Category Archives: Life

How a Baby Carrier Made Me Love Doing Laundry (Giveaway Opportunity)

 

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A few days ago, I found one of my favorite pictures from when our twins were newborns.

In the photo, there’s laundry spread all over the coffee table and piled on the sofa. The Boy — all of five weeks old at the time — is safely tucked inside a baby carrier, reaching out as if he’s trying to help fold the plethora of onesies, caps and blankets that overflowed from our laundry baskets back then.

tul-004_med5a(I’m not posting this now 15 year old photo because I have a longstanding blog policy of not posting pictures of the kids regardless of their ages. So, this stock photo — of someone who looks a lot more calm and in control than I was as the mom of two newborns — will have to suffice.)

Even though our twins are now teenagers, I still remember how much both kids loved being in the baby carrier. Needless to say, we loved it too because as much as we wanted to spend every moment holding and playing with our precious twins, things needed to be done around the house like … well, laundry.  And with two newborns, we had a LOT of laundry.

Baby slings and wraps are the perfect solution for parents and caregivers in situations when you need both hands free. For example, we also wore the baby carrier while preparing meals for us and bottles for the kids.

For us, it was a convenience thing — but as it turns out,  babywearing has been shown to have positive benefits, especially for babies who are premature, as ours were. I remember the snug feeling being comforting to my two and I think it helped all of us bond at a critical time.

When we registered for our baby carriers (we actually had two) I wasn’t sure if we really needed them. But like many things about becoming parents, I was mistaken.  They turned out to be life-changing … something that actually made doing laundry fun!

Tell me in the comments about your favorite product, tip or strategy that helps make your life a little easier. (For those who don’t have children, this doesn’t have to be parenting-related … it can be anything at all.) All commenters will be eligible to win a $50 gift card to purchase something for yourself or someone else. I’ll draw a winner at random on December 23. (A perfect last minute gift!) 

This sponsored post and giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal, with a prize of a gift certificate.

Entries on this giveaway are now closed. Congratulations to Kate, who was selected at random (via Randomizer.com) as our winner and thanks to all who entered! 

Seeing Red

hillary-pittsburgh-rally-11-7-2016-2

There we were, in the middle of a Pittsburgh street, when Hillary Clinton approached.

She looked stunning, confident, resplendent in her red pantsuit.  We cheered wildly, equally confident that we were meeting our next President of the United States.

We were so close.

It was the second to last rally of a unending, unprecedented campaign. Monday afternoon, November 7.  A bright and brisk day, a deep blue sky — not unlike that on 9/11, as horribly ironic as that seems now. She had just spoken and as we were leaving, a small crowd gathered in the blockaded intersection hoping just to wave as her motorcade departed.

And then suddenly, there she was. Crossing the street toward us as we erupted into a cacophony of shouts, cell phones capturing what felt like a historical moment. After all, how often do you have an opportunity to meet the next President of the United States on the eve of her election?

Less than 36 hours after I took this picture and after I proudly let my almost 15-year-old daughter push the VOTE button for the most qualified person to ever run for President, my girl and I were sobbing uncontrollably as we watched the election returns. As state after state turned red, we held each other as the realization set in that our country and our lives were now changed forever.


Like many of us in the aftermath of this election, I am a maelstrom of emotions. For three days, I’ve been a cauldron of feelings: anger, sadness, fear and despair, just for starters. Quite simply, I am devastated and shaken to my core, unable to rationalize the juxtaposition of events this week — the exhilaration of seeing Hillary Clinton in person and the pride of voting for the first female President of the United States …. to the empty jack o’lanterned feeling like my insides had been hollowed out and turned to orange pulp.

I will be honest with you, as I’ve always tried to do here on this blog and elsewhere. I have been struggling mightily since the wee hours of Wednesday morning when it became abundantly clear that this country is now bathed in a sea of red.

And yes, I’ve read enough in these past several days, thank you, to recognize that we have been living in a red country for quite some time and this is a wake-up call for some.  I get that, and I’ve seen and I understand enough about the culture wars that have been raging to know that the pot has been dangerously close to boiling over for some time.

And now, that pot has been doused with kerosene and is exploding with students being threatened in vandalized schools, women harassed by men yelling about grabbing their pussies, and a President-elect tweeting about how unfair all this is, rather than leading the nation in being a voice of reason.


