Category Archives: Awesome Burghers

It was MY day, bitches.

I probably shouldn’t write this post, but I honestly don’t give a shit.

And that’s a weird way to start a post about my 40th birthday, but seriously, I in no way want to seem as if I am bragging (My sisters will testify that I HATE doing anything that even resembles bragging. They even have a recent example to prove it.), but I have shared almost a decade of my Pittsburgh journey with you guys, and I don’t want to withhold from you this latest, interesting leg of the trip.

So suck it up and read this and feel free to comment about how I’m bragging and a bitch and also how fabulous I look for 40 because 40 … WAH!

Anyway …

I turned 40 last Friday. I’ve already written about how I am not too happy about turning 40. Yes, it’s better than the alternative, but these gray hairs and these wrinkles and these failing eyes and this flabby butt are not endearing me much to 40. Of course, I’ve known my flabby butt since my twenties, but still … 40, you are not welcome here.

40 started out great. Breakfast in bed. Two sets of flowers. Two balloons, one of which informed me that I had crested the proverbial “hill “and was indeed on my way down it. Screaming. In terror. Like a three-year-old approaching the Jack Rabbit’s double dip.

My husband had spent the better part of the previous week being blatantly, intentionally mysterious. Dropped hints about trips. Suitcases. His parents in Mexico.

Were we taking a trip? I secretly hoped not because while if YOUR husband handed YOU two tickets to Greece and an already packed suitcase, you’d probably jump into his arms and try to rip his pants off in ecstasy, that’s pretty much my worst nightmare. Not the sex. The travel.

I need to prepare for travel. I need to take care of shit. I need to get my affairs in order. I need to mentally prepare myself for getting on an airplane.  For possible burny death.

I know. I need drugs or something.

Anyway, my husband headed for the restaurant for the day and left me to be nervous about whatever the hell he had planned. I knew we were going to dinner, but that was it.

Fast forward to about 4:00 p.m. when my mother arrived to pick up my children so that we could have our date night. And she said, “Gin, since you’re going away for a few days, why don’t I –”

And I said, “WHAT?! AM I GOING AWAY?! AM I GOING TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH TOMORROW?! INTO WHICH OCEAN WILL I BE PLUNGING?!” Internally, I hit my knees in prayer.

Mom looked aghast. Threw her hands over her mouth and quickly ushered the kids out the front door without saying another word to me.

A while later, my husband drove us to the South Side. I was sure we were heading for my favorite South Side spot Dish Osteria for dinner, but he pulled into Nakama valet. “For a drink.”

Ugh.

I sucked down a cosmopolitan like it was a tequila shooter and demanded to know where we were going. What were we doing. I AM 40 AND YOU ARE GOING TO GIVE ME A FRICKING HEART ATTACK.

Maybe that was the plan. Kill me at 40 so I can’t complain about 50.

Drinks imbibed, we retrieved my filthy momdorkmobile from valet.

“We need to swing into the Pirates offices to pick up my tickets for next week and then we’ll go on from there.”

Huh?

His cell phone rings. “Yeah? Hi, Jordan [our sales rep]. We’re almost there. Where will you be? Okay. See you in a few.”

Huh?

At PNC Park, I started to get it when we headed inside and suddenly there were employees directing us to the 3000 Club.

SURPRISE, GINNY!

Look who is here! All of your family! Many of your friends!

But wait. Look who is also here. Your nutty OCD sister who had a mental breakdown just a few months ago. She got on an airplane for the first time in more than a decade to be here.

And that got me. Because she got on an airplane. For me. If you’ve ever read her blog, you understand what a huge, huge, huge deal that it. Inconceivable six months ago. Completely inconceivable. She didn’t attend our sisters weekend last fall because she couldn’t get on a plane.

So I cried. Because it meant she was really well. Finally, she was whole again. Here’s my ugly-cry face. Memorize it. You won’t see it again until the Bucs win the World Series:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.18.08 AM

But that’s not all, Ginny. Close your eyes because we have another surprise!

I opened my already teary eyes to find myself staring into the face of my best friend from college who I had not seen since 1996 on account of the fact that I live in Pittsburgh and she lives in Newfoundland, Canada.

