Tuesday, November 22, 2016

High Tolerance

I've read that this election, or rather its outcome, has caused some people to drink more than usual. Well, the joke's on all of you, suckers! Because I've been drinking like this for the better part of 20 years, and I'm super well prepared!

I went to WVU for undergrad AND law school, lived in Morgantown for 14 years, am a die hard Steelers fan, and come from Czech and German heritage. One might say I was born ready. On top of that, I spent countless hours honing my craft. My list of drinking achievements is long, if not entirely distinguished. Tolerance is not my problem here.

Unless, of course, you want to talk about intolerance. Because that kind of really is my problem. All my life, I have listened to racism and bigotry. (Thankfully, not from my wonderful parents, who taught me to stand up and speak out when confronted with hate, and who subsequently may have had thoughts that I took the speaking out part a bit too far. Thanks mom and dad! Also...you're welcome?)

Some of this speech was outright, some of it couched in euphemisms and double-talk, all of it hateful and disturbing. In high school, I used to leave the classroom when the teachers refused to shut down my classmates' slurs and my loud assertions to do so caused a commotion. There was a couch outside the office, and I would just go sit there until class ended. Quiet. Angry. And alone.

Because, I guess, it seemed easier to remove me from the equation rather than the hateful rhetoric? It got to the point where I would just stand up and say, "I'm going to the couch now" and leave without any real acknowledgment from anyone. This did not happen daily. But it happened more than once. And that is too many times.

Since then, I may have tempered my outbursts (at times) to blend in. I bit my tongue so often in so many situations to keep the status quo. But, I heard and remembered and made mental notes of how others talked. Of how many off-handed racist comments I heard. And from whom. When I did choose my battles, I kept a tally of how often I was shut down, condescended to, waved off. And by whom.

As a typical young person, filled to the brim with righteous idealism, I assumed that as the years passed and I became a "real grown-up" this would all shift into balance. The cream would rise to the top, the bigotry would fall to the wayside where it belonged, the smart people would win, and everyone would understand how hurtful and stupid and wrong it is to hate.

Years have passed, I don't know what a "real grown-up" is or how to become one, and the balance certainly has shifted. Just not exactly the way I pictured it would. In some moments, I feel a little like I did on that old couch. Quiet. Angry. And alone.

But most days, I am that loud-mouthed teenager causing a ruckus. Only now, I will not be forced to leave the room. There has to be a time when it is not me who is shushed for speaking up against the hate. There has to be a time when bigotry is simply not tolerated. Ever. When no excuse is tolerated as a reason to discriminate against legions of human beings. When no matter what, we find our voices and we stand up and we demand that it be stopped. For once and for all.

No matter how prepared I felt, I still have work to do. My high tolerance does indeed have its limits, at tailgates and in real life. But I'm not on the couch anymore. I'm still angry. But I know damn well that I'm not alone.

And you know damn well that I am. Not. Quiet.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Iden Toady Oh

Translated from a four-year-old's mangled, yet adorable, speak: 90210. As in, Beverly Hills 90210. As in, possibly the best. As in, absolutely. The. Best.

Yesterday, as we were watching together, Franco told me he loved the beloved original series as much as I do. Be still my heart. There's no way this can be true, but I admire his life goals. We stumbled upon Seasons Four and Five while unpacking our basement and are making our way through from that point. Right now, Dylan is hooking up with Jonesy to try and get his stolen fortune back, Kelly's joining the Evolution cult, Andrea's flirting with Doctor Peter, and Donna's a few episodes shy of getting thrown around by Ray Pruitt. Shit's about to get real -- as nighttime soap opera reality goes.

Some poor unfortunate souls have no idea of what I speak. I pity them. (In return, they might pity me. Whatever. Only one of us is right.) Much of my life has its reference points traced directly to this series. If not for these kids' unfortunate second sophomore year, we would have been on exactly the same plane in life. Graduating at the same time, going to college at the same time, discovering oversized flannels and Doc Martins at the same time, renting that beach house at the same time, going to rehab at the same time.... Okay, mostly.

