Year Seven. Here we go.

Growing up in a religious household (don’t stop reading, you  jags; I’m going somewhere with this!) with a minister father meant lots of bible instruction, and one thing me and my four sisters learned quite often was about the number seven.

Seven is the number of completion.

DO YOU HEAR THAT BEN ROETHLISBERGER?! COMPLETION. NOT INTERCEPTION.

Anyway. Every time I see the number seven I think …

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Year. Seven. For Make Room for Kids.

Do you  remember how this started? This whole thing where you and I work to raise money to put XBOXs in patient rooms at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh via the Make Room for Kids program at Mario Lemieux Foundation?

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(This little dude was the happiest you’ve ever seen a little dude … and he was in the transplant unit at the time.)

Let me refresh your memory. It started right here with this post. 

If I fail in my efforts on behalf of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to win this prize, guess what? You’re not off the hook because then I’m going to hold a fundraiser to raise the $10,000 and guess who I’m coming to begging for three dollars? That’s right, YOU. And now that I’m not anonymous I can actually show up at your door with my hand out, my eyes in their best sad-puppy look, and I will weep and beg and gnash my teeth until you fork over your three hard-earned bucks.

We failed because the voting site failed, and we succeeded because you forked over your three dollars so I didn’t show up at your house with the fire of the sun in my eyes and the doom of a thousand demons in my scream. (I think I just wrote a heavy metal song. Gimme a pigeon and I’ll bite its head off.)

200 XBOXs later.

$125,000 later. Here we are. Here’s all the kids we helped:

  • Year one: Transplant Unit
  • Year two: Adolescent Medicine Unit
  • Year three: Cancer Unit
  • Year four: The Children’s Home and Lemieux Family Center
  • Year five: Cardiac Unit, cardiac step-down unit, and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit
  • Year six: Infusion/dialysis unit

That’s a lot of rooms, a lot of beds, a lot of smiles on sick kids’ faces.

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(That’s Haley. We follow each other on Twitter now because I am a hip young cool person.)

Year seven. Can there possibly be sick children left who we haven’t taken care of?

Yes. There are.

What about the kids with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that will allow them to live to see 40 if they’re lucky?

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and progressively limits the ability to breathe.

What about the kids suffering from Crohn’s and colitis, diseases they’ll fight their entire lives?

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.

That’s our unit this year. It’s called the GI unit and these are children who are regularly readmitted to the hospital for treatment and maintenance. Chronic. They will live with their conditions their whole lives. They know the hospital like the backs of their tiny hands, they’ve been there so much.

Children of all ages are cared for in this unit, but many are teens. Kidney and liver transplant children are also housed in this unit at times. The children in this unit stay for a week at a time, or months at a time, and they have to keep coming back due to their conditions when flare-ups happen.

Transplant kids can wait in this unit indefinitely until an organ becomes available. The kidney transplant children go from this unit down to dialysis and back.

This unit has three sleep-study beds. Children have a very hard time sitting still as all the wires and machines are hooked up to their bodies. Hospital staff has let us know that having in-room gaming would go a long way to helping the children stay still and occupied while being set up for their sleep studies.

Many of the children in this unit cannot move about freely to visit the general playroom area because it is vital they are near their restrooms due to their chronic GI conditions. For this reason, they would be ecstatic with in-room gaming.

Right now, this unit is sharing three XBOXs between 23 beds.

That. Won’t. Do.

Now, you’ll notice the thermometer is only set for $5,200. That’s much less than our usual goal of $10,000. Why?

Because Pittsburgh is awesome.

  • Regional Microsoft employees have donated a huge chunk of cash as they do every year, which was matched by the Microsoft corporation.
  • The Holiday Park Volunteer Fire Department donated over $4,200 to Make Room for Kids via their bingo night proceeds.
  • The ScareHouse Shake at Burgatory provides an influx of maintenance dollars.
  • And this year, Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund will be covering our cost of maintenance of machines already installed in the oncology unit, and will also cover the cost of outfitting a planned expansion that will add more beds. We can’t let some of the cancer kids not have in-room gaming. They must all have this diversion from their awful disease.

That leaves you and I to make up the remainder needed. $5,200.