Somehow, in all of this, we still need to get through our daily lives. On Wednesday morning, after less than two hours of something barely resembling sleep, I somehow got my ass out of bed and went to work.  I had to; I’m the sole breadwinner in a family of four that is on a fucking financial precipice. My husband has been out of work for 16 months. He’s a cancer survivor and is someone who spent Thanksgiving Day last year being resuscitated by me on our bathroom floor after he collapsed from a seizure, which he now has long term effects from.  Our medical bills are ridiculous and our income is 1/3 of what it was this time last year. (Not less than one third; it is one-third.)

So, yes, I absolutely, completely understand the feeling of being left behind in a world with a changing economy that shits on your 25 years of professional experience in your field where you can’t get an entry level job. I know about skyrocketing health insurance premiums and paychecks that don’t cover your basic needs and savings that have been depleted because you lost everything in the housing crisis and the Great Recession and how you can’t send your kids to college and what it is like to be angry about this.

But here’s the thing. I don’t simply understand this mentality because I’ve read about it from some think-piece in the New Yorker.  I understand this because I am living this, too.

It’s just that my story probably looks a little different from someone else’s story because I am a white female living in a middle-class suburban neighborhood.

Maybe that’s one of the takeaways here, that we’re not really all that different after all. If so, then that’s one of the things I am struggling hard to understand.

Because I simply can’t fathom how people in these circumstances could willingly vote for someone with a non-existent track record of delivering on anything that would improve our lives AND who happens to be the kind of racist, sexist, xenophobic, narcissist that the President-elect is.  And no — I do not buy for one minute that the outrageous things and the abhorrent behavior and conduct in the campaign waged by the winner was simple campaign rhetoric. I do not.  Maya Angelou was right: when someone shows you who they are, believe them. The first time and every single goddamn time after that. The reality is that our President-Elect has been showing us who he is for much longer than this campaign.


I know not everyone reading this will understand and I don’t expect everyone to. Nor do I really care. This post is just where I am right now as I try to capture and relegate my emotions and regain some sort of equilibrium in what is a very difficult, fragile, scary time. Wednesday morning felt eerily similar to 9/11, when my coworkers and I huddled together in tears, sharing news and trying to find solace in music and poetry. Just as 9/11 was a difficult day, so was its numerical fraternal twin of 11/9.

I’ll remember the tearful embraces and shaky words with my coworker and the cook in the cafeteria who makes my breakfast bowl each morning — both people of color, both people who I have developed a friendship with over time. I’ll remember needing to go back to church, just as I did on 9/11. Then, as now, I went to a service at my Unitarian Universalist church.  The Girl came with me and we listened to Carrie Newcomer’s “Sanctuary”  and the words of Terry Tempest Williams and the poetry of Ellen Bass. We shared our feelings with others and held hands and cried together.

At times, I feel a little stronger, even empowered. I’m trying to find ways to use my anger as a force for good and how I can fill this deep chasm in my heart.  I’ll be using my voice and this blog to speak louder, to call foul, to raise awareness of injustices and the issues and the people who — make no doubt about it — will truly be forgotten in this new political administration that isn’t going to do jack shit to improve anyone’s life. We have a con man as the leader of our country now and I fear that dark days are on the horizon and I am preparing for them.

In spite of that,  I’m cultivating a new circle of friends while holding closer those who share my belief that it isn’t just our own life that matters, it’s that all people have value and worth and dignity — those with disabilities, those who are members of the LGBTQ community, those who are newcomers to this country, those who are minorities, those who haven’t even been born. Those are the people I will be championing and those are the people and the causes who will get my time and my talents.

I will remember until the day I die Hillary Clinton’s bright red pantsuit as she crossed the street to greet us.  I will remember the gorgeous day we shared and the gray, rainy gloomy day in every sense of the word on 11/9/2016. I will remember the red hot anger I feel in the aftermath of this election. And in this red country, one that will see more red blood spilled on our streets in violence, I will remember the people that need championing with every beat of my heart and with a red-hot passion fueled by love.

Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life, by Joan Chittister

Between the Dark and the DaylightInsomnia and I have become rather close lately. Granted, we don’t see each other every night —  it can be weeks or even months between our unhappy hours — but suffice it to say we know each other well.

