Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Some More People with Their Act Together!

Last night, 20 more people got their act together at Shining Light Prenatal Education!

As I sat checking people in, I heard the same refrain again and again: We’ve been trying to do this for years but never had the money for the lawyer and couldn’t work out the logistics to do it ourselves.

All these families thought they were so alone in this struggle to organize such important parts of their lives. Really, most of the young families I know are in this same boat. Many of the people who came last night were friends with a family who recently lost their young father. They didn’t have their paperwork in order, unfortunately. His widow has been struggling through probate court and the state of PA has suggested she might need to separate out their assets that were intended for their children. It’s a hot mess.

I can’t imagine having to deal with that on top of unfathomable grief. I think of these families when I organize these events!

We’re just a few months out from welcoming our third child, so we’ll need to re-examine our own legal paperwork soon enough. I’m also thinking of all the young people in the sandwich generation, the ones taking care of their aging parents in addition to their young children. Many of these aging, ailing parents don’t have their act together, either.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m excited to help my friends and neighbors to do it!

Posted by on May 20th, 2014 No Comments

Let It Go: End of the Road For the Favorite Shirt

Remember how I talked so much game about fixing my favorite shirt? My long companion? The garment that’s accompanied me my entire marital life so far? Just as I was getting myself set up to work on it, the other damn zipper broke off.

I realized the metal on all the remaining zippers (pockets only, now that both front zippers are gone) has become brittle and almost disintegrated.

It’s time to retire the shirt.

I’ve made no moves to do so–it’s still sitting on a work bench in the basement, next to the pliers. I think I keep hoping that my letter to Pearl Izumi will have convinced them to re-release the double zipper on their outerwear. Mostly, I’m too sad to take it to the bike shop to exchange for something new.

I’m currently 27 weeks pregnant with our third son. I might have forgotten to mention that online, because being pregnant while working and parenting two other kids takes up so, so, so much of my time and mental energy that sometimes I forget it’s happening. This matters because on cool spring days, I keep trying to figure out why this pregnancy is so much more frustrating to dress for than the previous ones.

Then I realize I don’t have Old Faithful to use as an arm and upper-chest layer, with the trusty double zipper opened at the bottom to accommodate my baby belly.

I’ve got one maternity cardigan and 2 maternity sweaters, which are all too heavy for spring. They are not water-resistant and broken in and soft like my favorite shirt. I’m Goldilocks and I’ve lost my “just right” shirt.

I might stop whining and just go swap it out for a jacket that converts to a vest. It should start to fit me in about 13 weeks!

Posted by on May 12th, 2014 No Comments

Getting Acts Together!

This week was the April Get Your Act Together notary event at the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library. What a great turnout! I’ve been so excited that several local blog and news outlets picked up the story about the events, and word spread fast–April sold out within minutes of one story’s publication and the May event just sold out this morning.

It’s such a joy for me to see these families breathe deeply as they sign the last document, the weight of the world lifted from their shoulders (at least for a few minutes). One of the notaries shared that it’s so important for young people to think about these documents–she told a story of being called into pre-op at Presby hospital as the anesthesiologist waited at the foot of a patient’s bed. The patient hadn’t finalized documents and was about to enter a very complicated surgery. Everyone had to wait until he could sign and notarize his wishes.

None of the folks attending these mobile notary signing events have to worry about this.

So I’m looking forward to the May event at Shining Light Prenatal Education, where 20 more people will sign their way to peace of mind. What an honor to help facilitate!

Posted by on April 30th, 2014 No Comments

May Get Your Act Together Event!

Get Your Act Together

families signing paperwork

Families get their documents signed, notarized, and witnessed by other participating families

Do you and your partner have a will? Power of attorney? Living will? Maybe you have these documents set up, but have never managed to coordinate a time when you can both get to a notary with witnesses AND find childcare for your kids…

I’ve got a solution for you: Get Your Act Together, a family-friendly signing event

I’m coordinating a notary signing event for young families at Shining Light Prenatal Education. Parents can come with documents prepared, our kids can play safely in the space, and we can all serve as one another’s witnesses while a team of mobile notaries stamps our documents.

Here are the details:

May 19 from 6:00-8:30pm.

Shining Light Prenatal Education, 3701 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

SOLD OUT!

This price includes space rental fees, notary travel fees, 3 notary stamps per adult, and other costs associated with planning the event.

Guests must come to the event with their documents completed. We will not have lawyers or legal advisors present. This event is intended to help families get DIY documents in place to communicate their wishes should tragedy strike.

Not sure where to start with these documents? Rocket Lawyer and Suze Orman have great templates for a Last Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Living Will.

**Please feel free to bring your children!

**Attendance is limited to 20 adults

For more detailed information about the legal documents we’ll be notarizing, click here. To learn more about my history with these events, click here.

