Do you know what SHMILY stands for?

If you ever took a pre-marriage class (or as we Catholics call it, pre-Cana), you may have heard the story behind SHMILY. And if you haven’t, I will explain it to you in a moment.

I’m telling this story because before I walked out of the door today, my husband handed me my travel mug full of coffee.

This is not something he usually does. Mornings are usually a fustercluck: me urging the girls to get ready, Dan wrangling Michael into pants, both of us adults trying to dress and eat breakfast before we are on the road. So I usually pour my own travel mug — and about a third of the time leave it sitting on the counter.

But this morning, as I was herding the girls out the door, Dan handed me my full travel mug, coffee with cream, and gave me a kiss.

And it made my whole day.


The story they told us at an engagement retreat/pre-Cana weekend involved an older couple who were married for years. They would surprise each other every now and again by hiding a note with the word “shmily” on it. Or write “shmily” someplace unexpected (a steamed up mirror in the bathroom, in snow outside). When the other person saw it, they had to re-hide the note, or do their own shmily in return.

Finally, the granddaughter who was witness to these sweet “shmily” shenanigans asked (I believe it was at the grandmother’s funeral) what “shmily” meant.

It means, “see how much I love you”.


If you haven’t done a shmily — ever, or recently — try to do one for the special person in your life. A note in their lunch. A text message, a post on their Facebook wall. Make them tea, bring them a beer, buy them a cookie. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. All it has to do is remind you both of your love.

It will make them feel so loved. And I bet you’ll feel pretty good too.

Show of hands, who knew what SHMILY meant before they read this?

Random Thoughts: The First-World Problems Edition

1. When this story hit my social media streams yesterday, I had a very mom-guilt reaction. After all, I had taken acetaminophen during pregnancy — I was told it was safe. But now this study is showing a correlation between acetaminophen use in pregnancy and ADHD in children.

Which would explain a lot about my sweet yet flighty (at times) children.

Reading through the news article, though, I realize a lot more study needs to be done. So I’m going to go back to blaming Flora’s attention issues on genetics (i.e. her dad’s genes).

You’re welcome.

2. We are taking the children to the wedding reception up in Erie for my cousin. The reception is basically dinner at a nice country club.

I have a son who only wears “soft” pants (i.e. sweatpants). I foresee a problem with this.

3. Of course, I have to decide what to wear, too. I think I’m going to go with a fancy dress and high-high heels. This way, I can make Dan chase the children.

4. I should also find a way to do the girls’ hair. Braids for Flora and curls for Kate? It’s a pity I was given two girls with such pretty hair. I have no idea to do with their hair — I have no idea to do with my hair most of the time, so it’s not a mystery. Flora barely likes pony tails, which I make her wear for soccer. Although she does occasionally like being fancy. Maybe we can figure something out.

5. I need new bras. I hate bra shopping. Especially as it’s not really something you should do over the Internet. Mine are old, and they probably shrunk in the wash, and now I need to go get measured — a uniquely humbling experience. I’ve long made my peace with the fact that I have very small boobs. They managed to breastfeed all of my children (for a few months), and my husband never, ever complains.

I would consider ditching the bras altogether, but it seems to me they are necessary in some settings (i.e. at work) and/or with some outfits. So.

6. My MIL must have gotten bleach on my purple jeans, and they are ruined. Should I say something to her, or just suck it up? I still have green jeans!

Got any first-world problems today, reader?

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

My in-laws have returned from Florida (HALLELUJAH!), and, of course, we’ve already been hitting them up for favors. When I picked Kate up there on Friday (Kate has the hacking cough from hell, still), my FIL, as per usual, had FOX News on. A story about gay marriage (it got to an early start in Illinois) came on.

“This deeply offends me,” my FIL said.

“I know,” I answered, and walked out of the room.

What am I supposed to say? There’s no point in actually getting into an argument with my FIL about gay marriage. He’s entitled to be offended by it. It doesn’t matter how offended he is by it — it’s happening. Not much he can do to stop it.

*Not* saying anything is difficult for me because it feels disloyal to people I love. I feel like I need to stand up and say… something. At the very least, I would like to ask my FIL to not say bigoted things around my children. I think that’s fair. I may have to couch it in more diplomatic language.

