Monday, July 30, 2007


I'm supposed to be writing about womanhood for my manuscript. I'm supposed to think back to what I learned from my mother.

I think the biggest lesson I learned from my mother is that gifts are very important. She gives gifts to everyone. I remember, the summer after 8th grade, I was supposed to be reading The Count of Monte Cristo for summer reading. The Lebanon Library didn't have a copy in stock but the librarian unearthed one from somewhere and called us at home to get it. My mom bought her a fruit basket and made me go give it to her.

I was mortified that someone would give such a present to a lady who was just doing her job. But my mom gives presents to everyone. She stockpiles things she thinks people will like and somehow always manages to know everyone well enough to pick the perfect present for them. Each year, her favorite thing about Christmas is watching people open the presents she buys them to see the looks on their faces.

I would say my biggest sense of failure as a woman comes not from my abhorrence of makeup or inability to walk in high heels. My secret shame is that I am an awful gift buyer. Today is my grandma's birthday and I didn't even get her a card, let alone a present. Nance would have mailed the card just in time so it arrived in today's mail. Even when I remember to buy people presents, they are often crappy or turn out poorly.

Not only is Nance the most thoughtful gift giver in the world, she is also the most excited at each gift giving occasion. I am rarely surprised on a birthday because she usually tells me what she bought, unable to maintain the suspense for another instant. She used to line my presents up on the piano to tease me, as if she hadn't hinted at or directly revealed the contents of each package weeks before.

My notion of womanhood is inextricably wrapped into the art of giving gifts and, an essential piece of this, knowing people very intimately in order to be good at it. I have a very high mark to live up to, and so far I am not doing well in my quest.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Failed Colors

I was very sad today in accepting that I had chosen a poor color for the guest room. Pumpkin Patch looks much better in Home Depot than it looks on the fourth wall of our guest room. We primed over it and will be painting it a nice brown called Wooden Cabin.

I sighed and asked Corey what on earth we could do with the deliciously rich orange paint. He paused for a moment and then told me, "We could go throw it at old ladies wearing fur coats."

Friday, July 27, 2007


I have internet. I am sitting on my own sofa emailing and fiddling around in the universe. I feel suddenly like all is right in the world. The Fios people were here for many hours drilling and sawing and grunting and I finally have what is supposed to be the world's fastest internet service.

I feel mostly as if it is not any faster than cable and also surprised that I had to give up the outlet alloted to our beer fridge for a large flashing box that evidently must always stay plugged in down in the basement.

I was so eager to be reconnected to society that I abandoned the painting project I was doing upstairs. Mid-trim priming, I galloped down to my laptop. I might have gotten primer all over the keyboard. Which is ok, because it hides the dirty brown stains that were on there before. Ah, the end of driving around in search of Wi-Fi.

On a sidenote, the DirecTV van just pulled up to my neighbor's house. What would happen, I wonder, if I went outside and asked them to give us cable, too? TV and internet in one day?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Humanity is on a Downward Spiral

Proof A: I am too fat to participate in alcohol research. By fat, I of course mean muscular and dense, but all the science lab cares about is that my body weighs more than 147 pounds. I cannot even drink for money unless I am waif thin.

Proof B: My friend Dave was in a bicycle accident riding in Schenley Park. He sat slightly dazed, clutching his profusely bleeding chin that required stitches and not one person stopped to help. His co-rider had to verbally request a paper towel from a passerby to mop up a bit of the blood pooling in Dave's hands. Nobody cared about Dave's bleeding face.

Proof C: A blind man got on the 71A today and took a bit longer than most people in procuring his bus pass. As he was navigating down the aisle slowly, a boisterous man pushed in front of him and plopped his fat ass into the front seat vacated for the blind man. When the blind man arrived and went to sit, the boisterous man looked around and made only small efforts to get up. Another passenger had to help the blind man up the aisle into a different seat.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In the Name of Science

Yesterday, at the climax of my anger rolls, I popped into the Cathedral bathroom. There, hanging above my toilet selection, was a flyer seeking people aged 21-28 who would be willing to consume alcohol in the name of science and in exchange for $60.

