Monday, April 14, 2014

A new path

I've been spending a lot of time on my feet lately - some of it on this very trail. Though I've lived here for a decade, I just discovered this path. It's a winding 1.25 mile walk around a neighborhood farm that loops up a big hill, and then back down. It's just steps from a main road, but the second you step onto the mulch trail flanked by trees of all shapes and sizes, the noise of the cars fades away, making way for the chirping of birds, scattering of squirrels and the swoosh of a gentle breeze. Quieting the noise in my own head, this is a place to think about where I have come from and the new path ahead of me.

One step at a time.

I like where I am taking me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A day in the city

I'm a suburban girl. I like parking lots and malls. And highways and open fields. But sometimes, I crave some city time. And at those times, I consider myself really fortunate to live in a city that's full of really wonderful neighborhoods with hidden gems. I'm talking about Pittsburgh, people. Don't wrinkle up your nose or give me that face. This isn't the smoky, smoggy Pittsburgh of steel days past. This is Pittsburgh, an accessible, safe, modern and kind of hipster-ish town that has come into its own in the past decade. The city boasts great views, lots of art and culture, a fantastic food scene, and even some pretty awesome sports teams.

So recently, my daughter and I embarked on a day of adventure in the city. We started by climbing the walls. Literally.

In a large warehouse-like building, we found a place lined with rock walls where you can pay to spend the day climbing to your heart's content. As beginners, we could only climb in the "boulder" room - the more serious climbers attached to ropes were in a separate room. But for us, just getting a foot or two off the floor was a challenge in itself. Younger and much more agile, my daughter was able to get herself up a few walls. Me? Well, let's just say I tried. And the few times I did manage to get on the wall, I was frightened back down at the thought of being so high. Still, my arms and legs ached the following day, so I must have been doing something right.

After, we stopped at an oldtime ice cream shop in the city's Strip District that has marble counters, tin ceilings, wooden booths and even a fully stocked candy counter. My daughter went all in, ordering a large sundae, while I took a chance on a coconut chai tea popsicle which, according to the label, was made at a local urban organic farm. Flecked with herbs that tasted like they had just been picked, it was incredibly light and refreshing. And worth the few dollars it cost. 

It was the perfect sweet ending for our little daylong trek into the city, which took us through neighborhoods we had never seen and down streets we didn't know existed. After a quick lunch, we drove back down the familiar streets to our suburban home, excited about the day we had. And dreaming of new ideas for new adventures.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just a little something...

I was waiting for a bus to take me downtown today when I saw the oddest nicest thing. The bus driver stopped the bus and got out - leaving it running - while she walked a blind man across the street. As she waited to cross back across the busy street and to her awaiting bus full of passengers, she said to me and a few others waiting to get on, "Sorry about that. No one was helping him cross. I had to help him cross. Sorry." She was apologizing for us having to wait to get on the bus. No apology needed, I thought. You did good. Real good.

I love these kinds of little moments in life. Taken alone, they aren't much. A simple gesture. A kind word. A common courtesy. But when you add up all the little moments, you get something bigger. And it's nice to know that something exists out there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Motivation Monday

I know it's Wednesday. But motivation Wednesday doesn't have the same kind of alliteration, so let's just pretend.

You might remember last year when I taped a little note on my bedroom mirror that said "just ten minutes." It was an idea I got from a book and a simple way to ease my way back into my faith. It was a gentle reminder to pray ten minutes a day, and it worked fairly well. So, with inspiration from that, I took the idea to a grander scale this year. I made myself a motivation board out of a large poster board that I bought at the dollar store. In each of the four corners, I labeled the areas in my life that I wanted to work on: health, finances, faith and relationships. Then I got out a pair of scissors and a magazine, and started cutting. I cut out pictures I liked of fruits and vegetables or organized closets and phrases that spoke to me about "not giving up." They were all things I could paste on the four areas of my motivation board, which I propped on my bedroom dresser, obstructing part of my mirror and impossible to ignore.