Here’s where your money is going:

  • Maintenance on all previous units installed. XBOXs break, controllers get lost, games get broken or lost, new games are released, new movies as well, and the children make new requests. We ask Child Life in each unit to let us know what they need, what the kids are begging for, and we get take their lists and we use your donations and we get those things for them.
  • This year we will be doing maintenance on the pediatric unit at Allegheny General Hospital as well, as you recall we did a little side project to outfit that unit one year. Time to give them new games and movies and to replace any broken equipment.
  • We will be putting an XBOX One with a Kinect in the play area of the GI unit, and we would like to upgrade their current small TV to a much much larger one so that the Cystic Fibrosis kids, who need activity to stay on top of their disease, can get some FUN exercise with plenty of room to move and a big TV to do it on. We will get them lots and lots of Kinect games for every age. We will make them thrilled to move their little bodies in defense of Cystic Fibrosis.
  • This unit has requested lots of scrapbooking equipment, as the children like to pass the time that way as well. As for units in the past, we will be providing a Cricut machine, cameras, photo printers, and all the fun fixings needed for scrapbooking.
  • Mounts and locks for the XBOXs are important
  • Games and movies GALORE for the GI unit, as well as extra controllers.
  • Portable DVD players. We will be getting half a dozen along with headphones. This is helpful for the children on the spectrum who need visuals to be up close.
  • Virtual reality goggles. These are particularly for children on the spectrum as well. This will be the first year we’ve supplied such a product for an install and I’m excited to see what we can find out there for the kids.
  • Every bed will have an XBOX installed and we will be providing Surface units for handheld fun and Skype-ing with friends and families, to keep the kids feeling connected to their outside life while hospitalized.
  • We will be installing all new XBOXs in the cardiac step down unit. This unit was relocated after our install a few years ago, so last year we refurbished the transplant XBOXs, gave the transplant unit all new XBOXs, and put the refurbished ones in the relocated cardiac step down. Now, we will replace every XBOX in the cardiac step down unit with a brand new machine.So basically, we are not only doing maintenance on every unit we’ve installed so far, we are installing new XBOXs in TWO ENTIRE UNITS.

It’s a lot. And thank goodness we have the partners we do at Microsoft, Genres Kids with Cancer Fund, Holiday Park VFD, and ScareHouse/Burgatory!

And you. Could you spare a few bucks for these sick kids? These Cystic Fibrosis kids? Crohn’s, colitis, transplant, heart, dialysis? Your dollars will touch six units in Children’s Hospital this year, and one at Allegheny General Hospital.

All donations go directly to the Mario Lemieux Foundation’s PayPal account. I don’t touch a penny of your money. It all goes to the sick kids.

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It only takes a minute of your time, if even that, to provide these wonderful children with a distraction from their very real, very scary diseases.

We install on April 21. The goal is $5,200. And if I know Pittsburgh, we will get there. Just click the button under the thermometer up there, and give anything you can. Every single dollar helps.

I love you all! Group hug.





Pittsburgh History with Ginny … and cookies.

So I says to my kid, I says, “Your popple waffed.”

And then I says, “I meant to say your waffle popped. Let me run myself through the stroke tests real quick here while you get your toffle out of the woaster.”

How do our brains do that? Switch letters around like that?

And what does that have to do with anything? Nothing. I just wasted twenty seconds of your precious time.

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As you know, I am a true crazy person when it comes to Pittsburgh history. The subscription to the Post-Gazette archives is the best money I’ve spent since Amazon Prime.

I received an email from an editor at Pittsburgh Magazine not too long ago in which she let me know that the History Center had emailed her about another matter and in doing so mentioned they had uncovered evidence that a statue of mythical steelman Joe Magarac was once proposed to be placed at the tip of the Point.

So, you know me … I downed six cookies and two glasses of wine.

And then I spent some time in a shame spiral.

And THEN … I ate more cookies.

And then finally I started researching, and hit paydirt.

Learning about the BATSHIT INSANE OH MAH GAWD IT WAS GOING TO BE AS BIG AS CHRIST THE REDEEMER IN RIO statue of Joe Magarac designed for the Point, and finding a picture of the clay model of it, led me to stumble upon information regarding a 2,500-seat amphitheater that was once at the tip of the Point. And that led me to learn about what Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to put at the Point. And that led me to learn who Stanley Roush was and what HE wanted to put at the Point.

All told, I spent about 12 hours in research and cookies and wine.

Why are cookies so delicious?

Did I just waste ten more seconds of your time talking about cookies? You betcha.

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I can’t stop laughing at that and I’m not even drunk. The 80s were awful. Really really awful.

Where were we? Right, the confluence! (DRINK!)

So I’m reading and researching and hunting and finally birthed this post over at Pittsburgh Magazine. In that post, you’ll notice I acquired rights to an image of the amphitheater (which was SO HARD TO FIND. The damn thing was there for like a year and no one has any pictures of it. Go check all your gram’s pictures from 1959 and see if you can find any please.)