I sighed deeply and decided I would sacrifice myself for this important research. I phoned the lab and learned the details of the study. They were examining the effects of booze on social drinkers. Would I be willing to drink vodka with cranberry juice? Could I do it at ten in the morning on Wednesday? Could I fill out a survey and take a breathalizer test? Yes, yes I could.

The only thing that seems unsettling is they told me I am three pounds above the weight cutoff for my height. "But I have muscles," I told them. "I can fax you a photo of my shoulder muscles, which look quite nice after hauling around boxes and operating power tools for the past month." He chuckled his science-voice chuckle and told me I might make the error margin cut. If I show up there and I'm too fat to drink, they'll still give me $5. How nice.

I am quite eager next week to explore this scientific experiment. I am very interested indeed to head down this journey and help the world learn the effects of alcohol on the social drinker. Here is my hypothesis:

The subject (me) will consume three glasses of vodka with cranberry juice. She will start to giggle a little and drip some juice on her shirt. She might start to sing and will certainly sway a bit in her seat, noticing how hilarious it is to wear lab coats and administer tests to people drinking booze in the morning. She will leave the lab and squint into the morning sun and arrive at work just in time for the football kiddos with just enough of a buzz to deal with their whining.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Anger Rolls

We don't have internet at home. I am a poacher once again. I felt momentarily vindicated in my poaching when I discovered that some girl in my building was taking advantage of our open Wi-Fi signal.

I had completely forgotten that we had opened it when I got my new laptop and never reset the password. Anyway, one evening I opened my door and tripped over her, leaning against our door jamb with her computer. I told her she was welcomed to use the internet, that I was a poacher myself. I told her we were moving and that the gift would not be around forever, though.

We cancelled our Comcast account after Corey talked to the FIOS people. They were supposed to come install the wondrous internet yesterday. They offered a lovely service window of 8:00AM through 5:00PM, so Corey had to miss an entire day of work.

ONLY THEY NEVER SHOWED UP! They just didn't come to our house. So now we have no internet and I am standing by a hot dog cart in Oakland waiting for my bus and stealing internet from a bank. I want them to give us free things. Here we left another provider for them, missed a whole day of work, and were willing to hop on board a new idea. And they treated us like garbage. Such inconsideration.

The earliest they can come again is next Friday. As in July 27. Thankfully, I will have Harry Potter 7 to occupy me next week, but that still means I am stuck at home without access to and my precious email.

I bite my thumb at the FIOS people. I bite my thumb heartily at them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I know teachers aren't supposed to have favorites, but I can't help it. There is a little guy in my class (I shall call him Robert) who I want to kidnap and keep and raise on my own. He is just so darn smart! I love every thing about him.

Today, we rewrote fairy tales from a new perspective and Robert retold Rumplstiltskin from Rumple's perspective. He wrote the following sentence: My great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Rumplestiltskin V, saved the magical economy when the Fairyland bank burned down.

Later, during free write, he composed a story about Anabel Rodriguez, who was working to supplement her family's income at a Taco Bell in Jaurez, Mexico. How does he know details about Juarez, Mexico? Who told him the economy exists? I didn't know there was an economy when I was 11.

During snack, he drinks juice boxes two at a time, putting both straws in his mouth. He had four of them today.

Yesterday, I took the kids to the carosel to write and we finagled free rides for everyone. He hopped aboard a dolphin and not only buckled the safety belt, but tightened the straps to secure him onto the ride. He is unapologetically dorky, and I love every ounce of his brilliant self.

Plus, Robert wears dorky man shirts and man sandals with dorky messy hair. I'm afraid I won't ever produce a child as wonderful as him and I'll have to live forever knowing I could have easily stolen the world's best kid.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Yesterday, my students gave me gifts all day. I'm doing the Young Writers Institute this summer again and I have 11 year-olds this year. You would think that means they aren't deep and can't write anything stunning, but that would be wrong. These kiddos are so profound! They write realistic fiction and period pieces and poems that shake my soul. Each time they run up to me with their journals, I feel like it's Christmas when I get to read their work.