Respect is a two-way street.

While we’re on the subject, I’m wondering about something else. One of my cousins is getting married in New Mexico, and he and his husband are having a reception in our hometown.

Now most of me doesn’t think anything of writing “he and his husband”. I’ve written about my “aha” moment regarding sexuality before, and how I was unexpectedly moved by the DOMA decision from the Supreme Court last year.

However, in my head, I am tripping over what to say to other people. Or how to say anything to other people. Or wondering if I should say anything to other people.

For example, when someone says, “What are you up to this weekend?”, do I just say, “I’m going to a reception for my cousin who got married last month.”

Do I add, “He and his husband got married in New Mexico”? Do I say anything about the fact that my cousin is a man marrying another man? If I don’t say anything, the assumption is going to be that I am going to the reception of a man and a woman. Do I clarify that that’s not the case? Does it matter if I do or if I don’t? What does it say if I do? What does it say if I don’t?

I’m not ashamed of or embarrassed by having homosexual cousins, so I don’t want to cover up or lie by omission. At the same time it feels like saying something is belaboring the point. And again, not saying something feels a little bit disloyal.

Of course, at the same time, I don’t want this to be more about me than about my friends and family.

What do you think? If no one asks, should I not tell? Or should I somehow casually mention I’m attending a gay wedding reception?

Why I Was 40-something Before I Asked for a Raise

I have been working (not including babysitting) since I was 16 years old. (Erie Zoo. I have stories.)

And up until February 3, 2014, I never asked for a raise.

Part of it is I never had to ask for a raise before. Like most American workers, I was subject to the annual review, which usually came with cost-of-living increases and/or merit-based increases. When I freelanced, I was confident when I named my price because I knew my scale and my experience. I usually received what I asked for. (Sometimes I didn’t get the job. Goes with the territory of freelancing.)

Because of a combination of the economy and the changes at my current company, it’s been years since I got a raise. When I was told in the past I wouldn’t be getting even a cost-of-living increase, I tried to bargain for other things (i.e. extra time off instead of a pay raise). Then two years went by where I wasn’t even reviewed. And my workload increased to the point where I was doing the work of three people.

You can have all the reasons in the world to ask for a raise — and believe me, I had a lot of them. But it’s still scary as all get out, in my opinion.

I was screwing up my courage to ask about a raise last summer. Some noise was made about getting us all in for annual reviews (we had just gotten a new director), so I decided to wait a little bit. But nothing came of it.

Like most middle-class Americans, I’ve been watching my wages stagnant while everything else got more expensive. I’ve read too many news reports about growing income inequality. My husband and I struggle under our (slowly decreasing) debt load.

I knew something needed to change.

So I wrote a letter about why I was asking for a raise, named a number, and justified it.

The actual asking part was a little anticlimactic. I scheduled a meeting with my boss, and when I sat down with him, basically said I was there to talk about getting a raise. His response? “Great! I already have that in the budget request for next fiscal year.” Then he continued, “I’m glad you were proactive about this.”

Now, I haven’t received the raise yet. I suppose it’s time to follow up with my boss to see if he has an idea of numbers. Our new fiscal year starts in about a month.

Did you ever have to “name your price”? What did you base it on? Did you feel like you had to psyche yourself up for it?


Inspired by tweeting with @katrinaravioli, whose 27 is strikingly different from my 27.

I spent the first six months of the year I was 27 extricating myself from a relationship. It was a long, messy process even though it was the right thing to do.

We both knew the relationship wasn’t working. We didn’t know (at the time) why it wasn’t working. We were sad, and we were scared about being single. Well, I was. I don’t really know if he was scared. I don’t think he wanted to break up necessarily — since I did the actual breaking up part — but I also think our relationship was coasting on inertia.

We argued sometimes, but mostly we were just sad. Sad and dissatisfied.

So I moved out. That was the first step.

I moved in with my brother and his soon-to-be-wife. We broke up the night of their wedding.

That was the second step.

The third step was staying away from him. I didn’t want a friendship with him. I felt sad around him; I felt angry and resentful; I wondered what was wrong with me. That’s no basis for any kind of friendship. Family and friends collected the rest of my belongings from his apartment.