If this sounds like a complicated project to you, let me cut to the chase. The concept is just as simple as taping a note to your bedroom mirror or tying a string around your finger. It's a gentle reminder to keep you focused on a goal, whether that be to eat healthier, lose weight, go to church or, in my case, all of the above. So every day when I wake up, whether I consciously think about it or not, my eyes glance at the pictures of fresh oranges and strawberries, and the words "keep the faith" and "save money."

Inevitably, though, there are two tiny words cut out in one corner that tug at my attention the most.

"Letting go."

Two tiny words, written in black ink, cut from the page of a magazine about who knows what. I pasted the words in the corner labeled relationships because that's where I thought it most appropriate. That's where I thought I had to do the most letting go. But I'm beginning to realize that it goes beyond that. To really do the things I want to do - get healthier or richer, more spiritual or more organized - I really need to let go of all the things that have been holding me back. Those "things" are feelings that I can't do it. They are fear, self doubt, and insecurity. They are ghosts from my past, bringing up bad memories and sadness. But they are things that I am totally in control of. I can let them stop me, or I can simply...

let go.

I know which one I am choosing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Random N'at

If you aren't from Pittsburgh or have never lived in the Steel City, you are probably looking at the "word" n'at and wondering what they heck I'm trying to say. In Pittsburghese, it literally means "and that" but it connotes a lot more than that and can be used in lots of situations. It's like saying "the rest of something" or "all that other stuff." In this case, my other stuff is a lot of catching up I need to do in blogland. I've been missing for ... well ... the entire month of February. You know February - that awful, polar vortex-sucking black hole that seemed like it would never end. Well, it has ended. And this weekend, the sun was shining and the temperature was rising. It was almost, dare I say, Spring. If I could sum up how I'm feeling right now in a picture, this is probably what it would look like:

Happy. And goofy.
So here's a bunch of random stuff for you and me so we can kind of catch up on the last few months.

_Unfortunately, last month we experienced another one of those moments when you wonder why bad things happen to good people. A dad in our community was killed in a freak car accident and the shock reverberated for days. We didn't know him. Perhaps we had seen him a time or two at our daughter's dance recitals. But by all accounts, he was a great dad and husband, a loving son and friend. It all makes you wonder sometimes. It also is another reminder that you need to love and live each day to the fullest. That's the only and best lesson I can take away from awful things.

_I went to church. And miraculously, I wasn't struck by lightning or hell didn't freeze over. At least, I don't think it did. I've been meaning to go for a while now and just simply kept forgetting. So when I happened to drive by the church this weekend and wondered aloud when Mass was, I realized it was starting in a half hour - just enough time for me to unload my groceries at home and turn around and make it there in time. So I did. And some of the words had changed, but most things were familiar and comforting. Most things in life you can't get back - things like your childhood, or missed opportunities that you passed along the road of life. But the experience of faith is one thing that you can't ever lose. That's nice to know.

_Like my new kicks?

I bought them last weekend. And see that surface? That's an actual track at our local high school. I walked on it this week. Around and around and around and around. I even climbed some stairs. I started the journey again - the one to get healthy. And I kind of feel like I can actually do it this time. Maybe it's the sunshine and the promise of Spring. I don't know. But whatever it is, I like how it feels so I'm going to keep doing it.

_There was a lot more randomness in the last few months, like seeing Billy Joel and Valentine's Day. And oh yeah, there was even this little trip. I almost forgot.

And see those people in that picture? Totally random.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hi, I'm a shopaholic

My teenage daughter's favorite activity lately is hanging out at the mall with her friends. She'll spend hours there on the weekends and come home with an assortment of multicolored shopping bags. Oh, and she'll usually be carrying some kind of beverage from Starbucks, too. Or as we call it - Starget. Or Tarbucks. (It's located in the Target store...) At home, she'll show me all the goodies she got, one at a time. It usually consists of fruity smelling lotions, candles (which I don't let her burn in her room), costume jewelry or the occasional shirt or pair of jeans. Once there was even a bra (gasp). 