Our family has had an incredibly difficult year. Those of you who are regular readers here (and, of course, family and friends who know us personally) know there isn’t a single area of our lives that hasn’t undergone some sort of major, significant life-changing hit in the past 12 months. Our work, longtime friendships, health, finances, issues with the kids … each of these has been impacted to the point that we’ve been questioning everything — our past decisions, our present realities. It is the darkest stretch of time since what I refer to as “the black hole years” of The Boy’s autism diagnosis 12 years ago.

That doesn’t always make for a restful night’s sleep. Add into all that our country’s unending violence, relentless heartbreak, and a downright nightmarish presidential election season that has tempers blazing, including that of one unhinged, dangerous and completely unfit candidate, and it’s no wonder I find myself up at night.

I’ve been seeking words of wisdom, binging on current and back episodes of “On Being” and most especially craving spiritually-focused books.  Not religious works, because religion doesn’t necessarily work for me these these days, but books that have the ability to ease the tension (if only for the few brief minutes of reading before bedtime), provide some insight or new perspective. A spiritual salve, if you will, for navigating the hurts of this scary, confusing, uncertain world.

As soon as I started Between the Dark and the Daylight, it was like Joan Chittister was writing just for me. From the first two pages:

“There is a part of the soul that stirs at night, in the dark and soundless times of day, when our defenses are down and our daylight distractions no longer serve to protect us from ourselves. What we suppress in the light emerges clearly in the dusk. It’s then, in the still of life, when we least expect it, that questions emerge from the damp murkiness of our inner underworld. Questions with ringtones that call the soul to alert but do not come with ready resolutions. Questions about life, not about the trivia of dailiness. The kind of questions to which there is no one answer but which, nevertheless, plague us for attention if we are ever to move through the dimness of life’s twists and turns with confidence.

These questions do not call for the discovery of data; they call for the contemplation of possibility.”

I read those words — yes, I confess, sometime around 3:30 in the morning — and was instantly awake. This is not a book about conquering insomnia, but rather one that addresses the dark issues of the soul. I don’t mean “dark” as in a harmful or dangerous way. More in terms of the anxieties and complacencies that can be so powerful in preventing us from moving forward in our lives.

In this book, it’s not necessarily what Joan Chittister is saying — it’s how she says it.  There’s a gentleness and calmness to her prose that is incredibly soothing. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising as Joan Chittister is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. (That said, by no means is this book heavy-handed with theology; quite the contrary.)

The author of more than 50 books, she has an extensive, impressive biography spanning decades of accomplishments as an “outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality — especially for women world-wide.” (source: Joan Chittister).  And, best of all, she was born in Allegheny County, so she’s a Pittsburgher!

I’m almost embarrassed to say that I hadn’t heard of Joan Chittister before discovering Between the Dark and the Daylight while browsing at the library. But I strongly believe that books and their authors find us at the precise time we need them, and Between the Dark and the Daylight is definitely one of them. Highly recommended, especially during these troubled times for so many of us and our world.

Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life
by Joan Chittister
Image 
2015
176 pages

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #65 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project

strange days indeed (43/99)

Sunset - deck corner 7-11-2016

There’s gotta be a full moon on the horizon* or, most likely, someone’s wayward Pokemon banging around just beneath the deck stairs.

(Can I just say how I am beyond grateful that my kids have no interest in Pokemon Go? I’ve asked and they don’t give a shit.  So, we’ll just continue on with our couch potato ways here, thank you very much.)

As I was saying.

Woke up at 2:53 a.m. this morning, definitely not by choice and with no good reason. Of course I checked Facebook first thing. I know. I KNOW.  Nothing good comes from being on Facebook at three in the fucking morning, especially in these times when the world is going to hell in a handbasket — faster than ever, it seems.

I mean, between everyone posting pictures of Pokemon that have apparently been lurking in their backyards since the days of Y2K when the trading cards debuted, and people posting quotes from Martin Luther King while screaming at each other about whose lives matter more, I’d had enough by 3:30.  Ay-freakin-em. Then a particular thread got me so perturbed and pissed that I needed a second cup of coffee by 5 a.m. to calm me the hell down.  When The Husband tells you to hold your (figurative) fire as you’re verbally trying out responses on him at breakfast, you know an intervention is needed.

I decided (yes, in the wee small hours of the morning, when all great decisions are made) to put myself on a Facebook crash diet. Two hours a day. Which even that sounds ridiculously excessive, I’m well aware, but I can’t go cold turkey. We’ll see. I didn’t think I could blog every day for 43 days either, but here we are.