The next steps were: moving in with friends of mine, a couple who owned a house on the South Side. I bought a bed. After a couple of months, I sought therapy. It was helpful.

I had a good group of friends. I had a job, and, more importantly to me, I was a freelance writer. The job paid the bills. The freelance writing fed the ego. I also had some success as a poet. In short, I had a life, a life I had always had aside from my relationship. It was a good life. I liked it.

I spent the next six months of 27 (and some time beyond) single. I liked single. I dated; I didn’t like dating. I realized that just because a guy calls you doesn’t mean you have to call him back. I realized a couple of dates didn’t obligate me to keep seeing someone I didn’t enjoy dating. I realized that being alone and being lonely are two distinct things. I was lonely, sometimes, but I really liked to be alone.

Twenty-seven was the year I probably grew up the most. I definitely learned more about myself in that year than I ever had. I renewed my relationship with my faith. I realized I very much had a life I liked (aside from the nightmares about being consumed — hence, therapy.) Through breaking up and through dating, I was figuring out what I wanted in a partner. Through living my life and therapy, I was learning that nothing was wrong with me. I was actually a pretty neat person. I was stunningly human, which is why I had ALL THE FEELINGS.

I was learning it was okay to want to be loved. I was learning that I deserved to be loved. That surprised the shit out of me. I came to accept it.

I was about 18 months away from letting a man I knew from Duquesne University buy me a Maker’s Mark (on the rocks) in the Lava Lounge, and three years from marrying the same man. In some ways at 27, I was far away from the woman who would be loved as I am by this man, and by our children. But I was getting there.

Twenty-seven was messy, sometimes fun and sometimes devastating and sometimes lonely. Twenty-seven was powerful, and I’m glad I lived it the way I did.

What was 27 for you?

My Friend, The Genius

So, I have this friend. Her name is Erin. She also goes by the moniker “The High Priestess of Boogie“. She has been an educator for a number of years in a number of different settings with diverse populations. She teaches (among other things) acting, stagecraft, drama, and comedy.

She is a genius. Not just as an actor, or teacher, or all-around awesome woman. She can clearly see things — and isn’t afraid to tell you what she sees. Goddess bless her.

She also has a soft spot for my Kate. As she emailed me not too long ago, “…my personality is much more like Kate’s than like yours, and I remembered what it was like for us to live together.”

I have no idea what she is talking about. (Okay, I have a vague idea of what she may be alluding to. I may be difficult to share space with. I have boundary issues — as in high boundary issues. You know that scene in “Dirty Dancing”? “This is my dance space. This is your dance space.” Yeah, that’s me. The Patrick Swayze of the South Side House of Babes.)

I tossed out an off-hand remark not too long ago about Kate’s behavior being “off the chart“.

And Erin emailed me and said (I’m paraphrasing), “What’s this chart that Kate is off of look like?”

It made me realize that Kate and I do not share a language about her behavior. I don’t share a language with any of my children about their behavior. I react to their behavior — and that’s it. I give M time outs; I tell Flora to chill out; I tell Kate to calm down. When things get too overwhelming, I give myself time outs.

So I came up with a chart. It looks like a giant color wheel:

And now we have a language. We worked on the language together, mostly Kate and me.

Our starting point, our goal, is to be in Green. Green is good behavior, a calm place, nice manners, appropriate behavior. Green means specific praise. “Kate, thank you for saying please and staying in your seat. Flora, thank you for doing your homework right away.” Being in green long enough, or being “extra green” means you get to Blue. Blue is being helpful with the dishes, calming your little brother down, asking to borrow someone’s toy or pencil before using it.

Yellow means, “Think about it.” Yellow is, “What are you doing right now? What are you *supposed* to be doing right now?”

Orange is for when the behavior has gone from merely questionable to “Stop it right now.” We start trying to redirect our energy, try to refocus on green, try to take the deep breaths. And red is when the behavior is completely out of hand and it’s time to leave or time for consequences.

It’s been an interesting exercise for us. Flora will be in green all night — until bedtime, when she will suddenly escalate into orange or red with no warning. Kate in yellow can still get herself under control — even in orange, she can find words, take breaths.

Red is bad for all of us. We’re still figuring out red.

