Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wicked good bloggers.

The problem with being a print reporter is you are literally confined by and to the page. The news hole, as it is so unceremoniously called, is how much space you have to write around ads. Fewer ads, smaller news hole. Larger ads, smaller news hole (paradoxically).
I have come to accept this in 15 years of journalism, however, when a recent story I wrote on philanthropy and bloggers was trimmed, it bugged me more than usual, because some bloggers worthy of attention and kudos didn't make the final edit.
BurghBaby raised $3,000 for toys for underprivileged kids with her Christmas Crazy. She just asked, and her readers obliged. Ginny Montanez, at That'sChurch raised more than $10,000 for a game room at Children's Hospital. Because she wanted to. ThePgha gathered 500 pounds of food for a Pittsburgh food pantry. Because she decided if Twestival could use Twitter for a common charitable goal, she could too.
I'm just in awe of these people, and anyone who thinks social media is made up of a bunch of narcissists is so wrong, I don't know where to start.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Letting go of date night

I am sure I'm not the only working mother who's aware of the constant drumbeat of criticism disguised as advice for working parents that appears in such august publications as the New York Times. (In fact, the NYT is responsible for a good chunk of the "out-of touch-with-reality-Upper-East-Side" style of journalism I'm talking about). The stories range from women who "opt out" of careers in favor of staying home with children to a recent gem about how yelling at your kids scars them for life.

The general message of these stories to working parents is: You're doing it wrong. And as a working parent, I'm always annoyed with myself after reading the latest installment of Guilt Trip, but I read these articles every time.

The latest Must for Every Marriage proclamation is the idea of Date Night. You have to find time for each other! Get a sitter and go out etc etc. If you don't, you're not valuing your marriage and you may as well just get divorced now.

For awhile, I bent over backwards to try to arrange dates with my husband. Eleven years in, I figured the 5-year-old could be left with the grandparents for an evening now and again. It proved a mostly frustrating ordeal; they were never quite the idealized romantic evenings I envisioned, since we were looking at the clock constantly, and trying to cram a week's worth (or longer) of conversations we never got around to into a three-hour span. And we usually ended up talking about the kid at least half the time anyway.

I was SO GLAD, then, to read this author's excellent piece in the Boston Globe on how hard it is for him and his wife to arrange a date night. I realized that we're already altering date night to fit our schedules: when my husband had an unexpected day off from work recently he scheduled the whole day around meeting me for lunch.

We had such a nice time, much nicer, even, than the few date nights we'd managed to cobble together. I didn't realize how much I missed just enjoying his company over a meal someone else had prepared (and would clean up) without having to make sure all water glasses were centrally situated on the table to avoid spills.

So I'm officially ending my efforts to arrange date "nights." I think we'll figure it out-- after all, as the Globe writer puts it, that's what vacation days are for.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Feel scared, feel embarrassed, but feel your boobies

So I wasn't sure whether or not it was a lump.

It's just hard to tell. But it was bothering me and not going away. I went to the midwives, who take the best care of even non-pregnant women such as myself.

"It's movable," she said, after examining the -- lump? Cyst? Other random thing? -- in Lefty (Yes, they have names.) Movable lumps are apparently better than non-movable ones, that is, not usually indicative of cancer.

"But let's get it checked out just in case," she said. Wrote me a script for the Breast Care Center. Which is housed in the Cancer Center, I learned when I made my appointment. Not exactly a confidence-booster, that. It really made me screech to a halt and realize:

"This lump could be breast cancer."

I waited a very long week and a half, then went in for both a mammogram and an ultrasound today. I had forced myself not to think about it until I was in the waiting room and then I saw a very ill-looking woman with thinning hair sitting across from me, and felt a small wave of panic.

It really could be cancer. I started thinking about my husband, my kids, my sisters and tried to focus on the TV, which was blaring what I thought was Young and the Restless but turned out to be As the World Turns. Someone was waking up from a coma. Good. Distracting.

Then the nurse called me in. First up: Mammogram. It's unpleasant. Like an apple press, only with your boobs shoved in there and smushed. From every conceivable direction. I started to cry not because it hurt but because there was no going back now; I couldn't put off and ignore it anymore because now machines and tests and other people were involved.

Then, not knowing the results of the mammogram, I was ushered into another waiting area. This is the part of the story that gets a little surreal.

The TV in this waiting area had on the awful afternoon installment of the Today Show, with Kathie Lee Gifford. I joined it just in time for their segment on Life After Breast Cancer: How to wear a bra after a mastectomy. Exercises for after a mastectomy. Nutrition to prevent breast cancer. Oh, did we mention October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Oh and also, one in 9 women will get breast cancer.

After about a thousand years, or so it seemed, they brought me in for the ultrasound. The tech spread the gel on me and moved the wand around. For about a year. Then:

"I don't see anything."

Whatever was bothering me is apparently a normal part of my left breast, and isn't showing up as anything bad on either the mammogram or the ultrasound.

The whole day was pretty scary. And it's embarrassing to be topless for that long in front of total strangers, even if they are nurses. But now, I know. I was braced for the worst, and still sort of can't believe I got a clean bill of health.

I know I'm lucky. I know there are a lot of women who won't get this kind of good news after their mammograms. I wish I had some sage advice or thoughtful perspective to offer. Just feel your boobies. Get a mammogram. Rule it out so you don't have to think about it. Or, catch it early. Anything. Just don't ignore it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The "Why" of your blog

I went to PodCamp Pittsburgh two weekends ago, and sat in on an excellent session by Michelle, the talented writer behind The BurghBaby, an excellent blog. I was excited to meet her and even more impressed after she was done speaking.

The essence of blogging, she says, is to know the "why" of your blog.

That seems so simple, but it had eluded me to that point. It's important to know why you're blogging, otherwise you'll be all over the place and unfocused and what's the point of that?

Simply put, I want to write about things that interest and/or bother me. Whether anyone wants to read that, I have no idea.

I'm hoping the list of things that bother me isn't longer than the list of things that interest me. Because bitching all the time isn't really interesting either, even if it's done in a clever way.

So I'll probably be writing a lot about being a working mother. I am one, and there is no end to the things within that spectrum that both interest me and bother me. Mommy blogging isn't for everyone, but I think that's where I'm headed anyway, so why fight it?

There. Glad I got that off my chest. And special thanks to Michelle for helping point me in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

if there's anything cuter than feetie pajamas...

... it's feetie pajamas with dinosaurs on them

Monday, October 12, 2009

reaching new heights...

I have noticed that my kid is getting tall enough to reach things he couldn't reach a month ago, which has forced me to reorganize some countertops, but has also confirmed: he's going to take after me and be tall.
But, he's a boy.
I'll just say it without a qualifier: it's easier for boys who are tall than for girls. Yes! I know. Gender bias. And I'm not saying it's smooth sailing for guys who have to duck through doorways and can't fit behind steering wheels. Ask my new PodCamp buddy over at The Size of Life.
Being tall is not easy; clothes, cars, airplane and bus seats, bicycles, ceilings, doorways, full-length (ha!) mirrors, beds, and showerhead heights are all challenges at one point or another... see, these are all the things you people under 5' 11" don't think about.
But speaking from personal experience, I think it's a whole lot tougher for girls than guys. I've been six feet tall since like, age 16, and let me tell you how popular I wasn't in high school. I was taller than all the boys, and some of the teachers. I was all knees and elbows and incredibly awkward, or so I thought. Nothing fit right.
Of course, there may have been other factors working against me in the popularity hell of high school, but I was convinced it was my height. The nasty kids who make fun of everyone in high school took the obvious easy target, and I was ripe for the pickin'.
So I slouched to look shorter. And wore shoes that were too small but weren't available in my (giant) size. I even shaved a few inches off when people asked how tall I was.
I wasn't fooling anyone and was just building resentment over something that ultimately, I couldn't control. There are upsides, after all: you can always reach that top shelf, you never get lost in a crowd because you can usually see over them, and it's a really easy conversation starter. PLUS, the taller candidate apparently has won 10 of the last 12 presidential elections.
So yeah, it kinda sucks being tall, and it looks like my little guy is about to join the club. But at least he'll have me to instruct him on the necessities of the aisle seat. Really. It's a must.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

His mother must be proud...

My 5-year-old loves hockey. More specifically, he loves the Pittsburgh Penguins. And to narrow it down even further: He loves No. 87, Sidney Crosby.

We watched the Penguins' home opener last night, and saw the Stanley Cup ("Mom, look how shiny it is!") get hit with the spotlight at Mellon Arena, and the championship banner raised at center ice. We clapped and he was as excited as if I had given him ice cream for dinner (ONE TIME when he was sick, ok?)

During the ceremony the camera caught Crosby looking up at the banner as it ascended into the rafters. He looked so young, but at the same time, respectful; he knows what a huge, big, giant deal it is to win Lord Stanley's Cup.

