Fifty Bands

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

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

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

2 John Cougar Mellencamp — Also attended with my parents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got 50?

— Afghan Whigs, photo credit Brad Searles

Yesterday in Tweets

So this happened:

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

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

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


Then this happened:

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

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

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


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

How was your day?

Random Thoughts: The Seven Things Edition

1. Two nights ago, M complained about his ear hurting him. He didn’t have a fever, but I gave him some Advil because it was bedtime, and I didn’t want him to be in pain. When I picked him up from daycare yesterday, one of the women told me that he had had a scab in his ear. When I looked in it, there was a bunch of gunk there, which shouldn’t be there because he has tubes.

So, off to the doctor we go.

2. Our health insurance plan changed (thanks, Corporate Employer!), and it’s stressing me out. We’re about to see it in action.

3. Kate sometimes gets worked up. Gets upset or agitated, and she can’t get calmed back down. Dan and I have gone around and ’round about what to do about this. She gets anxious, she gets angry, she gets sad, and she doesn’t know what to do. After a long discussion, we’ve decided that the three of us (me, Kate, and Dan) are going to find ways to help Kate “put on the brakes”. That’s what we’re calling it — putting on the brakes, as in, “Kate, you have to put on the brakes.” And then we have to come up with behaviors and strategies to help her do so.

Wish us luck.

4. Our January weekends are all booked already, which isn’t exactly surprising or unwelcome. It just seemed to happen so suddenly. This weekend is a three-day weekend for the children and me, and it’s not completely booked up — we have one social thing to do Sunday afternoon. And we have to finish packing up Christmas. My parents will be in town next weekend; and the weekend after that is my birthday weekend, which I’ve already planned. So: all good, just busy.

5. Speaking of being booked in January, I am auditioning for Listen to Your Mother, which is coming to Pittsburgh for the first time. If you’re interested, check out the details here. Um, I have an essay to write. BRB.

I doubt I’m going to be able to top my friend Kim’s performance, but I hope to do her proud — if I even make the show.

If you have a story about motherhood — whether or not you’re a mother — you should consider auditioning too.

6. I just want to get something posted today, which is why I started this and now I can’t think of seven things. Hashtag pathetic.

7. Here’s proof that 2015 so far is as good musical as 2014. As far as I’m concerned, anyway.

— Belle and Sebastian, “Party Time” from their new album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

Not a Disney Princess

(Stole a writing prompt from here, even though I’m not NaBloPoMo’ing.)

I like vacations, and as my children get older, I am really enjoying being in vacation-y places with them.

But there’s one place — a vacation destination to end all vacation destinations — that I have no desire to experience as a parent. And that’s Disney World.

I don’t understand the attraction of Disney, although I have vague memories of being there as a child. I have not been harboring hopes of returning with my own children. It’s never been a goal.

I’m not going to make fun of people who like Disney. You do you, as they say. The appeal has just never been apparent to me. What is the magic of the Magical Kingdom? (Sincere question.)

ETA: I am also intimidated by the planning and cost that go into a Disney vacation. I don’t want to do it. I’d rather stay within a small budget, and rely on my Fodor’s guidebook.

One of my favorite family vacations was our trip to Cape Cod. Kate was still in diapers, which means M wasn’t even around yet. We had a great week, the four of us, in a little cabin up there, wandering around the little town. I mean, we found a trampoline park!

(OMG, I just took a few minutes to check out my blog posts from that 2009 vacation and LOOK HOW LITTLE MY GIRLS ARE. WTH? HOW IS FLORA TURNING 10 ON TUESDAY? *sob*)

We love weekends in the woods. Those might be my current favorites, too.

We take an annual trip to Seven Springs each summer for the extended Patton family clan vacation. That’s always a great time. Two words: pool time.

This summer, I am hoping we have the disposable income to travel to Chicago in June with the children for the Blues Festival. It’s just a city I’ve always loved, and I’d like to go there with them (and Dan, of course).