I was stunned that my husband was actually listening to me when I talked about her. That he contacted her and managed to get her there. Can you imagine how creepy that would have seemed? “Hi! I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Can I get you a hotel room in Pittsburgh?”

So I cried some more. Who knew 40 makes you so damn weepy all the damn time. And sweary. Really sweary.

Damn.

Shit.

Hi, dad.

As the evening progressed, someone special swung by.

Mayor Bill Peduto. And here’s why I had to write this. Because he walked in and took control of the room like a badass, asked for quiet and then boom.

Proclamation. That he wrote. Himself.

proclamation

peduto

I almost cried. Especially at the part about all my faults.

Hah! Kidding.

Remember how much I’ve made fun of people with proclamations? About ridiculous days named after people we’ve never heard of? Remember that?

I’m one of those people now.

A hundred years from now they’ll be looking through old books in city hall all, “Wow. Books. Haven’t seen one of these in 20 years,” and they’ll find the proclamation copy and say, “WHO THE FRACK IS VIRGINIA MONTANEZ?!”

So I had a day. It was proclaimed. Virginia Montanez Day. And I didn’t know about it until 8:00 p.m.

And I was like, shit (sweary!), I have only four hours TO RULE. THIS. CITY.

I wanted to run yellow lights with the proclamation held up to the windshield. Suck it, traffic light camera. It’s my day. I would make duck lips and the peace sign. Ticket THIS.

I wanted to jaywalk while holding it in the air like Lloyd Dobler and a boombox. (If you don’t know who Lloyd Dobler is, you must leave now on account of your disgusting youth. Gross.)

I wanted to kick down Dunkin Donuts’ doors and demand free pastries.

Park for 30 minutes in a 15-minute loading zone.

Find Lukey and do the running man dance in front of him.

runningman

Punt pigeons all, “It’s MY CITY, VERMIN BITCHES (all the swears!). POW!”

But I stayed at the party and had a blast.

Look at my gorgeous sisters, including the crazy one who got on a plane:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.57.57 AM(Left to right: Princess Aurora, Ta-Ta, the 40-year-old Virginia, Tina Fey, and Pens Fan)

 

Look at my mom and dad:

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Look at me showing them how I was going to cross every street, outside of the crosswalk, until midnight:

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Haters gonna hate.

And look who else showed up:

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That’s David Conrad surrounded by my nieces and nephews who are all big “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” fans. He is the bad guy on that show, but he is truly a good Burgher.

(I am six episodes behind. If he is no longer the bad guy, DO NOT TELL ME.)

My sister Marcia (OCD Tina Fey) gave out a scream when she saw him. And then I realized that 60% of the reason she got on an airplane and risked burny death was because there was a 50% chance she was going to meet him.

Bitch. (Swears!)

So many more wonderful friends I’ve made since I started this blog arrived. It was touching. Unexpected. Sally Wiggin gave me a shirt that says “Ohio.”

I turned 40, and it didn’t suck.

Also, if you got a parking ticket in the City of Pittsburgh on May 30, 2014, get at me.

I think I can cancel those for you.

[awkward kung fu moves]

 





I am dork; hear me snort

Do you know that I am a big giant socially awkward dork? Do you? Do you need me to count the ways?

Perhaps the time I gave David Conrad a ride in my filthy momdorkmobile?

The time I met Mario Lemieux and talked for three minutes straight without inhaling once and then possibly proposed marriage to him like a hopelessly romantic Tourette’s sufferer?

The time this Saturday when I walked around the Children’s Home Shake Your Booties event at Heinz Field for twenty minutes with my blouse awkwardly tucked into my Spanx?

The time I walked around downtown all day with a size sticker strip stuck to the back of my new jeans?

The time I met Sean Casey and he said, “You have leaves in your hair.”

The time I accepted an award from Light of Life with Kennywood wide open?

I am dork. Hear me snort when I laugh.

I’ve got another one to add to the list.

Last night was the Zoo’s first ever Fashion for the Wild event, a fundraiser and fashion show and I was fortunate enough to be invited to check it out. Kiya Tomlin was there showing off her designs. She’s gorgeous. Really.

I got to meet some animals. This is Mr. Cuddlemuffins, as I named him.

porky

This is Sir Back-The-F–k-Up:

snake

Snakes. What was God thinking?