One of the best decisions I ever made was skipping law school classes my first year because they conflicted with Kelly's Colin-induced drug haze and all the delightful downfall. These episodes are my FAVORITE. This fact can not be overstressed. Back in those days, before TIVO and on demand and DVD releases, you had to watch episodes rerun on TBS in the middle of the day like any self-respecting American or not at all. What classes did I skip? I have no idea. Did I miss anything useful? No. Do I to this day defend my choice? Hands down and absolutely. Nothing I learned (or didn't learn) could ever compare with the happiness I felt in those afternoons.

You might think I am being facetious or dramatic or both. However, for better or worse, I am dead serious in my commitment to this show. It made me incredibly happy every single week for many, many years. (Though, not at the end of it. Even my loyalty has its limits. Blech to the final two or so seasons.) When the DVD's came out and I re-watched it, I could relive all the memories -- both theirs and mine. I might have gotten nostalgic, looked at old photos of old people no longer in my life, and pined for a simpler time when I truly felt hopeful for the world around me. I may have drug out a few babydoll dresses from the recesses of my closet and worn them like it was 1995 all over again. (No, you shut up.)

I might have even been optimistic about the reboot a few years ago. (http://bloggingmywaytoabetterlife.blogspot.com/2008/09/guess-whos-back.html. One can dream.) However, my idealism apparently lives on. Even now, as I watch these crazy kids go through some serious craziness, I long for that time in my life when I thought our progressive ways would only go on and on, my own life would only get better and better, and all the world's problems would eventually be solved through, well, whatever. I didn't know then and I don't know now, but I believed more then than now.

But, I have a four-year-old counting on me to show him the way. Maybe 90210 isn't the best role model. Or maybe it definitely is not. I am okay with that. Just like my past, it's messy and dramatic and not entirely believable.

And I love it. And I would not trade a thing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I Need An Intervention

Actually, a personal hero of mine (Eminem) said that in a famous song that Franco and I may or may not enjoy hearing at full blast in the car on repeat. It may or not be the edited version. (Hashtag: SorryNotSorry.)

Every time I take a picture or video of Franco, I think about how cute he is, and how glad I am for this Apple technology to document his funny little spurts of genius, and, most importantly,  all the future fluff pieces in which said picture or video may be used. Swimming solo across the pool at three years old?  He is absolutely the future Michael Phelps and I am the future Debbie. So cute. Singing a solo at theater school? He is absolutely the future Lin Manuel Miranda and I am the future rich mom of Lin Manuel Miranda, and I am not throwin' away my shot. This?

Ummm...well, you never know. He looks like, okay, he has a vision here and what I think of it is unimportant anyhow. He steps to the beat of his own...pink parasol and necktie. (Hashtag: NoJudgment.)

Sometimes, I just take the footage and silently hope it does not end up on whatever is the future incarnation of Intervention. There could be varied reasons for this. For one, I watch, and have watched, an inordinate number of Interventions. I mean, a LOT. Sometimes, I like to watch it while drinking a ton of wine. (Hashtag: ShutUpAndMindYourOwnBusiness.) In fairness, it is not the only thing I enjoy watching while also drinking a ton of wine, so I don't discriminate.

For another, Franco just loves to role play being a teenager. As a teenager in Franco's world, you can drink beer, play kissy-face with girls at parties, and get "sloppy drunk" on "vodkwa" which you hold by the neck of the bottle while taking handfuls of pills. (Hashtag: TooManyEpisodesOfNashville.) He sure is creative, and apparently pays attention to his surroundings, so I give him credit for that.

Furthermore, I do correct him by asking, "Who gets sloppy drunk around you?" And he can't say because it doesn't happen, and this is why we don't need preschool and all those fancy worksheets because the real world can be its own teacher. Life lessons one-on-one. (Hashtag:ThankYouAndYouAreWelcome.)

But, really. Maybe I need an intervention from my own catastrophic brain sometimes. Seriously. The kid is four years old. Yeah, he might end up a train wreck. But, so far, he seems to be able to navigate the world fairly well, and I give him enough rein to do so within reason. (Hashtag: CrunchyNotThatCrunchy.)

At home, he tells me he'll "kick his dad's ass" and yells that when the Penguins lose a game, it's "bullshit" and lets me know that he knows that "son of a bitch" is not nice to say out loud. Out in public, he asks politely for the dessert menu and personally sends his regards to the chef for the tasty wedding soup. (Hashtag: TrueStory.)

