sunday salon/ currently … the heat is on edition

Sunday Salon 4With apologies to the late Glenn Frey, the heat is definitely on — both on the street with temperatures well into the 90s for several days of a heatwave and in my head with a migraine that has been lingering for most of this weekend.  No doubt, one definitely has to do with the other.

I need to make today’s stop in the Salon on the short side, since we have once again gone over our allotted Internet data usage here on the home front. The price will be a surcharge for our data consumption, but to avoid that becoming too excessive, I’m going to need to curb my time here in cyberspace.

Reliance, IllinoisMore time for reading, I suppose.  Right now I’m in the midst of Reliance, Illinois, a historical fiction novel that I spotted on the new releases (May 2016) shelf at the library. I’m only 55 pages into this sophomore novel by author Mary Volmer (Crown of Dust, 2006) whose writing has really pulled me into this story about Madelyn Branch, a 13 year old with a port-wine birthmark on her face and down one side of her body.  Set in 1874, Madelyn and her mother Rebecca move to Reliance, Illinois after her mother answers an ad in the Matrimonial Times in hopes for a better life.

Rebecca purposefully declines to mention Madelyn in her response to Mr. Lymon Dryfus, her future husband, and instead passes Madelyn off as her sister. (“Mama decided. We both agreed. Better to make explanations as they became necessary.”) Although Madelyn agreed to this deception, that doesn’t lessen her hurt and betrayal, which is a main theme of the novel. From reading the Goodreads reviews, women’s rights (reproductive, suffrage, etc.) is a strong theme as well, which certainly makes it a fitting read these days.

I need to prep some make-ahead dinners for The Husband and The Boy this week. The kitchen is an area where the heat ISN’T on. Not only don’t I feel inclined to cook during this heatwave, but something is wrong with the oven.  It’s taking forever to pre-heat — like close to an hour — so my response is to ignore it and not use the oven at all, which is easy to do in this weather.  I suppose we need to get someone out here. Between the refrigerator, a part needing to be replaced on the air-conditioner, and now the oven, this has seriously become The Summer of Broken Shit.

It’s a busier than usual week ahead: The Girl is attending a painting camp this week at the library. On Tuesday evening, she and I have tickets for a young adult author event with local Pittsburgh authors Siobhan Vivian, Nick Courage, and Jonathan Auxier.  Then on Wednesday night, I’m hoping to catch another author event with Mary Louise Parker.  Dear Mr. You was one of my favorite books of 2015 and of course, she was part of the incredible miniseries “Angels in America” which is one of the most powerful productions of all time, in my view.

There’s more I could say, but since I can practically hear the Internet ticking, probably best to sign off for now.

Hope your Sunday is going well.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #56 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.




Weekend Cooking: Farmers Market Bounty (55/99)

Farmers Market 7-22-2016

This week’s bounty from the farmers market.

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #55 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.



the day after (54/99)

Summer Sky (2)

freaky looking summer sky outside our house. photo by me, taken july 10, 2013

When I was in 9th grade, our homework assignment for November 20, 1983 was to watch the ABC TV movie “The Day After.”

For those who don’t remember the early 80’s or the controversy this particular movie caused, suffice it to say that it created a shitstorm.  Parents were outraged at the prospect of their 14-year-old children watching a movie about nuclear war; today, the backlash seems positively quaint. I seem to remember an alternative assignment being offered for those who were forbidden to see it, myself among them. (Correct me if I’m wrong, high school classmates who have better memories than I do.)

And I remember going to school the next day, a Monday, and seeing the terrified and shaken faces of my classmates who watched “The Day After.”  I guess that’s to be expected when you’ve just seen a coming attraction of how the world would end.

I mention all this because after watching Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at last night’s Republican National Convention, and waking up feeling so empty and defeated this morning, I realized there was something oddly familiar. If this is bad, I thought, imagine how horrible November 9 and January 20 will be. The days after. It will feel like we’re watching the end of the world.