SOLD OUT! Hopefully I’ll be organizing another event soon. Please contact me if you’d like to be on a waiting list.

Posted by on March 30th, 2014 5 Comments

April Get Your Act Together Event!

Do you and your partner have a will? Power of attorney? Living will? Maybe you have these documents set up, but have never managed to coordinate a time when you can both get to a notary with witnesses AND find childcare for your kids…

(Image via JaySurdukowski)

I’ve got a solution for you: Get Your Act Together family-friendly signing event

I’m coordinating a notary signing event for young families at the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library. Parents can come with documents prepared, our kids can play safely in the space, and we can all serve as one another’s witnesses while a team of mobile notaries stamps our documents.

Here are the details:

April 28 from 6:00-8:30pm

Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library, 5401 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Cost: $31.20 per adult**

This price includes space rental fees, notary travel fees, 3 notary stamps per adult, and other costs associated with planning the event.

Guests must come to the event with their documents completed. We will not have lawyers or legal advisors present. This event is intended to help families get documents in place to communicate their wishes should tragedy strike.

Not sure where to start with these documents? Rocket Lawyer and Suze Orman have great templates for a Last Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Living Will. (Rocket Lawyer is doing a free “make a will month” for April!)

**Please feel free to bring your children!

For more detailed information about the legal documents we’ll be notarizing, click here. To learn more about my history with these events, click here.

Any additional questions? Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer them as best I can.

SOLD OUT!! Please consider our May event.

Posted by on March 26th, 2014 10 Comments

Slow Simmer

Awhile ago, I transitioned this blog to mostly focus on my writing, and then the blog became pretty quiet! It’s become even quieter of late, and that’s because, well, I haven’t been doing a ton of work lately. I’ve stopped actively seeking new clients at this point and am working with my existing clients. My work and writing life have come to a slow simmer. I think that’s ok.

I hear other people talk about how they work from home with kids around, and I am truly baffled by this concept. The only thing I can think is that these people either work opposite shifts from their partner, have kids who sleep a lot (or at least more than my alert, dairy-farmer children), or have kids with calm temperaments.

I have part-time childcare right now, and those are the ONLY moments when I am able to get work done. Not only the actual writing work, but even sending emails or making phone calls to confirm appointments or interviews. I literally cannot send a confirmation email while I am responsible for keeping my children alive.

Here’s an example: the other day, Miles asked me to help him unstick his arm from a too-small sleeve. In the few moments I was turned away to do that, Felix got his toothbrush and dunked it into the toilet before using it to scrub his teeth.

Here’s another example: I paused to butter some toast for Miles and turned back around to find Felix greedily slurping up water from the dishwasher door–dirty water tinged with barbecue sauce and mustard drippings–as if it were ambrosia.

My reality is simply that my kids require constant monitoring, relentless supervision. It’s not because I’m a helicopter parent. It’s not because I’ve failed to impose limits. It’s because they are feisty and curious with little concept of safety awareness. They’re always a heartbeat away from stabbing each other in the eye with an icicle.

Sure, I could hire more childcare and plan to work more hours. But often, there are things that pop up during my work time and I’m the only appropriate person to respond. Like last week, Felix got an infected body part (I’ll spare you the details) and I had to rush his feverish, prurient little body to the pediatrician the very same day Miles had to be picked up from school for an asthma attack.

Plus, I spend a LOT of time managing Miles’ various behavior services every week. It’s important to me that I am the one to manage these services and make sure my son is getting the support he needs. Just yesterday, I was on the phone for an entire half hour trying to arrange his transition to kindergarten meeting. During that half hour, I had to buckle the kids in their carseats and give them cups of animal crackers. (Don’t worry–I turned the heat on for them)

Every now and then, I get sad when I see a potential story I know I could be writing. Right now, my family is fascinated by the shortage of road salt throughout the Midwest and East Coast. We learned there’s one lone salt mine in upstate New York frantically working to provide salt for 12 states who need it for the winter that won’t stop pounding us in the face. If I were working more, I’d be locating a salt miner and writing a profile about him or her. Wouldn’t that be fascinating to read? Wouldn’t you love that?

I remind myself that one day, my kids will know how to, generally, keep themselves alive. Or at least they’ll be at school during the day and someone else will be in charge of keeping them from licking up black market road salt. So I’ll be able to work more and these sorts of stories will always exist. I’ll always have the ability to write them. So I’m ok with the slow simmer for now.

Because it also means I get to be there to watch Felix torment his brother with a feather duster. It means I get to be the one to sneak  the word “fart” into song lyrics and make Mils snarf milk out of his nose. And then I get to read them Charlotte’s Web. It’s good stuff, this.