Also there were hosts Sally Wiggin and David Conrad, my BFFs:

sallydavid

There was also fashion, not  modeled just by professional models, but also regular women with interesting stories.

When my sister and I arrived, we were asked if we were guests or models (we said models, of course) and we felt very flattered that we were asked that. We must look super hot and thin, we thought. Then the fashion show started and we understood. Regular Pittsburgh women.

fashion

fashion2

I took my sister Pens Fan as my plus one because she’s a big David Conrad fan and wanted to meet him.

tammydavid

Then Dork struck. (That’s the title of my future autobiography, yes?)

A bit later my sister and I were walking up the circular walkway that winds up to the top floor of the aquarium while David happened to be walking down it. We met in the middle to chat at which point I stepped my new skinny heel into a floor grate and got stuck. Not just a little. REALLY stuck. Wedged.

I yelped, “Oh, my God. I’m stuck!”

I tried to yank my shoe out but the entire grate started coming out of the floor. Not even joking. I started to tip over as the totality of my weight was now balancing on a one centimeter-thick heel and I have that inner ear thing that gives me a shit sense of balance.

David was forced to prop me up while my sister reached down and helped me OUT OF MY SHOE at which time she forcibly yanked it out of the grate and handed it to me.

Ta-daaaaaaa!

tada

[takes a bow]

For my next trick …

Only me, guys. Only. Me.

I bought some cool stuff too! Check out my new coasters featuring three sports stadiums no longer around:

coasters

And I grabbed this too. Would you believe it mentions the Penguins and the Steelers but not the Pirates? I’m kind of aghast.

book

At my sister’s insistence, I took a photo with David. But before we took the picture, I said, “You know for as many times as we’ve met, there does not exist a photo of the two of us together and I feel like we should keep it that way.”

He agreed, so we mostly did:

medavid

Honestly, I’m just thankful there’s no Target price-tag hanging down my back.

You should check it out next year. I hope to be there. I’ll be the curly-haired girl wearing WEDGE SHOES.

 





Then the porkers took flight.

geicoplane

Yesterday was … weird.

I’ve been busting my adorable jiggly ass to get this $10,000 raised for the kids at Children’s Hospital, so I’m constantly tweeting and Facebooking and social-media-ing like a 15-year-old Belieber.

Also, the word Belieber makes me want to kill things.

Hide your pigeons, Mike Tyson.

Anyway, you know that instead of writing “Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?” for years now I’ve written, “Anyone? Anyone? Zober?” because I like to pick on the Dread Lord Zober because I do not fear his mystical powers of darkness and destruction. Much.

So last night, this happened.

And I was flabbergasted. The Dread Lord … giving his cash to the sick kids.

But would Lukey follow suit?

Brace yourselves:

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I died so hard I couldn’t even capitalize the i in “i just died.”

Either we’ve stumbled into some weird alternate universe, or this snow really is making everyone batshit crazy.

The Dread Lord, the wizard of doom, donated. Luke Ravenstahl, my sworn enemy — the Joker to my Batman, the Swiper to my Dora, the Newman to my Seinfeld, is donating. At this point, I wouldn’t  be surprised if a pigeon tried to Paypal me some stale french fries or something.

Maybe you too want to throw a few bucks into the pot so we can give these suffering kids a bit of fun and diversion to help along their healing process?

Click the “Donate” button to donate directly into the Mario Lemieux Foundation account. Every little bit helps!

I love you guys.

 





Oh. Em. Gee.

This just happened.

The Dread Lord.

The Ruler of Darkness.

The Destroyer of People.

Donated to Make Room for Kids.

He DOES have a heart!

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 4.54.20 PM

 

 

Your move, Lukey.

Your move too, readers.

For sick kids.

 





“A flagpole, covered in spikes, slammed into your back…”

I can’t even remember now how I met the fabulous Laura Kelly. You’ve seen her in ScareHouse videos, or you may have met her when she worked for Visit Pittsburgh or through her involvement with Team Tassy.

She’s an awesome Burgher and unknown to most, she was born with spina bifida, like some of the patients in the Ortho unit we’re outfitting this year via Make Room for Kids.

I asked Laura to tell her story so that you can understand what these kids go through when they undergo spinal fusions as treatment for scoliosis or spina bifida.

Brace yourselves.

