List #242: Grandpap McNally

My mom's father passed away in December. He was sharp as a tack until his very last day, and passed away in his sleep overnight. He was 88 years-old, a member of the Navy, a Duquesne University graduate, father of 15 children, grandfather of nearly 40 grandchildren, and great-grandfather to 12 great-grandchildren. He was an accomplished man, but his greatest accomplishment, which he would surely tell you...was his family.

When my grandmother passed away from cancer just months before I was born, my mom (the middle child) was already out of the house. Though the death of her mother happened at a very young age, she was starting her own family and wasn't living at the family house anymore. But there was a house full of children and teenagers who were suddenly without a mother to take care of them. My grandfather was a single dad who took care of everyone. He loved singing, and laughing, playing cards, and was always generous.

My grandfather wasn't the kind of guy who took you out on weekend trips or hosted sleepovers at his house. There were too many of us, quite frankly. But he knew all of our names, where we worked, who we dated, and more. There was never a time that I talked to him where he didn't ask me how the library was doing. And he always laughed at stories I would tell about working with the public. He had a jolly Irish laugh. I will miss him, surely. But his was a life of celebration, no matter the circumstances. And that is something I will try to remember.

This past weekend my family got together to have a celebration of his life. It seemed fitting that the weather was gorgeous and that over a hundred people came out to join in celebrating his life and sustaining his memory. Most of our family, even those far away, were able to come. Plus friends and other people he met and enjoyed along the way. It was worth the wait to say goodbye to him in this manner. And I can only hope that when my time on this earth as run out, that my legacy leaves such a mark.

James P. McNally

My cousin and her husband put this video together. And I love it because I love seeing how beautiful and charming my grandparents were as young loves. I love seeing my family through the years. And how much my grandfather loved us all back. 


List #241: Lunchtime Obsessions #2

It's a pretty dreary day in Pittsburgh though I suppose a normal spring one. Gray skies, rain, temperatures that can't quite reach warm. I didn't wear tights today and I'm now regretting that decision.

But it is lunchtime. And I am on my lunch break. And I have been obessesing.

  • Snyder of Berlin's Cheese Curls.
  • Fountain Coca-Cola. With freshly squeezed lemon.
  • ICEEs or Slushies. I may prefer one, but I will take either.
  •  Finding the perfect pair of spring shoes. Since I haven't spent money on shoes in years.
  • Making party hats.
  • Tacos. Only because my cravings haven't been realized.
  • Getting Radley cat to love his new cat tree. He likes it but doesn't love it.
  • Wishing I could guest host Saturday Night Live.
  • Defending the How I Met Your Mother season finale.
  • Going to be unreasonably early.
  • Blackberries.
  • Watermelon.
  • Katy Perry's Dark Horse.
Happy Monday. And indulge. 


List #240: Ya Jagoff

In case you you didn't know, my hometown of Pittsburgh is a lovely hometown. People are always willing to lend a hand or meet a new friend. And so doing something like a blog swap among local bloggers is simply an example of its charm.

Today's post comes from John at YaJagoff and is part of a special day of shenanigans from a bunch of Pittsburgh bloggers. You can see my post over at the lovely Emily Levenson's blog where I wear my heart on my sleeve and discuss life as an unexpected mother. I've met both John and Emily a few times in real life, and let me assure you, they truly are two of Pittsburgh's finest. But all of the bloggers in today's April Fool's excitement are a fun group of people, so be sure to check the bottom of this post for the links. 

John's Actual Bookshelf

I originally set out to write a list of books that I’ve read and the associated Jagoffs in each of them.  However, I looked at my bookshelf and realized that the list of real books I’ve read is shorter than the list of people with flip-phones in 2014.

My "step back and punt": make a list like Shannon usually does, that gives some personal insight. My list, “What in the World is on My Bookshelf?”   I’m not a complete ig’nernt Jagoff (Pittsburghese for dumb idiot) when it comes to reading.  One of my favorite books is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged  and recently, I read an unbelievably enlightening book, Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It by Marshall Goldsmith. 

And now for my, “What in the World is on My Bookshelf?” list.

