Each year right about this time is when real true havoc hits America.
It’s not bad enough that we feel pressure to make every holiday season the BEST. EVER. with turkey, trimmings, lights, cards, gifts, parties, etc., but now we’ve got Pinterest and I don’t know if you’ve plugged “Christmas Cookies” into the Pinterest search box lately, but please do so that you can also see what these overachieving batshit Martha Stewarts are calling Christmas Cookies these days. (Click the pictures to be taken to their respective recipes, if you’re so inclined, you sicko.)
GTFOOH. Yeah, let me attempt to make teeny tiny birdies kissing in a tree in a manner that doesn’t look like I made a sad purple octagon. Let me try to ice that little crooked reindeer grin in a way that doesn’t look like Rudolph took too much meth before lining his lips with eyeliner. Let me learn how to feed a bunny rabbit a diet of sugar water and corn syrup so that he will poop out teeny tiny little marshmallows for my little cocoa cookies.
My point is, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in material inadequacies this time of year. The neighbor’s house is going to be better decorated than yours. Your frenemy’s turkey moister (dirrrrrty). Their gifts better. Their children cleaner. Their trees more majestic. Their bunnies pooping out perfect little tiny marshmallows and their army of caterpillars spinning perfect silk to use for wrapping ribbon. The threads of Christmas start creeping out and intertwining with Thanksgiving and your turkey decorations have candy canes on them and the Joneses are winning so you start sprinting to keep up with them and before you know it, you’re literally up to your eyeballs in Amazon Prime boxes that you are only 75% sure of the contents therein.
Did I just rant? Sorry.
Guys, it’s fine to get wrapped up in all of that, if that’s what presses your JOY button and flicks on your MEANINGFUL switch. But a little perspective helps us to further appreciate what we have OUTSIDE of our Pinterest-perfect lives.
Stories like that of Michael, a child who spent 200 days in Children’s Hospital fighting an incredibly painful and rare medical syndrome. 200. Days. I almost throat-punched an orderly to escape the hospital 18 hours after the birth of my second child.
Michael was granted a wish and he wished a selfless wish. He’s got a Pittsburgh heart in his small chest.
At about 130 days into his stay at Children’s, a family friend with impressive connections* played the part of Bill Gates and asked Michael, “Can I give you something? What do you want? Toys? Games? Do you want to meet a Steeler? Penguin? Pirate? What do you want most? Anything!” I guarantee if Michael had said, “What I want is Mario Lemieux to walk in here carrying Troy Polamalu, who is carrying a basket of toys as big as Clint Hurdle,” the friend would have said, “Done.”
Because that’s what you do for kids who have suffered more than any adult could or should. In his soft voice, Michael said, “I just want someone to tell Pittsburgh about a nice thing someone did for me.” So I was contacted.
Go read! Next week, I’ll have an update on Michael for you, after I visit with him again.
But for now, read, absorb, and realize that your cornflake Christmas wreath “cookies” turning out to look like Grinch poops littering Mount Crumpit doesn’t really mean one single important thing.
Life’s just so much bigger than that.
Michael taught me that. Let him teach you too.
*That well connected friend is Saul Markowitz of Markowitz Communications. He’s got a Pittsburgh heart too.
1. A text from my mom after I replied “LOL” to the preceding text from her telling me I am to design her new kitchen:
“No LOL unless you mean Lots Of Love because I am DEAD SERIOUS. And so is YOUR FATHER.”
Of course I responded LOL to that and then her head exploded.
2. Russell Martin reportedly wants AT LEAST $75 million over five years. Choose one of these reaction gifs. All are appropriate.
Maybe not the last one; I just love that gif.
3. I solved the mystery of why we’re slowing down at the mouths of tunnels in Pittsburgh and wrote about it for the November edition of Pittsburgh Magazine.
You’ve slowed down. You’ve read the 40 signs. You’re prepared to stop, foot hovering over the brake. You’ve ensured you’re not hauling any flammable liquids, as four signs have warned against. You’re not over-height, as three signs have warned. You’ve included a bibliography and page numbers. You’ve now slowed to 35 miles per hour.
You jerk! Don’t you see the signs next to the “Pedestrians Prohibited” signs and the “No U-Turn” sign? Don’t you realize they want you to “MAINTAIN YOUR SPEED?” But you’re slowing down because you still haven’t read the four “Stay in lane” signs. (The actual hellmouth will open, unleashing the tunnel monster if you change lanes within a Pittsburgh tunnel.)
Go have a read and see how I managed to talk about helicopter parents in Upper St. Clair.