One of the things that was so frightening about “The Day After” was that it seemed so real. Again, I didn’t watch it — never have — but from what I remember then and now, it was plausible.  So realistic. This could actually happen IN OUR LIFETIMES. You have to put into context the times, I guess. We were living in a Reagan presidency and “Star Wars” was more than just a movie.

Now it’s decades later, and the threat of our way of life changing dramatically or even ending altogether looks quite like the reality show this election has become. And yes, there’s lots to poke fun at and laugh about and salivate over like the gluttonous, obscene, morally and culturally bankrupt creatures we are.

But the presidency of the United States of America isn’t a reality show or a made-for-TV movie. And when you get right down to it, that’s exactly why there’s a very strong possibility that Donald Trump could win this thing.  He’s a master of combining fear-mongering and showmanship, and he knows how to package it into something we can’t resist. If there’s anything that Americans crave, it’s the need to be entertained.  Constantly. When presented with someone who’s a snarling doppelganger of Heat Miser, who has no compunction about touching his own daughter quite inappropriately (this really needed to be more of a national story today, for real), the glitz and entertainment factor will always win. We eat this shit up and this gluttony, combined with our complacency, has the very real possibility of giving us more than a bad case of indigestion.

That sick, sinking feeling of terror, hopelessness and despair is not something I want to experience on November 9 or January 20.

Or any of the days after.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #54 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.



live blogging the convention


I’ve been live-blogging the Convention  National Shitshow tonight and doing my civic duty to give you the benefit of my insights. As a bonus, you get those of The Husband, The Girl, and The Boy because politics is a family affair in this house.

8:14 p.m.
“Is he supposed to be dressed up as Donald Trump?” – The Boy, as Fran Tarkenton takes the stage.

8:37 p.m.
“Is there anybody who didn’t fight for the Confederacy who is speaking tonight?” – The Husband

8:44 p.m.
When a woman hollers “Get R Done!” and quotes Larry the Cable Guy during a national political convention, you know this has officially reached shitshow status.

9:06 p.m.
The RNC Chairman is telling us that the Republicans are the party of “new ideas.” Well, that’s certainly true.

9:10 p.m.
Well, now there’s something I can agree with. “Americans have had enough!” – Reince Preibus, RNC Chair

9:30 p.m.
And now, Donald J. Trump Jr. narrating the Trump Organization’s annual reports in the most boring, monotone voice.

9:32 p.m.
Take a shot every time Donald J. Trump Jr. says “my father.”  #DropsDead 

9:33 p.m.
This SuperPAC guy is talking about magical elixirs and raptures and being the anchovy on Ivanka Trump’s salad.  I’ll have what he’s having.

9:44 p.m.
“Where’s the music they play at the Oscars to get them off the stage?” – The Girl

9:47 p.m.
Me – “This may be the worst music I’ve ever heard.”
The Husband – “All the things you’ve heard this week, and THE MUSIC is the WORST thing you’ve heard?”

10:04 p.m.
“Who is THAT?????? I think I’m smitten.” – The Boy, upon seeing Ivanka.  #RepublicansGotNuthinOnTeenageBoyhood

10:13 p.m.
“Wait, she’s … a … A MOM?? I’m no longer smitten.” – The Boy

10:14 p.m.
Oh, so Ivanka was allowed to think as a child. (“Ivanka, if you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”) Good to know.

10:15 p.m.
“I think Anna Roosevelt delivered this same speech in 1936 for her father, Franklin D. Roosevelt.”  – The Husband

10:18 p.m.
Nice ass grab of your daughter, you goddamn pig.

10:34 p.m.
We’ve all had a lot of laughs tonight, but you know what? This is some scary fucking shit. We have seen this show before, my friends. I am dead serious: I am goddamned terrified of this man and the direction this country is going. ‪#‎HistoryRepeatsItself‬

10:57 p.m.
“It sounds like it’s taking all his strength to say LGBTQ. Like it’s painful for him. Like it doesn’t sound authentic, Because it isn’t.” – The Girl

11:44 p.m.
It’s almost midnight in America, folks.  In more ways than one.
Sleep well.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #53 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.



for alison, for her beautiful life

I’ve always been fascinated with the interconnectivity of our lives. You know, if _____ didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have ever met.  Or the way we’re all just six degrees of separation (or less) from everyone else.