Yesterday morning, one of my littlest ones, a wee little girl shorter than me, told me she noticed that I liked shoes. She is very perceptive! I have worn a different pair of Old Navy flip flops each day for the past 2 weeks. Anyway, she built me a necklace from a piece of gold elastic and a plastic pair of bedroom slippers. I don't want to ever take it off.

In the afternoon, I climbed up the hill to work with the athletes. I had a long appointment with the anxious kid, the one who used to carry his own stapler with him until I made fun of him. We worked through a long essay about the power of language. He shared intense stories about how language controls him, how the hateful brutality from some of his coaches shakes his bones. It was a tough essay and I was so proud of him for writing it. When he was done, he pulled up a bunch of files and showed me videos of bears he's hunted and fish he's caught.

I feel so amazing when they share with me, when they trust me so much they let me see their private fears and then want me to see their joys, too. I can't describe how electrifying it is to have such an effect on another person. It's an intensely intimate space. I'm so thankful I get to inhabit it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Day on My New Street

At 4am, the newspaper is delivered. When Corey's alarm clock went off for the triathalon, we lay there for awhile listening as the "THWACK" sounds retorted into the distance. They are delivered by car, not by small children on bicycles.

When the sun comes up, it shines directly into our bedroom windows. We anticipated this, and our cellular honeycomb shades are just right for sun blockage. The entire front of the house is in direct sunlight until after 3 PM. We have impatiens on the front porch, but they don't seem to like the sun as much as the small pot of sunflowers.

Three children who live two doors down ride bicycles and roller skates up and down the sidewalk all day. They squeal with delight all the time. Corey wants to oil their chains and show them better technique. On the porch, he sits on his hands to stop himself from diving into their gears.

In the evening, the little lady across the street walks exactly one hundred footsteps, turns around, and comes back. Again, and again, and again. She clutches her back the entire time. Last night, she caught me counting her steps. I couldn't say hello to her because I didn't want to lose my place.

The ice cream man comes and plays "It's a Gift to Be Simple." GW tries to contain himself and doesn't purchase a chocolate taco. Instead, everyone eats ice pops and popsicles, the only acceptable things the former owners left behind.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I went to see Harry Potter last night. That wasn't even the exciting part. For months, Freya has been hyping the VIP seats she secures at Lowes for functions like HP movies. But I didn't press her for enough information, clearly. Let me paint a picture of the glorious experience of sitting in the VIP seats:

I sink luxuriously into the red leather arm chair and recline to just the right angle. My feet don't quite reach the floor, but that's ok because the chair is wide enough for me to sit cross-legged. In each cup holder, carved into the shiny wood arm rests, I have a pint of Blue Moon with an orange wedge foaming in the bottom. On my lap balances a tray of summer berries soaked in melting sorbet.

Movies, beer, and dessert. I felt like I would die of sloth as I pigged out on the contraband chocolates I sneaked in via my purse. I had enough room in my chair that I could curl up in a ball and unbutton my pants, just like at home!

Have you ever enjoyed a movie like that? In a theater? I strongly feel that I can never return to the common section ever again. I was tempted to tip my sorbet platter over the balcony so it would splash all over the heads of the little people down below, just to remind them that they weren't worthy. I am a Very Indulgent Person.

I would have to say that the only negative aspect of the entire experience was the movie-length:amount-of-beer-I-drank ratio. I just had to pee and, in my frenzy to not miss any of the film, ran as fast as I could to and from the bathroom. Unfortunately, on the return trip I wiped out on the stairs up to paradise and banged my knee. Luckily nobody noticed because they were engrossed in the Christmas scene at #12 Grimmauld Place, which I missed rolling around in pain on the sticky theater floor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For some reason I am unable to type in the Title portion of this blog. If I were, this post would be entitled THE HEAT!!!! I can't deal with it. It's making me sweaty and gross.