While I was zooming around the image provided to me by the Brady Stewart Archive, I noticed this standing at the Point.

What is it?! Where is it?! Why is it?! What does it do?! What is it called?! WHAT IS IT DAMN IT?!?!

Anyway, go read that post and see all the fantastic pictures of crazy shit they used to want to put at the Point.

It’s been nice knowing you. I’ll be useless until I get to the bottom of this.

Send cookies.

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Yinzer Gift Guide Giveaway!

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If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll want to click … … HERE … … to be whisked away to my annual World Famous (not really) Yinzer Gift Guide for Pittsburgh Magazine.

I’m not joking when I say I’ve spent months researching for this gift guide full of Burghy goodness. As I do that research, I buy stuff. And sometimes I am given stuff. And I always give them away to you, because you’re dear to me.

So here’s what one lucky winner is getting this year!

1. Four Audra Azoury Pittsburgh ornaments and one Pittsburgh bookmark.

Santa over Pittsburgh:

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Bridge:

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Fort Pitt Tunnel:

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Skating at PPG.

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And you’re not getting this one, but look at it. LOOK AT IT DAMN IT.

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I miss baseball. Check out all her ornaments here.

This is the bookmark you’re getting:

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2. Even though it didn’t make the list because I decided to go with the Mister Rogers Sticky Note Set instead, this fabulous shirt sold at the History Center and made by Commonwealth Press. It’s super super soft, girl fit, large. They run small, so it’s more like a medium. Again, can’t express how soft it is.

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You can buy it here and check out the matching tote.

3. HONEY! Michelle Wright was kind enough to send me some of her honey to give away to you. So you’re getting her raw dark honey, raw light honey, tea infuser, beeswax/essential oils lotion (it is heaven. I’m not even joking.), and the adorable mug with spoon. Listen to me … any foodie or baker in your life will FLIP over this honey. It’s local. Raw. Meaningful. Would you just trust me? Geez.

Here’s the mug you’re getting in addition to the delicious, local raw honey:

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Here’s her site if you want to order stuff from her. Local bees, saving the planet. I don’t need to explain to you how nature works and that if you don’t buy the honey before it all sells out, you have to wait until the bees make more honey. Her light honeycomb is already sold out, but you can snag the dark still.

4. Candles! You’re getting my three favorite Sugar Creek Candle Company scents. Waffles N’at (my favorite. It is AMAZING.), Monkey Farts (coconutty!) and butt naked. LOOK AT THE ART WORK.

I’ll also throw in the limited edition “Winter Flurry” scent which sort of tips its hat to Mark Andre Fleury. Candles you can give to ANY gender. Perfect.

Also gonna throw in some scented Sugar Creek chapsticks, and they are coconut and Butt Naked flavors. BUTTS. Here are the ingredients list on those.

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LOVE them. Don’t know what meadowfoam is, other than a possible Sherwin Williams paint color name, but LOVE THEM.

5. The Pittsburgh coloring book for adults that I purchased for you.

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Wait until you see the Kennywood page. So awesome.

6. The Yinz Might Be From Picksburgh calendar I purchased for you.

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7. The winner will be receiving their choice of shirt from the Pittsburgh Shirt Company.

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8. All four prints in the special set Dave Dicello and I put together for the gift guide, including mats for framing them.

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WHEW!

I think that’s it. I didn’t total it up, but that is hundreds of dollars worth of gifts!

If anything else arrives, I’ll toss it in the box for you, and yes, I will mail this treasure to you as long as you live in the 48 contiguous states. Sorry, Alaska. Not sorry, Hawaii; you live in HAWAII.

If you’re local, it would be cool if you agreed to just swing by Las Velas in Downtown or Madero in Murrysville (our two restaurants) if one of them is convenient to you and pick them up there.

How to enter?

Well, this world is kind of depressing lately, and I’m not going to lie. It’s getting to me. It’s slowly chipping away at the Sue Heck in me. So how about you cheer me and my readers up? Tell me about the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for you, or the nicest thing you’ve ever done for a stranger. Help an elderly person cross the street? Carry groceries? Pay for the coffee order of the car behind you? Paid off someone’s layaway?  ANYTHING. One nice thing. No matter how small. No matter how big. Brag. BRAG ABOUT YOUR AWESOMENESS in this world of turmoil. BRAG about that amazing thing that stranger did for you. Please. And we’re going to read them all and we’re going to feel better about humans taking the time to help other humans who they DON’T EVEN KNOW, okay? Group hug.