Alison Piepmeier is that kind of person for me.  She’s a “blog-friend,” as she once said to me. (And I probably should say right now that I’m not the person to talk to if you believe people you know “on the Internet” and have never met aren’t the equivalent of real-life friends. Because after blogging for almost eight years now, I know firsthand how someone you’ve never met can make a difference on your life. I’ve seen it. Up close and personal, time and time again.)

Girl Zines - Making Media, Doing FeminismBack in 2010, I read a post on Girl w/ Pen about an intriguing book by Alison Piepmeier called Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. I knew about zines, but I didn’t know their history and significance to feminism. Awhile later, I spotted Girl Zines on the shelves of the Newark Free Library in Delaware, read it, and wrote this review.  Sometime afterwards Alison discovered it, and we became connected through our blogs.

We almost met once. Back in April 2011, Alison visited Pittsburgh for a celebration of feminism and zines, at an event that was hosted at my current place of employment.  We weren’t living in Pittsburgh yet, but had just been there a week earlier to get acquainted with the area.

Connections and missed connections.

I continued to follow Alison’s blog and her writing, still remaining her “blog friend.”

Then, in 2013, a yearly checkup at the pediatrician for my boy prompted a simple question from the doctor.

“Do you ride your bike in the neighborhood, maybe with a friend?”

As I wrote in that post, published here almost exactly three years ago on July 23, 2013, my boy’s eyes went to the floor.

There was no mistaking the look, the loaded weight of that inquiry.

His silence was just a moment, fleeting – accompanied by a quick look to me in the corner where I’d fortunately looked up from my phone to catch his glance.

His blue eyes said it all.

I don’t know how to ride a bike. 

My bike is kinda small. I got it when I was 7. It has training wheels. That’s embarrassing. 

What do you mean, a friend?

“I don’t really do that,” he said to the pediatrician. 

I remembered this post from my friend Alison Piepmeier about her experience with what is now iCan Shine, Inc. (formerly Lose the Training Wheels). I remember thinking how much my boy would benefit from a program like that.

I remembered reading Alison’s post when we were on the cusp of moving to Pittsburgh, and checking to see if our new city had the same program. I remember the feeling of this is going to be okay when I realized that they did. I remembered being at The Children’s Institute (the program host of the iCan Shine Amazing Kids Bike Camp here in Pittsburgh) and mentioning the camp during a job interview I didn’t get.

I remembered my boy’s face in the pediatrician’s office.

I looked to see when the Pittsburgh camp would be taking place, knowing full well we may have missed it. Again.

And there it was. Registration ended six weeks [prior]. 

I emailed the camp director anyway.  Long shot … just thought I’d ask … know it’s last minute …

There was one spot left.

Who knows if I would have learned about the bike camp for people with disabilities, a national program of iCanShine, if it wasn’t for Alison’s involvement with them as a volunteer and her deciding to write a blog post about the experience?  Maybe I would have, but maybe not. Regardless, it’s an example — albeit simple and small — of how one person directly influences the life of another.

Because even though my boy doesn’t ride his bike much these days, I will never forget watching him and experiencing the sheer pride in his accomplishing something that so many parents take for granted. This was a gift, a glorious momentous milestone of celebration on what has not always been an easy road.

And it was because of Alison. My blog-friend.

I’m remembering and reflecting on all this tonight because Alison’s time here on Earth is, unfortunately, very short. She is nearing the end of a long battle with cancer, a fight she fought with the utmost grace, dignity and honesty imaginable and one that she shared in heartbreaking blog and Facebook posts with those of us who care about her. Her words, here in what may be her last column for the Charleston City Paper, are as moving and poignant as ever.

Through her books, her scholarly contributions to the field of feminism and disability studies, and her work as a professor of English and Director of the Women & Gender Studies program at the College of Charleston, Alison Piepmeier has touched many, many lives — especially those of her husband and her young daughter Maybelle.

