Category Archives: Daily Life

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

I am, by nature, not a “fitness person”. My parents tried. There was basketball day camp in the summer (I ended up topping out at 5’0″). Softball in the spring (I was a slow runner and had a weak arm- I played catcher with the coach as pitcher). Swimming lessons (which I loved, but could never get past intermediate level, because I refused to jump off the high dive). Gymnastics (my arms wouldn’t support my weight enough to use the bars or do back-handsprings, which ended in me crumpled on my head). They tried. They signed me up for everything. They finally accepted that dance classes were the only place I wasn’t a total flop and invested in leotards.

As I cross into a stage that can no longer be called my “early” thirties, however, I have had cravings…. for exercise. I have no idea where these came from and am no less astonished than if I all of sudden could stand to eat pickles or mayonnaise. I want to move. I would find myself spending hours (on the couch) reading articles about running, scrolling through apps that claimed to know the perfect combination of training to get you from couch to 5k, and even briefly becoming obsessed with the Tarahumara, a Mexican Native American tribe that can run extreme distances well into their 60’s (while smoking and drinking tequila on the trail, no less). I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, about her months-long hike on the Pacific Coast Trail after the death of her mother. I watched movies and read endless blogs about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a 500 mile pilgrimage across Spain. I wanted to read anything I could get my hands on about ordinary people going great distances.

Eventually, reading wasn’t enough. I decided that I needed a decent pair of tennis shoes- nothing fancy, just something more sturdy than my Converse. I also realized that I hadn’t formally exercised in so long that I didn’t own a pair of shorts to move in- just denim and dressy beach cover ups, along with yoga pants that I used much more often for sleeping than for yoga. That excuse kept me on the couch for another month or so. But last week, I stumbled across a clearance sale- at a hospital gift shop of all places. There for 50% off were two pairs of Reebok running shorts and a pair of gray and pink Skechers. I grabbed some socks (because I also didn’t own any non-dressy/ work socks) and headed to the cashier.  Then I headed back from my lunch break and took the elevator for two floors, instead of the stairs, laughing at myself.

We had rain and 90-degree days, but that week I woke up one morning with an hour to spare before work (a rare miracle). It was breezy and in the 60’s outside and I had a letter to mail. I looked at my bag, still in the dining room, with tennis shoes, shorts, and socks and decided that this morning, I was jogging to the mailbox 5 blocks away. It wasn’t a major distance, but as I started off, I actually felt… lighter? I also understood after two blocks that I would need to find a sports bra.

Today, after a late night movie marathon in bed with a box set of Tennessee Williams movies, I rolled out of bed and decided to put on my shoes again. Thirty minutes- more of it walking than jogging, but I made it to the end of the river trail by my apartment and back and broke a sweat doing it. It’s a baby step. I’m not shooting toward a marathon or a 500 mile hike yet. But if you see a redhead trotting by, desperately in need of a sports bra, that’s me. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other.

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Filed under Building a Better Me, Daily Life

Farmers’ Market Findings

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One of my favorite parts of summer is heading to the weekly farmers’ market. In Pittsburgh, they are scattered through the city parks and were originally organized to add some fresh local produce to the diets of locals on food stamps. They still accept food stamps, but have been opened to the public and keep the same low prices.

The abundance pictured here is thirty dollars worth of fruit and veggies grown within forty miles of my house. Since piles of green tomatoes were cheap, I whipped these up. I really enjoy this recipe, but cheated a bit. I skipped the bread crumbs and just used cornmeal straight. And because I never have buttermilk in the house, I used an old Paula Deen trick- a capful of vinegar in regular milk, stirred and left to curdle a bit for five minutes.

These green beauties fried up nicely, and with a huge green salad and a little honey mustard, I loaded up on flavor and vitamins.

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Filed under Daily Life, Pittsburgh, Recipes

The Courage to Let Them Love You

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have read a series of posts I wrote a few months ago on the issue of coming out to my friends from home who I met through my (pretty conservative Evangelical) church. While I haven’t stayed in touch with all of them, there is a core group that I was very close to in high school and I enjoy keeping up with them from a distance- their baby pictures and family vacations and even the occasional political debate.

