Thinking Aloud: About Street Harassment

If you haven’t been under a rock this week, you’ve probably seen the video of the young woman walking in New York City. They recorded 10 hours of her walking, and edited it down to showcase men speaking at her.

I will say upfront that I do find the video problematic because the majority of men trying to engage with the women are black or Latino. Many people are glomming onto that fact.

I’ll tell you right now: White men do it too.

As a young woman, I lived on the South Side of Pittsburgh. As a young woman, I was regularly harassed on the the street: yells from cars, greetings from men I didn’t know, cat-called, followed, etc. etc. The majority of these men were white. Some were saying, “Hello! How are you?” Some were commenting on my assets (usually my legs). I can’t remember it being welcome. Even on the days when I was feeling attractive and flirty and had on a cute skirt. Random comments from men I didn’t know were not validating.

I’ve seen a lot of men on Twitter, on Facebook, in the comment of articles talking about this video protesting. “Saying ‘hello’ is harassment?” “My mother taught me to be polite.” “Asking someone how they are doing is wrong?”

If a person walking along greets every person he passes, or who passes him, I would say that’s not necessarily harassment. As long as one is greeting every Tom, Dick, and Harriet that he sees — fine. He’s just trying to be a nice guy.

But if I have walked 10 blocks, and twice on every block — or even once on each block — have heard some man I don’t know trying to engage with me, whether it was “hi” or “Smile!” or “What are you doing later, baby?” By the time I get to an innocent “how are you today?” I’m annoyed and feeling harassed.

Here’s the line: Is it about her or is it about the speaker? When a woman is walking along, lost in thought, by herself, why does someone feel the need to speak to her? Because it’s not about her. It’s about the speaker. He wants her attention, even for an instant. He wants to snap her out of her self-introspection for a second of feedback from her. Not necessarily harassment, but definitely irritating.

I can’t believe that street harassment works as a method to meet women or get a date. If that is the defense of the strategy — I’m not buying it. Has that ever happened? Does saying, “hey, baby,” to random women on the street score the caller a phone number? A hook up?

It is also about what happens after the attempted engagement. Does the speaker call after her again? “Hey, I said hi!” “Don’t you want to look pretty?” “Bitch!” That clearly crosses the line into harassment.

Does he follow her for any amount of time? That’s full-blown creep. (Did you see the alarm on that woman’s face when that man walked beside her for five minutes? I was scared for her.)

Here’s the thing. If you don’t think the way you engage with women in public spaces is a problem, please check yourself. Do you engage with everyone the same way? Why are you going to engage with someone you don’t know? Is it about you, and seeking validation?

Because if it is, you’re part of the problem.

If you have no expectations from the encounter, it may be okay, and the problem may be with the woman, who has probably been spoken to several times already. Just keep that in mind, too, next time you want to say hi to a pretty stranger. You’re probably not the first.

ETA: Think about the woman being your wife or daughter or sister. Is it still okay with you?


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My Love Affair with Aldi’s

It started out innocently enough. I was coming out of Costco, thinking of the five other things I needed for the week’s menu. And I realized an Aldi’s was right there, and that I didn’t need anything obscure. I was pretty sure Aldi’s didn’t do obscure.

So I popped in. I didn’t even need a quarter for a cart. I grabbed flour, orange juice, and one or two other things.

I decided next time I needed a grocery run, I was going to try Aldi’s again. I went the Friday before we went to the woods and got a lot of snacks (chips, crackers, peanut butter wafers, and fruit snacks), trail mix, orange juice, almond milk, coffee, half and half, dish soap, plastic wear, and paper bowls. That run cost me about $40. I know it would’ve cost me more at Giant Eagle.

Last night, I ran to Aldi’s again. Because I hadn’t shopped over the weekend, the stuff I needed for lunches and dinners were in short supply. On this run, I discovered Aldi’s weakness: no vegetarian options. No tofu, no vegetarian baked beans, no meat substitutes (nuggets, soy crumbles).

This will be a problem if I continue to shop there.

Last night, I spent $64.86 at Aldi’s (including three bags of candy to hand out at Halloween), and then ran to GE for another six items that added up to $20.

