More Than A Day

The children (plus Niece), Dan and I spent Sunday afternoon at his office cleaning.

Do we know how to have a good time or what?

He had gotten new carpet in his therapy room, and everything on the second floor needed to be moved and cleaned and dusted. It didn’t take a long time, only about three hours, and the children were good. Flora and Michael even teamed up to shred old bills in his admin office.

I mostly carried things up and down stairs. We took home all the Christmas decorations. It was a good, productive, exhausting day. Kate and Niece played together nicely.

At one point, Dan, vacuuming and dusting in his small therapy room, said, “Thank you so much for coming and helping. This really needed to happen.”

I said, “Well, this is my house, too you know.”

And I realized something (after 13+ years of marriage): You don’t marry a person, you marry a life.

I didn’t invent this idea. I grew up in a household where my parents were partners in marriage, child-rearing, and business. When Dan came to me about buying his office building (a house in Crafton), we talked about the pros and cons, and about what it meant for our future. He was committing to private practice, which comes with a lot of work — paperwork, admin, billing, taxes, and so on. It wasn’t just showing up somewhere to do therapy and collect a paycheck.

Plus, two houses, which is why our family was spending a Sunday vacuuming and dusting in Crafton instead of at home.

We’re still learning the ins-and-outs of medical practice. His sister and his mother have been big helps with billing and paperwork. It means long hours for him, and me holding down the fort at home.

But it’s been worth it. Even the stressful weeks when billing has been off, or the insurance has denied more claims than it accepted, or that time he got audited because he had to testify in court. Even when my job has been less than ideal, or the children have a lot of school issues that need to be handled.

When I said, “I do,” I wasn’t just marrying Dan. I was committing my future to his, and vice versa. We were hitching our trains together for the long haul (not a euphemism).

It’s a little scary to think about before you get married, probably. If people who are getting married ask me for advice (those silly people), I tell them to try to find a marriage class (or pre-Cana). It can help you focus on what comes *after* your wedding day. It’s a lot of conversations that you don’t necessarily think about when you are excited about planning your wedding day with the love of your life.

But they are important conversations to have. What are your priorities? Do you both want children, and if so, how many? If it’s hard to have children, what measures will you take (if any)? What about careers? What about careers and parenthood? How much time will you spend with each others’ families? What about seeing friends? Who will take care of what around the house? If you expect the chores to be split 50/50, you need to express that in words.

If I’ve learned one thing about being married, it’s that you need to express things in words.


Last week, several news outlets reported that the oft-quoted “50 percent of marriages end in divorce” is no longer true, and hasn’t been true since the 1980s, when divorce rates in the United States peaked.

This is good news for marriage. Researchers attributed the drop to later marriages, family planning, and what the article calls “love marriages”. (Does anyone know what this means? I mean, it seems evident, but I’ve never seen it put like that.) Of course, fewer people are choosing to tie the knot, as well.


And this isn’t meant to be an anti-divorce screed. Dan and I made a series of purposeful decisions and commitments. We’ve had fights and been through some shit. We haven’t considered divorce in any serious way because we know regardless of the shit going on around us or between us, we are better off with each other than without each other.

That is not the case for everyone. I understand that.

It’s taken a long time and hard work to get here. We’ve had bad habits to overcome. We still have to consciously not take each other for granted, and we still have to communicate with one another. I don’t imagine that will end.

I really don’t have any idea how to cap this off. I’m not trying to tout marriage as the be-all, end-all of human existence. Everyone has their own lives to live and choices to make.

I guess I’m just feeling good about my own marriage, and our own choices. And I wanted to tell you about it.

My honey and me
My honey and me

Random Thoughts: The Anywhere But Here Edition

More than half-way through the week, and here’s some stuff that is going on.

1. I had two posts published this week. Neither of them here. They are over at a site curated by my friend Emily Levenson. Birth Diverse is “a sacred space for mothers and fathers to share their stories of how their little ones entered the world.”