Yes, you can just write anything you want to comment and win, but how about you cheer me up instead? If you don’t use a real email address, I won’t be able to contact you and tell you that you won.

I want to get this in the mail in time for the holidays in case the winner plans to use them as gifts, so that means we’re going to shut this puppy down next Wednesday at noon at which time Random.org will pick the winning comment.

If your comment for some reason goes to spam, flip a table.

Don’t flip a table. Be patient and I’ll regularly dig them out of spam and publish them.

Good luck and group hug.

Shop the gift guide and support these local Burghers. 





Some random stuff

1. Let’s not call this a “Random n’at” post because it’s really just a list of some things I want to tell you. Don’t argue with me.

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2. If you’re downtown tonight for Light Up Night, come say hello to me at Steel City Studios in Fifth Avenue Place around 5:30. I’ll be recording a podcast interview with the one and only Ya Jagoff. We’ll be chatting about my forthcoming Yinzer Gift Guide for Pittsburgh Magazine and hopefully my new puppy and Fred Rogers.

Here’s the last interview I did with him:

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3. I just now realized I should have named my puppy Fred Rogers. How perfect is that? He could wear a red cardigan and tiny sneakers. Damn it. But alas, he is Milo Walker Montanez. He is perfect. He will tear your heart out and rip it to pieces like he does everything he can steal and scurry with under our bed.

Also, I haven’t peaked under our bed yet, but I’m guessing it looks like some raccoons had a meth-fueled rager under there.

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You should follow me on Instagram (Janepitt) for more Milo fuzziliciousness. And because I get asked a lot, he is a broken-coat Jack Russell Shorty and he is five months old.

4. Speaking of Fred Rogers, in a fit of writer’s block a few months ago, I decided to read every single Post-Gazette article that has ever mentioned Fred Rogers ever. EVER. That meant starting way back in the 1890s when other people in Pittsburgh dared to be named Fred Rogers. As if. The real stuff started popping up when I got to the 1950s and that’s when I hit paydirt.

After around 2,000 articles, I wrote this column for Pittsburgh Magazine. 

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Isn’t that illustration by cartoonist Wayno just PERFECTION? The facial expression is exactly what it needed to be.

I learned so much and I’m going to bet you probably knew ZERO of the things I discovered.

If you did know some of them … no one likes a show off.

One thing I learned that didn’t make the column due to space and because some of you probably knew this and I really wanted to give you stuff you didn’t know,  Mister Rogers’ other acting credit was a cameo in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman!

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[praise hands]

5. This is so cool. Last night I headed to the Holiday Park Volunteer Fire Department bingo night with Mario Lemieux Foundation’s executive director Nancy Angus to accept a donation from the bingo players.

Thanks to one of their players nominating Make Room for Kids as their charity for the year, and it being selected in a vote, Nancy accepted a more than $4,200 check from the fire department that will go towards the 2016 Make Room for Kids install at Children’s Hospital. We will be placing in-room gaming in the GI Unit, which houses Crohn’s, colitis, cystic fibrosis, and some transplant kids.

How cool is that?

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As we were leaving, we asked a lovely bingo player why she nominated Make Room for Kids as the charity for the year and she looked a bit sheepish and said, “I’m a Mario fan.”

Perfect.

6. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving. The next time you hear from me here will be the following week when I give away some of the fantastic items on this year’s Yinzer Holiday Gift Guide to one lucky reader.





Bad, human! Bad!

“Reading comment sections on the Internet is like digging to the bottom of your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer to investigate a foul smell: You honestly don’t want to look because — although you never know exactly what you’ll find there — you’re 100 percent sure you’re going to be totally disgusted by it.”

That sentence I wrote for my October column in Pittsburgh Magazine is CHURCH. It is TRUTH. It is GOSPEL.

ANGELS SING FOR THAT KIND OF ROCK SOLID TRUTH AND THEY HIGH-WING EACH OTHER AND MAKE IT RAIN NUTELLA IN HEAVEN FOR THAT KIND OF TRUTH.

With that said, I read some comments and I really regret it, but I’m going to write about it and you’re going to read this and you’re either going to agree with me, or you’re going to go to bed tonight with a nagging feeling in your brain that you’re not being a good and decent member of the HUMAN RACE.

The headline is “Peduto joins mayors urging Obama to welcome more Syrian refugees.”

Do you know what Syria is like right now? It is HELL. The closest thing to actual hell. And at no fault of their own, the Syrian people have found themselves in grave danger. Their human lives in danger. Their children’s HUMAN lives in danger.