My Aldi’s shopping list would’ve added up to $101.33 at Giant Eagle (plus the $20 I did spend there last night). I determined this by filling a cart online because I was curious to see if I was really saving money. Line by line, I saved between $1 and $2.50 per item. This is even with several of the GE items on sale.

That’s not insignificant.

There are other things I like about Aldi’s. It forces me to use my canvas bags (no free bags at Aldi’s). I mean to use my canvas bags more, anyway. I don’t mind bagging, at all. I don’t mind putting my cart back myself. The Aldi’s I’ve shopped is very small. Four or five aisles of products — that’s it. Because the options are limited, no decision fatigue sets in. A shopping trip at Aldi’s takes me 20-30 minutes, tops. I can’t even walk from one end of the Market District to the other in 30 minutes. Aldi’s has organic options for most products.

This clearly will need further analysis going forward. I don’t know if this affair will last.

Aldi's Store Sign

image source, and another take on Aldi’s shopping

Random Thoughts: The Roughing It Edition

1. “Rustic cabins” means no running water. No big deal. (Truly.)

2. Next year: wellies for the children, and many changes of clothes. Kate got wet over and over again, and ended up in her pajamas WAY before the day was done. M, too, could not stay out of the water. Which would have been fine except for the fact that within 30 seconds of checking in at the park office, he lost a shoe in a massive leaf pile. I’m glad he had two other pairs.


Kate perched on a rock. Notice she’s down a shoe.


Less pensive, more Kate.


Michael is wrapped up with Daddy because M got soaked from the waist down. He would go through two more outfits and all his shoes that day. Campfires dry things out really really well!

3. You know what’s a bad idea? Reading scary novels in the month of October and then going to the woods where you have to make bathroom trips after the sun is down or before the sun comes up. I gave myself the willies a couple of times on that ominously quiet trek to and from the bath house.

4. Firestarters. Much needed, especially if you haven’t gathered kindling before the sun sets.

5. This weekend could not have come at a better time or on a better weekend. It was much needed.

6. This weekend in the woods had a different dynamic than our trips to Cook Forest in the spring. First of all, there were fewer people, only 12 of us, five children, seven adults. Second, each family had our own little rustic cabin — I think ours was the biggest with three rooms (and two of those were bunk rooms). I’m grateful the weather was good enough that we could spend lots of time outside. I don’t know if we all would have fit in one place very comfortably! We all gathered at one fire most of the day, and retired to our own spaces as needed. It was very peaceful.



Flora was the oldest child on the weekend, and I think she kind of dug it. She stayed up late with the grownups on Friday night; I finally chased her to her bunk after 10 p.m. She and Kate stayed up a little late on Saturday, but a day out in fresh air wears out little people. M hit the hay by 8:30 — by request — and Kate and Flora were bunked by 9-9:30. Heck, Saturday night, I think Dan and I were up the latest, and we didn’t get past 11:30!

7. Upon learning that we adults were consuming adult beverages, Flora got a little stressed out. “But the sign says, ‘Alcohol prohibited’!” Uh, sometimes even adults break the rules.

8. I need to learn to cook over a campfire. My Girl Scout days are long behind me. Suggestions for resources are welcome!

Cats I Have Known

One summer, a cat showed up in our bushes at home. I was probably 14 or 15. Our babysitter said, “Don’t feed it, and it will go away.” (They were called babysitters back then, not nannies.)

When Mom came home, we told her that a cat had showed up in our bushes. She said, “Don’t feed it, and it will go away.”

The next day, my brother fed it.

Thus, we got a cat. It was a skinny little thing, all black with green eyes. Honestly, she didn’t have a white spot on her. My brother, being the creative force that he is, named her Midnight.

My parents did have her spayed, but she was not ever 100% an indoor cat. Her food bowls lived outside on our upper porch. She spent great swathes of her time outside, hunting. She brought us many disemboweled creatures as a token of her affection. On one memorable occasion, she neglected to kill the chipmunk before she got into the house.

She was never overly affectionate, but she did seem to like my brother.