And I suppose that’s the thing: I like vacationing in cities, not theme parks. I like hotel suites with kitchens so we’re not going out to dinner all the time. I like zoos and museums and the possibility of an amusement park. I like buying tour guides and looking up family-friendly activities.

Again, I don’t have anything bad to say about Disney. I went as a child, and I know we went to Epcot, which was still new. It’s just not imprinted on me. Disney with the family isn’t a goal. Chicago, 2015, though. Definitely.

Oh, and IRELAND 2016.

More this:

Less this:

What’s a vacation destination other people seem to love that holds no interest for you? Where do you love to vacation with your family?

Breaking Bad Ruined My Sex Life

Dan and I reached the end of Breaking Bad last night.

Thank God.

I will admit, the last season was an exercise in watching to get to the end. Don’t get me wrong: if you like amazingly compelling television, Breaking Bad fits the bill. The writing and acting are amazing, the best television I’ve ever experienced. Did Aaron Paul ever win an Emmy for that show? Because he should’ve. Jesse Pinkman was by far the most layered, complicated character Breaking Bad gave us. He broke my heart — or, conversely, my heart broke for him — again and again.

I would recommend Breaking Bad if you asked me. Sure, go ahead and watch it.

Just don’t count on making it part of time with your spouse that will leave you with any desire to do a thing once it’s over.

Even when Dan and I were snuggled up together on one of our couches to watch Bryan Cranston’s decent into ego maniacal, obsessive ruthlessness, it was less about any kind of physical intimacy than clinging comfort. It’s not a sexy show — it’s the antithesis of sexy. It is almost completely devoid of sex, first of all. Second, Bryan Cranston in his tightie whities is not Channing Tatum in Magic Mike.

Sorry, Bryan.

As Dan pointed out last night, “It’s almost a joke by now how often we see Walt in his underpants.” That would be a supercut to avoid.

The other way Breaking Bad left no room for intimacy with my spouse is because we kept staying up late to watch it, making me too tired to get down. Not to mention that… well, Breaking Bad episodes often end with a stunning event that sucks all the energy out of the viewer in a big, rushing whoosh.

Here’s the part where I issue my *SPOILER ALERT*. If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad yet, and think you are interested — and, again, I do recommend it — you should stop reading now, and come back in a couple of days when I’ve posted something else.

My Thoughts on Breaking Bad, In No Particular Order

It’s hard to rank Breaking Bad characters in terms of likability. It’s actually nearly impossible. Excepting Walt Jr. and Holly, all of the characters were deeply, fatally flawed men and women whose motives and decisions were questionable at best. The majority of the characters exist on a sliding scale from sociopath to full-blown psychopath.

The levels of tragedy in Breaking Bad are nearly Shakespearean. I mean, no one survives, not really, even if they are still alive at the end of the show. Most people die. Even if a character doesn’t bite it by “Felina”, their lives are irrevocably ruined. It’s rather breathtaking.

I will confess: I never did get the hate for Skyler. As far as the flawed characters on this show goes, she was kind of a lightweight. I think maybe because of her greed? Her attempts to control the situation and her husband? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll see if Twitter can enlighten me.

Watching a television show that is on Netflix with one’s spouse is an interesting exercise. Because of our schedules, Dan and I didn’t get to binge watch Breaking Bad. I think the most episodes we watched in one night together was three. And that probably only happened twice.

Now, Dan did go on a couple of watching binges at a couple of points. It’s very compelling television, and I only got through one or two episodes at night before I went to bed. At one point in Season 3, he asked me to let me know when I was watching because even though he had gotten ahead, he wanted to start watching with me again. He especially wanted to watch the end of “Half-Measure” in Season 3 with me because he wanted to see my reaction. Which I believe was, “HOLY FUCK!… Walt is in so much trouble.”