By 9 a.m., I was asking my boss for an impromptu half day of vacation because the kids’ dentist finally returned my call about The Girl’s tooth which she says feels off, shifted somehow. Most peculiar, but no pain. (You hear that, Mom? Nobody. Is. In. Pain. No Medical Emergency Here. Please Drive Thru.) They had an opening at 1:30, could we come in then?  And so a day’s work got condensed into a few hours and off we went to the dentist who couldn’t find a damn thing wrong.  Which, of course, is better than the alternative but if I’m a bettin’ girl, I’d say an orthodontist consult is in our future.

These early morning days always make me feel off-kilter. I’m regaining some balance. A short nap after the dentist helped. There was a text from a longtime friend. I finished reading a wonderful book, another entry onto the best of the year list.

Sunset - deck corner 7-11-2016And now, here, the quiet and stillness amidst the chaos. A little time sitting on the deck talking with my girl about my crazy day and what’s happening in our country. The birds have finished tweeting their final notes of their evening lullabies and at almost 9:30, the sunset just finished tucking itself in the corner of the backyard.

Along with a Pokemon eating the blueberries, I’m sure.

* (Yep, just checked. Next Tuesday. You’re welcome.)

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #43 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

many grains of sand (40/99)

Before leaving work this afternoon, I stopped by the Sand City Spectacular tent again, this time to see the artists put their finishing touches on their masterpieces.

Today was the last day of this competition (which I wrote about on Wednesday) and also a celebration to kick off Pittsburgh’s bicentennial.

The final products are amazing.  There are five sand sculptures, so intricately detailed. I think I matched the right photos up with the right sculpture (although I’m not quite sure).  I hope so.

Sandcastles - Andy Warhol 2 - 7-8-2016Sandcastles - Andy Warhol 1 - 7-8-2016

Sandcastles 2 - 7-8-2016Sandcastles - 2 - 7-8-2016

Sandcastles - 7-8-2016 2Sandcastles 7-8-2016Sandcastles 6 - 7-8-2016Sandcastles 5 -7-8-2016

Sandcastles 4 - 7-8-2016Sandcastles -3 - 7-8-2016

In the aftermath of this difficult, tragic, and ugly week, it was nice to spend just a few moments amidst beauty.  And it occurred to me that these works of art are — when you really, really think of it — individual grains of sand that together make something quite remarkable.  Individual grains of sand that ten people spent more than 50 hours this week to shape into something awe-inspiring.

I know it’s naive to hope for a similar transformation for this broken world of ours. I’m not sure if that’s even possible.  Still, I believe we have to try, to do our part. At lunch today my coworkers and I talked about the events in the news. We talked about whether things were getting worse or if these tensions had always existed but we were just seeing more of them. We talked about how helpless we felt and how fixing this seemed insurmountable. It’s such a layered, complex issue, we said.  We wondered out loud how one even could even begin to start.

It starts right here, I said, with each of us.  With being willing to engage in these kinds of conversations. I said this was pretty damn transformational in and of itself, given that we were three professional women– one who is African-American — having lunch and talking about race. We weren’t going to come up with any solutions at our lunch table — we knew that. But we could say that we saw another person’s reality.  We could say that we see each other and at the same time, we are afraid of saying the wrong thing, of offending someone.

And we did … we said all that. We really did.

What difference can one person, one grain of sand make? Sometimes it doesn’t seem like much.

Yet we’re all that is holding together this world. This incredibly fragile creation.

Sandcastles 5 -7-8-2016

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #40 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

rockets’ red glare (36/99)

Labor Day Weekend - Blue Rocks Game

It’s been a very low key Fourth of July here, despite the fucking fireworks rocking our neighborhood around the clock. I heard some at 12:10 a.m. the other night and as if on cue, just as I typed these words we quite literally were startled out of our seats by someone setting off what sounded like a grenade. No big deal that it’s currently raining; that won’t stop the jagoffs. If history is any indicator, this will continue for at least another couple of days.  I’m as patriotic as the next gal, but I’ll admit this isn’t my favorite holiday.

When the hell did this shit start of needing to have one’s personal fireworks extravaganza in your own backyard?  As a friend and I were saying on Friday night, this nonsense didn’t happen when we were growing up. People didn’t set off fireworks every night for an entire week preceding the Fourth of July and then for another week afterwards.  Independence Day was about having the family over for a barbeque, giving the kids some sparklers, and piling in the car to go watch a fireworks display put on by the local fire department — people who knew what the fuck they were actually doing around explosives.