Posted by on February 20th, 2014 No Comments

Running in the Limestone Mine

This weekend, I ran an underground 5k. It was every bit as awesome as it sounds. At first, I didn’t even want to register for this race, despite thinking it was awesome. My irrational fear of the mine collapsing kept me from signing up and when we had a board meeting scheduled for the Toy Lending Library, I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to face my fear.

But then the board meeting got moved and I had no more excuses. I’d already told all my friends about the mine race. So I registered. It was the coolest thing I’ve done for a long time.

The Wampum mine, in Beaver Falls (about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh), stopped actively mining limestone in the 30s. Now, it’s a 50-acre storage facility. Underground, it’s 55 degrees year round. It’s a bit humid and the entire interior of the mine is all gravelly. I rather thought it would be paved for some reason…

The start and finish lines had to be above ground because the timing chips wouldn’t work underground, so the race started and finished outside in the 14-degree weather. That was pretty awful. But otherwise, as I wound through 49 turns inside, I just kept thinking about how interesting it all was. All these carefully constructed support columns served as dividers between rows of RVs, airstream trailers, carnival rides, boats, and food carts. Parking spot numbers were painted on the walls in yellow spray paint.

The ceiling was high enough that tractor trailers fit in there with plenty of room to spare and, well, they were able to construct a 3-mile running course inside. It was so vast. I never felt claustrophobic for a moment in there, but I did trip a few times where the gravel was uneven.

I saw a few runners wearing head lamps at the start and I thought they were being snarky, but the mine is only lit by wee strands of bare light bulbs, so it was pretty dark in there. Next time, I’ll bring a headlamp, too.

Corey and Miles came along to cheer for me, but primarily because they wanted to check out the mine. They were disappointed not to be allowed inside. They could only sit at the exit tunnel and wait for me to come by, and even to do that they had to register and sign out afterward. I was happy to have them there even if they were bummed to have made the trip!

I’ve been spending a lot of time researching depression and anxiety, so it was nice to get away from that heavy sort of work for awhile and just concentrate on running during the race. I didn’t train for it–I just don’t want to run outside when it’s icy and it’s been below freezing (well, well below freezing) for almost 2 months straight. So it was nice to re-awaken my muscles for something so interesting!

Here’s a video from the race 2 years ago to give you an idea of what it all looked like in there:

Posted by on February 11th, 2014 2 Comments

Sunday Trip to the Grocery Store

I’ve been wooing 2 potential clients lately, so I’ve been sort of distracted while I both work out my proposals and fantasize about the summer cottage I’ll buy with all my projected earnings. Which means I left my meal planning and grocery list-making until the last minute and found myself at the grocery store Sunday morning, the day of the Super Bowl and the day before a predicted snowstorm. Whoops!

This grocery store has an on-site childcare center for kids 3 and up, which we’ve loved using since the very day Miles turned 3. It was closed for a week for renovations and I was worried it wouldn’t be opened yet, and I’d have a disappointed kid to drag through the store. Thankfully, Miles got to explore all the “new toys,” while I anxiously navigated all the rearranged aisles.

You see, this grocery store is undergoing a transformation from regular grocery store into “fancy” grocery store. This chain has gradually been converting their stores into sort of Wegman’s-esque shopping meccas, only their store brands are not as affordable as Wegman’s and their fancy stuff is not as nice.

But in the mean time, they’ve been moving crap all over the place until nothing makes sense.

I spent an hour wandering around with other agitated grownups. Everyone held out their lists, sort of pleading with one another. “Have you seen bread???” someone asked me.

“It’s right there, next to the laundry detergent,” I’d say [not actually where the bread was...can't remember where they moved it], “but have you seen pasta??”

I definitely found cereal a row over from toilet paper and for some reason, chocolate chips were in the same aisle as the olive oil. Like, right next to the olive oil.

I saw one couple in their 60s or so in a screaming fight with one another because they COULD NOT find the butter and the husband kept yelling, “It’s been a half hour. Where the hell could it be?”

I kind of liked how all these strangers were coming together to help one another find party snacks, but didn’t like how angrily people talked to the random store employees they’d find and then verbally throttle over misplaced salsa. I very nearly walked out of there without going to get Miles from the childcare place. I managed to leave without 3 things on my list–freezer waffles among them, which means breakfasts this week will have to be prepared by me.

The whole experience made me realize what creatures of habits we all are, how we’re all used to cruising through the grocery store on autopilot. It made me feel better about the crushing sense of anxiety I felt at my utter disorientation in this rearranged store.

Having stepped so far from my comfort zone (which, the fact that a rearranged grocery store counts as stepping out of my comfort zone is very telling!), I was excited to get back home to the rest of my family and my day. It somehow energized me, refreshed my thinking. I have no idea what the week ahead will bring–other than a lot of labor at breakfast time–but I know I’ll probably emerge ok.

