Category Archives: Sports

Sunday Salon: Super Bowl and January Wrap-Up Edition

The Sunday Salon

We’re watching the Super Bowl (like almost everyone else) as I write this edition of the Salon. Since none of my teams (Steelers, Eagles) made it to the big game this year, I’m in it only for the commercials.

However, being Eagles fans with long memories (2004 may have been 11 years ago, but to us it might as well have been yesterday) we are obviously rooting for the Seahawks.

January Wrap-Up:
My goal for 2015 is to send out at least 25 writing submissions this year, which means at least two per month, which I achieved for January. I define submissions fairly liberally; for example, getting an audition slot for Listen to Your Mother (which I did) counts as a submission. The main thing is doing the work and getting it out there.

Another highlight of January was being part of Acquired Taste: Holiday Recovery, a literary reading event at East End Book Exchange.

January was not my best reading month. I only finished two books – Aimless Love by Billy Collins and West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan. I enjoyed both of them, and I still think West of Sunset will be among my favorites this year. Part of my reading slump was due to having the flu, The Boy being sick, The Husband’s cancer treatments and other stuff going on.

Bird by Bird

I spent part of this snowy afternoon reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which I started as my First Book of the Year, but put aside when I saw West of Sunset at the library. I feel Bird by Bird is a book I should read, so I wanted to make a point to get back to it.

Listening To:
The Good Lord BirdI’ve been listening to The Good Lord Bird by James McBride during my commutes to work, and so far I’m really enjoying this.

On Friday, BlogHer featured my post about the Asperger’s storyline in “Parenthood” over the past six seasons. Go here to read it.

The Husband got an “all clear” report on his cancer scan on Friday, which we were obviously thrilled about. This has been a trying two weeks with him being on the low-iodine diet and the dread that accompanies this yearly test.

That the groundhog does not see his shadow tomorrow and that we have an early spring. Our school district has already called yet another two-hour delay for tomorrow morning, so I’m not hedging my bets on this early spring business.

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If You Give a Yinzer Some Yarn, You Might Get a Knitted Bridge

So, here’s what happens when you give 1,820 people in Pittsburgh some yarn and a hell of an awesome idea.

Side View of Bridge

 I mean, seriously. As if it was possible for Pittsburgh to get any more creative (because this town rocks the creative department), we decided to knit the bridge.


“Knit the Bridge” was a grassroots, community-led arts project that brought the many diverse communities of Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania together to create a large-scale, aesthetically stunning, fiberarts installation on the Andy Warhol/7th Street Bridge.


This wasn’t a permanent thing, although I imagine that to the 1,870 volunteers working on 580 handmade knitted and crocheted panels for more than 14 months, it probably felt like the big day would either never get here or that the work would never end.

But Knit the Bridge went up August 12 and immediately it became the talk of Pittsburgh.

And the entire world.


This made the news in different countries.

Which happened to be the message of the whole project.


Pittsburgh has been described as a city of neighborhoods, and that it most certainly is. It reminds me of my hometown of Philadelphia that way (even though most natives would probably cringe at the comparison) and it’s probably one of the reasons why this city has grown on me as quickly as it has. Pittsburgh is also, in very many ways, a very “provincial” town. Knit the Bridge was designed to bring all of Pittsburgh together.

Through art.


(This was one of my favorite panels on the bridge. To me, this one was so symbolic of Pittsburgh’s many communities, with the river as part of it.)

I’d been wanting to go downtown and see the bridge since the unveiling on August 12. We were lucky weather-wise; we’ve had some spectacular days here in recent weeks, which made Pittsburgh look even more vibrant than usual (if that’s even possible). The weather really could not have been timed more perfectly for this project. Even during several thunderstorms, everything held up beautifully. (Volunteers monitored the bridge 24/7 and posted updates on social media.)

Friday, September 6 was the very last day that Knit the Bridge would be up. (The blankets would then be taken down, laundered, and distributed to the homeless and charitable organizations.) Early that morning, I was at a networking event near the bridge and afterwards, I decided to drive over and see it in person.



A couple things about those photos of me, especially the second one.

1. That photo isn’t staged. Or PhotoShopped. Or retouched or edited or anything like that. I really am sitting on the side of the bridge. The sky was really that blue.

2. I didn’t stop traffic. (Me, stopping traffic. C’mon, let’s get real.) This was at 10:45 a.m. on a Friday morning in Downtown Pittsburgh. Apparently, most people had other things to do.