Last night, when I was painting the dining room, a big globule of sweat from my friend's face landed on my arm. I wanted to vomit, but was fearful I would then splash my own sweat on myself as I moved my head.

Today I coped with the humidity with frozen things. I left the football players unattended to go get ice cream. I just needed it. Then, when I was waiting for the bus in the baking sun, Rita's was giving away free Italian Ice. I took one, then I did my hair differently and took another one as if I were a different customer.

Now I am having an ice pop. I have consumed nothing but sugar all day, but I think I need it. It never ceases to amaze me how much the air can literally feel solid when the oppressive humidity smooshes itself around my body.

Please let it rain soon.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in this world. This is Harry:

He is the first kind of person, the kind of person who would come to our house early in the morning and work until late into the night to help us. Harry is a contractor and he caulked windows and pulled up floor boards and sawed wood and gave advice. This is GW:

He is also the first kind of person, who would spend numerous days helping us from dawn until dusk and offer to trade his welding labor to Harry so Harry could keep helping us.

Our new neighbors are also the first kind of person. They lent us their heat gun and mulched our bushes for us just because they looked like they needed some mulch.

These are all good and selfless people, who are kind to us and do positive things for humanity. These are the sorts of people I strive to be like and would wish my children would become.

I think the previous home owners were the second kind of person, people who left toenails in the air vents and mended their floorboards with fence posts. (Harry discovered the fence posts last night.) Under the fence posts were green plastic letters and other kid stuff. Pretty normal, first-kind-of-person sort of thing. They also left us something special:

Definite second kinds of people. People who rush through repair jobs and don't take care of their things. People who leave medical waste in our home. Not the salt of the earth, but perhaps the chicory.

Friday, July 06, 2007


It's time for me to unveil a fabulous wedding gift. My brother-in-law has built me a website. My very own, to display my very important and grown up writing projects. This is a great time for me to unveil this gift, because I just had an exciting thing happen.

I was rambling on and on about my one true love (rugby) to a magazine editor last January. I left there kicking myself, because I always talk about rugby too much. But I shouldn't have worried! I got a great assignment and there is now a 4-page, center spread article about the Pittsburgh Angels in the inaugural issue of Pittsburgh Professional Magazine. (Be patient, it's a big file!)

My last great unveiling comes in the form of another link. My mom sent me this very interesting story, which covers two topics I find very fascinating: Title IX and sports journalists. The story gave me much food for thought today, and heightened my reserve to be the best sports journalist in the entire world, covering women's sports at their finest from now until I die. Move over, Steve Rushkin. Katy is taking charge.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Frustration Mounts

Things are not going according to my grand master plan at the house. It turns out old houses are a lot more work than anything else, especially when they have been shoddily maintained and any repair work has been done very poorly. Our plaster walls mean we have a lifetime of crack chasing ahead. The sloppy work of the previous owners means we have three weeks (at least) of ripping out badly repaired cracks and re-plastering. Corey has learned to wield drywall joint tape and a spackle knife with ease.

He sits in a bag chair against the walls like Bob Ross, putting cute little trees here and there along the seascapes of plaster patch on the six-inch metal tool on his lap. Mostly I am miserable.

My hands ache from scraping off poorly applied paint, my shoulders scream at me from scrubbing the floors by hand. The previous owners' last name has become the ultimate blaspheme in our house and the question of the month is: if you are going to do something so poorly, why do it at all?

Really, why repair a crack in the wall if you are going to then not scrape smooth the plaster. The lumpy mess of stalactites they left all over the walls surely look worse than a little hairline crack might have done.

At any rate, we are just about to a place where I can prime the bedroom before we move on to the other rooms. One step at a time and we should be able to live there in about three weeks. Corey's contractor friend has convinced us to do something which makes us feel excited:

We are going to save up lots of money and then, in about five years, we are going to rip all the plaster off all the walls and put up insulation and drywall. We'll have smooth walls with no cracks and a lower energy bill. Until then, crack master Corey will spackle and I will use the power sander. Every day of our lives.