While the character Jesse Pinkman was a champion of protecting children from the fallout of the drug trade, the writers of Breaking Bad didn’t hesitate to kill them off. I fully expected Holly to die (she doesn’t). I think I cried the most over the children, just like Jesse. The little boy in Spooge’s house, Brock’s brush with death, the boy on the dirt bike. Those situations were wrenching.

I think the thing I said the most in Season 5 while watching was, “I hate this show.” It never occurred to me to stop watching though, not when we’d come this far.

The finale was, I admit, a little too neat for me. Walter ties up his loose ends; he gets to tell Skyler where Hank’s body is; he gets to tell Lydia he’s killed her; and he gets to off the gang of psychopathic felons who stole his money and killed Hank. Seriously, why doesn’t Kenny look in the fucking trunk? Although I totally cheered when Jesse strangled Todd (“that Opie dead-eye piece of shit”). That death I was just fine with.

And, still, even with the too-neat ending where Walter both wins and dies, I’d recommend it. Fantastic television, compelling storytelling, and the acting was off the charts.

Breaking Bad

image source

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

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

image source

New and Notable

On our way to my brother’s house yesterday afternoon, I realized we hadn’t eaten lunch. Not wanting to raid the cabinets in my SIL’s kitchen, we decided to stop somewhere. Dan suggested The Ramen Bar, which he had read about in City Paper.

Score 1 for Dan.

Lunch was excellent, and abundant — we have enough leftovers for two more meals at least. My kids dove into those ramen bowls like Japanese noodle pros (although we got fried rice for M). M went through his rice digging out the egg, the carrots, and the shiitake mushrooms; I neglected to tell him they were mushrooms, and he just kept saying, “Found another one!” and gulping them down. In the meantime, Flora shared her mussels and squid from her seafood ramen.

Kate noticed M’s enthusiasm for those little brown things, and asked to taste one. She balked when I used the “m” word. “Kate,” I pointed out, “you have eaten mussels and squid today. You can’t not taste a mushroom.”

We’ll be back!


And, presented with as little comment as I can manage: The Afghan Whigs. I may write more; I am undecided. I was a happy woman Saturday night.

Greg Dulli, leader of Afghan Whigs
Greg Dulli
John Curley of the Afghan Whigs
John Curley
Afghan Whigs setlist
Afghan Whigs setlist. They played “Lost in the Woods” instead of “These Sticks”, which I consider a win, because “Lost in the Woods” is probably my favorite from Do the The Beast.

Photo credits go to my Brand New Friends, Janet Gray and Heidi Wood.

Score 2 for Dan, because he is a very patient man. He let me have my fangirl night. He hasn’t made too much fun of me.

What new experiences have you had lately, readers?

Random Thoughts: The Word Vomit Edition

My Monday started at 2 a.m. this morning. Just woke up, and my brain started spinning. I tried reading. I watched the rest of an episode of OITNB. I finally fell asleep by reciting Our Fathers and Hail Marys.

And then M came into my room, twice. The second time he got into bed with me (I usually go to his bed to lay down with him, but I was too tired from having been awake for about 2 hours) and proceeded to squirm around until I told him to knock it off.

And then I woke up at 7:05 because I forgot to turn on my alarm.

I have a very busy week, and I am trying very much to take it one day at a time. After all, that’s how it happens, right? I am, to my detriment, already focused on getting to the weekend.

And on a day that started with thinking of All. The. Things I need to do this week, it wasn’t good to read this article from the NPR health blog.

I think about this often: how stressed is too stressed? What can I do to lessen my stress levels? If I can’t lessen them, how can I better manage them?

I don’t like saying I’m stressed. I don’t like saying “I’m too busy”. I really don’t. It sounds like an excuse.

But. I might be too busy and stressed.

This week looks like this:

Monday: Work, School Advisory Board meeting at 6:30. Now, obviously, I was foolish to express interest in being on the SAB, even though I am interested. Because this means I have to leave work, pick everyone up, put dinner together, and turn the evening over to a babysitter to manage. It means I had to hire a sitter in the first place!

