The Reckoning

Text to Dan: Did you eat the rest of the pepperoni?

Dan’s reply: I don’t remember if I did or not.

Text to Dan: I can’t find it in meat drawer so I’m guessing you did. You’ll have to reckon with Michael later.

Reply: Yikes.

I went to break the news to Michael.

“Hey, buddy. I know I said there was pepperoni, but it looks, like Daddy ate it all.”

“Okay. Will you buy some more?”

“Yes, I’ll buy more next time I go shopping.”

“And will you tell Daddy not to eat it all?”

“You got it, bud.”

You’re on notice, Dan.

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After Because of Winn-Dixie

As I explained in my post about marathon day (no, not that kind of marathon), I had Flora’s Battle of the Books team make a list of 10 things about an important person in their lives. In Because of Winn-Dixie these list are poignant reminders of absent people. Opal asks her father to tell her 10 things about her mother. When Winn-Dixie runs away, Opal makes a list in her head of 10 things she wants to remember about him.

In the book, these lists are poignant, but I think they could serve another purpose, which is why I had the girls make lists. I thought it would be a good way to tell one person about another person in one’s life whom they hadn’t met.

After thinking about it, I decided to list 10 things about my friend Cari (also known around these parts as @mattieflap).

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Cari has long red hair that she knows how to French braid her own self.

Cari, my red-headed friend.

*Really* long red hair.

2. She has been married to Scot for 13 years, and they have two boys. They also have two dogs.

3. Cari is a wonderful baker. She makes pies, cakes, and cookies. The first time she visited me (after M was born), she brought me like six dozen cookies. And they were all delicious. Her shortbread cookies are amazing.

4. She prefers red wine and Belgian beers.

5. She is originally from Michigan, and her parents still live there.

6. She may love YA dystopian fiction more than I do. Although we both hated Allegient. Here is her excellent rant/review.

7. She has pretty much clothed Michael for the past two years with hand-me-downs from her now 6-year-old.

8. She is of Scottish descent.* Correction: She is of IRISH descent. She’s married to a Scotsman. Oops!

9. She was engaged once before.

10. Cari is a good person, and a good friend. She does stuff for people, and never makes a big deal about it. Before my sister’s wedding, I wanted to get a wrap to wear with my dress in case the beach was cold. I had seen the perfect thing at JCPenney, but I hadn’t picked it up.

Cari offered to get it for me. I had a gift card, so I knew it wouldn’t put her out financially. After checking with her several times (rule of three: I will ask three times. “Are you sure it’s not trouble?” “You don’t mind doing this for me?” “Are you SURE?”), I “let” her pick up the wrap for me.

When I asked Twitter and FB about headshots for LTYM, she offered to come over and take them for me.

She’s just great.

Bonus fact: She gives me good chocolate.

Cari in blue.

SHE’S SO PRETTY!

If you had to describe someone in a list like this, who would you pick?

Random Thoughts: The Small Updates Edition

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1. I finally finished Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy, and thank goodness. This season of the show was *really* a slog. Tara and Jackson’s whole will-they-or-won’t-they; Tara’s whole will-she-or-won’t-she (nice touch at the clinic: Opie’s girl uses the name Sarah Palin); and the awful, terrible, no good Belfast storyline. Subtitle: “Where’s my boy?” Gah!

Neat season finale though. Nicely tied up all the loose ends.

Onto Season 4!

2. I downloaded a Wally Lamb book (We Are Like Water) to read — and I can’t get into it. And I love Wally Lamb; I’ve read just about everything he’s published. But I just can’t penetrate this one. Maybe I need a hard copy rather than an e-book.

I am also somewhat distracted from Lamb because I’ve discovered Liane Moriarty. I finished Big, Little Lies recently, and I’ve already downloaded The Husband’s Secret. New author! Yay!

Also see: SOA.

3. While I am still looking for a new job (and thank you to everyone who has sent me leads), I would like to report on something my employer has done right. I requested to work from home one day a week, and starting April 1, I will be doing just that. Huge relief. I will have one day a week to concentrate on major writing projects or metadata without dealing with the open office environment.

It’s pretty huge. Yay, employer!

This is the view from my desk in the mornings. It's so bright, I have to wear shades.

This is the view from my desk in the mornings. It’s so bright, I have to wear shades.

4. Here’s my favorite moment from this weekend.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

What was your favorite moment from this weekend?