Look at your kid, who at no doing of their own but rather PURE LUCK, was born into safety. Look at your niece or nephew who will sleep tonight, safely. Fed. Comfortable. Educated. Living a life.

Imagine instead your child is in grave danger every day. Life is hell. Bombs are falling. There is no safety. There is no comfort. There is no school. There is hell and fear and pain and tears. IMAGINE IT.

And rather than stay there and face the death and hellfire, you will take a chance on a raft. You’ll put your kid on that raft out to the unpredictable sea because THAT is less of a risk than staying in your home.

Your child in America, like mine, probably gets a bit testy when his daily routine fluctuates. Imagine taking your child away from home and WALKING and WALKING and WAITING for days and days without shelter and minimal food. Imagine the fear, the crying, and your complete inability to comfort that level of life-upheaval for a child.

Be a human and imagine that please.

Great.

Your heart hurts. Like my Syrian heart hurts. My grandfather was born on the boat from Syria. He came to America with his many brothers and sisters. I am a moderate-conservative, Christian Arab-American, and you have ZERO idea what that actually means so for the love of Nutella do not email me and accuse me of supporting or not supporting anything that you hold dear to your heart.

Four million Syrians are on the run. HALF OF THEM ARE CHILDREN.

Read that again. Look in your kids’ eyes. Then read that again.

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See that face?

Here’s what one commenter named called him and others like him, who he DOES NOT WANT TO COME TO PITTSBURGH …

ready?

Nasty. 

“Nasty refugees.”

Another commenter?

Jihad.

It’s Jihad.

These people aren’t fleeing death! They’re coming to us for holy war!

Camps like this are where hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are being raised. Doesn't stop them having fun. #syria #refugees #lebanon

A photo posted by Liz Sly (@lizslywp) on

You can read the comments from some Pittsburghers yourself, but here’s an awful snippet of a few. Brace yourselves.

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Oh, Jim Kramer, whoever you are at PNC, you are not a bad conservative republican. You are what we call a bad human being.

We are simply talking about America doing what America did to become America: bring in immigrants. Let them build a life here. Let them find safety here. Let them contribute here. Who knows what these children will grow up to be. Doctors? Journalists? Veterinarians? Robotics experts? Entrepreneurs? Philanthropists?

But I can pretty much guarantee they will not grow up to be jihadists.

Stop thinking with your politically poisoned brain and start thinking with your love-capable heart.

Peduto isn’t asking for half-a-million refugees to come to Pittsburgh. He’s asking Obama to increase the number of refugees he’ll bring into ALL of America, a number that currently stands at an embarrassingly low 10,000.

“Plenty of bridges they can live below.”

Say that to these children’s faces. GO LIVE UNDER A BRIDGE IN PITTSBURGH, YOU NASTY REFUGEE CHILDREN. EW! DIRTY!:

Some of the Syrian refugee children I met: these two were swinging in their shack in Al-Minya, near Tripoli. #refugees

A photo posted by Liz Sly (@lizslywp) on

“It amazed me at the level of desperation these families are at.”

Did that commenter REALLY write that unironically? How unfeeling can you be? And that’s coming from a person who has been called a “heartless wench.”

The level of desperation THESE FAMILIES are at?! As an INSULT?!

Have you never felt desperation? I pray you never do. It’s a truly awful, awful feeling and I have felt it and I have gone to bed with it and I have woken up with it and if not for the safety net of my parents, me and my family could have been out on the streets.

This is a camp near Kfardebian in Bekaa. There was garbage everywhere. #syria #refugees #lebanon

A photo posted by Liz Sly (@lizslywp) on

Desperation. That environment would make any human feel desperation.

I’m a bit aghast, guys.

This callousness cannot represent Pittsburgh. We must be better. Become better. Think like humans not like political robots who just follow the party path all “beep-boop-Trump-no-like-immigrants-beep-boop-me-no-like-immigrants.”

Knowing another human is desperate must not become the foundation for insults and apathy, or we are no better than those who pledge allegiance to ISIS. Desperation, if we are to retain our humanity, must become the foundation for COMPASSION. That’s what makes us better than those who are causing the havoc in Syria. That’s what rises us above. That’s what changes things for the BETTER.

I wrote something recently, coincidentally, about prejudice in Pittsburgh. Maybe you should read it.

Open your hearts, Burghers. Open them wide to these FAMILIES. I don’t beg this of you as a Syrian; I beg this of you as a human being.

Because as John Fetterman calls it, “the lottery of our birth” is the ABSOLUTE ONLY REASON we aren’t fleeing Syria ourselves.