The next thing I want to do with my children is make a list of actions, a list of options for when we are getting into oranges and reds. What is appropriate? What are you allowed to do now that you are in orange? For example, grabbing, hitting, and suddenly screaming are all on the DON’T list. What’s on the DO list?

I am still working on these lists with the children. I’ll post them here when have ’em!

Do you have a chart for your children, or a common language? What are some options as everyone is inching toward red?

Random Thoughts: The I Miss My Blog Edition

1. I asked for a raise! So that’s one thing already crossed off my uber-list for 2014. I want to tell you ALL about it. And I will, just not today.

2. I have two projects in the works that involve writing not for my job or for my blog, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them too. Later, though.

3. One of my friends is an absolute genius, GENIUS I tell you, and I can’t wait to tell you all about her idea for me and Kate and how to regulate Kate’s behavior — well, to help Kate learn to regulate her own behavior.

3b. All of my friends are pretty damn smart, I just want to add that here. Probably most of them are even geniuses in their own right. I just need to tell you about this one woman. Some day soon.

4. In two days, I took two children (M and Kate) to the doctor, and ended up with four prescriptions and two referrals to the ENT for them. M for ear issues again; Kate for evaluation of her tonsils and adenoids to see if those need to go. I’m sure there’s a whole story there, too.

5. The other child of mine ended up with a low-grade fever and has been home from school since about noon yesterday.

6. I won’t bitch about the winter weather. I grew up in Erie; it’s cold; it snows. I’m not fond of the extreme temps, but who is? What I do not like about this time of the year is how all this cold and snow coops up kids and germs, and everyone gets sick, and everyone gets stir crazy. That’s what’s hard about this time of year. The days are getting longer, and now when we get home, I let my kids tromp around outside in the cold for a little bit. I figure it’ll do them some good to get even just 5-10 minutes of fresh air.

7. My in-laws are in Florida again, and I am relearning how much time laundry takes. Do not like.

8. So many things, so much to do, many things I want to tell you. I need to start carving time out for this space again.

Writing should be like love: Infinite. Although I use so many words daily in my career, there are always more words.

Time is a little trickier.

What do you need more of right now?

The RPM 2014 Uber-List

I am the last person who should be bitching about this. However, I ran into a real problem when shopping yesterday.

My go-to brand of dress pants don’t fit right anymore.

I guess regularly working out changed my body just enough. I usually buy Worthington from JC Penneys. For years they were the only brand that fit everywhere: waist, hips, legs, butt. Plus, they were long enough for this tall girl.

Yesterday after shopping at Macy’s with my sister-in-law, we decided to head to Penneys. Macy’s carries a ton of petites, and pants that come in regular and short. I wanted pants for work, and Macy’s (especially the clearance racks) didn’t have my style.

At Penneys, I walked right to the pants, and picked a few size 8s off the rack. And discovered they absolutely don’t fit anymore. The waist slipped down to my hips. And the low-waisted pants threatened to slip further. Size 8s were too big.

So, with consternation, I went back and grabbed a couple pairs of 6s. But they don’t fit right either. The waist fits fine, and the length is okay. But they ride up my butt and crotch. Noticeably and uncomfortably.

So now I have to I have to find a new, not-too-expensive brand of pant that fits my body. Or stop working out.

Which brings me to my uber-list.

The only thing I accomplished for sure on my uber-list from last year was my exercise routine. I regularly workout three times a week, usually with Jillian Michaels. Once in a while i add a Pilates routine. My list for 2013 was too long. For me, anyway.

I decided to set only a handful of goals for 2014. And they are all self centered. Of course I want to grow as a wife and mother. I can always get better as both. Of course I want to be a good person and friend and family member. This year’s uber-list, though, requires some focus on me and what I need to do for myself. In order to be the rest of that stuff.

1. Ask for a raise. This is kind of a cheat. I already have a meeting scheduled, and my reasons worked out. Now I have to sit in my bosses office and say, “It’s time for me to get a raise.”

I’m pretty terrified.

2. Update and promote my blog.

3. Redo the front closet and paint the hallway going up the stairs.

4. Write and publish something not blog or work related.

5. Find a new brand of pants that fits. And buy all the colors.

That’s it. Those are my goals. I need to stretch creatively and career-wise. That’s why 2014 is about confidence.

Do you have goals for your new year? How about a pant brand you like?