Gabriel’s post was published Monday; Flora’s post was put up today.

When Emily had first contacted me, I asked if she wanted to hear about all four labors. She was game. It’s true, I didn’t write much about Gabriel’s labor, per se, but I still wanted his story to be part of my story-telling. His story will always be part of mine.

1b. Dear lord, the photos I found! That’s what labor looks like people. No makeup, no grooming, swollen with IV fluids. I mean, in the image with Flora, at least I’m not in a hospital gown. Look at her little wee face! You can see that she was sunny-side up if you examine her eyes and forehead closely. She had a bruise for the first week of her life.

2. I am naming my left hip Gertrude because it is acting like it’s 75 years old. After a two-week hiatus from regular exercise under orders from my chiropractor, I am testing Gertrude again to find out what she is capable of. I have to modify everything I was doing. No impact, limited range of motion, lighter weights. BUT, it’s mostly working. I worked out last night and while I’m sore today, I am not in pain. And that’s an important distinction.

3. I volunteered to be on the school advisory board at my girls’ school, and I am on the STEM committee of the board as well. When I was explaining to my MIL that I had to run back up to the school one evening (and I took the children with me), she quipped, “Why don’t you get a dog, too?” I know, MIL, I know.

Anyhoo, I’ve been working on curriculum questions for teachers and students. I put out a call on my social media streams about having people in STEM careers come speak at the school. I got a fast and enthusiastic response from many people in diverse fields! I’m currently working with the school to schedule a day or week of talks. Which is exciting! And time consuming.

Children doing experiments

image source

4. Yeah, mom and dad. I’m on the STEM committee of my school’s advisory board. You read that correctly.

5. Last night, the children and I went up to Barnes and Noble for the school’s family night. It was, for me, a little too chaotic. I wanted to watch Flora perform on her violin and with the chorus, and that did not work out at all for me. Kate and M were too eager to shop and too hungry to deal. I caught some of her violin concert on video, but NONE of her chorus performance.

Sorry, babe.

6. This morning was a clusterfuck and I was sincerely wishing for the week to be over. BUT, we are descending Everest now. Starting tomorrow I get to have some fun with friends, children, and Dan — at different times and in different combinations. And then next week is a three-day week.

7. Which reminds me: I need to do my Thanksgiving shopping this weekend. Guess I better figure out what I’m bringing to dinner! Probably something involving squash as I have about six at home from my CSA.

What are you bringing to the Thanksgiving table?

Becoming a Better Baker

Five years ago, if you had asked, I would’ve said that I was a good cook but not a good baker.

What I meant was that I was a confident cook and an insecure baker. Cooking, on top of the stove, or even baking casseroles or pasta dishes, I felt secure in my knowledge of putting together recipes. I wasn’t afraid to experiment or substitute ingredients; I wasn’t afraid to try new things. And after adopting new recipes, after one or two times, I was comfortable making it from memory.

On the other hand, if I was going to bake cookies or muffins, I would obsess over a recipe. I had to double check every step and every ingredient. How much sugar again? How much flour? Baking powder or baking soda? Or both? And how much? I hovered over the oven, worried about cooking something too long and burning it.

Over the years, though, and especially starting about two years ago, I started baking more. A lot more. Currently, I bake almost every weekend.

And I love it.

Part of loving it, of course, is the fact that I know what is going into the baked goods. I’m not a rabid whole-foods, clean-eating kinda mom, but it’s nice to be able to pronounce all the ingredients in the cookies I’m giving my children.

Another factor is cost: almost three dozen chocolate chip cookies are super cheap when I’m baking them from scratch. All they cost is time, and if I can manage that well (not always a given), I’d rather bake the cookies or brownies than buy a giant box of granola bars from Costco.

This is what I’ve learned over the past two years.

1. The formula for baked goods is pretty much the same: butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla; flour and baking soda. Sometimes baking powder, too. Then, just pick the flavor: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin? Applesauce muffins? Vanilla cupcakes with orange frosting; chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting?

2. Baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable. I didn’t learn this the hard way, thank goodness, but I was curious at some point, so I looked it up.

3. Keeping a well-stocked baking pantry just takes some attention. Like I said, flour, sugar, vanilla, eggs, baking soda, baking powder. Baking chocolate or cocoa. Confectioner’s sugar for icing and frosting. A hand mixer is great to have.

4. Brown sugar gets rock hard. I haven’t tried this tip yet, but keeping a slice of white bread in a ziploc bag with the open sugar is supposed to keep that from happening. Otherwise, stick it in the microwave with a damp paper towel for a minute or so. It’ll soften up.

5. Butter cream frosting is stupid easy to make. So is whipped cream.

6. Shortbread cookies aren’t stupid easy, but they are probably the easiest cookies to make. Although I’m still working on making them look pretty.

7. Parchment paper.

8. Sometimes I bake with whole wheat flour. The key to this is to not use 100% whole wheat flour. It can be up to 50% of the flour used. After that, it makes things too dense.

I sent homemade chocolate chip cookies to school with Flora for her birthday on Tuesday, and man, I really felt like Super Mom. (It doesn’t take much, people.) She said that everyone really liked them.

I’ve even gotten to the point that I’m willing to experiment a little bit. One of my recent brownie experiments didn’t really work the way I wanted (although they did *taste* good), so I’m going to try version B this weekend.

I never would’ve done that five years ago.

image sourcechocchipcookies

What new skill have you developed over the past five years?

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?

image source

Random Thoughts: The How Tolerant Do I Have to Be Again? Edition

1. My Dad’s answer to my last post about this was, “You have to be as tolerant toward people as you want them to be toward you.” A good Golden Rule take on the situation.

2. Just because you do not discriminate does not mean that discrimination does not exist. This is the flip side to the notion of privilege.

3. I could be wrong about this. I’m not really sure. BUT: Gay and trans people aren’t looking for “special” treatment under the law. Just like, oh let’s say, women, they are simply asking for equal treatment, equal to those rights that white, straight men pretty much enjoy without thinking about it. They don’t want you thinking about how they have sex or what their junk is like any more than you want people thinking that about you.

4. Equal treatment doesn’t meant that women, gay, black, or trans people want to BE THE SAME as. Women and men are different; whites, blacks, Latinos, etc. are all different; homosexual people and straight people aren’t the same. This gets confused a lot. I see things like, “Women want to be the same as men.” No, I enjoy being a woman, a lot.

Equal treatment and protection under the law. Which means, sometimes, laws have to be created. Maybe that’s the tricky part.

5. Oh, well. Never mind me. This guy said it all a lot better.

6. I’m not sure if I’m turning into a cranky idealist or not. I may be. Some days, I really wish I still liked football.

What’s getting under your skin?

The Best So Far

I love my children.

This is not snark. This isn’t going to be a long parenting rant that starts, I love my children but.

I love my children and I especially love them on vacation right now.

My children are the perfect ages. At 9, 7 and 3, they are just right. No diapers, no pack’n’play, no special food. Independent enough to get up by themselves. Old enough to play board games (M has to be on someone’s team until he loses interest and goes back to playing with his toys by himself). Able to swim (again, someone has to stay close to hand for M). Aside from a little extra supervision, the heavy lifting of early parenthood is over.

Do you know what I did today?

I slept in until 9 a.m.
After coffee, my children threw a party.
We played a family board game (Sort It Out).
Then we had it a parade. Led by Kate, of course.
Then we went to The Ridge Environmental Center. M fell asleep in the movie.
Then we went out to Findley Lake to visit friends of my parents. The children immediately made friends and occupied themselves.

It was pretty easy and great.

The whole week has been like this. It helps that we’re staying with my parents, of course, but even so. The kids require less work than ever before, and are more fun as a direct result.


Even the 3-year-old.

Listen To Your Mother

(I know. I know. I shared this on Twitter. I shared this on Facebook. I am in awe of my friend. In. Awe. Also: I have thoughts. I have feelings. I want to respond, at length.)