But, out of fear that they would shun me or de-friend me or…. I don’t even know, to be honest… I’ve kept them in a segregated list away from posts about the Lady or our life together. Our vacation pictures and updates about fun things we’ve done and the day-to-day inanity of Facebook updates has been hidden from them. Because I was scared. Scared that somehow my happiness would be something that they couldn’t love about me. Out of my own twisted fear that the same beliefs we shared as teenagers weren’t big enough for our changing lives as adults.

But today, after relentless doubt and debate with myself and some deep breaths, I sent them a message. I sent each one individually, for privacy’s sake, but the message was clear. You are my friend. I have hidden this from you, because of my own insecurity. I want you to know that I am loved. And I hope that we can still be friends. (And as a side note, I can be your friend whichever party you vote for or whether you eat at Chick-fil-A, because I believe people are more important than all of that insanity which has overwhelmed my Facebook feed for weeks).

And….. they replied. They replied with apologies if they have ever said anything that would make me believe they couldn’t love me no matter what. They replied that while their beliefs were clear, that didn’t mean that they were not themselves imperfect. They shared stories of friends from college and asked questions or for permission to ask to questions later. One even said that she had known (from this blog) but had chosen to respect that I never mentioned it on Facebook and let me tell her personally on my own schedule. Every single one (so far) has replied with love and acceptance and words that brought tears to my eyes or made me laugh.

It’s been a roller coaster of a day, and I’m still processing it a bit. Something I stressed about and cried about and worried over for months is done. I took a chance that people who have loved me for years (without knowing) could continue to do so. I had the courage to let them love me. And they had the courage to love me back.

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Filed under Building a Better Me, Daily Life, Friends, LGBTQ, Soul Searching

I’m Having a Breakfast Baby

People of the world! Can we all agree on something now? That if you don’t know a woman is expecting, it is never ok to ask what she is having. Because I’m not. Having anything. At least not now. And I thought I looked really cute in this dress and boots today, but since you stopped me in the hallway with well-wishes, I’m wishing that I had added some Spanx to my wardrobe.

You see, I have a belly. An actually stomach that pooches out more than I’d like. A lot of women have them. I don’t work out or pretend that I’m doing anything to make it go away. Most days, my belly and I get along just fine. Maybe it’s the pleats in the dress or the way that I didn’t button my cardigan all the way down. Maybe it’s bloated from the delicious Danish that I had at breakfast. But now, it’s all I will think about today.

Instead of walking around feeling cute like I did when I left my house this morning, I’ll be hunched over for the rest of the day and sucking in my stomach and wishing I could just get home and hide in some giant T-shirt under a blanket where no one will look at me.

So, from now on, ask yourself… “Do I know this woman? Do I know that she is having a baby?” If not, “What are you having- a boy or a girl?” is not an appropriate good morning. And “I’m sorry,” when you’re corrected won’t make it right. Just hope you never run into me again. Because I will rub that belly of mine and next time when you ask what I’m having, my answer will be “Breakfast.”

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Filed under Daily Life

My Birchbox Addiction

I’ve always been a beauty products hoarder. I have a three-tiered shelf and four drawers in the bathroom overflowing with samples and items that I just never got around to using (or opened and hated). A quick run to the drugstore usually ends with me dragging home another nail polish or lip gloss. And all that buying adds up, money-wise.

So when my dear friend Baronetess started bragging about Birchbox on Facebook, I had to check it out. For $10 a month, you receive five or six samples in the mail- nail polish, lip gloss, perfume, hair and skin products- it’s always a surprise. In fact, on Twitter it’s a trend not to post “spoilers” about the monthly Birchbox as it arrives- the grab bag aspect of it all is half the fun. (Note: I’m not getting a dollar from them for raving about them- I’m just hooked).

This month, they offered a tie-in box sponsored by Teen Vogue. They offered me my usual adult box instead, but I’m so glad that I went with the teen box. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have these nails, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

I used the essie luxeffects polish from my Birchbox over a Sally Hansen “Going Green” picked up on one of my drugstore binges. Since every magazine insists that we all have an “accent nail,” (and because I didn’t have any adult business meetings this week), I painted the ring finger a light blue to match my pedicure. It’s a fun look- even if I’m not used to so much sparkle when I head to the office.