I sound like a curmudgeon, I know. Truth be told, it’s been a tough weekend. Our lives changed dramatically a year ago on July 2 — and that ending was the beginning of a very difficult year. We don’t feel much like celebrating anything this year and it’s hard to foresee a time when this holiday won’t be tainted with sad reminders, regrets, and what-ifs. I’m trying to remain hopeful that things will improve (hopefully sooner rather than later) which will help mitigate the lasting effects of the past 368 days.

I wanted to do something to get our minds off of things, but we’re not outdoorsy or athletic or into big crowds or crazy about noisy things like parades or fireworks. Plus, money.

Ironically, that’s a picture from a fireworks display we were actually at, although not on the Fourth of July.  It’s from almost six years ago now, a Labor Day Fireworks Night at the Wilmington Blue Rocks game in Delaware.

A lifetime ago.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #36 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

She Knew What We Did Those Summers: Remembering Lois Duncan (1934-2016)

I Know What You Did Last SummerKilling Mr. Griffin

My teenage summers were spent poolside at the Valley Club,  sharing secrets with my best friends over orders of French fries blanketed in Cheez-Wiz.  We lounged on beach towels with our Sony Walkmans blasting ’80s pop music loud enough to drown out our immature siblings’ screeches of “Marco! Polo!” in the deep end of the pool. We doused ourselves with enough Hawaiian Tropic oil that made us as bronzed as an Olympic medal.

When we weren’t in the pool or discussing Luke and Laura on “General Hospital,” we were reading anything we could get our hands on.

Maybe it was characteristic of my group of friends at the time or the pre-Internet/pre-smartphone era, but we read A LOT. Like everything and anything.

All the time.

And perhaps it was because of our rather uneventful, vanilla, goody-two-shoes suburban middle-class upbringing (and attending school with peers whose families were in much, much higher economic echelons), but we seemed drawn to darker stories with just enough thrill factor to keep us turning the pages.

Aside from Judy Blume writing about our deepest insecurities and rites of passages and V.C. Andrews’ creepy as all freaking hell Flowers in the Attic series,  young adult author Lois Duncan’s teen suspense novels are the ones that are seared into my memory from those years.

Thrillers about a car accident involving well-off teens that resulted in murder (I Know What You Did Last Summer, 1973); sinister cousins (Summer of Fear, 1976) and a high school prank intended to scare a mean teacher that goes horribly wrong (Killing Mr. Griffin, 1978) were stories as drop-dead real as anything we saw on the evening broadcast of Action News. (These were the years when people still watched the news.  And when the world had to be ending for the news to be considered “breaking.”)

Lois Duncan’s fiction was chilling and terrifying and made those of us who led a relatively sheltered and privileged life wonder if such horrendous things could really happen. Through her groundbreaking writing for teens, Lois Duncan showed us that, at least in fiction, they could. As we got older, real life would have no shortage of atrocities — one only needs to look at the past week for proof of that.

Sadly, Lois Duncan herself experienced personal tragedy in 1989 when her daughter Kaitlyn was murdered — ironically, just a month after the publication of one of Duncan’s novels with a similar plot. For years, she devoted her life to writing about her daughter’s still unsolved murder and supporting others whose loved ones were homicide victims.

Lois Duncan died on Wednesday, June 15 at age 82, leaving a rich literary legacy of children’s books, young adult novels, short stories, magazine articles, and nonfiction. Those of us who grew up in the late ’70s through the mid-80s enjoyed what I believe was a golden age of young adult literature by writers who bravely took chances with their work and were trailblazers for many of today’s equally outspoken and daring young adult authors.

Until I read her obituary in Publisher’s Weekly, I had no idea that Lois Duncan Steinmetz was a Philadelphia native, which endears her to me even more. (Her family moved to Florida when she was young. Still, in my mind she’s a Philly girl like me, making my days of reading her novels while growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs especially nostalgic.)

I think the hallmark of a great writer is someone whose books are remembered decades after reading them. Even if some details of the plots have faded, we can immediately recall how books like Killing Mr. Griffin and I Know What You Did Last Summer always made us feel.

Deliciously chilled to the bone, even on the hottest of summer days.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #19 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.