4. I’m in the final stages of compiling this year’s Burghy Holiday Gift Guide for the magazine, so if you’ve got an awesome idea for a gift made or developed right here in the Burgh, hit me up at virginia [at] thatschurch.com.
Immediately. Right now. Go.
5. County controller Chelsa Wagner held a press conference, an actual real live press conference with news cameras and press releases and a lectern and microphones and VISUALS on an EASEL to announce that Rich Fitzgerald hasn’t been logging his miles appropriately for his county-issued 2007 Jeep Cherokee.
She used his Twitter account and made screencaps of it and cross referenced it and then blew them up and put them on easels and blasted it to the city and then blasted him and then never bothered to send him the report.
Chelsa, seriously. Yes, please do your job and watch out for the taxpayers, but there’s no need for the press conference because we all know you and Rich Fitzgerald have a personal beef and therefore you just look ridiculous and petty and immature standing up there with your charts and lectern placard.
Rich, log your miles correctly.
Chelsa, do your job without the unnecessary public fanfare to call out a person you very publicly hate.
As if I don’t already have enough people who hate me on Grant Street. Meh.
And please do not bother trying to draw a comparison to Lukey taking the brand new police-assigned Homeland Security SUV to the Toby Keith concert. He never should have even TOUCHED that car. This is Rich’s county-issued car. We’re just talking about miles here. So just shhhhhh.
6. I tried watching a bit of the Steelers game last week, but felt gross about it in light of my quitting the NFL and turned it off. I turned it on this week for about two minutes to see the Steelers looking like Rod Barajas running through three inches of mud.
High-five if you get that joke. Little Pirates throwback there.
7. Finally, on a personal note, which, LOL (NOT Lots of Love, Mom) because everything I write in this space is personal, I have decided that in 2015 I will read one book a week. Fiction, nonfiction, pop-up book about dinosaurs, recipe book, doesn’t matter. One book a week.
What should I read? What’s good? What changed your life? What made you a better person. What made you get to the last page and whip that book at the wall in anger like I did when I got to the end of Gone Girl?
Leave some suggestions in the comments, please.
8. I’m out of time and have to end this post now!
As you know, Pittsburgh was determined by the readership of Gawker to have America’s Ugliest Accent.
Now before you get your Steelers boxers in a bunch and start constructing a thousand-word comment on the Gawker piece in which you use phrases like barf breathers and SONSAJAGOFFBITCHES … read what I wrote. (Sometimes you write something and you think, “This isn’t bad.” And then you drink a shot of tequila and the phrase “putrescence of tongue” enters your brain and shoots out your fingertips onto the keyboard.)
Read about why we shouldn’t be too insulted.
Read about why that accent represents more than just inflection, intonation, and linguistic nuance.
Compared to the accents of other American cities, Pittsburgh’s is distinct. Rougher. Harder. More abrasive. And internationally speaking, it really begins to pale. It doesn’t have the breezy playfulness of the Australian accent, the curly musical frills of the French accent or the absolute majestic glory of the English accent. A man with an English accent could say, “My mucus is phlegmy,” and American ladies would strongly consider throwing their bras at his feet in ecstasy all, “Oooh. Now say, ‘My pimple is painful.’”
Speak in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter an ode of love in your best Pittsburgh accent, and it will still sound like a bowling ball felling pins.
Stop what you’re doyn and go read it immediately or I’ll set your tahrs on fahr.
I was asked recently by a local nonprofit to speak briefly to a group of disabled young adults about social media and how they can use it to effect change.
For every ten times I get asked to speak, I say no to nine of them. This one I said yes to because it’s a subject I feel I truly have something valuable to say on — sentence-ending prepositions and all.
After agreeing, I received an email letting me know quite kindly, complimentarily and apologetically that they no longer had time on the agenda for my five minutes. Was that really the case? Or did they realize how notorious I am, how many local enemies I’ve made in my 9 years as PittGirl, how very little I care these days about political correctness and how few shits I give lately about bullshit in general? Maybe they found someone better. Maybe they really just didn’t have time for me.
Who can know? But, you know what? I had something to say to those young disabled people and my God, I’m going to say it here, because I don’t know that anyone else will say this to them:
Being disabled? SUCKS.
I don’t care what any disabled person will say to your face, deep down in our hearts, there is this truth we look at occasionally: This hand we’ve been dealt?
Whether it be a wheelchair, a cane, a seeing-eye dog, a limp, a hearing aid — or in my case, two hearing aids … having a daily, visible and physical reminder of our disability? Sucks.