My box this month also came with a sample of kate spade new york Twirl, which I spritzed on this morning. After settling in, it’s definitely more floral than fruity, but very light and smells adult enough for office wear. On lazy mornings, I usually stick to some coconut body spray, so wearing actual fragrance is an upgrade for a Monday morning.

My hair is curly and dyed and longer and super-thick, so the Kerastase Elixir Ultime sample should be gone in two days. I love a good hair oil to add a little shine to the curls.

My other favorite product this month was a full-sized tarte LipSurgence lip tint in Barbie pink (Lucky). I never imagined that I would like a bright pink lip, but Birchbox eased me in a few months ago with a hot pink lip gloss and this matte lip pencil is the logical next step. It is matte, very matte, not a drop of shine to it. It almost looks like chalk, that’s how matte this stuff is. But, instead of drying out my lips and flaking, it makes them smooth and soft and looks like I’m auditioning for that episode of Mad Men when they all try on different colors of lipstick and Peggy gets a promotion.

Most months the box also includes a sample snack or beauty accessory item. This month, a cute spring-y peach hair-tie from twistband, so I can keep my hair out of my face when the humidity inevitably goes insane.

If you want to sign up, head over here. I believe I get points for referring new subscribers, but I’m just so hooked that I want you to experience the joy.

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Filed under Daily Life, Links, Products, Reviews, Style

Sisters: It’s Complicated

Two weeks ago, I spent four nights and five days in California with my sisters. We were on our first just-us, unsupervised, all-adults vacation. Ever. And in direct violation of my firm rule about family visits- three days is the limit. Just long enough to feel like everyone spent some time together, but not too long so that everyone reverts to their puberty selves and starts bickering over jeans and shoes.

We almost made it. It was, of course, the last full night out that put us over the top. We spent a beautiful first day touring wine country and tasting some delicious beverages, picnicking looking out over the hills full of vines and mustard, laughing at our tasting bar neighbors. In true Trousers Family style, my middle sister looked over in horror as the wine snob beside us dumped something she didn’t like out into a bucket. “What a waste!,” she whispered, and proceeded to take her sample of the same bad wine as a shooter.

We had an early night after kicking back at the hotel with a bottle of local red picked up at the Target on the way back from the wineries. (We are also cheap. Or as I prefer to put it, thrifty.)

The next day, we headed into the city to explore. We stayed in Fisherman’s Wharf at the Courtyard. Seriously, the most convenient hotel of all time. Right by the end of the trolley line, on the streetcar line, within blocks of the buses, and a couple of blocks from Pier 39, the big entertainment complex. There was plenty of good seafood to be had, bars, and a ton of affordable souvenir shopping to be done. Also, the woman at the front desk will help you find your drunken sister when she wanders off with complete strangers at 2 am. Which is what brings me to the four day rule.

We decided, after two days of sight-seeing, to “stop in” at the nightclub next to the hotel. This place looked like every episode of Jersey Shore was happening simultaneously on the dance floor. The bartender was generously pouring Maker’s Mark and Diet Cokes. We all had entirely too many. And all of a sudden, it’s lights on and last call and we are tipsy and sassy and heading for the door. We’ve passed Day Three into Day Four. And now, everyone gets a drunken opinion, because we’re not visiting anymore- we’re family. Blood, or out for blood.

This, my sisters decided, was a great time to weigh in on their thoughts about whether I should be dating a woman (no), whether they thought I spent my money properly (no), and to share that my brother-in-law believes I am in some extended delusion about myself. Day Four is ugly. We hold most of this conversation standing outside the hotel, smoking and sniping at each other, until some guys from the bar invite us to a party. As the oldest sister, with the best tolerance for booze, I decline politely and firmly. No stranger parties at 3 am. No way, no how.

The drunkest sister decides that if I won’t let her leave, she should invite these strangers up to our room where I have a bottle of wine. Another veto. I am rapidly becoming the “UnFun One” or as I like to think of it, “The Safe One When It Comes to Stranger Danger.” So, while I step out to light a cigarette and have my back turned, boom! Missing sister. Or as The Lady said when I later relayed this story, “A lost party member is right up there with The Worst.”