Caesar Boy and Lemonhead
Caesar Boy and Lemonhead were the house cats of the House of Babes. Technically, I think they belonged to Jen. I had to make sure they didn’t get in my room because I had developed an allergy to cats. I couldn’t pet them because if I did and then accidentally rubbed my eyes or touched my face, I spent the next hours itchy and sneezy.

Caesar Boy was a pretty, grey kitty, and Lemonhead was a calico. I was not involved with the naming, so I couldn’t explain why they were called those names. Maybe if Jen stops by the blog, she can explain if there are stories there.

Neither cat was ever fixed. We never let them outside. They were generally affectionate, and REALLY affectionate, depending on the time of the month — just like some residents of the House of Babes, oddly enough.

It is hard being allergic to cats and living with affectionate ones.

This was another cat adopted by my brother. At the time he shared an apartment with our cousin Jennifer in Wilkinsburg.

Robbie was a huge cat, one of the biggest I’d ever seen. He was the size of a small dog, like a shih tzu. He was mostly beige, with a tail ringed with gray stripes. My brother had him neutered and declawed. He always seemed to regret declawing him — he said Robbie seemed to have been in a lot of pain. But he also wanted Robbie to be an indoor cat and not shred the furniture.

Robbie was VERY affectionate. He was the first cat — possibly the only cat — I ever saw actually RUN TO THE DOOR when someone came in. If the someone was my brother, he stuck around, seeking affection… and food, probably.

When my brother started dating my to-be SIL, he discovered that she was extremely allergic to cats. Extremely. Couldn’t be in the same room with them. Couldn’t share space at all with them, really. She just blew up and started wheezing.

I knew it was serious when my brother told me he went out and found Robbie another home.


If Flora and I were not allergic to cats, I would get one as a pet for the children. It seems like a cat would be a good starter pet: feed it, water it, make sure the litter box gets cleaned. But looks like we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to get a dog instead. I am a dog person, not a cat person — but I am done cleaning up poop. The children gotta be ready to take that on.


(h/t to Kim/@observacious for the subject matter)

Black Cat, Green Eyes
This is not an image of Midnight, but it is what she looked like.

Are you a dog person or cat person? What kind of cats have you known?

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Sex, Death, and Ebola

Children are sponges. Curious, curious sponges that ask a lot of questions.

Remember, children don’t realize that their curiosity could put you in an awkward position. They have questions, and they trust you, an adult-type person in their life, to have answers. Whether it be about sex, death, or the latest news, sometimes a question is going to pop out of a child’s mouth that you wish you could ignore. You can always try distracting them with ice cream, but I guarantee you: they will happily get ice cream with you. Then they are going to circle back to that question, probably until they get an answer.

Here are some guidelines for dealing with those pesky questions, from “Where do babies come from?” to “Do I have to worry about catching Ebola?”

1. Don’t panic. Children, like most other animals, can smell fear. If you panic, you are inviting them to attack you (with more questions) or you will inspire fear and panic in them too.

Stay calm. Take a deep breath, and think about what you want to say. If the child chooses to ask more questions in that pause, raise a finger and say something like, “Just a minute. I’m going to answer your question, but I want to think of the best answer for you.”

2. Try not to get defensive. Don’t fire questions back: “Where did you hear that??” “Who told you that?” “Why would you say something like that?” This will shut off communication. If they think they are going to get someone in trouble, they will shut down. Children don’t like getting people in trouble (unless it is one of their siblings). The secondary effect is that they will either seek out another adult, and the message will be out of your hands, and/or they will seek out their friends, and the message will not only be out of your hands, but also possibly incorrect.

3. Be honest. Don’t make stuff up. Don’t guess. If you don’t know, say, “You know what? I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s look it up.” VET YOUR SOURCE IF YOU GO THIS ROUTE ON THE INTERNET.

4. Be age-appropriate and child-appropriate. This is probably the trickiest step (after don’t panic). The information that a 5-year-old can take in is different from what a 10-year-old can absorb. And one 10-year-old may be a little more sophisticated than another 10-year-old in terms of vocabulary or causal effect. (By the teens, they probably aren’t asking you questions anymore, which is another reason you should try to answer them now.)