3. People are friendly here. Really friendly. So friendly that it’s entirely plausible to see two sisters taking selfies on the bridge and you (that would be me) ask them if they want you to take their picture. Which I did. And then they offered to take mine. Which answers my husband’s question of who, exactly, took the pictures of me obviously having a real good time on the bridge.

4. It practically begged to be used as my new blog header. I love my chair and stop sign picture (and always will) but this captures so much of what I want this new self-hosted site to be about, how I feel about Pittsburgh, and how I’d like to be viewed here.

Anyway. Let’s move on because there IS definitely more to see here. (All of the photos in this post were taken by me.) 

SAM_6686 SAM_6687 SAM_6689 SAM_6693 SAM_6696 SAM_6707 SAM_6709

Go green, Pittsburgh!

SAM_6717 SAM_6720 SAM_6721 SAM_6722 SAM_6723 SAM_6726 SAM_6730 SAM_6731

This one gives new meaning to the term “bleeding black and gold.” Go Steelers!


…and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the background of this one is PNC Park, home of the (say it with me, boys and girls) FIRST PLACE IN BASEBALL AND WINNING TEAM FOR THE FIRST SEASON SINCE 1992 PITTSBURGH PIRATES! SAM_6703

To me, this one symbolized the rivers ….


one of which (the Allegheny River) can be seen through the railing, which is usually yellow but is covered in black yarn sleeves. (Or whatever the technical term is.)

Another one of my favorite panels. I love this. SAM_6758 SAM_6766 SAM_6773


SAM_6771And this.

I think this may be one of my very favorite photos I’ve ever taken.


Pride Bridge

Because there was just so much love there on the bridge and, during the weeks that Knit the Bridge was up, in Pittsburgh itself. You could feel it. Knit the Bridge boosted the spirits of this city. It made people happy.

OK, the Pirates are definitely helping too. And the good weather. But who can’t help but smile at 580 brilliantly colored blankets on a bridge when half the country can’t find a damn job while we’re on the verge of invading a country that most of us couldn’t have found on a map until our Facebook feed educated us on how clueless we were.

Like I mentioned, Friday was the last day for Knit the Bridge. I had been listening to U2 in my car while driving (and yes, “Beautiful Day” really did come on AS I DROVE OVER THE BRIDGE, I KID YOU NOT) and this couple made me think of the lyrics to “Walk On.”


And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
You can only take so much
Walk on
Leave it behind
You’ve got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you feel
All this you can leave behind.

Knit the Bridge was meant to be shared and enjoyed, so I made a pitch for us to go Downtown as a family to see it on Friday night.  I only had one taker. Betty knew I was going to stop by after my event and when she got home from school, it was decided: we were going.

I knew this was something she’d probably always remember. The time when she and Mommy walked along the knitted bridge. You don’t see – or do – that everyday.

So, we did. We went. A stranger hugged me, completely out of the blue. We talked about girl stuff. And autism. (We think the stranger may have been on the spectrum.) Betty made a video of the bridge, catching a much-too happy passenger of a pleasure boat on the Allegheny in the process. (Let’s just hope twerking on the Allegheny doesn’t become a thing.) 

And then it really was time to leave it all behind.


Take a bow, Knit the Bridge volunteers.  And thank you so very much.


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Dear A-Rod, Remember the Logans while you ‘fight for your life’

A Rod - Old Timers Day 2010

Alex Rodriguez acknowledges the crowd during roll call at Yankee Stadium during Old Timers Day
July 16, 2010
Photo credit: Melissa Firman

“There’s nothing about it that’s been easy. All of it has been challenging ….I’m fighting for my life.” ~ Alex Rodriguez, August 5, 2013

My God. The arrogance. Seriously, could A-Roid be more of a dope (in every meaning of the word) if he tried?

Dear Mr. Three-Time MVP and Baseball’s Highest Paid Player, you brought this so-called “nightmare” upon yourself so spare me the dramatics and crocodile tears,

And for the love of God and baseball (which you clearly have no respect for), spare all of us this fighting for your life bullshit. 

You have no idea.

I’d like to drag your syringe-filled ass down to the closest children’s hospital. Or heart transplant unit. Or cancer center. Or neonatal intensive care unit. 

I’d like you to remember Logan, the 2-year old boy from Jeannette, Pa. who was the best man in his parents’ wedding this Saturday. He was the talk of the nation and this baseball-on-fire town (that would be Pittsburgh … yes, Pittsburgh). His parents moved their wedding up a year because their boy has a terminal illness called Fanconi anemia and they wanted him to be in the pictures.

Oh, and he also battled leukemia. And as if all that wasn’t enough for a 2 year old to bear, kidney stones too.