Yep. Much more sobered, and officially pissed off I set out to search for The Adventurer. I put out an APB with the aforementioned front desk clerk, roam the few blocks around the hotel hoping that she didn’t, God forbid, get in a car, and discover that she has left her cell phone on the night stand. Thirty minutes later, as I pace up and down the front sidewalk and the youngest cries on my shoulder, the desk clerk flags me down. And there is The Adventurer smiling like a Cheshire Cat in the hotel lobby. Exhausted, we take her upstairs and everyone passes out for the night.

But, because we are, remember,  in violation of the Three Day Rule, the morning starts off with the kind of screaming match that we haven’t had since high school- accusations, insults, rapidly shifting allegiances (oh, the joy of three siblings), and a moment where we all just agreed to go off and explore for the last day without one another. A real sister explosion.

And then, a tiny miracle. As The Adventurer is declaring me an old fuddy duddy and enemy of fun and just before she goes to slam the bathroom door, I say “….All you had to say was, ‘I’m sorry.'” Silence. She takes a shower and ten minutes later, she comes out with “You know… you’re right.” Contrition, hugs all around. We head off to taste Irish coffees at the bar that claims to have invented them.

That’s the way it goes with sisters. At least with mine. And while I’m not thrilled that they feel the need to have opinions about my life that I disagree with, there’s no way I could stop them from sharing them. That’s how it works.

We find each other when we wander off; we find our ways back to each other every time.

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Filed under Daily Life, Family, Travel

Business Travel is No Travel At All

My job sends me all over the country. I’ve been to New Orleans more times than I can count, California (Anaheim, LA, and San Francisco), Baltimore, Philadelphia, Manhattan, Atlanta, Orlando, Oklahoma, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Las Vegas, upstate NY, Virginia, and Arizona. I just came back from two days in Washington, DC. And lest you think this is all glamor and business class and room service, here’s what a typical business trip looks like.

I catch the earliest flight that I can from Pittsburgh, which usually means catching the 4 am airport shuttle in the dark. Because Pittsburgh isn’t a hub airport anymore and my employer is cutting costs, I almost always have to transfer at least once, if not twice. To get to DC, I flew through Boston. When I arrived in the afternoon, I took a cab (and my luggage) to my first meeting of the day, which lasted until dinner time. I stumbled two blocks from my hotel, found something affordable to eat, and stumbled back to hit the sack, since by this point, I had been awake for 17 hours.

After 6 hours of sleep, I wake up, throw on a suit and run to the hotel Starbucks for a coffee. Corporate coffee is the devil, I know, but it’s convenient and it’s not even 6:30 am yet. Then I dash off to an all-day event where I am running at top speed from 6:45 am to 7:30 pm. If I’m lucky, like on this trip, I have thirty minutes to grab a sandwich at Subway.

My co-workers planned a dinner reservation at 8:30, but since I can barely hold polite conversation by this point, it’s back to the hotel to seek room service. The hotel does not have room service. I bundle up and slump over to a restaurant a few blocks away and collapse into a chair, praying for speedy service. Before the last course shows up, I’m shoving my credit card at the waitress and begging for mercy and sleep.

A quick phone call to the Lady, responding to twenty or thirty urgent work emails and I’m back in bed. I’m up again at dawn to pack my bags and dash off to the airport in a taxi and head back home.

I have friends who claim to be jealous of all of my travel, and I suppose when you see the locations it does sound fun. But in reality, I very rarely get to see the cities that I visit. Museums close at 5 and my meetings often run much later. If I’m at a convention or training, like next week, I’m in a chain hotel by the airport without a car.

Don’t get me wrong, in this economy I’m grateful to even have a job. And every so often, a meeting will get cancelled and get me a chance to see a little piece of the cities I’m visiting. And if I get to go somewhere warm in the winter, just glimpsing some sunshine as I run around is a blessing. But, more often, I see chain restaurants, chain hotels, and entirely too much of the Applebee’s at the airport.

I think that’s why I’m really looking forward to next month’s trip with my sisters to San Francisco and Napa. A real opportunity to stroll around and see things during the day! (And to get wine buzzed with my sisters…) Then in March, I’m hoping to make a long weekend trip to New Orleans (without meetings!) with the Lady, BC, and the gang.

I’d hate to think that I never got see the cities I’ve been to. So, I suppose I’ll have to make that happen on my own time.

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Filed under Daily Life, Travel, Working for a Living