5. Finally, try to anticipate follow-up questions. Know where it is okay to draw the line, and say, “You need to be a little older before we discuss that.”

The upshot is that children trust adults. We serve them best when we give them honest answers and treat their concerns and curiosity as valid, and not something to be avoided or laughed at. Or, worse, scorned. If your child is afraid of contracting Ebola because it’s all the media is talking about, assure them the likelihood is extremely low. If they are old enough explain why in simple terms.

What innocent question from children usually has you running for the hills?

Don't Panic Button

What Twin Peaks Means to Me

Nothing. Not a damn thing.

I think there’s some kind of reference to cherry pie and coffee out there in the culturescape. I’m not even sure what it is. “Damn fine cup of coffee.” Am I close?

Which is not to say that Twin Peaks shouldn’t be a thing, and people shouldn’t be excited that it’s returning… to TV? Or they are making a movie? Or both?

No, I am for weird TV, and David Lynch, and Kyle… McLaughlin.

Remember, I’m doing this without looking anything up. It’s completely against my journalistic nature, but it should up the entertainment value of these posts.

Weird, good TV is important, and I wish there were more of it. Especially now with cable and Netflix. I like more options rather than fewer options. I like cult movies and niche TV. Part of what I like about it is the passion that people bring to the subject.

Witness LOST. That show was one that I watched, pretty much religiously. And I use that word on purpose. It was a planned hour of time every week. Tuesday night at 9 p.m., the children were abed and Dan and I were camped out in front of the television. It was a combo date night/shared passion. I’ll even defend the finale when pressed. (A lot of people — a lot of FANS — hated it.)

Also, the little sitcom Community. People were nuts about that show! And, having watched a few episodes myself, I can understand why. The characters were fantastic. Josh (actor from LOST whose name is escaping me right now) showed up on a season finale. It was also quirky and over the top. And I love Donald Glover/Childish Gambino. Love him.

However, I am a terrible television fan. The only show I made it through in real-time was LOST. I didn’t stick with Mad Men, which was brilliant. My interest waned at the beginning of season… 4, I think. I went back and forth with Parenthood, but most of the episodes I watched on On Demand. I think I’m behind on that, too. And watched Community sometimes. I liked it! I just wasn’t dedicated to it.

Dan and I are watching Breaking Bad (which I think I mentioned around here somewhere) on Netflix, and while it’s compelling, and we will be watching it all the way through to the series finale (11 episodes away!), but I never once tuned into Breaking Bad on AMC. Also: it’s brutal. But more on that later.

So! Back to Twin Peaks, and the cultural relevance to its return. I don’t know if it has cultural relevance to non-fans. To fans, I’m sure it’s very exciting. And I’m excited for them. But I don’t know if I would watch Twin Peaks if it came to Netflix. (See also: Gilmore Girls.) Like many a TV show with a cult following, it has an interesting effect on language. There are code words and phrases that fans use that leave non-fans saying, “What?” (See also: “And so say we all.” from Battlestar Galactica.)

My knowledge of Twin Peaks extends not very far: cherry pie, Kyle McLaughlin and Sherri… someone. She dated Jack Nicholson. I think little people were involved. In the show, not in Jack Nicholson’s relationship. Although, maybe, I don’t know.

And it’s coming back. I hope the fans are happy.

(h/t to canis ferociter latrans, who proposed this for a topic.)

Kyle McLaughlin
I wouldn’t mind staring at this face on my television on a weekly basis.

image source

What weird TV do you/did you love? And why? Are you excited Twin Peaks is coming back?

When Pumpkin Spice Jumped the Shark

I like me some pumpkin flavoring, in a few things. For example, one of my favorite fall desserts is a nice, moist pumpkin roll. And, of course, pumpkin pie is a must at Thanksgiving.

But at some point in the past two years, the pumpkin spice craze has utterly exploded, and now it’s being used in everything from coffee (which I deem acceptable) to car fresheners. I don’t know if that latter example is literally true, but I’d bet $5 it is.