I gotta tell ya - my girl can shop! And she's actually a smart shopper. She rarely buys something if it's not on sale. And she's always got a purse brimming with coupons. She loves to cut coupons and loves a bargain. I'll never forget when she bought a fancy strapless dress for a school Valentine's dance at Macy's. It was marked down to about $8 and she couldn't have been more proud of her deal. 

It all makes me wonder where she gets it from. I mean, I think I've created a teenage shopaholic! And now that I think about it, I'm fairly certain she gets it .... from me. 

Take yesterday. I bought an $80 table. For $9. I seriously can't tell you how happy that made me.  I had bought an identical one just days before on sale for $44 using a gift card I got for Christmas. I combined the balance from that card with a few coupons I got a few days later to buy a matching one to make a set. Then I saw this same exact table on a supposedly bargain furniture website for $90.

My $9 bargain

I have a hard time passing up a really good deal. I bought a gorgeous white tweed jacket once because it was on sale for $12. I have yet to wear it, though. Ummm, it doesn't fit me. But for $12? Really? I couldn't say no. Maybe one day I'll squeeze into it. 

So maybe the jacket isn't the best example I can give of a smart buy. But at least I tried. And I suppose there are worse things I could be teaching my daughter, like spending money you don't have on expensive and extravagant things you don't need. So yes, I am admitting I'm a shopaholic. A frugal one, but a shopaholic nonetheless. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Chair

My kids have been at each other's throats lately. Sometimes literally. It all starts out pleasant enough. They'll be kicking a soccer ball around the family room, or playing hockey with mini sticks, or decorating cupcakes together. Then it happens. Someone makes a soccer goal and jumps up and down with a little too much excitement. Or someone decides they are tired of playing hockey and walks away. Or someone takes the sprinkles the other wanted to use. In an instant, they are fighting. Maybe one (the younger one usually) is yelling and crying, while the other (the older one usually) is laughing and prolonging the situation. In the middle is one frazzled mom who tries sternly laying down the law and is ignored repeatedly while the tenor of my voice rises and rises and rises until I'm full-blown yelling. God help the poor neighbors that are on a pleasant evening walk and happen to be crossing in front of our house when we reach this critical stage. I can only imagine what they can hear through the 80-year-old walls of my house. I must sound like a lunatic. And honestly, that's sometimes how I feel.

The latest mommy meltdown occurred last night after the newest addition to our home showed up. No, it's not a living thing like a cat or a dog, but a brown leather recliner that I had ordered weeks ago.  The night before the chair's delivery my husband kept remarking about how happy I was. "If I'd have known all it took was new furniture..." he joked a few times, noting my excitement. I wasn't home when it arrived so I had my husband text me a picture, just so I knew it was really real. And there it was, in all its sweet La-Z-Boy reclining beauty.

Who needs pants on when I have this sweet recliner?

My son was the first to sit in it, a fact that my daughter decried after dinner last night when we all went into the family room and my son plopped down in the center of all that luscious new leather. She hadn't sat in it yet - and it was her turn, she said. But he had gotten there first, he said. For those of you who don't have children, now would be a good time to reach back into the recesses of your memory and remember what "taking turns" and "being first" meant as a kid. They were a big deal, whether we're talking about  playing a game, or riding on a new toy, or getting on an amusement park ride - throwing around the terms "taking turns" and "being first" in kid parlance can be pretty serious stuff. In fact, them's fightin' words. And that's just what happened. The two of them barked at each other back and forth over whose rear should be nestled on the new chair, and I was where I always was in these situations: right smack in the middle trying to get it to stop. And trying. And trying. And then yelling. And then it stopped.

It was exhausting.

And one thing is certain. It will happen again. And probably again after that. And after that, too. And just as certainly, they'll also keep playing soccer and hockey together, and baking cupcakes and cookies, too. I guess it's all a part of growing up for them, and growing old for me. I'd like to think all the refereeing I do is preparing me for something - maybe a new job or new responsibilities. Sainthood, maybe? But really, I've got to find some lesson in it to make it all feel worthwhile.

Like maybe the next time I order new furniture I should prepare a schedule of who sits in it when.