggling and getting frustrated. And he constantly wants to quit. It drives me batty how sometimes he gives up so easily. But, he gets emotional and teary and admittedly I can get very impatient.

I will tell him: “Stop it, Everyone learns to read.”

This is mostly true.

It’s of no consolation, to him though.

Sometimes I say “I know you’re getting frustrated but it’s only going to get harder.”

What I mean is, the reading will only get harder.

This is also mostly true, but this usually makes his crying worse.

And when I finally figure out I’m being too Tiger Mom for my sweet sensitive kid I’ll say something like: “I believe in you. You can do this. Just practice. You just gotta do the work.”

He gets this.

This is how little boy shoes are first tied. And how scooters are mastered. And I guess this is how you keep marriages alive and friendships going. You do the work. It’s how you clear up misunderstandings. It’s definitely how you memorize renal physiology and reproductive anatomy.

Maybe this is how you do everything.

You put in the work and eventually it clicks.

And when he wants to, when he’s encouraged, Damien works so hard.

It’s inspiring.

And, I think it’s the only way to really change things.

Stood Up For A Play Date

So, recently Damien got stood up for a play date.

I know, right?

Stood up, as in his friend was supposed to come play, and the friend just didn’t show.

As in, I made plans with this Mother of the Year type and she just never came by and didn’t bring her kid. Stood up, as in she confirmed to drop him by, but they never showed. Stood up as in, I texted her about our plans and I never heard from her again. Stood up as in, I saw her drive right by our house, as we were looking out the window waiting for her kid to come over.

Classy, right?

And I know, that sounds insane.

Especially, if you don’t have kids.

Stood up. For a play date.

Insane. But it totally happened.

First, some background on how kids play, now.

For the most part, parents are sort of the modern gatekeepers of play for our kids.

It’s mostly activities or play dates or nothing. Everything goes through the parents.

Kids don’t so much “Go Out and Play” and meet up with one another, anymore.

Like, when I was a kid, I came home from school, changed my clothes and went outside to play. I played by myself. I would ride my bike and listen to my Walkman. I played with kids from the neighborhood. There were no play dates, at all. If none of my friends were outside I would head over to their houses, march up to their front door and knock. I’d ask if they could come out and play.

It mostly does not happen like this anymore. Kids do activities like swimming and karate and gymnastics. They play piano or do tumbling and their parents make play dates for them.

I’m not sure when things changed, but they have. I’m always aware of it, now. We had this awful cringeworthy altercation that turned explosive with our next door neighbors, when we first bought our house. There was some yelling back and forth about their obnoxious dog and a parking chair. I figured out pretty quickly how subjected to scrutiny my parenting really was, when my neighbor’s daughter told me, she could call CYS because I let my kid play outside alone, without a coat.

Yup.
Child Youth Services because no coat.

And obviously this was a bullshit empty threat. And obviously if that’s something Child Services can waste their time on, then their priorities are completely fucked. But it speaks volumes about how fraught with tension the culture surrounding modern parenting is, when a seemingly normal childless woman knows she can shut you down by attacking your parenting.

Shit has changed, indeed.

On top of all that I’m constantly going around and around in my head about what an antisocial weirdo I am. I’m always worrying about how I don’t want my poor kid to suffer my same awkward fate. At one time I could handle people and all the drama and crazy that goes along with having tons of friends. But at some point my anxiety got the better of me and I decided that too many relationships outside of my bubble were more trouble than they were worth.

I’m mostly OK with this, for myself.

But because those of us with anxiety are so good at worrying, I figured if I didn’t try to get my kid a few play dates, he’d end up a loner weirdo like me. This is how I ended up making a play date with this notoriously douchey parent.

See, I sort of knew something like this might happen. My antisocial tendencies sort of led me to ignore all the red flags I kept getting in regard to this kid’s mother. Like, I honestly should have known. And I guess I sort of did.

I knew.

She’s the kind of really fun girl who makes lots of plans and promises and smiles a lot and then makes out with dudes who aren’t her husband. You know the type I mean. And yet my kid loves her kid. So I made the play date. I made the play date and then I didn’t tell Damien about it. Just incase Flakey McTonsOfFun Mom blew my kid off.

And she did. And I guess I knew she might.

I know that sounds kind of impossible and completely crazy. But I guess as long as girls like her pop out kids, there will be broken play dates and dejected confused kids and pissed off mothers. The whole afternoon I kept wondering if she’d told her kid about coming over to play. And I felt kind of sad for him. Like, did he know that she blew off his afternoon of fun in favor of whatever mini-drama was going on in her exciting life at that particular moment?

And while I want to blame this mother for being a raging douche bag, I sort of blame the way we do parenting, now. I blame all the pressure on mothers and fathers to hold it all together. We have to work and keep house and juggle a million activities and we don’t have the luxury of “Go Out And Play” anymore. We’re accountable to frigging everybody. Our kids and each other and our batshit crazy neighbors, who might get mad and call Child Services on us.

And yes, I totally blame the raging douche baggery of the irresponsible shit parent that makes a date with a 6 year child and then blows that child off.

But I also blame the system, Man.

you know?

As if parenting a school age child wasn’t fucking weird enough, getting stood up for play dates is a thing, now.

You heard it here first.

How to Have a Stress Free Holiday in Three Easy Steps

Does your family drive you batshit insane at the holidays?

Not enough wine in world for all that?

Rowdy in-laws to contend with?

Weird Republican uncle won’t shut about Benghazi?

Cousin from West Virginia breastfeeding her 5 year old at the dinner table?

Does the idea of cooking an entire Holiday meal make you fantasize about suicide?

Desperate for a solution to cope with holiday meltdowns?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you’ve come to right place.

With the help of my simple, easy to follow plan, you can be on your way to not losing your goddamn mind this holiday season.

First, move away from your crazy family.

Far far away.
Not a couple of counties away.
But really friggin far.

Two: Make reservations at a nice restaurant.

Or White Castle. It doesn’t matter, dude.

It
does
not
matter.

Your family is not there and you don’t have to cook.

Whatever you do is going to be amazing.

And finally, the most important thing enjoy not going insane.

You’re welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving!