Is Your Pussyhat Keeping Someone Warm?

Photo by Joeff Davis from Pittsburgh City Paper.  Click photo to read the article

Photo by Joeff Davis from Pittsburgh City Paper. Click photo to read the article “Pittsburghers pledge to continue fighting after women’s march.”

In photographs of last Saturday’s women’s marches in Washington, D.C., and around the United States, many pink hats are visible, most of them with ears, indicating solidarity with the Pussyhat Project that was so popular it caused shortages of pink yarn in some parts of the country.  It’s obvious that many thousands of pink pussyhats now exist.

Why haven’t I seen any of them this week?

I live in the East End of Pittsburgh.  This is a very liberal area where support for equal rights is seen as a good thing by the general public; it’s highly unlikely that someone would be harassed for wearing a feminist symbol in public around here.

The weather has been warm for January but damp.  I do see people wearing knitted hats.  I haven’t yet seen a pink hat with ears, not even one.  Where did they all go?

If you have a pussyhat, wear it as your warm hat for the rest of the winter!  Let it remind you and everyone else that this protest was not just a one-day thing but that we need to stand up for equal rights for everybody every day!

If you have a pussyhat that you are not going to wear again, for whatever reason–please give it to someone who needs a warm hat or to an organization like a homeless shelter that will put that hat on a cold head.  A warm hat can keep a person alive on a cold night.

Don’t let that knitting go to waste!  Share the warmth and keep America great!

My Father Taught Me How to Be a Working Mother

When I was born, my mother quit her paying job so she could be home with me.  She did not take another job until I was almost twelve years old.

I resumed working outside the home when each of my children was twelve weeks old.  After Nicholas was born, I went back part-time and later gradually increased my working hours until I was back to 40 hours a week when he was four years old.  After Lydia was born (when Nicholas was nine years old), I returned to my job full-time.  It isn’t easy!  Forty hours, plus commuting time, is a long time to be away from home even when you’re only taking care of yourself; when you have young children, it’s a time-management struggle as well as an emotional struggle over being apart from the kids so much.  My mother–who’s been a great role model to me for things like breastfeeding, intelligent discipline, and making healthy food–was not much help as I figured out how to balance parenthood with employment.  It’s my father whose example has really helped me understand what’s important and where to cut myself some slack.

Oddly enough, it was an insensitive comment my father made that led me to realize his value as a role model for me. Read more of this post

The Barb Curlee Memorial Bookmark

Barb Curlee was my friend.  She died last year, of cancer, after fewer years than she deserved.  Barb and I met at church, where we eventually served on the vestry together during three difficult years when the vestry had a lot to do!  Barb was wise and strong and mostly cheerful through it all.  Barb also coordinated our church’s coffee hours and many special meals for nine long years, until she was very sick.  That’s my job now, and remembering Barb helps me keep my determination to keep things going so that we all eat well.

Barb’s memorial service included happy reminiscences from her siblings, and I think they’re the people who produced this lovely keepsake.  I never before attended a funeral that had anything to take home other than a leaflet with a little information about the departed.  It turns out that a bookmark with photos is a perfect thing to take home!

Barb in the oceanI’ve been using this bookmark, and that means that every time I open my book, I remember Barb and think about her for a moment.  It keeps her memory alive.

I really like this picture, and I appreciate that they put the date on it, because it reminds me that Barb had some good times as well as some really awful times in her last months.  Although she had to do a lot of boring responsible stuff, getting her affairs in order and arranging for her sister to take custody of her 14-year-old daughter, Barb also made time for one last vacation.  It’s wonderful to have this reminder that she got to walk in the waves and enjoy a lollipop!

The bookmark also reminds me to pray for Barb’s daughter, Evie.  She’s a great kid, and I’m sure her aunt is doing a fine job of parenting her, but it’s got to be hard losing your single parent to a devastating disease.  Evie moved to the suburbs with her aunt and isn’t coming to our church anymore.  We miss her!  I hope she’s okay.  I hope she still can feel her mom’s love.

Barb and Evie
Yes, my bookmark is showing signs of wear.  But it only works because I’m using it.  If I put it away in a drawer, I wouldn’t think of Barb nearly so often as I do.

A memorial bookmark might sound like a silly idea, but it really works for me!  If you’ve lost a loved one, please consider this easy, affordable way to help people remember her fondly.

Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more budget-friendly ideas!

My Favorite Love Song

I’m not very romantic. A lot of the gooey sentiments expressed around Valentine’s Day send me into fits of critical thinking. I’m kind of like this. But I am in love with Daniel, and have been for almost 20 years, and sometimes get kind of sentimental about it.

In particular, I can get all choked up thinking about the years when I truly believed it was unlikely that I would ever find someone I really loved and liked and felt really well matched with, who would feel the same way about me–because I thought I was too weird, too smart, too interested in unpopular things and not good enough at feigning interest in popular things, too unfashionable, too tall, too radical, too shy, too strange in my perception of romantic relationships, too nervous, too obsessed with words so that a long list repeatedly using a word like “too” would start to make that word seem so ridiculous that I’d feel uncertain it really existed. My first many crushes on boys convinced me that anybody I thought was wonderful would consider me somewhere between horribly repulsive and unworthy of notice.

Despite all that, I wistfully enjoyed listening to this song, composed by Linda Ronstadt and Wendy Waldman, performed by Lucy Simon on In Harmony, the 1980 album of wonderful songs for children performed by popular singers of the era. I loved the whole album (except for “The Sailor and the Mermaid”–gack, romance and terrible singing!) and played it a zillion times and memorized all the songs, but it’s this one that came to mind when I finally did find someone really compatible and fall in love.

I Have a Song

I have a song. I think it’s a song that’s about you.
I have a song. I think it’s a song about somebody who
Can see a cloud go drifting by, feel the very same as I.
Oh, I have a song. I think it’s a song that’s about you,
That’s about you.

I have a dream. I think it’s a dream maybe you have too.
I have a dream, a wonderful dream about somebody who
I think would really like to know the part of me I’m scared to show.
Oh, I have a dream. I think it’s a dream maybe you have too,
That maybe you have too.

I have a hope. I think it’s a hope that I share with you.
I have a hope, a wonderful hope about somebody who
Believes in love, believes in me, believes in how good life can be.
Oh, I have a hope. I think it’s a hope that I share with you.
Oh, I have a hope. I think it’s a hope that I share with you.
Oh, I share with you.

See? It’s not about how I’m obsessed with you and you’re everything to me and I’d die without you and I’d kill for you and I’m nothing without you and all that overblown freakishness. This song is about how we appreciate the same things, enjoy being together, want to know each other deeply and be okay with that. It’s a song about my fondest dream and hope, that someone special will love the true me, and how I’m a little frightened even to talk about that, but I hope maybe you’ll understand and feel the same and we can share our lives together.

It’s not that it’s the greatest song. It’s very ’70s-sounding, with instrumental music that starts off so saggy that it makes me want to roll my eyes a little. But it’s earnest and singable, and it says exactly what I want. To me, finding the man for whom my heart had this song is the most romantic thing imaginable, and all I really want for Valentine’s Day is to listen to it (or even just think it) while held in his arms.

My brother had the same doubts I did about ever finding a compatible partner, and then he didn’t have my experience of choosing an ultra-geeky college with a skewed gender ratio where it was surprisingly easy to surround myself with compatible people, fall in love repeatedly, and find a wonderful life-partner before I turned 21. My brother had a harder time, well into adulthood. But then he found somebody wonderful! We went to their wedding a few years ago. I’m not into weddings. But when the music that accompanied my brother down the aisle was “I Have a Song”, I almost collapsed into a sobbing sentimental heap. Because he had that song, that dream, that hope, and now finally he had someone to share that song! Wow.

So that’s what I think is romantic. This is the love song that works for me!

Planning, Parenting, and Perfection

Welcome to the December 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Change . . .

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about life changes.


As a teenager, I went through several phases when I spent a lot of time daydreaming about my adult life.  I “planned” which neighborhoods I would live in at each stage, chose homes from architecture books and decided where I would put all the furniture, and selected names and birthdates for my child(ren) and their father(s).  Some of the details changed as I experimented with different possible futures–one child or two? Would I really be happy with just one man for decades?–but I was certain about a few things: I would become an architect, I would live in New York City, and I would give birth to a daughter within a few months of my 30th birthday.

Why 30?  Well, my parents are 30 calendar years older than I am and 30 years ahead in school, and that’s really neat!  It’s always been easy to figure out how old my parents are now, what year they were my age, and when they were in which grade.  It just feels right.  Also, 30 seemed to be a good age for parenthood: old enough to have experienced some adult adventures without kids, young enough to enjoy plenty of adventures with kids.

I was 20 when I admitted that I could not become an architect.  I changed my major to psychology, finished college, worked at a few assorted jobs, and eventually became the data manager of a social science research study–a career I’d never heard of when I was in high school that turns out to be very well suited to me.  Meanwhile, I’d decided not to move to New York, because I really love Pittsburgh–a city I’d never even considered visiting until Carnegie Mellon University sent me a recruiting brochure.

So I’d totally failed to meet my goals for my twenties, but I was very happy.  Also, oddly enough, I’d managed to do something that my cynical, depressed ninth-grade self had discarded as a dream too painfully impossible even to think about: I had found That Guy with the red curly hair and the beard who actually loved me in all my weirdness and understood and agreed about the kind of relationship I wanted to have with a man!  Daniel isn’t always in every way exactly what I wanted, but he’s much, much closer than I thought I would ever find.

We started trying to conceive shortly after I turned 29.  I knew that, with my long and irregular cycles, it would probably take several months to get pregnant, but that was perfect: I would be 30 when our baby was born!  It was all working out just as I’d planned!

But it didn’t.  Months passed, and I got more and more agitated about tracking everything precisely, trying to make my body do what I desperately hoped it could do–what if it couldn’t?  What if I could never be a mother, or if I could do it only with scary technologies that I wasn’t sure were really quite ethical in this crowded world?  I diligently prayed for pregnancy and was rewarded by getting my period on my 30th birthday–gee, thanks a lot, God!  I got more and more bitter and desperate.  Finally we started getting the tests to determine just how infertile we were, and I gave up on conceiving naturally.

That lasted two months.  Is it because I gave up control, or because the right time just was not quite when I thought it was?  I was 31 years 7 months old when Nicholas was born; he is 32 years behind me in school.  And he’s a boy.

Yet the timing was perfect!  He was conceived on 04-04-04, obviously a lucky day, and then my baby boy emerged into the world on Christmas Eve!  I was joyful and triumphant!  I completely forgave God for all the delay and worry (it took me much longer to admit what a jerk I’d been about it and to forgive myself) and accepted that this was the child who was meant for me, arriving at the right time. Read more…

How to get more out of Communion

I feel kind of silly posting a tip for religious fulfillment as if it were just another tip for better living, but I did learn this from a bishop (so it’s sort of official!) and it really has made a big difference in the way I experience Communion and maybe even in the way God guides me for days afterward.

I’m an Episcopalian, and although my congregation is small, the process of receiving Communion often feels lengthy, even a little tedious.  It’s easy for my mind to start wandering while I’m waiting for my turn to walk up to the altar, waiting for a space to open up for me to kneel, waiting for the priest to come by with the bread, waiting for the chalice-bearer to come by with the wine.  Read more…

Bullying: an article I wrote, and three I don’t have to write

Although I am discussing my work here, the point of view is my own, and this is not an official statement of the Pittsburgh Youth Study.

As the data manager of a long-term research study, I recently helped to write this academic paper: Bullying Perpetration and Victimization as Predictors of Delinquency and Depression in the Pittsburgh Youth Study.  What we found, looking at data collected from the 503 men we’ve been interviewing repeatedly since they were in first grade, is that bullies are more likely than non-bullies to grow up to be criminals, and bullying victims are more likely than non-victims to grow up to be depressed.  That’s not really surprising, is it?  But it’s good to add to the hard scientific evidence that bullying is a serious problem with lifelong consequences.  This whole issue of the Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research was a special issue on school bullying, with 7 more articles on the subject.

I had been kind of thinking I should write something about bullying that might be read by people who don’t read dull academic journals.  But I felt very shy about it and afraid to admit that, well, I know there’s a problem and can prove there’s a problem but can’t claim I ever solved this problem for myself or anybody and tried so many things that didn’t work and when I even think about it I get so scared and what if– Read more…

Our Neighborhood Public School Works for Us!

Today is my son’s last day of kindergarten!  This has been his first year in public school, and we are very pleased with our neighborhood public school, Pittsburgh Colfax.  It’s a great example of how an urban school can thrive when faculty encourage parent involvement.  On “Take Your Special Person to School Day” last month, I spent a whole day immersed in the experience of being one of the 700+ Colfax kids and never once felt like just another brick in the wall.  Sure, there are some systems in place to keep everybody organized, but none of it is harsh or disrespectful.

Daniel and I always planned to send our child to public school.  We feel strongly that public schools are important.  Every child deserves to learn both academic and social skills.  That includes our child.  We believe that our public schools, supported by our tax dollars (and 1% of the money I spend on my Target Visa card), are good enough for our child.  Read more…

Mama, you happy?

One reason I’m glad I did so much writing about my early motherhood experiences is that, just a few years later, I’ve forgotten some of the stages my child passed through, the stages that seemed to be lasting forever yet vanished very quickly. Here’s something I posted on a discussion board when he had just turned two years old, and until I read this again I’d forgotten all about it!

“Mama, you happy?” Nicholas asks this question about a million times a day. Sometimes he asks Daddy instead. It’s kind of bugging us! Read more…

Why aren’t we married?

Three years ago, Daniel and I were interviewed by Redbook magazine for an article called “The Changing Shape of the American Family” which profiled several different family structures.  The Alternatives to Marriage Project referred the reporter to us as an example of a stable couple raising a child without being married.  The final article [which, in its online archived version, has a photo of another family next to the text about us!] used only brief and paraphrased excerpts from what we’d said in two phone conversations and a lengthy e-mail interview.  So, in case anyone is wondering why we aren’t married, here’s how we explained it in lots of detail! Read more…

My Opinion of Homosexuality in Twelve Words

God is Love.
God is Good.
Love is Good.
Love is Love.



If that’s too succinct for you, here is another writer who says the same thing, so beautifully, in many more words!


Little girls are cute and small only to adults.  To one another, they are not cute.  They are life-sized. –Margaret Atwood

Last spring, when Nicholas was 3 years 5 months old, I found a picture of myself at 3 years 5 months old.  Not only did I see a strong resemblance between us, but I found that gazing at that photo of myself as a child helped me to remember what it was like to be that young and small.  I tucked the picture into the frame of my bedroom mirror so I could look at it each day and remind myself to be kind to the two people who look so much like that cute little girl: my cute little boy and my grownup self.

After about ten months, Nicholas outgrew his resemblance to that particular photo–his face is less round and babylike now–so I replaced it with the next one I have.  This photo doesn’t have a specific date on the back, but it must have been taken when I was about 4 years old.  Although I was still quite cute at that age, the camera captured a look in my eyes that, to quote Daniel, seems capable of setting things on fire!  I don’t remember the photo being taken; I don’t know if I was angry or thinking hard or looking at something outside the sliding glass door next to which I was sitting, but I do remember that when I was 4 I felt many intense feelings, thought about many difficult things, and was seeing things in new ways all the time.  I see that same intensity in my son’s eyes sometimes.

One of my parents’ greatest strengths as parents has been their ability to remember what it’s like to be various ages and to relate to me on the level where I was at the time.  I strive to have this strength myself.  Certainly I have lots of memories, beginning very early in life, but sometimes I get caught up in being who I am now.  Sometimes I catch myself looking at my child from my outside, adult, high-up perspective and thinking, “Ohh, how cuuute!” and forgetting that to himself, he is life-sized.

The picture helps.  One glance reminds me: That was me.  I wore that dress.  I was only as tall as the door handle.  But at the time, I was life-sized.

It works for me!

My Secret Journey

This is just a little story from my life.  I can’t think of a good reason to post it, except that it keeps tugging on the corner of my mind and wanting to be told.  I hope that somehow, it makes a difference to somebody.

Pregnancy made me very sick.  The nausea hit suddenly on the first day of Week 4, and for the next two months the yucky taste in my mouth went away for only a few minutes after eating or brushing my teeth, and I vomited several times a week, sometimes several times a day.  All the rules I’d ever learned about how to behave when nauseated were wrong.  I felt weak and shaky a lot of the time.  I was so tired that sometimes I’d lie down a moment to stop a dizzy spell and then awaken hours later.  I spent an entire day during Week 7 thinking about sitting up for a sip of water from the glass on the bedside table. Read more…

When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best

This article is part of my Tastes Like Somebody Loves You! series.

My son was 12 days old the first time he received a package with his name computer-printed on the shipping label. “What did you order?” I asked him jokingly. “Did you go online without permission?” Of course he hadn’t–the package contained a gift. From the large corporation named in the return address? No, from an old friend now living halfway across the country, who had ordered online and had it shipped directly. The packing slip held our friend’s congratulatory message, in anonymous type. I unwrapped the fuzzy yellow suit and wondered if mine were the first human hands to touch it. Read more…

Tastes Like Somebody Loves You!

Each photograph showed a smiling child, alone in the foreground of an after-school activity: ballet lesson, soccer practice, etc.  The slogan said, “Tastes Like Somebody Loves You!”  It was an ad campaign for individual pudding snacks.

Well, it may taste like it, but that snack doesn’t mean anyone loves you, kid. In fact, nobody loves you even enough to dump pudding mix into milk, stir it up, and pour it into dishes to create a semi-homemade snack. You’re not worth the effort. They’d rather buy something they can just rip off a multi-pack and shove into your little hand as you hop out of the SUV. But at least it tastes like somebody loves you…who? The pudding corporation? Read more…

Slaying the Snooze-button Sloth

I had some trouble deciding what to do for Lent this year.  We gave up meat in 2002, but since then we’ve eaten so much less meat that giving it up completely wouldn’t make a noticeable daily difference.  I toyed with several ideas and started into Lent by reading selections from the Gospel aloud to Nicholas every night, but although he likes to hear me tell the story of Jesus he did not appreciate the written version–like, he would not stop screaming–so that didn’t work out.  We were nine days into Lent when I suddenly knew what I should renounce. Read more…

Pittsburgh: A Love Letter

As of last August, I’ve lived in Pittsburgh longer than in any other town.  Sixteen years, and I still love it!  Pittsburgh is the #1 most livable city in America.  I grew up in Oklahoma, so that’s my basis for comparison, and Pittsburgh wins in many ways: Read more…

That’s all.

Just as I thought it was going all right,
I found out I’m wrong when I thought I was right.
It’s always the same.
It’s just a shame.
That’s all.

These are the opening lyrics to a Genesis song that comforts me when things go wrong between Daniel and me.  It’s about the frustration of hitting the same conflict again and again, of having to admit that you’ve screwed up, of being unable to see how to resolve the problem but knowing you have to resolve it because you can’t just walk away.  After almost twelve years of living together, we are painfully familiar with that situation.  We don’t disagree often, so when we do it feels as if everything is out of kilter.  How is it that the same dumb problem keeps popping up like a brick wall between us, and we just can’t resist banging our heads against it again in exactly the same way as last time??

I don’t have an answer to that question, but I have learned a few things through experience and reading.  One is that finding out I’m wrong when I thought I was right is an important moment which is easily lost if I’m too wrapped up in self-righteously casting myself as the victim.  Another is that just because we disagree doesn’t mean he’s my enemy–remembering that we love each other and have so much in common helps me find hope that we can work through our conflict together.  We’ve learned that sometimes it helps to face each other and hold hands while arguing: It’s harder to coil up inside your shell and yell at someone when you’re physically connected in a way that reminds you that you love each other. Read more…