It sucks if we can’t dress ourselves without help. It sucks if we can’t navigate an unfamiliar room without a helping hand. It sucks if we’re missing a leg or an arm. It sucks if we’re deformed. It sucks if we have to say “I’m sorry, what?” so many times in a row when we’re on the phone with a customer service representative that they get angry and demand, “Are you deaf or something?”
It sucks when people realize you have a disability and sweetly over-compensate for it. “HOW! ARE! YOU! DOING! TODAY! GINNY! DO! YOU! NEED! ME! TO! SPEAK! LOUDER! OR! SHAVE! MY! MUSTACHE! SO! THAT! YOU! CAN! READ! MY! LIPS! BETTER!?”
I love you. Please stop shouting.
It also sucks when people realize you have a disability and do nothing at all to compensate for it. I could throat-punch soft-talkers. Throat-punch them in their soft-talking throats.
(And here is where I start to realize why maybe they didn’t want me to speak.)
It sucks that we have to try harder and longer.
It sucks that we can’t breeze through our day as easily as others.
It sucks how these disabilities have shaped our personalities. Not negatively, per se, but what would you and I be like without them? I once had a therapist who tried to get me to understand that my shyness because of my disability was basically an affront to God because it meant I cared too much about being embarrassed and about what people think of me. Yeah. Nope. Byeeee.
Guys? It … just … all … sucks.
LISTEN … BUT.
There is this other truth: There comes a time in every single disabled person’s life where they look at their disability and go, “This has served me. This disability has in some way positively altered my life and the lives of those around me. If life is really a series of sliding doors, there’s a reason this is the one that opened. It has made me who I am. It has made me stronger. Stronger than my able-bodied peers. I have learned to rise above it at least 99.9% of the time (we’re allowed to cry about our shortcomings .1% of the time). I don’t 100% know if I would be this effing awesome without having risen above this effing, sucky disability.”
(Yeah, good decision to uninvite me. We’re cool. No hard feelings.)
I would not be the writer I am if I didn’t spend 30 years avoiding human interaction, reading voraciously, hiding inside my head where the voices were loud and crystal clear, honing my own voice. I wouldn’t be able to read Andrew McCutchen’s angry, snapping lips every time he gets beaned with a fastball. I wouldn’t have started a blog. I wouldn’t have written. I wouldn’t have started Make Room for Kids. I wouldn’t have helped orphans in Haiti.
And social media? Social media levels the playing field. You aren’t disabled on social media. You aren’t judged by your appearance, your cane, your limp, your wheelchair. You are only judged by the power of your words and how you convey your message. I am not mostly deaf; I am PittGirl. Hear me roar. You are not blind; you are Joe and you can change the world. You are not in a wheelchair; you are Mary and you can raise $10,000 in two days. You are not missing a limb; you are Jake and you can move an effing virtual mountain.
Basement trolls hide behind their keyboards. Us disabled folks? We’re using them as equalizers.
And that is where we get more power, a stronger voice, a better sense of self-assurance. That is how a shy, introverted hearing-impaired incredibly socially awkward mother of two can become PittGirl. [swishes cape and runs off in dramatic fashion]
You are not your disability. Not in real life and not on social media. Your disability is what made you who you are, the amazing person you are, the incredibly strong person you are … and social media is the microphone that will let you shout that triumphantly to the world with such conviction, change will unfold beneath the rushing power of your voice.
No matter if you don’t actually have a physical voice.
And no matter how much your disability … just absolutely sucks.
1. … “So I says to my friend, I says, ‘I like to blog occasionally so’s I don’t forget my WordPress password.’”
2. My new front door has a speakeasy (basically it is this door) and the reason it has a speakeasy is because when we were hunting for a new front door, I learned you can have a front door with a speakeasy and suddenly I had a lot of plans in my head for reenacting the Miracle Max scene from The Princess Bride, so I decided my front door would indeed have a speakeasy.
Fast forward to yesterday evening when my parents arrived for Sunday dinner at my house and my sister Pens Fan answered the door through the speakeasy.
Pens Fan: “We’re closed! What’s the secret password.”
My mother: “Steelers stink.”
Me: “Let her in.”
Yes, I quit the NFL, so no, I didn’t watch the game, but I read about it and boy, finding out the Steelers lost so miserably to the Browns is like finding out your kid lost a spelling bee to the class pet rabbit.
3. On a scale of one to “self-folding laundry,” how much do you desire this?
This is the ScareHouse Shake at Burgatory that you can only get this month. It has Oreos, gummy worms, and for adults … chocolate vodka.