Not to minimize your hip and knee surgeries, A-Rod, but … well, you see, you at least got a chance to play baseball.

As opposed to Mr. Stevenson, who won’t get to enjoy a game of catch with his boy in the backyard.

Because little Logan died yesterday.

In the bottom of the ninth, in the game of their lives, little Logan and his parents were downright inspiring in their grace and courage.

You could learn a lesson or two from that little 2 year old.

Or, sadly, any of the millions of Logans out there who are fighting for their lives.

You probably did hundreds of such photo ops with kids like Logan, didn’t you?

How quickly one forgets.

How fast the mighty fall.

A reminder, A-Rod: they’re the real MVPs.  The heroes. The true champions.

Meanwhile, you sit talking about nightmares and fighting for one’s life.

You, the one who has struck out in the most pathetic of ways.

You, the one who just needs to take your balls and go the hell home.






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Bike Camp - Day 4

Boo riding a two-wheeler for the first time outside at Bike Camp
July 25, 2013
photo credit: Melissa Firman

“I’ve been told and I believe
That life is meant for livin’
And even when my chips are low
There’s still some left for givin’
I’ve been many places
Maybe not as far as you
So I think I’ll stay awhile
And see if some dreams come true.” 

“Cycles” ~ (which happens to be one of my all-time favorite songs ever), written by Gayle Caldwell, sung by Frank Sinatra

Three seconds after I snapped this photo at Bike Camp today, my boy crashed into the guardrail.

Before that, though, he was more than excited to finally be riding the two-wheeler outside. He did great on the first day of camp and on Day 2 during Tandem Tuesday. Wednesday’s “Launch Day” with him being on a a two-wheeler for the first time was awesome (and captured on video). He couldn’t stop talking about it ALL. DAY. LONG. 

“I feel like a MAN!” he bellowed, puffing out his 4’4″ frame at the thought of having mastered the bike.

So today, after a mere 20 or so practice laps around the indoor track, our group of iCan Shine instructors, parents, volunteers, and folks from The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh headed outside into a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming spectacular 70 degree-Pittsburgh-summer-day.

As these things tend to do, the crash happened almost instantly, almost in slow-motion. He took the left turn a bit too wide, was going down the incline a little too fast. My boy slammed into the guardrail, doubling over and holding his chest.

I’m not a reactionary parent. I don’t fall to pieces in such instances. Upon realizing that there wasn’t any blood and that nothing was visibly broken (except, we would later discover tonight, bent glasses), my first thought was, strangely, of our NICU days nearly a dozen years ago.

Maybe I have the Royal Baby Prince “Curious Boy” George on my mind (although I’m kind of disinterested).

Or maybe I was still thinking about the world’s first test-tube baby turning 35 and remembering how sci-fi that once seemed, having little idea how that very technology would bring me my own little cyclist.

Or, maybe it has to do with a bunch of thoughts crashing together.

My boy got right back up on the bike and finished the camp session with a few more practice laps indoors, riding around the track. And I was so incredibly proud of him for that, for holding it together and being able to somehow find it within himself to do that.

It wasn’t without its slight setback, though. He’s convinced that outdoor terrain isn’t for him after all, that he’ll be just fine sticking to the indoor track, thank you very much. Maaaaaaaaybe he will ride in our driveway. He’ll see.

“We didn’t go through all this to let this bike become a museum piece,” said The Husband to me this morning. “We need to undo this damage, stat.”

That is his way. Reverse course. Get back on track. Because this feels oh-so-familiar, like the spinning wheel of regression. It feels like all the miraculous gains of the the last 3.5 days have vanished.

I know that’s not true. But what we know and what we feel often aren’t the same things, right?

But as we assessed whether our boy was all right (he seems to be), and called the pediatrician to see if they wanted us to bring him in (no, as long as he wasn’t short of breath or in pain or otherwise markedly different), we spent some time talking with our boy. We talked a lot about the bike crash and reminded him how awesome it was riding the bike, and about how sometimes we need to take a chance of falling down in order to experience the truly great things that life has to offer. 

This seems intangible to my boy, this fluffy talk about risk and chances and goals. I’m not getting through on a practical, concrete sense, so we cycled back.

“Let’s make a plan for today,” I said this morning, in preparation for the final day of Bike Camp. “What about when we go outside on the bike, we take things a little slower at first. Not as fast.”

“Maybe start with three laps or something?” he offered.

“That sounds like a great idea, pal. I know you can do that.”