Telling Stories

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Last night, as I was getting ready for the Listen to Your Mother read-through and cast party, I said to Dan, “I’m kinda nervous.”

He said, “You’re fine, honey. You got this.”

I said, “I’m not nervous about my piece. I’m nervous about all the people.”

I can’t attest to the fact that he rolled his eyes. “Oh, goodness, yes, people! I hate people.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “It’s just…” I paused. “I want them to like me.”

My husband gave me a serious look. “That’s progress for you.”

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Immediately upon leaving last night, I tweeted:

I cannot express what an amazing job Jennifer, Amanda, and Stephanie have done in selecting a series of stories, a group of voices, that just GO together. Every essay is vital to the whole.

And this sharing of women’s voices, of mother’s voices, is so important. In this, the era of mom blogs and Facebook status updates, it may not seem that way. But trust me, Listen to Your Mother does something different.

More than capturing the fact that motherhood isn’t all rainbows and kitties, LTYM tells a deeper story. In each essay, is your story, or your wife’s story, or another mother’s story. There will be a moment, a turn of phrase, an image, that will strike you, that will have you nodding along. “I know that,” you’ll think. “I’ve seen that.”

You might laugh. You might cry.

I can’t tell you how humbling it was to listen to the other women I’m going to be on stage with last night. I was blown away by the power of their words. Every story is unique, and it’s wrapped around a universal nugget that is at the heart of motherhood.

If you’re still on the fence about coming to the show, you should get off the fence and fast. Only about 60 tickets remain for Pittsburgh’s inaugural Listen To Your Mother show.

If you’re already coming, I recommend bringing tissues.

LTYM cookies

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I don’t know if they all liked me. I’m pretty sure they liked my story. When we had all read, I wanted to wrap all of my castmates up in a big hug. It’s going to be a blessing to spend time with these women. I can’t ask for much more.

The Best Career Advice I Ever Got: Don’t Be Your Job

I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was in 4th grade. When I told my mother this, she said, “Well, maybe you can go to school for pharmacy, and you can write in your spare time!”

I realized that we were not speaking the same language.

Also: My mother is a pharmacist. So is my father.

At any rate, I did not take my mother’s sage advice. Although I did attend my parents’ alma mater, Duquesne University, I did not go into the pharmacy program. I got a liberal arts education. I majored in print journalism — yeah, that’s right PRINT journalism — with a minor in American literature. I also took several women’s studies classes, which probably explains a lot.

My last semester of college was 1992. I had two classes on campus, and I had a full-time internship at an alternative newspaper as the editorial assistant. As editorial assistant, I pretty much was a girl Friday — typing other writers’ copy; I took dictation over the phone on occasion — writing headlines and photo captions, helping with print production, and also writing articles.

I was in heaven. It was what I wanted to do.

I was who I wanted to be.

I graduated from my program in December of 1992 — and got laid off in January 1993. My position was eliminated. I managed to wrangle another three months out of the job because the listings and events editor went on maternity leave.

My last day at In Pittsburgh was March 19, 1993.

I went home and sobbed. And called my mother.

Now, let me explain something about my mom. She entered a male-dominated science field in 1963. She started college at Villa Maria College in Erie, PA, taking mostly science classes. She transferred into the Duquesne University pharmacy program in 1965. (This is where she and my father met, which is a whole nother story.)

She graduated in 1968, one of three women who graduated from the program that year. She and my father married in 1970, and I was born in 1971.

When I and my siblings were little, my mom stayed home. (They did not call them stay-at-home mothers in the ’70s. They were just moms.) She had a part-time job, about one day a week. My father worked full-time, and more than full-time, opening and managing pharmacies in the area.

My mother eventually did go to work full-time, I believe when my little sister was in 1st grade. She and my father became business partners, and worked together. In pharmacies. My mom continued her education, taking classes in geriatric medicine and nutrition (I think). She and my dad eventually sold the business they had built together, and my mother became a pharmacy consultant to nursing homes in the area.

My mom was a freelance pharmacist.

In any case, when I called her on March 19, 1993, sobbing into the phone, she did all the motherly things. And then she said something I’ve never forgotten.

“Dawn, remember: You are more than your job.”

She went on (and I’m paraphrasing here, I’m sure), “Don’t identify too strongly with the job you have. It’s important to have a career, but it’s also important to realize you are bigger than any job you have at anytime.”