Sales of this shake benefit Make Room for Kids at the Lemieux Foundation. You know, that little program you and I and Microsoft started that has now outfitted Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with over 100 XBOX units and over a hundred thousand dollars in equipment?
Get thee to Burgatory … and then get thee to ScareHouse. I went on Friday and almost pooped my pants in fright. But on the bright side, I didn’t throat-punch any of the zombies that rushed me. Progress.
After I got out, Scott Simmons of the ScareHouse told me I should go in the Basement and I said, “SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH.”
4. Stuff I wrote:
A tribute to Sophie. Snippet:
“I didn’t know it was her idea to give the Pirates their own stadium. The proposed arena was to be — in the words of an Associated Press reporter — “open-ended and afford most spectators a view of the downtown skyline.” She said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after she left office, “It went over like a lead balloon. It was just a suggestion that we look into it, and it almost got me impeached.” I hope in 2001 she drove down Grant Street screeching, “I TOLD YINZ SO!” out her car window.”
I don’t need to write about the Pirates or the Wild Card game. We contended. Again. It’s that “again” that’s so important. We are not a fluke. We are a legitimate baseball club. Worthy of Roberto. Worthy of Maz, Honus and Teke. Worthy of the Jolly Roger and all of its pirate lore. Worthy of the devotion of a legion of fans. Worthy of this beautiful ship we’ll sail again in April. We will dock it with the expectation that the Pirates Baseball Club will offer Russell Martin nothing short of a free trip to space with a monkey-butler should he desire one, if he will just stay a Pirates player a while longer.
Have a read about how MEAN Twitter got.
Here’s my thing. Critics like to say they feel Pittsburgh Dad isn’t a positive representation of Pittsburgh’s people. But publicly being a colossal jerk to him isn’t exactly a positive representation either.
So yeah, me and Dejan have a beef. I unfollowed him; he unfollowed me. We’re probably going to trash each other’s lawns at some point.
5. Cathedral of Learning has a shot at being an official LEGO set. Go give them a vote!
6. Public money accounted for about $23 million to build the August Wilson Center and now public money is being used to bail it out even though there was a buyer with ACTUAL CASH DOLLAR BILLZ ready to buy it, make it profitable, and keep the center’s mission intact.
[headdesk headdesk headdesk]
Let capitalism be!
8. Does “jagoff” belong in the dictionary? There’s a petition to make it happen.
That being said, did anyone have a hard time answering the question “what’s a jag-off?” to the kids in the room when it was used in reference to the clerk at Sam Goode’s? That folks, was a first for me on network PRIMETIME television.
Here’s how you answer it, you jagoff … “Well, kids, a jaggerbush (thorn bush) has jaggers (thorns) on it that are very annoying and therefore a jagoff is a very annoying person … like me.”
9. Tweets that made me LOL lately:
Kramer hires Edgar Snyder to help him sue the underachieving Steelers for pain and suffering.
— Yinzer Seinfeld (@YinzerSeinfeld) October 12, 2014
If you're gonna genetically modify watermelons, focus less on seeds and more on giving them a handle.
— Susie Meister (@susie_meister) October 11, 2014
Parents looking to drive your older kids nuts: When they're using voice to text, just yell out crazy stuff. Deep down they love it.
— Randy Bohlender (@rbohlender) October 10, 2014
I’m SO doing this. “I FART IN YOUR GENERAL DIRECTION!”
User: "I lost my email settings on my phone." Me: "OK, what kind of phone do you have?" User: "A smartphone."
— Mr. theMoon (@Sheepthemoon) October 8, 2014
Today is National Pierogi Day, or as Pittsburghers call it… Wednesday.
— Megan Etzel (@megetz) October 8, 2014
Quit calling them boneless wings. You’re an adult eating chicken fingers.
— Ali Spagnola (@alispagnola) October 5, 2014
What would you even do with 72 virgins? That's like sitting through 72 flute solos from 72 girls who've never played. Sounds more like hell.
— Justin Kownacki (@JustinKownacki) October 4, 2014
Giants = Paper Pirates = Dog http://t.co/BflGwmx6pe
— Steve Braband (@stevebraband) October 2, 2014
Can’t imagine how good that all felt to Cueto. Hope he gets hemorrhoids the size of cantaloupes.
— Jonathan Wander (@JMWander) September 28, 2014
I'm changing electrical outlets in my underwear. The coroner's photos should be priceless.
— Cryptopher (@pantster) September 12, 2014
10. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go wait for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to come by.