Kim Z. Dale, fabulous in blue
Kim Z. Dale, fabulous in blue

I have a lot of admiration for my friend Kim. She participated in the Chicago presentation of Listen to Your Mother. Along with being a professional and a mother, she is a playwright. In this verbal essay, she says a lot of things that, in my experience, work-outside-the-home moms hesitate to admit.

I have said this before, but in this context it bears repeating. I don’t just work to earn money. I work so that I leave my house. I work so that I am not at home, spending all my time with my children. I *love* my children, and I love being around them (most of the time). But I also feel like my work life makes me appreciate my home life more.

What Kim has to say is poignant and honest, and oh, when she reaches the end of her piece. Oh. My heart for her. (Aside to Kim: did you know that was going to happen?)

Please go watch it before you finish reading this.

Back? Okay.

I, too, like being good at what I do. It’s one of the (many many) reasons I work. I haven’t been called the nanny’s name (my children are a little older than Kim’s, though), but there have been moments, often in the evening or on a Saturday, where I get a look from them. A mumbled comment when I tell them to clean their room, or that we won’t make it to the pool today because we have to do XYZ. “I wish Miss Nanny were here.” The implication being because Miss Nanny is more fun.

Miss Nanny is, sometimes, often, more fun. I get that, and I envy her that time that she has to be more fun with my children.

But. And but. I, too, am fun. And a parent. I have to do hard things. Set limits. Enforce consequences. Teach responsibility. Give baths and enforce bedtimes. Make sure homework gets done and soccer practice is attended.

Miss Nanny, for all the fabulous work she does do (she has to enforce chores every day, which ain’t easy) isn’t raising my children. She’s taking care of them during the hours that I go earn a paycheck. It’s definitely a trade-off. One that works well for my family.

I’m really happy that Kim got the laughs she got.

Anyway, I also have to say here that I would love to find a way to bring Listen To Your Mother to Pittsburgh. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, check out the other Chicago performances.

Bring tissues.

Bad Memory

[Dad, you DO NOT want to read this post. It’s got some information in it regarding me, your oldest daughter, that you’d rather NOT KNOW.]

[Okay, you’ve been warned. This is a post I don’t want my dad to read. It contains graphical sexual descriptions.]

[Really, Dad, don’t read this. I’m not even posting this to Facebook because I don’t want family reading this.]

So, this is pretty terrible.

And it made me remember that a pretty terrible thing happened to me almost 20 years ago.

I didn’t report it. Because I didn’t think it was rape. It was definitely sexual assault, and I definitely was drugged, and thinking about it now — nearly 20 years later — is making me a little sick to my stomach.

But part of that sick feeling is simply due to the fact that I didn’t spend time thinking about this until I read this article.

I have always claimed that, although I have been sexually harassed, I have never been raped.

But I would say coming suddenly back to myself with a cock in my mouth and another man performing cunnilingus on me is pretty graphically rape.

And, yeah, that’s what happened. The man performing oral on me asked if we could have sex. I asked if he had a condom. He did not. I said no, and we did not have sex.

I was not as out-of-it as the woman in the article. I could walk, I was not so incapacitated that I involuntarily urinated. I remember *most* of the night, although how I ended up in a bedroom with two men — neither of whom I knew very well — is a blank.

I went to the bathroom and threw up shortly after the one guy came in my mouth.

Then, I washed my mouth out and gathered myself together, and went home. And the word rape never, ever occurred to me. Maybe because I was fairly sexually adventurous. Maybe because when I declined actual intercourse, I was listened to. Maybe because I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t restrained. Maybe because I had an orgasm. I even told the people at the party what had happened when they asked where I had gone.

That doesn’t excuse these two men.

I realized shortly after the incident — probably the next day — that I had been drugged. As well as having had the weird oral menage a trois in the bedroom, I had made out with two women, and while I was hardly virginal, even that was quite a bit of action in one night for me.