I mean, I’ve been to a place where the kosher food is next to the dried beans. I can surely survive anything.

Posted by on February 2nd, 2014 No Comments

Getting Other People to Get Their Shit Together

For the past year or so, I’ve been researching and writing about getting one’s shit together. Several things have happened in the past year that have made this mission seem ever more important and made me ever more grateful Corey and I finally got our own shit together last summer.

A month ago, a young father whose kids go to Miles’ school was killed in a car accident on the PA Turnpike. His death rattled a lot of young families from school and the larger community. That same week, my long-ailing step-grandfather died.

I’ve now seen first hand how even when someone like Pop Pop dies, someone who had his shit together in terms of will and pensions and life insurance and all that–even then, it sucks so much for the surviving family members. My poor Nanny has been submerged in paperwork for the past month. My extended family is helping her with forms, but my God! It’s horrifying to deal with someone’s death, just from a paperwork standpoint. Imagine adding to that the horrors of probate court because assets weren’t properly designated or allocated?

Ever since my article published and I joined the board of directors at the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library, I’ve wanted to host a Get Your Shit Together event in the play space so other young families could do what Corey and I did. We finally held our event on Monday, Polar Vortex be damned.

I hired our trusted mobile notaries for the event, got people to pre-register and pre-pay, and sent out some unhelpful document templates paired with suggestions for more helpful document sources. 22 young parents filled out paperwork and came to our event and got their shit together! They all served as each other’s witnesses while their last will, power of attorney, living will, and medical power of attorney documents were notarized.

What a truly amazing thing to behold, to have helped facilitate! Here are families who can rest easier knowing their wishes for their children are made known should the worst happen. Here are families with a plan in place.

Our event reached (actually exceeded) capacity within a few hours of my sending out the email to our membership, which tells me this idea has weight and power and means something. It looks like 2014 will be another year spent researching getting shit together. There is more work to be done!

Posted by on January 9th, 2014 1 Comment

Solder vs Welding or How I’ll Fix My Favorite Shirt

Today, I learned the difference between soldering and welding!

I should back up.

In 2007, Corey bought me a reversible Pearl Izumi fleece that had a 2-way zipper. It’s my favorite garment in the whole world. Most pictures of me in existence since then show me wearing it. See here:

Me, the fleece, and Baby Miles on the beach in San Francisco in 2010

Here it is again:

Me, the fleece, baby on back, baby in front!

I love it both for working out and also for maternity/nursing because it can UNZIP FROM THE BOTTOM as well as the top.

Well, a bit ago (probably 8 months or more) the bottom zipper pull fell off. It’s still usable as a 2-way zipper, but I have to dig my fingers into the zipper thingy and it’s annoying and I started wearing the fleece less and less.

Today, I finally got around to calling the company to see about their warranty policy and replacing it. They are happy to replace the fleece with something new…but they no longer make this reversible fleece and they only made the 2-way reversible zipper that one, single season in Fall 2007. There’s really nothing new that appeals to me as much as this fleece.

If it were any other garment, I’d forget it and just get a regular fleece. But this one! One side is fuzzy and has two zippered pockets, one on each side. The other is sleek and wind resistant, with one back pocket–for goo or fuel or what have you during a work out. It just fits me so well. And I’ve had it for so long!

The guy I talked with says he can replace the whole zipper for me, making it a one way zipper. One that only unzips from the top. Who wants a zipper that only opens from the top? That’s the whole point! How will I use the fleece as a nursing shirt if I have to open up the whole top, I ask you? (I realize this isn’t the goal of an athletic apparel company, but I made sure to tell them about this awesome side benefit)

So then I started texting my arty friend who blows glass to see if she could help me weld a new zipper pull. I have a vision, you see. I sat and jiggered the zipper around and ran a paper clip through the bottom and made something passable. Surely, a bit of metal a bit firmer than a paperclip could be a more permanent solution.

But my friend says that what I’m describing should be soldered, not welded. Something about flames and polyester fabric not mixing well. She doesn’t know how to solder. But her husband does!

So then, I called back the manufacturer and told them to forget about replacing the zipper. I was going to solder something myself. He, intrigued, is going to mail me a new zipper pull and wishes me luck. Now I just need to find a wee bit of metal to hook the zipper pull on to, get my friend’s husband to teach me to solder (not weld!) and I’m back in the business of wearing my very most favorite shirt!

Just a girl and her fleece hiking in Cinque Terre, May 2008.

What’d you do with yourself this holiday season? Surely someone else spent this amount of time investigating zipper repair on a beloved outer layer?

Posted by on January 2nd, 2014 3 Comments