So, probably, there is nothing to worry about. We are in the clear. Or we're not. Either way, he is his own little guy. And while I don't take that many photos or videos, due to my love of just living in the world and enjoying my life as it happens, I do have enough to contribute to whatever fluff pieces Franco's future may hold.

And that is the way I personally choose to do it. He's not perfect. I'm not perfect. He's just my only son, and I'm his only mom, and I know he's mine by the eccentric workings of his mind, and the intricate way that we get each other. One time, we were telling stories, and his was, "My mom and I just do the greatest things together."

Of course, I don't have footage of that. (Hashtag: SeeAbove.) But it's okay because I was there and I witnessed it. Sure, he's only four years old. Things will change and, as Franco will likely soon tell me, "shit will hit the fan."

But for now, here we are. Intervention or no, I'm doing my best and so far, it is working. And that is...


Saturday, August 27, 2016

You Move Your Way, I'll Move Mine

So, we decided to move to Pittsburgh a few years ago because this is where all the ball games are played and we are usually here anyhow.  In late May, we did it. We bought a little house on Washington Road in Mount Lebanon and here we are. Lickity split and just like that. Easy as pie.

Turns out, pie is effing hard to make. We still have a garage filled with unpacked boxes and I can't find the shower curtain and I am far too practical cheap to buy a new one and also, I moved that thing 500 miles and I am not giving up now. My plantar fasciitis is worse than ever, just from the massive nightmare that is moving across state lines. I contacted a nasty dermatitis around my eyes because I spent a good part of the past three months sweaty and dirty and hauling material goods here and there, and my skin is apparently far too sensitive for that noise. Upon checking myself out in my new mirror in my new bathroom, I found a few gray hairs and I do NOT think that is a coincidence.

We (and I mean Scott) had to personally drive three loaded U-Haul trucks from NC to PA because we have entirely too much crap and obviously did not purge effectively. This, despite the fact that I gave away at least five stuffed garbage bags of perfectly good clothes prior to what I refer to as the apocalypse: the packing, and subsequent unpacking, of my closet. Sweet baby Jesus you have no idea. Talk about self-harm. I am traumatized. To the point that it has taken me until now to emerge from the fog of this horrid and ridiculous ode to consumerism to purchase anything new to add to it. Which was worth it for the glittery silver pair of TOMS, vintage-looking-but totally-new saddle shoes, orange hippie dress at H&M, and Franco Harris jersey I bought with my birthday money. Thank heavens I am healing, one step at a time. (Hashtag: Blessed.)

But, here we are. And it is glorious. Our new home is just about as unglamorous as our old one was impressive. We don't have a pool or a hot tub or a sprawling yard or a knockout view of the mountains from our living room window. What we do have is a busy thoroughfare that runs right beside our home, with more traffic in an hour than Jack's Creek Road probably saw in a week. Sometimes, people walk along and throw stray cups and cigarette butts in our yard. (That never happened in Burnsville unless I was the one doing it.)

And it is, in my opinion, a complete trade up. Just seeing the cars, and the hustle and bustle, gives me a sense of comfort that I have not felt in my own home for a decade. We can be in downtown Pittsburgh in twenty or so minutes, and we take full advantage of our proximity to urban living. Franco and I can walk to his theater school in our neighborhood, which is a nice perk, and we can also walk to a full mall and movie theater and Primanti Brothers restaurant -- which we have yet to do because it has been, on average, and don't quote me on this, roughly 99 degrees and/or raining profusely every day since we got here.

I don't miss North Carolina. I miss people I knew and loved there. I miss Asheville and its crunchy charm. I miss my old swimming pool. But, I am so glad to be home. I lived in my old house for ten years. I called it home. But, it never felt like home. I know I am now where I belong, and I don't know if I will ever move from this house, let alone this county.

Still, I am not perfect here and all my problems did not disappear into thin air once I set foot in the south hills. My foils traveled with me and must be dealt with just the same. It is okay, though.  Because when I go outside to my first therapy appointment, I will be splattered in the middle of a four-lane road if I am not careful. And that is kind of how I always wanted it to be.

At home.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We Heart NOLA, 2015 Edition

New Orleans, we just can't quit you. It's been about a month since we returned from our last visit, and all I can really think about is how to get back just as soon as I can.
                                             Look how lovely...Can you possibly blame us?