In other words, a job is a means to an end — money, healthcare, building a career.

But it’s not the be-all, end-all of WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON.

I am a writer. I said so right here. It’s very much part of my identity, and has been since 4th grade. But I am not my job as a writer. I have held several writing positions; I have freelanced; I have written just about everything from poetry to feature articles to marketing copy for KVM switches.

And I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. These roles, too, are very much part of my identity.

Jobs come and go. They change. My job is not who I am, it’s just what I’m doing right now in service of my career as a writer — and in service to my partner (Dan) and family.

I think my mom’s advice goes hand-in-hand with Kim’s advice. Work is an important part of who we are as people — but don’t be so essential to your job, or identify so strongly with it, that it’s hard to leave.

Like my daddy says, the graveyard is full of irreplaceable people.

What’s the best career advice you ever received?

Mom

My mom on her 70th birthday.

(h/t to Kim Z. Dale for the subject matter.)

I Am Never Doing That Again

Yesterday was a marathon. And it’s not how things usually work for me. I try to be careful not to book marathon days because I know how they wipe me out.

However, circumstances were beyond my control.

It kind of started Tuesday night when we attended my nephew’s confirmation, which I found unexpectedly emotional (more on that later). Tuesday night ended up being a bit of a scramble, and a bit of a late night.

Yesterday:

And we were off to the races. I was supposed to pick up my Sarris candy order at 8 a.m. at the school, but the truck was still unloading when I got there. Still haven’t figured out where my candy is at this point. So, visit to the school number 1: drop off girls, pick up candy. Only 50% successful.

Work: as we know, I find my current office situation challenging. The less said here, the better.

I left work yesterday a little after 3 p.m. I was scheduled to conduct the Battle of the Books session on Because of Winn-Dixie. I had written out the questions on Sunday; I had about 60. Flora had picked out snacks over the weekend — Pringles and Honest Kids juice boxes. And then, part-way through the day, I thought of an activity I thought would be fun.

In Because of Winn-Dixie, the main character is a 10-year-old girl who lives with her father, a preacher. Her mother left when she was 3. At one point, she asks her father to tell her 10 things about her mother so the girl will know her if she ever comes back. At another point, the character makes up another list of 10 things for her dog.

I had the girls pick someone in their lives to write 10 things about. I think they liked it! Most of the girls picked their mothers; Flora picked her father (not surprising to me); one girl picked her twin sister; and one girl picked her best friend.

Let me tell you something: six 10-year-old girls are squirmy, and giggly, and rambunctious, and very competitive when it comes to Battle of the Books. I enjoyed spending an hour with them. Very, very much. School visit number 2: 100% successful.

Then: Pick up Michael; pick up dinner; drive to Dan’s office. Kate was cranky and sulky and difficult. She wanted to go to the STEM meeting with me. I said no, and I meant no. The last meeting I took my children too, they were entirely too disruptive, and I had to leave early. Never again.

I ran late to the STEM meeting, but I let myself off the hook for that. I managed to get some food into me, which was more important than being a stressed out, hungry wreck. I contributed; got my lesson plan for my lesson-in-a-box. I have to plan it around sounds or the solar system. I have a great idea, actually. (Thanks to my Twitter friends who made suggestions too!)

And I helped inventory the science lab. I found the magnifying glasses and the LED microscopes that no one knew we had, so that was exciting. We *do* have an automatic egg turner for incubating chicken eggs. I desperately wanted to take a picture of it. School visit number 3: 100% successful.

Now, I was originally scheduled to do BoB on March 4. And the STEM committee meeting was originally scheduled for March 10. But due to weather and other factors, dates got changed. To March 18. Plus, I agreed to help a friend with SEO for his website, for which I had provided content. He came over at 9:20 p.m. and we sat together about an hour assessing the situation.

That’s a long-ass day.

I went to bed at 11:15 p.m.; I woke up at 2:30 and 3:30 a.m., as per usual. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to do Pilates this morning. But maybe I’ll get it in tonight. I actually have nothing out of the ordinary going on — just the usual sprint to bedtime. Thank goodness.

What’s a long day for you?

Random Thoughts: The Meditation on Meditation Edition

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(First order of business: My good friend @mattieflap came over to take some pictures I could use for my headshot for Listen To Your Mother. She also caught the moment above, and it’s too adorable not to use.)

My new habit/Lenten commitment has been going mostly well. Once I made the time, about 10 minutes a day, and found some good resources, I was rolling with it.

YouTube, of course, has proved invaluable. It took a couple of tries to find two or three guided meditations that didn’t irritate the shit out of me, but I did it.

I also used the free trial of the headspace app, which definitely helped me find a good grounding. While I would love to sign up for the year, I don’t have $80-$120 to spend on it at this time. The 10-day trial, though, was helpful for a beginner such as myself. It helps set up goals and reasonable expectations, and gives one permission to let one’s mind wander. It’s very calming and low-pressure.

That said, my practice has not been perfect.

My head feels really heavy when I meditate. So I try to sit comfortably someplace I can rest my head — the glider in Michael’s room, the couch with pillows behind my head. If I don’t support my head, I notice my neck and shoulders getting tenser and tenser instead of being able to relax.

I have fallen asleep a couple of times. I’m doing this meditation at 9:30-10 o’clock at night, after the children are in bed. Most of the guidelines I have read say to get up and meditate in the morning, but I’m already getting up early almost daily to either clean or exercise.

Plus, meditation works better for me in the evening because I can really let go of the stress of the day. The first 10-14 days I was doing daily meditation, I was sleeping great!

And at some point last week, sleep got derailed again.

Starting last Thursday, I haven’t been sleeping well at all. Waking up two, three times a night. Sometimes staying awake, sometimes falling back to sleep only to wake up again an hour or so later. And it’s not fair. The children aren’t waking me up. Dan is no longer snoring the way he used to (having lost nearly 40 pounds in the past two years — go, Dan!).

I can’t figure it out. Am I too hot or too cold? Am I stressed (ha! trick question, of course I’m stressed)? Should I meditate immediately before bed instead of reading a book or watching Sons of Anarchy? This just sounds like a way to guarantee that I’ll fall asleep before finishing a meditation.

Anyway: Meditation gets a big thumbs up in general, but I need to get back to sleeping through the night. Yet again.

This is one of the meditations I’ve been using. It’s on YouTube.

How do you successfully de-stress and sleep through the night?

Random Thoughts: The Some Things I Need, Some Things I Could Do Without Edition

Aside from money, honey, I could really use:

1. Two working cars. Dan’s parents came home just in time to play chauffeur to Dan. His car broke down last week. We are still waiting to hear something definitive from the mechanic. And hoping we can pay for it.

2. A fully operational furnace. I came home last night to a chilly house. The furnace was operating, but the thermostat read 60 degrees. I’ve been having a little bit of a rough time lately (I blame my job), and I had to walk into the kitchen to have a mini-breakdown with some silent weeping. The space heaters are keeping us comfortable, but we’ll have to figure out the furnace issue in the next couple of days.

3. A new job. My current employer… how do I say it? They don’t seem to be too concerned with employee morale. At the beginning of the year, they switched healthcare providers, and hit us up with premiums three times what they used to be. So after getting a raise a year ago, I am now bringing home LESS money. They are moving us into an open-floor office, which, for a person like me who needs some quiet and privacy to actually be productive, is going to be a nightmare. They restructured the way PTO is given, and every full-time employee lost 8 hours. And part-time employees no longer get PTO — so I guess I should be glad I’m full time?

And don’t get me started on QR codes. Thinking about using them? Go here. (h/t @thejqs)

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The only bright spot in my life right now (aside from healthy family) is the Listen to Your Mother Show. Speaking of which, I need a nice head shot. My friend Cari is coming over with her good camera to help me out with that. Something I can control and do! That’s kind of nice. More of that, please.

I took a couple of selfies, thinking one of them would be sufficient. But then decided I should try being a little more professional about it.

Although I do look pretty.

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Oh, the other thing I need is a new driver’s license. I can control that. If my employer will unchain me long enough.

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One thing I could do with fewer of: weird dreams. One night I had a slightly inappropriate dream about a co-worker — who was laid off the following day.

I had a dream that two of my coworkers got married. This dream was kind of sweet. But still weird. I don’t want to dream about my coworkers.

And then I have this recurring dream about someone coming to hurt me. Like, that’s the dream. The man hunts me down for the sole purpose of inflicting harm on me. He is ruthless and unstoppable. He wears a protective mask on his lower face and neck to prevent me from getting my nails into him. And he keeps coming, no matter how far I run and how many obstacles I put in his way.