We may have never met, but I will forever be grateful to Alison for that blog post that led to my boy being able to ride a bike and thankful that her life connected with mine, albeit for a short time.

Much love, peace, and comfort to you on this journey, my blog-friend.  You will be forever missed, until we connect again.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #52 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

Book Review (by The Husband): Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick

While real life history is being made tonight at the Republican National Convention (this country really didn’t just nominate one of its most obnoxious citizens as a candidate for President of the United States, right?)  I’m choosing to tune out the shenanigans.  I watched last night and quite frankly, I’ve seen more than enough.

Instead, we’re watching Parks & Recreation this evening (“The Debate” from Season 4, which is actually rather apropos) and I’m sharing The Husband’s book review of Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick(Who grew up here in Pittsburgh!)

Valiant Ambition

While many believe they know the story of Benedict Arnold and his treasonous betrayal of his ‘country’, in Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick, the many nuances and details that led Arnold – considered by some at the time to be an even greater commander of men than George Washington – to do what he did are deeply explored.  Philbrick, at the same time, uses Washington’s story as a parallel to Arnold’s, making the book not only a great read, but one that greatly contributes to American Revolution historiography.

Philbrick argues that – in the end – a Benedict Arnold was needed to save the American colonies from losing the Revolutionary War. The story many of us ‘know’ is not how it really was during the fighting between 1775-1781.  As Philbrick writes, “The real Revolution was so troubling and strange that once the struggle was over, a generation did its best to remove all traces of the truth. No one wanted to remember how, after boldly declaring their independence, they had so quickly lost their way; how patriotic zeal had lapsed into cynicism and self-interest; and how, just when all seemed lost, a traitor had saved them from themselves.”  

Continue reading here

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #51 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

all downhill from here (50/99)

99 Days of Summer Blogging

As of today, summer is halfway over, unofficially — if you consider summer to be from Memorial Day through Labor Day, as I do.  I wish I could say this summer is flying by, but it’s not.  It feels long and difficult and challenging and uncertain. And this is on all levels — personal, political, all of it.  I think a lot of us are feeling similarly, yes?

(Forgive my pessimism.  I started writing this post at 3:30 a.m. today and I am putting the final touches on it after watching the utter travesty of a shitshow that was the Republican National Convention. Which was also the inspiration for the title of today’s post.)

With this midsummer’s mark, my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project has also reached its midpoint.  Granted, I realize this probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me and maybe a handful of bloggers who love this sort of thing, which is fine.

For several reasons, I didn’t think I would last this long with this 99 Days nonsense. I tend to fizzle out early with blogging endeavors like these, so believe me — nobody is more surprised than me to see this still going on Day 50.

It’s been an interesting experiment.  The positive aspects have been that I’m writing more, which is good. And for the most part, it’s new content.  When I started this, I thought it would be a good way to clear out some of the posts in Drafts, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m writing posts that I may have otherwise procrastinated on, had I not been doing this.

I will say that, as of now, I’m not likely to take on another long-term blogging challenge like this anytime soon.  It’s a lot of work to crank out a daily post — which I knew, of course, but it sometimes comes at the sacrifice of other things, like reading. There have been more than a few days when I’ve just wanted to come home from work and read instead of writing a post. And I know, it wouldn’t have mattered if I skipped a day nor would it matter if I gave up altogether right now, but at this point it’s the principle of the thing.

Of these 50 posts, I was curious to see which ones received the most views during this time. Here they are, the Top 10 Most Popular, from most views to least.

Best Books of 2016 …Thus Far (33/99)
This Is the Father’s Day We Almost Didn’t Have

And Then We Practice (39/99)
Weekend Cooking: The Joy of Culinary Arts (6/99)
kicking off 99 days of summer blogging (1/99)
Why I Decided to Delete My Cell Phone Photos (9/99)
love and orlando (14/99)
discombobulated (3/99)
Book Review: Sugar Crush (2/99)
beautiful day (13/99)

Here’s to the next 49 days!