__________________________________

laurakelly

“Hi. I’m Laura, and I’m a perfectionist.”

“Hi, Laura.”

If there was a Perfectionist Anonymous, I’d be first in line for every meeting. Since I was young, I worked hard to be good at whatever I did. Many late nights were spent at my parents’ dining room table, writing the perfect script for a video history project or memorizing a calculus equation. No matter what, I wanted to know that I earned whatever grade I got, that luck or circumstance had nothing to do with it.

It’s always been hard for me, a girl who has always wanted to control her destiny, to accept that what has made the most profound and important impact on my life had nothing to do with how much I studied or how hard I worked.

I was born with spina bifida. It was the 80s in central Pennsylvania, so spina bifida wasn’t the first thought that came to anyone’s mind. Ultrasounds weren’t as sophisticated as they are today, so my parents had no indication before I was born  that anything could possibly be wrong.

Luckily for me, though, I have the kind of parents who go into Mama and Papa Bear mode fast. When doctors at home told them the large lump on my back was just from being squished for nine long months (plus 12 days because I’ve been a pain in my mother’s neck from the get go), my parents asked for a second opinion. They were sent to Pittsburgh, where the diagnosis was made and the treatment plan was determined.

I had surgery at a few months old, a procedure that hadn’t even existed a few years before. I often wonder if my older brother and I had switched places and I was 30 instead of 26, what my life would look like. Would I be independent? Would I be walking? Would anything about my life resemble what it actually is?

After the successful surgery, I spent a few days each year traveling to Pittsburgh with my parents to a spina bifida clinic. As a kid, I didn’t understand the furrowed brow of my dad or the pursed lips of my mom every time my name was called to go in for a new test or scan or blood draw. For me, the days in Pittsburgh were my absolute favorite days—no school, no homework, and best of all, no siblings (middle child syndrome much?). I didn’t understand that the kids in the waiting room in wheelchairs were there for the same reasons as me, that their parents were told the same thing as mine when they were born, but, for some reason, I was the one who got lucky.

Fast forward a few years, and I was a regular old seventh grader. I was busy being a perfectionist when I hurt myself playing volleyball. When my legs went numb a few hours after I fell, that furrowed brow and those pursed lips appeared again, and I went to the emergency room, where tests were done and scans taken and blood drawn. When the doctor referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, my own brow and lips tightened. I pulled a muscle; I didn’t break a bone. Why was I going to an orthopedic surgeon?

I soon found out that a side effect of the spina bifida was that the bones in my spine never formed completely. When I went through my big growth spurt, I didn’t have the foundation to support my new height, and my vertebrae bent under the new weight. I was diagnosed with kyphosis, a curvature of the spine similar to scoliosis.

I spent the next year in a back brace (which, btw, if you’re playing basketball against a girl who likes to throw elbows, back braces are the best things ever. A shot in the gut doesn’t do a thing to you, but man, does it give the elbower a dose of her own medicine. Fourteen years later and it still brings me so much joy.).

My curvature just worsened, though, and the doctor explained that if it continued to increase, I’d be risking a lot. He said that my spinal cord was being stretched and stretched, and just like a rubber band, it could only stretch so much before it snapped, paralyzing me. My lungs were also at risk, as they were being compressed. As the curvature worsened, I ran the risk or suffocating myself.

So, it was surgery time.

Imagine for a second that someone took a flagpole, covered it in spikes, used a blow torch to rip open your back, slammed the spike-covered pole into your back, then used rusty fishing hooks to sew you back together. That’s what spinal fusion feels like. Then, when you’re waking up on what feels like a mattress made of potatoes and bowling pins with two rods, a crap ton of screws and hooks in your back and an added three inches to your height, add in the under-five crowd, yelling and laughing and being all around annoying because they didn’t just have surgery and still enjoy their lives. That’s what recovery as a 14-year-old is like.

The suckitude is beyond anything I had ever experienced, and haven’t experienced anything like it since. I couldn’t do anything for myself for a while. I mean, anything. Showers? Not alone time anymore. Putting on pants? At least a two person job.  And this lasted months.

Bending over was off limits for six months, and those six months happened to be my first six months of high school. On the first day, I dropped my calculator and saw no one from middle school anywhere around me. So, I kicked my calculator down the hall to my brother’s English class, knocked on the door, asked to see my brother, and had him pick up the calculator for me.