It’s terrifying. It’s the worst nightmare (barring losing my children) that I have on a recurring basis. I would like it to go away.

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Tell me something happy.

The Pop Diva Landscape

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For my purposes, a pop diva is a female singer who is played on one of the pop music stations in my area. She may or may not have also appeared recently on the Grammys.

I’m sure album sales and/or downloads figure into both of those things — radio play and Grammy appearances. But as I am not an industry analyst, I’m not sweating those details.

I have always been intrigued by pop music, especially female pop artists, and have been probably since the advent of Madonna. I primarily try to keep up now because I know it’s the type of music that my children are most likely to overhear in the public space.

Also, I’m simply not willing to dismiss all forms of popular entertainment as dreck, and/or people who decide what is popular as sheep. Even if privately I don’t get it or like it.

Let’s take the pop queen to top all pop queens, current reigning diva Taylor Swift. Her popularity utterly escapes me, and I know for me her ubiquity is a real turn off. She is EVERYWHERE. I will not deny that her songs are damn catchy; those things are ear worms extraordinaire.

But given the choice, I’m changing the station.

What amusing me is that my daughters can definitely tell that I don’t like certain pop artists and pop songs. They play it cool in the car. “Oh, sure, it’s okay. You can leave it on, if you want, mom.” Or, “Well, let’s just let the radio play, okay, mom?”

Sure, kiddos.

Here are the three pop stars that I do not prefer at this time, and a little bit on why I, personally, don’t like them:

Katie Perry — I find her music trite. To say she’s not groundbreaking is an understatement. I like the sentiment behind “Roar”: don’t be a push over, stand up and speak for yourself, girls! But the song is one lyrical cliche after another.

Taylor Swift — As I said before, this young woman is ubiquitous. The music industry loves her. All well and good. But I’m just not interested.

Arianna Grande — This little wisp of a singer needs to learn how to enunciate, for goodness sake.

Here’s a short list of the pop singers who are current that I DO like:
Lorde
Sia
Ellie Goulding
Rihanna
Nicki Minaj (Is she pop? I’m not even 100% sure she goes in this category.)
Charlie XCX

I don’t know why I like Lorde but not Katie Perry, or Ellie Goulding but not Ms. Swift. I think the pop singers I like have something — a little sass, a little darkness, a little rebel — in them. They aren’t quite EVERYWHERE — although Lorde is coming close. And I probably won’t even hold it against her. Something about her smoky voice hooks me.

I’m unsure where Megan Trainor goes. I haven’t listened to her closely. My overall impression is that she’s sassy, yes, but she’s released two songs that sound nearly identical to me.

I’m sure I’m missing whole swatches of the pop diva landscape. Got someone on pop radio that you love (or love to hate)?

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Aside: It’s too loud and all sounds the same anyway. It’s SCIENCE!

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If you like a good female chanteuse outside of the pop mainstream, make it a point to check out Charlotte OC.

World Book Day

I’ve been working on a blog post about female pop singers (deep thoughts by rpm, doncha know?), and it came to my attention that today is World Book Day. (h/t @SecretAgentL) And yesterday was Grammar Day.

So, basically, my two favorite days in a row.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you probably have to write. Emails, notes to teachers, Facebook posts, tweets — maybe you even blog. I would encourage you to be familiar with grammar rules, even if not that many people are seeing your “work”. It looks good when you can use proper grammar (and punctuation, but I’m sure that’s another day). If you have questions, the Grammar Girl — who has the coolest name in all creation as far as I’m concerned — offers Quick and Dirty Tips for those times you want to figure out if it’s lay/lie or who/whom, among other things.

She also posted a checklist to Twitter yesterday. It’s a good guide for when you do have to write something, especially in a professional setting.

And, sure, no one likes a grammar Nazi, because no one likes to be corrected. (Ask my husband!) But wouldn’t it be even nicer if you were confident enough to know that you weren’t going to be corrected in the first place? Because you used this handy dandy checklist?

I’m just saying.

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Oh, sorry, that got a little longer than I had intended.

What I meant to say was: My favorite book in the entire world is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

That and: Read. Read what you like, and read what challenges you. Read to the children in your life. Heck, read to your pets. Use the library. Read a book or read an ebook.

Reading is good. Reading doesn’t have downsides. Reading makes you better!

What’s your favorite book?

The Little Prince

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