I think pumpkin for use in consumables is fine. I, personally, don’t like flavored coffee at all, so I’m not going to pick up a pumpkin spice latte, but if you are excited about that, I’m cool. I’m still somewhat skeptical about pumpkin beer, for goodness sakes, which puts me in the minority among my friends. I’ve had one or two, with the appropriately sugared serving glasses, and nothing has knocked my socks off. I lack the impulse to go out and stock up on PumKing. It’s just not my thing.

But you have at it.

I think the clearest signs that pumpkin spice everything jumped the shark was two-fold.

1. Pumpkin beers hit the shelves this year in August. That is akin to the Christmas creep in the retail space, and as such, I deem it unacceptable. Given the accelerated pace, this means Christmas beers will be in stores by the end of October. It’s just wrong, people. Knock that shit off.

2. Pumpkin spice is in everything. For all I know, it’s in the Get-Go fuel I put in my car. It started innocently enough, with coffee and beer and muffins. And scones and cookies and pumpkin bread. And I won’t turn down a nice creamy curried pumpkin soup. But thanks to my friend Kim Z. Dale, it has come to my attention that there are pumpkin spice air fresheners and e-cig… what are those, cartridges? (I don’t get e-cigarettes. And as a long-time smoker, I think that’s saying something.)

Kim wrote her own post on the pumpkin spice madness, complete with a slide show. We are of the same mind: Pumpkin spice cream cheese? Fine. Pumpkin spice facials? Just say no.

It’s gone too far. Whatever happened to nice, simple pumpkin PIE flavoring? Why’s it gotta be pumpkin SPICE?

I vote that we bring back apple as a flavoring for fall. Not apple spice or applesauce or apple cinnamon. Apple. Plain and crisp.

(h/t to @_chrislovett who proposed the idea for this post in the first place, and to Kim aka @observacious, who dubbed the pumpkin spice latte “patient zero” in all things pumpkin spice related)

Where do you draw the line on all things pumpkin?

Pumpkin Spice Latte
Patient Zero

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Meatless Monday: The Quick Links Edition

It’s apple season, and how. Here’s my suggestion for you.

First, go make homemade applesauce.

Then, with two cups of that applesauce, make these muffins. OMG, so good. They are a hit, and I will be making them again. (Along with more applesauce.)

I also have been meaning to share this recipe for sesame noodles because it, too, is very, very (VERY) popular.

Because we were cooking for five children this summer, as well as between four and six adults, I went out looking for children-friendly recipes that weren’t boxed mac and cheese and not/hot dogs. The only child who turns her nose up at this meal is Kate; she likes her noodles plain, or with butter. I just put some cooked pasta aside for her. And I do give Flora cut up raw red peppers, because that girl LOVES her some red pepper.

I usually leave out the red pepper FLAKES though, or serve them on the side for a little extra kick for the grown-ups.

On Saturday, I baked oatmeal raisin cookies, and served roasted potatoes and veggie burgers for dinner. On Sunday, it was the sesame noodles, plus tofu and chicken for protein, and the applesauce muffins. A lot of cooking, and a lot of cleaning, but now that the children are helping, it’s not as onerous. (The cleaning, I mean. I LOVE cooking, and seldom find it onerous.)

So, go forth, enjoy, pick up some apples at the nearest farmers market. It’s the perfect season for lots of time in a hot kitchen. It’s probably time to bring back Meatless Monday, too. I’ll have to try to remember what else I’ve been making these days!

Have you tried anything new in the kitchen lately?


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Random Idea Generator

(Psst, that’s you.)

So, things are slowing down around here on the blog. I need some ideas to help me keep going.

I’m borrowing an idea from a fellow Pittsburgh blogger, Jim, who writes at Just a Lil Blog. He calls it “Bloggy Doodle Dandy.” Also, you should read his post on the honey badger, because it’s hilarious.

Now he was pretty structured about it, and I’m going to be totally honest: I’m going to be less so. Work is… a lot of work right now, which is one reason this blog has slowed down. I am also about to undertake a heavy writing project not related to work, so daily blogging is not going to be my bag.

Here’s my goal: I’d like to put together a list of 30 ideas, just like Jim did. Leave comments below, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

I’m open to anything, just about. If you have things you want to know about me, go ahead and ask. If you want me to write about how pumpkin jumped the shark (a topic I think I may opine on, h/t @_chrislovett), suggest it. I’ve tweaked Jim’s rules a little bit.