Tuesday: Get up to workout, work, soccer practice for Flora, bath night.

Wednesday: Work. My stylist is coming over around 9 p.m. to do my hair. I kind of consider this an off night, but it may be late.

Thursday: Get up to workout, work, practice spelling tests, bath night.

Friday: Work, pick up Flora at soccer practice, pick up Kate at school, pick up M at daycare, turn children over to ILs to babysit for night, go out to dinner with my parents who are in from out of town.

Saturday: I don’t even know what is going to need to happen by Saturday. This is what I know: Flora will have a soccer game, I would like to go to the gym with my husband, and I am going to see the Afghan Whigs. This concert is pretty much the only reason I am hoping to survive this week without a breakdown.

Sunday: Somehow I have to get my mother and my children all in the same place. This sounds almost straightforward, I realize, but there are some complicating logistics regarding where my mother will actually be (at Dr. Bro’s house), whether or not she just wants to hang there, and how we will get around game day traffic coming or going.

Also, somehow, even though I noticed that we were out of milk yesterday, I never managed to either go to the store myself and get some, or send Dan to get some — plus, I didn’t shop at all this weekend, so the meal plan is a touch sketchy for this week. So in addition to starting this week at 2 a.m., we started it sans any kind of milk, which makes serving cereal for breakfast a little tricky.


There is also money to manage and bills to pay and a house to keep in fairly decent shape. I cannot wait until Dan gets back to putting the basement in order for the littles. They need their own damn space. I’m tired of managing their stuff. And, yes, we are teaching them to pick up and do chores and so on, but it seems to be a lot of repetition for very little gain some days.

Especially on a day where my living room was very clean for most of the day (because my children were otherwise elsewhere), and then completely trashed in about 30 minutes because they were home. That’s just ridiculous to me. Is it just me?

How do you manage stress and not sweat the small stuff so it doesn’t kill you?

Standing close to this band is my reward for getting to Saturday. That and drinks with my husband.

Open Letter to a Babyloss Mother: Part III, Don’t You Worry About Me

After I came to your son’s memorial service, you sent me an email. In it you said, “That can not have been easy for you.”

And this is my final note on that: Don’t worry about me.

After Gabriel died, I had no one to talk to (aside from Dan) about what the hell had happened and about what we were going through. I didn’t know of a single person who had had a stillborn baby. Or if they did have a still baby, I had never heard their stories. Dan and I were completely at sea. Our midwives pointed us to Compassionate Friends, which was helpful. I eventually discovered a whole world of baby loss parents on the Internet.

I learned what I’m trying to tell you in these letters: Grief doesn’t end. Other people’s babies can hurt. It’s okay to talk about your son. You are a mother.

I didn’t have someone (aside from my uncle) to tell me this stuff. I slowly found resources, and I was incredibly fortunate in the support I did have in family and friends.

I am more than eleven years down the path that you have just stepped on. You probably can’t even see me ahead of you.

I will do my best to leave you some markers. You probably feel horribly alone right now. You’re not, although some days I wonder how much of a consolation that is.

I’ll be all right. Even when talking to you brings my grief back to the fore, I will be all right. I know my strengths and my resources. I know that I have my own spaces and my own comforts. I have some place to turn for support.

Tell me what you need to tell me. Please know, I will always have your son’s name in my heart. I won’t shy away from your pain — if anything, I will wish I could protect you from it. I can’t, though, and I don’t want you to worry about protecting me.

I hope that if you need to talk to a therapist or a professional that you find someone. I will be as good a listener as I can, but you may find yourself needing an even safer space, a completely objective listener.

And, if you need a few more little bits, please consider these. From me to you.

My post at Glow in the Woods. I found this site helpful in part because I am a writer by trade, by nature. The other writers here helped me language my own feelings.
More on grief as a never-ending story here and here.

I hope that I can help you find your way to some peace.

red pen mama

Springtime path in the woods