It got me thinking how glad I was that my little guy had picked someone who, for all intents and purposes, seems like a great role model. I'm not usually one to pick sports figures as role models (because most of them suck at it), but then remembered this video of a 14-year-old Crosby. He talks with absolute glee about how he can't imagine how great it would be "getting paid to do something you love to do." (3:11 in the video).

It doesn't seem to me that Crosby has changed all that much since then. A reporter asked him during the last playoff season how he felt about the fans in Philadelphia yelling "Crosby Sucks" whenever he took the ice. "I don't love it," he admitted, ruefully. That's about as strong a criticism I've ever heard him give of another team or another player.

And after the win last night, there was a really nice, typically Crosby moment. A reporter noted that both Crosby's grandmothers were in attendance and got to watch him score a goal (ha ha, bite it, Rangers). "Do they still give you a dollar for every goal you score?" the reporter asked in an on-ice interview. Crosby smiled, "no, they stopped doing that a long time ago."

How do you not love this guy (be quiet Flyers fans, nobody cares what you think).

So as the Penguins start their final season at Mellon Arena, Dominic and I will be watching (sometimes covering his eyes when the boys get wound up, as it were) a player who loves the game so much it's contagious, even to a small fry as little as 5.

Friday, September 25, 2009

must have been the anti-pancake protesters

One, I am so glad the G-20 is over, because even though it was fun to be in the field reporting again, it was exhausting to be in the field reporting again.

Also, I cannot remember how to spell protester to save my life.

Which brings me to my next point: Protesters.

I think probably the moron(s) who smashed this window Thursday in the midst of a G-20 protest that got out of hand were probably drunken Pitt students, rather than political protesters. I'm not sure which one is worse: The drunken idiot who mindlessly wrecks things, or the political protester who deliberately wrecks things. Either way, stuff gets wrecked.

Pamela's is a neighborhood staple, has fed Pittsburghers for decades and deserves better treatment than this, be it from protesters or idiot drunks.

I'm all for protest and freedom of expression and questioning authority. But when innocent bystanders get caught up in what just boils down to vandalism, what statement have you really made?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Really, he's only 5.

"Mom, this haircut makes me look like Barack Obama." (he's as caucasian as me, btw)

"I don't think I need to go to kindergarten, I think I know everything they're going to tell me."

Him: "I don't want to eat anything that has a skin." Me: "What about bananas?" Him: "Bananas don't have a skin, they have a peel."

"My grandparents are more fun than my regular parents."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You kids get off my lawn

I commute by public transportation which, despite the length of time it takes to get from the East End of the city to the South Side, I sort of love. It gives me down time which I normally get very little of, what with the job and husband and kids and parents.
Part of my commute takes me through Oakland, where 99 percent of the colleges in this city are. I have come to the realization that there is no creature on Earth more irritating than a college girl on a cell phone. And being trapped on a bus with them: brain-numbing. No, seriously. Everything? Is a question? Because they all do that uptalking thing? Then amplify that with the appropriate level of cell yell. Even with the loudest Soul Coughing song on my iPod I cannot drown out the inane conversations. Mostly having to do with how hammered they got at that party? With the guy? At that place? OH MY GOD BE QUIET.
I think I may start talking to myself just so none of them sit near me EVER AGAIN.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tweeter, meet NY Times ...

So I had a weird, surreal day, covering the AFL CIO convention at (fittingly enough) the Convention Center. Pretty much any chance I have to see President Obama, I'll take. I admit it. Love him or hate him, he's fascinating and an exciting public speaker.

I am happy to report no one shouted "You lie," at the president today, in fact one lady yelled "I LOVE YOU BARACK." Awesomely, he replied, "I love you too, sister." That's what union people call each other, brother and sister. It was a huge hit with the union crowd.

And, it was also the first time I've ever been close enough to Arlen Specter to touch him (no, I did not). He's just as crusty in person, but seemed smaller, somehow.

ANYhoodle, the surreal part of the day was the conversation I semi-participated in with a New York Times reporter and a Pittsburgh twitterer. One of the oldest of the old media and the most embryonic new media conversing. It was... nice. The NY Times reporter was pretty decent to the twitter guy, which I sort of didn't expect. And, he didn't make any disparaging comments after the twitter guy left (which I thought he might), and actually did look up his site.

It was also the first time I've ever said to someone upon meeting them, "Hey, I follow you on Twitter!" Pretty sure it won't be the last time.

I dunno, the whole thing left me feeling better about the state of media in general; maybe we can all learn to get along...