And still, after realizing someone had slipped me a mickey, the word rape never crossed my mind. I have never considered myself a victim. (And I certainly would not have donned that mantle as a way of claiming special privilege, as George Will would assert.) This event didn’t haunt me; it didn’t inhibit my ongoing exploration of and enjoyment in sex.

I don’t feel particularly outraged — I didn’t back then, either. Disgusted, that someone would drug me, and other people at this party (seriously, it was practically an orgy in this apartment. I was not the only one with extremely lowered inhibitions).

And of course, even the belated realization doesn’t change anything. Except I can never say never again.

Surgery: All the Feels

Tuesday has been a day full of many feelings. Right now, I am sitting on the side of my daughter’s hospital bed, relieved that she is safely out of surgery. She’s woozy, and hasn’t truly woken up yet.

This morning went as smoothly as you would expect with two children who were not allowed to eat breakfast. That is, not very. Kate whinged her way through; M out-and-out melted down. Offering Gatorade did not stave off the whineys.

We got ready to leave around 9 a.m. I figured the hospital would be enough of a distraction from their bellies. The children got in the car, and Dan and I grabbed the bags.

Coming out to the car, M met me in the driveway. “Can I have gum?” he asked.

“No,” I said, then realized that I had gum in the car. Shit! What if he already had some, or Kate did?

I rushed to the car. “Kate, you didn’t have any gum, did you?”

“It’s not gum,” she said. “And Michael ate it all.”

M had gotten into mints I didn’t even know I had in my car, and had, indeed, eaten them all.

Well, shit again.

Realizing that there was nothing to do but find out what the docs would do when we got to the hospital, we stopped to vote (it was primary day here in Pennsylvania), and made our way to the hospital.

The children’s hospital we have in Pittsburgh is efficient. It really keeps things moving. Before I knew it, we were in a room ready to do surgery prep and paperwork.

I told them about M and the mints. As I had expected would happen, they took him off the list for surgery. His nickname for the day was miscreant.

I have to admit to being furious with M. I had gone through a lot of trouble to arrange things ‘just so’. My parents are in to help keep Flora’s day/week on track. I got Kate and M scheduled for the same day. I took unpaid time off my job.

And M, by virtue of being 3, and hungry, and not understanding why he couldn’t eat, threw a big giant flipping monkey wrench into the works.

I was *mad*.

Fortunately, everyone else was very understanding. It’s something that does happen. And, fortunately for my little miscreant, the doctor can fit him in tomorrow for tubes and adenoids.

Anyway, Dan suited up, Kate changed into scrubs, and they walked off to surgery. M and I went to the waiting room, and Dan joined us shortly.

“I got a little emotional in there,” he said.

“Did Kate see?” I asked.

“I kept it together,” Dan assured me.

I posted some things to Facebook and Twitter, let M eat, made arrangements to get him home (thank you, again, nonna and pap-pap), and waited. When I noticed the doctor approaching, I jumped up.

He was all smiles, very pleasant and reassuring. Kate had come through surgery fine. Her adenoids were blocking the eustachain tubes, which affected both her hearing and breathing. Her tonsils were nearly a four (on a scale that goes to four). She was waking up in the recovery room, and we’d be able to see her soon.

Dan went back first when Kate woke up. I got M and his carseat to my parents, and hurried back to see my baby girl.

Seeing her still woozy from the anaesthesia was heartbreaking. I was teary-eyed with relief though. Just seeing her so vulnerable, but on the other side of surgery — the safe side. It was overwhelmingly relieving.

Now, after reading her a new book, and letting her fall back to sleep, it’s a waiting game to see how she does with hydration and diet. Tomorrow will bring new challenges, logistical and emotional.

I am so glad Dan has been with us the whole time too. Feeling like a team, united in having all the emotions, and supporting each other through this. It’s kept me even-keeled. I hope he feels the same way.

Would you have told the doctors about M eating the candy mints? It didn’t cross my mind not to.