Bike Camp isn’t just about learning to ride a bike. Sure, that’s our goal and our kids’ goals and there are very tangible benefits that accompany this: increased independence and self-confidence, better health as a result of increased physical activity, additional opportunities for socialization … just to name a few.

But no matter what, in the small early hours of last night when I started writing this post, I just kept coming back to those very early days – the infertility, the weeks in the NICU, the autism diagnosis, what I refer to as “the black hole years” – and more recently with my long-term unemployment and the uncertainty and the cancer …and I realized that I needed to listen to myself. 

As Frank says, I’ve been many places. Different paths, yes, and maybe not as many exotic ones as you, but many places nonetheless.

And these places have been bumpy and caused us to stumble, to fall.


But the only way we can keep our balance is to get back up and keep moving.

One, two, three laps at a time.

Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.  ~Albert Einstein

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he’s got a ticket to ride (bike camp, day 1)
in tandem (bike camp, day 2)

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in tandem

Bike Camp - Day 2

iCan Shine Bike Camp Pittsburgh
photo credit: Melissa Firman

tan·dem [tan-duhm] 

1. one following or behind the other

Very rarely do I post pictures of my kids here on the blog. When I do, they’re intentionally blurry or taken from behind, so as to protect some vestige of privacy.

But there he is, my boy, in the photo above.

Day 2 of Bike Camp – which was today – is known as “Tandem Tuesday.”

That’s when campers ride an adaptive tandem bike, as Boo did this afternoon along with Peter, one of iCan Shines Bike Technicians.

The way the bike is engineered gives the rider the feeling – and the confidence – of what it’s like to be on two wheels.

Meanwhile, Peter the Bike Technician was evaluating his balance, turning, agility, and braking.

I put down my phone, my Kindle and just … watched.

I thought about the people who we have in tandem in our lives.

Who really have our backs.

Who see past our “I’m fine” to give a damn if we’re doing okay.

Who help us maneuver onto the right path.

Who keep us in balance.

Who pick us up when we fall.

Who are there.

Behind us. Following us. Alongside us.

With us for the ride, no matter what the path holds.

For always.

Bike Camp - Day 2 - Volunteers

Boo on adaptive bike, with volunteers running behind him to keep up.

Bike Camp - Bikes

Bikes, at the start of camp.

You may also like this post:
he’s got a ticket to ride (about Day 1 of Bike Camp)

cycles (days 3 and 4 of Bike Camp)




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he’s got a ticket to ride

I Can Shine Bike Camp

Adaptive bike used by riders at iCan Shine, Inc. bike camp
Monroeville, PA
photo credit: Melissa Firman, July 2013

There was no mistaking my son’s response.

It wasn’t so much what he said, but what he didn’t say.

During his well-visit check up last week, the good doctor (and he is, truly, a good doctor) was talking to him about exercising and trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. At 11 years old, we’re having some challenges on both fronts; as if he’d read my mind, the pediatrician seemed to know the perfect approach to talk to my boy on this issue.

And then, a question. One that he’s probably asked hundreds, thousands of kids.

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

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. 

* * *

Once you’ve been through an autism evaluation, you don’t view doctor’s appointments the same way. Ever. At least I don’t. There’s always a feeling of needing to be “on,” of not letting down your guard, of wondering what the hell they are really typing into that computer, of wondering if you are on the same growth curve as all the other parents.

And I know that this shouldn’t matter, but the truth is, it does.

A lot.

Because as our first developmental pediatrician told us, you can’t help but compare kids to each other – and in this case, when you see other kids riding a bike, you can’t help but look at your kid and see another example in which you feel like you screwed up. 

Because we haven’t taught him.

Because we couldn’t.

Because we tried – and then stopped.

Because of The Husband’s herniated disc.

Because it was hot outside.

Because it looked like rain.

Because we’re just not an active, outdoorsy kind of family.

Because he has autism.

Because it was too hard.

Because his anxiety.

Because. Because. Because.

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 Boo 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.

This past Friday, 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. Starting today. Registration ended six weeks ago.

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

There was one spot left.

* * *

Today was Day 1 of Bike Camp.

My boy was, as is his style when trying something new, kinda nonplussed. Somewhat uninterested, but semi-curious. My baby don’t care ….

iCan Shine relies on volunteers, as each rider is paired with at least one individual who walks or runs alongside him or her to help with spills and direction, give encouragement, catch smiles.

Boo’s volunteers are a family: a mom and her two sons who are helping out for the week.

Within minutes, he was on the bike and taking off around the indoor track.

He’s got this, I thought.

I’m not going to lie. It has been a good but very, very emotionally challenging summer.