It is clear we might all have a serious problem. When we talk about driving somewhere, Franco will add, "and maybe then to New Orleans?" as his contribution. The other day I asked him what he wanted for lunch and he said, "Maybe some gumbo."
                                                 Look how delicious…can you blame him?

If it weren't for the hurricanes and my legit fear of weather, the relative cost involved, having to live in Louisiana -- which, if you look at a map, is quite far away from my Mountaineers and Steelers -- and the fact that I don't have any clue what I would do for money, I think this family could move there in a second. When we walked the French Quarter, I saw a few condos for rent and later Zillow-ed them to find out how much it would cost to live out my fantasy. (Answer: A little bit.) It does not stop the dream, for dreams can't be bound to silly real-life facts like money. Come on!

I don't know when we will return to the Big Easy, but it certainly won't be soon enough. Even though I have been there so often, so recently, there are still a million things I haven't done. (Right now, I also am reading Five Days at Memorial which means my already uncontrolled Katrina addiction is running rampant.)

I promise you, NOLA, we will be back just as soon as possible. Until then, we all shall hold tight to this little memory the wait staff at Commander's Palace bestowed upon Franco since he fell asleep before dinner's end:
                             Yes, that is a loaf of bread wrapped up as a crab. And now, I will eat it…

Oh NOLA…until we meet again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar Sunday 2015

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Oscar Sunday, a hallowed and holy time in this household, is upon us. And our most fabulous patron saint of hosting, Neil Patrick Harris, is probably only half as excited as I am for the big night! (It is not will he dance, but how often? It is not will Franco and I re-watch said dance numbers, but how many times in a row? The mysteries abound.)

Because I am always super prepared for any event that is not really all that important in the grand scheme of life, I have seen all eight nominated Best Picture films and a vast majority of nominated performances. I will now grace you with a brief synopsis of my thoughts on the impending matter at hand:

American Sniper: Let me just put out there that I watched this film before the internet firmly instructed me how to feel about it. I really like it in a The Hurt Locker kind of way -- a movie about a man in the war, not a war movie.  However, it has a very un-The Hurt Locker-ish ending, which I understand is out of Clint's control. But geez louise. I don't think it is the best film (more on that in a minute) but it's worthy nonetheless.

Birdman: This is the best film, hands down, the end. I love it in a way I have not loved a movie in a few years. Consequently, and this is a scientific fact, it now has zero chance of winning the big prize, as I have bestowed upon it my Oscar curse of doom. (See: Black Swan, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Into the Wild, Pulp Fiction, Moulin Rouge, et. al. At least the film will tomorrow be in the good company of these other masterpieces.) Birdman is a movie apparently made just for me, in the vein of movies I adore, to haunt me into a state of obsession. And so I say: Thank you, Mr. Inarritu, a million times over! (And, again, I'm really sorry about that whole curse of doom thing…)

Boyhood: Love. I want to give that little kid and his grown-up kid self and all his developmental stages in between a great big hug. It's pure genius and forward-thinking outside of the creative box, so it's precisely the opposite of anything the Academy will reward. But, I have already watched it twice and will likely come back to it many times in the future. It's a keeper.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: The least Wes Anderson-y of all the Wes Anderson movies, and, for me, that is a good thing. It's just a fun romp with a fantastic finale. And at the end, I did not feel the need to take the bridge or protest injustices or feel bad about the human race. So, good job.

The Imitation Game: That Cumberbatch kid could really make something of himself. I am a sucker for biopics anyway, and this is a very good one. I quite enjoyed this movie while simultaneously hating a good deal of history and society at large, so there's that.

Selma: White people suck, 2015 edition. Also..and how can I put this nicely…Alabama is quite unpleasant at times. Plus, Oprah.

The Theory of Everything: Gorgeous, stimulating, full of interesting ideas, thought-provoking, and simply lovely. Eddie Redmayne doesn't sing, but he is still terribly good in a brilliant English way. I adore it.

Whiplash: Golly. Who would have predicted a movie about drums could make us all so anxious? Apparently, there are now no activities in which kids can participate without abuse from troubled adults riddled with serious issues. And Juno's dad is a straight-up dick with no redeeming qualities. Yay for people.