I went to a Catholic school, so uniforms were a part of my daily life. Let’s talk real quick about the awkwardness that is your mother shaving your legs for you because you’re not allowed to bend over and you have to wear skirts to school. Take a minute to let that sink in. I’ll wait.

Then, of course, there were school dances. The first few were off limits, but I was finally allowed to go to Homecoming, under strict instructions from my parents not to get too close to anyone (Just an fyi for all you parents out there—not being allowed to be touched is a great way to keep your teenage daughter from dating.). My brother was also under strict instructions, and he circled my group of friends every 15 minutes or so, with what we in the biz call “The Kelly Look” on his face (the ‘biz’ in this context is getting in trouble by anyone in my dad’s family).

I was also pegged right away as a goodie goodie, not because of anything I did, but because of what I didn’t, or rather couldn’t, do, namely, slouching in class. It was a hell of a year post-opt, and the only redeeming factor was that it was now behind me and I would only get stronger and feel better as time went by.

Which brings us  to this past summer. Long story short, shit hit the fan. Something went nuts in my back, and I spent two days in bed, unable to stand up, literally crawling to the bathroom and kitchen for anything I needed. When this happens at 25, regardless of past medical problems, you worry a bit.

So, I made appointments and once again had tests done, scans performed and blood drawn.  This time, though, I knew what could happen next. I knew that if the doctor said scar tissue from past surgeries had tethered to my spinal cord, I could be in real trouble. I knew that I could be down for the count for six months again, but instead of having my big brother to pick things up for me, I would have a job and a house and a mortgage to deal with.

When the results came back, I learned that yes, more spinal fusion was in my future. The vertebrae above and below the fusion from when I was a kid had been handling the stress of the past 12 years– the cross country races and half-marathon trainings, the heavy lifting for event set ups and the falls on ice, the crew races and fender benders. And, after 12 years of it, those vertebrae had had enough.

Since my very first surgery was a success because I was born late enough, we all decided to wait as long as I can stand it until I have surgery again, in the hopes that science will make this one my last.

When we decided that, though, I wasn’t happy. Having surgery now would suck, but having surgery in five years? I could have a family in five years. How does someone not pick up their child for a year because of post-opt restrictions? How does someone explain to a toddler that, no, Mommy can’t play with you because Mommy can’t sit on the floor because she can’t bend over to get back up?

I was already missing the children I don’t have.

I was feeling down—really, really down. There was a pity party more pitiful than any pity party this side of the Allegheny has ever seen, and I was the guest of honor.

Then, I heard about Kiara. Kiara and I had met a few months before at an event at which I was speaking. I was talking about my story, and Kiara was the current poster child, having been born with spina bifida, too, but that’s where our similarities end. Kiara’s spent a large portion of her life in and out of hospitals, having surgery after surgery, all to get her to a point where mobility can be obtained.

Kiara is just 11, and this past November, her parents were killed in a car accident. Kiara was in the car, too, and was life-flighted to Children’s Hospital, where she’s had more surgeries, adding to her ever-growing tally.

kiara

Learning about Kiara was like a punch in the gut. What was I doing? I could walk. I could breathe. I could climb the stairs and live alone. And instead of walking and breathing and living, I was feeling sorry for myself because things weren’t going exactly as I had planned.

Things weren’t going exactly the way as I had worked for them to go.

They were going a way that I had nothing to do with, just as they had when I was born or when I hurt myself playing volleyball.  And, just as they had back then, they were going in a way that made me so much luckier than most.

I gave myself a pep talk, told myself to buck up, cowgirl, and decided to do something about it. That something is coming up on February 22, and I hope you’re able to attend.

And, I hope you’ll skip a cup of coffee or two this week and give to this round of Make Room For Kids (click the “Donate” button under the thermometer). The kids who will benefit from these efforts had nothing to do with what’s happening to them. They didn’t skip out on studying for a test or lie to their parents. They weren’t mean to their little sisters or tattled on their big brothers. They’re just kids who didn’t get that lucky this time. Children’s Hospital is giving them the care to make sure they’re luckier from here on out, and Make Room For Kids is giving them something to make the suck suck a little bit less.

And then maybe they’ll be lucky like me.

laura2






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