We have fallen off so many proverbial bikes and learned how to get back on.

But for today? This one day?

We’re riding so high.

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in tandem (day 2 of iCan Shine Bike Camp)

cycles (day 3 and 4 of iCan Shine Bike Camp)

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The Olympics Are Over. Prepare for an Invasion of Flying Squirrels.

Brandywine Zoo, Wilmington DE
July 4, 2009
Photo taken by me.

We are not a sports family.

Correction: We are not a sports family in the sense that our kids are not scheduled to the max with practices and travel tournaments for every sport under the sun. (We ARE a sports family in that we like to partake of the watching of football, baseball, and hockey from the comfort of our family room, as well as from the occasional venture to the ballpark.)

We actually swing so much in the opposite direction that sometimes I wonder and worry if my kids have too much downtime. We’re homebodies. Islands. We like hanging out together doing our own thing. As a therapist once said to me about my relationship with The Husband, we “have a lot of cerebral interests.”

(That’ll be $125 please, and no, I don’t accept your insurance plan.)

So, when Betty started talking about taking gymnastics lessons last fall – well before all of America would fall in love with Aly or Gabby – I didn’t immediately sign her up for classes. I waited to see if this interest in gymnastics would be A Passing Thing.

One of the things I’ve learned about both my kids is that there are few fads in their world. Once they find something they like, they tend to stick with it. (Except sneakers. Boo just outgrew a pair of sneakers in three days.)

Toward the end of the school year, Betty was becoming more and more frustrated with her brother’s differences, and I began to think more seriously about the possibility of gymnastics helping as a stress-reliever. She also has a few perfectionism issues and a bit of a self-confidence boost couldn’t hurt either. So, with all that in mind, I plunked down my credit card in early June for an 8-week summer session at a local gym “just to see how this would go.”

Two classes in, she announced she LOVED gymnastics and it was absolutely helping her to feel better and she DEFINITELY OH MY GOD YES wanted to sign up for the fall. I was like, yeah, fine, whatever, let’s just get through the summer.

She kept insisting she wanted to continue in the fall, so I said that a fall session sounded all fine and well and good …

except the “next session” is an entire school year.

As in, from September to JUNE.

Not being a sports mom, I didn’t immediately realize this. Nor did I take much notice of a little thing called the 2012 Olympics. Sure, we watched – when I could figure out the damn convoluted schedule. We cheered for Gabby Douglas, et al.

Apparently, so did a lot of other people.

Summer session gymnastics finished up last night and in my cerebral-interested way, I thought I could just walk up to the counter, plunk down my credit card and sign up, no problem. What I failed to realize was that, thanks to a little thing called the Olympics, every kid and their parental unit now seems to think they are made of gold. (Or silver. Or bronze.)

This mentality annoyed me more than the possibility of Betty not getting into a class. (“Fucking Olympics.” I texted to The Husband. “Getting into a class = a zoo. Everyone suddenly has the next fucking Wheaties champion.”)

We managed to get the last spot in a class, but not before the waiting list for each class grew to 14 kids deep. I decided that I, the chick with no athletic ability whatsoever, was going to open a gymnastics studio right here in my town tomorrow, first thing. (I kid. I’d lose what’s left of my freakin’ mind.) All night long, new parents came in wanting to sign their kids up and leaving dejected once they realized they might have to tell their kid “no” or “not quite yet.”

It made me wonder who the class was really for. I’ll be completely honest and say that I have no expectations whatsoever that Betty is ever going to be standing on a stage tearing up as the American flag is raised as a gold medal is placed around her neck. Now if that happens, fantastic. Her father and I – not to mention her grandparents – will be out of our freakin’ minds. But Betty and I have had conversations about the sacrifices that Gabby Douglas and her family have made, about how she moved away from her home in Virginia to train in Iowa, and Betty has said quite bluntly that she could never do that. And I know this kid enough to know that I don’t think she could. She can do a hell of a lot, but that’s not in her persona. At least, not at almost 11 years old.

I worry about the kids being pushed into a sport for reasons other than because it is something they want to try, or something that might be a good stress-reliever for them, or a means to self-confidence and individuality, and to usurp one’s perfectionistic tendencies. This summer, gymnastics has been all of that for Betty, which is why we made the decision to continue it for this school year. It’s part and parcel of how we’re figuring out the pieces of this autism puzzle that life has dealt our family.

Maybe the throngs of people rushing to sign their kids up for gymnastics last night also had good intentions that don’t involve kids moving out of state at 14 and Wheaties boxes. I’d like to think so.

I’ll let you know in June.

I hope.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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