It is a strong year, and I am happy for that. Still, the Academy already has made glaring errors. I am as upset as every other red-blooded American about The Lego Movie's snub. (Darn darn darny darn darn!!) And Julianne Moore as the only nominee from Still Alice? Travesty. Though if she does not win tonight, then there really should just be no more Oscars for anyone ever. She is just beyond.

The anticipation is almost too much. But, somehow, we will last another ten or so hours until showtime.   And then tomorrow I can grumble about all the things the Academy got wrong, again. It 's fabulous.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Life Lessons: I Have a Problem

Yes, like Jay Z. and Ariana Grande before me, I have problems. But, there is only one about which I intend to blog tonight:
 I am wholly addicted to John Green books. And I don't want any help, thanks anyhow.

I have no good reason behind my vice. Sure, these works are pretty good, but they are not the best literary masterpieces to ever grace my bookshelf. For some likely abnormal reason, at my mid-advanced place on life's timeline, these books loudly and clearly speak to my soul.

I started with The Fault In Our Stars. It took me way longer than mostly everyone else to read it, and I have no good reason for that either.  My intrigue piqued earlier this year with the Entertainment Weekly article about the movie where John Green, on set with Shailene and Ansel, cried during all the emotional scenes as they were filmed. I am glad I put my mind to reading the book before seeing the movie because doing so the other way around would have robbed me of a fantastic experience I will forever remember. Seriously and melodramatically, the day I read the last 3/4 of that book is one of the best days of my life. Immediately thereafter I watched the movie and…you can guess.

The obsession is still ongoing. To give you a whole picture, I have a two-almost-three-year-old boy in this house who loves the movie almost as much as I do. He got sick the other night and begged me to watch "Fall In Our Stars" to make him feel better. (We did not because: 1. The Steelers were playing MNF, making a movie about kids dying from cancer only the second most depressing thing we could do at that moment in time -- though, somehow, that game ended with less tears than the movie does, and 2. I feel this request odd for a toddler and kind of creepy, and 3. We already had watched it twice in the past day and a half.)

I can't let it go. I  respond to analytical queries in my life with lines from the book, like "The world is not a wish-granting factory." This one is my favorite, right behind "I fell in love the way you fall asleep. Slowly, then all at once." (I may only do this in my head, so as not to completely give away how far I am down this particular rabbit hole…)

I watched John Green talk about filming the movie in Pittsburgh (!!!!) and how he loves Pittsburgh (!!!!!) and how he believes that one of life's great joys is the full onslaught of Pittsburgh emerging from the Fort Pitt Tunnel as you enter the city from the south. (As I heard him say that last part, I realized that John Green and I are kindred spirits of the highest order. Then my head metaphorically exploded right off my body.)

It almost took over, so I quickly moved onto Paper Towns.  While not quite the genius of TFIOS, it still quenched my thirst for this particular genre of adolescent angst. It haunted me differently and offered my overactive mind a lot upon which to dwell. It also reaffirmed that I especially love the way John Green ends his novels: without a big dramatic flourish, but satisfying nonetheless.

Naturally, I became fascinated with paper towns in real life -- a foreign concept to me until now -- and as I googled, I stumbled upon a TED Talk John Green gave on the subject.  John Green in real life is sort of geeky and cute, like I pictured Q in Paper Towns until I saw they cast Isaac from TFIOS in the upcoming movie, and instead began picturing Q as Nat Wolff -- or the other way around. Whichever, I will certainly be on the lookout for that premiere next year, even if I do kind of detest Margo Roth Spiegelman in her entirety.

Now, I've started Looking For Alaska. It can be slightly difficult to get on a roll due to my (and Franco's) consistent TFIOS movie views, along with all the other non-frivolous things grown-ups apparently need to do daily. But, I will get to it. And to Will Grayson, Will Grayson after that. Once I put my mind to a full-on obsession, I am nothing if not committed.

Okay? Okay.

About Me

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Steph's days are complete with little Franco/Mr. Buddy Pants, Pittsburgh Steelers football, Penguins hockey, all things WVU, cold beverages, new handbags, shoe-shopping, pups, and lots and lots of movies. And, of course, her glorious, nutty family.