• Nothing X-rated.
• I’m not going to research the topic to hand — I’m just going to write off-the-cuff based on my experience with the topic OR what I’ve heard about the topic OR just my opinion on the topic.
• Day 0 will be when I post a list of the topics.
• As I said, I will post at least 3 times a week until I use up all the topics.

Thanks for playing along!

Life Is Random

What topic would you like me to tackle?

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15 movies

I seldom get tagged on Facebook (and that’s fine, I’d ignore it anyway. I have problems with people telling me what to do), but this FB meme has been going around for awhile. I decided to do it for my own self just to see if I could come up with 15 movies. I’m not an avid movie-goer; I don’t quote lines from (many) movies; most of the films I have seen in the last five years have probably been animated (yay, motherhood!).

The instructions were not to think too hard to come up with these movies. But I had to think pretty hard to come up with 15 movies, period, let alone 15 movies that stuck with me. (Also, I’m not linking anywhere or throwing in clips at this point. I’m just trying to get something on the blog.)

The majority of these movies are less about the movie and more about the experience of watching the movie. With the exception of the first two: Those are all about the movies.

Blade Runner
This is my favorite movie of all time. I am a fan of the original version (with the voice over) although I have seen the director’s cut and other versions. It’s the perfect science fiction dystopian film, capturing the hope in a bleak future. Each character is perfectly drawn and cast. It’s… flawless as far as I’m concerned.

Princess Bride
This is also my favorite movie of all time, and again, it’s flawless. This is one movie I could probably quote at length. One of my greatest joys of parenthood has been sharing this movie with my children. It’s a classic fairytale, but told better than Disney has ever done it.

A Fish Called Wanda
I think this is the first movie I saw Kevin Kline in. It’s hilarious, and another movie I can quote pretty reliably.

While this is a rather brilliant retelling of the Rapunzel tale, what I will remember most is how much I cried during this movie. That and the 3D effects — just stunning. I was 38 weeks pregnant with M; I had just been informed that I wasn’t going to need a C-section; Dan and I had scheduled an induction to start the following day; and the girls had the day off from school because it was the last day of Thanksgiving vacation. So I took them to see Tangled. The three of us sobbed through the death of a main character toward the end. Flora turned to me and said accusingly, “WHY did you bring us to this movie?” I had no good answer for her. (The movie has a happy ending, of course. But it certainly screws around getting there!)

Star Wars
This was the second movie I saw in a theater. I was 6. Without Star Wars, there would have been no Blade Runner.

Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and the funniest locker room sight gag EVER. A Dan-recommended movie.

Pet Sematary
I saw this in the theater with high school friends. It’s a terrible adaptation of a Stephen King novel. But I jumped and screamed and laughed my way through it with about 250 other people, including life-long friends, and that makes it memorable.

Pink Floyd’s The Wall
Ack. I watched this when I was about 16… with my younger brother and my father. Awkward.

Shawshank Redemption
One of those cable movies that I have to watch if it’s on. This is a good — no, GREAT — adaptation of Stephen King.

Dead Poets Society
I talked about this recently. RIP Robin Williams.

Breakfast Club
I went to an all-girls Catholic high school, and this movie still resonated with me. John Hughes nailed the high school experience. I was Ally Sheedy’s character + Anthony Michael Hall’s character. Sans dandruff.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Exuberant. Another John Hughes film that I just loved.

The Exorcist
I watched this at home in my basement with a few friends, and it scared the shit out of me. And then we took a drive to the haunted place in Erie. Because: teenagers.

The LOTR Trilogy
My husband reads these books over and over again. He is the reason I have read these books and seen these movies. We saw them all in the theater, and we own them all on DVD. He dreams of having a LOTR- and Hobbit-viewing party over a weekend. Now what to do with those pesky kids.

Hunger Games Movies
I love these books so much, and I love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, and I own t-shirts for these films. I’ve gone full-on geek for them, and I’m okay with that. Which reminds me that I need to get a Mockingjay tee.

What movies do you love?

Blade Runner poster art

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