Top Shelf:
  • EMT and Paramedic training books
    • Some I read while training as a paramedic years ago – Not so many years ago, though, that any of them recommend bloodletting with leeches.
    • One contains a few chapters authored by me.
    • One has me cartooned into it.
    • Most of them used as references when I was teaching new paramedics and EMTs.
    • Large beer glass – I’m certain that I drank lots of beer during my paramedic classes.
Middle Shelf:
  • Books I have enjoyed enough to keep:
    • The World Is Flat
    • Willies Way
    • Why Things Break
    • The Great Game of Business
    • The Tribune Review’s pictorial book of “Summer With Stanley” featuring the Penguin players 2009 summer with the Stanley Cup.
    • The Idiot’s Guide to Wine
    • A cement handprint from one of my kids – I dropped it once and its cracked, please keep that our little secret.
    • My grandfather’s borough council President gavel from the 1940s.
    • Package of Dura Max flame-shaped light bulbs – I have absolutely no explanation for this.
    • City Paper from July, 2012 – It contains a feature article by editor, Chris Potter, explaining why the Pittsburghese word Jagoff is NOT a swear word!  It’s there because I’ve finally stopped cuddling it at night when I go to sleep.
Bottom Shelf
  • Made To Stick a very, very practical marketing book.
  • Collection of books on gardening and home remodeling – These are merely “Scan and Dream” books given my complete lack of handyman skills
  • Menopause Without Medicine – Even more difficult to explain than the light bulb package on the middle shelf
  • Cement handprint from my other kid (that fact that one is on the middle shelf and one is on the bottom shelf does not give insight as to one being a favorite as far as THEY know)
  • Bottle of High Traffic Carpet Cleaner – Given the amount of dust on the bookshelf, this CLEARLY is not a high-traffic carpet area, so its presence is yet another mystery.  I’ve contacted Cyril Wecht to investigate!
Thanks for reading this.  Have a great April Fools’ Day! For me, it’s a Holy Day of Obligation so watch out!

If you have questions about other stuff on the shelves, comment below. Or if you want to share what's on your own bookcase, let us know!

And if you'd like to check out any of the other fantastic set of eclectic blogs involved in today's Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event, links are below:
Yum Yum PGH


List #239: The Chills

This weekend was pretty much a wash. A pretty rough illness took hold on Thursday morning, sent me home from work only about an hour after I arrived, and didn't let me leave the house until Saturday. For only about an hour. Ditto to the boyfriend who came down with the same thing around midnight on Thursday night. Neither of us can remember the last time we were both that sick and chained to the bathroom. 

Things that happened and things that don't happen when you're stuck on the couch or in bed, sick, for a few days on end:
  • Hours of Parks and Recreation.
  • Moaning in pain. 
  • Emails sent to coworkers
  • Trips to malls.
  • Cat cuddles.
  • The depths of Netflix.
  • 10 + hours of sleep. 
  • Backaches from too much couch time.
  • Lots and lots of garbage.
  • Boozy brunch. 
  • Loads of laundry.
  • Hours of How I Met Your Mother, Season 1.
  • Movies.
  • Reading boos.
  • Soup deliveries from coworkers.
  • Chicken broth.
  • Rice.
  • Wasted leftovers.
  • Hot showers.
  • Paper reading.
  • Muppets.
This pretty much sums up the whole weekend. 

So here's to a healthy week. 


Letter #56: Writing Through Time

Here and there and sometimes here I've wrote letters to my future boyfriend. They were mostly written under blankets on my couch in my old apartment. Dreams and wishes that were fueled by past mistakes and what I had hoped for the future. But that was then and this is now. So new letters need to be written.

Dear Partner Who Wakes Up with Me Every Morning,

We don't always get to sleep in on Saturday mornings. Our internal alarm clocks are set to early. Adjustments in growing older, a baby's cries, a needy cat, our inability to be lazy for too long. All fair reasons for getting up with the sun and the perfect excuse for cups of steaming tea while still wearing pajamas.

But when we do ignore the alarms, and let the sun escape the curtains and filter into our bedroom, it's worth it. It's worth it for the way our snores stop and to hear the cat jump out of bed and run down the stairs. It's worth it to have your hand slip into mine and for my foot to find your leg. The two of us wrapped under sheets.

You whisper in my ear and pull back my hair to kiss me in a gentle haze that isn't quite ready to begin the day. And I mumble back an "I love you too" as I wiggle to get closer. This is as warm as we'll be for the rest of the day.

But when we do finally manage to push back the covers and start the day the newspapers to read, the candles to burn, the city to explore, the meals to prepare, the jokes to tell, and the laughs to be had fill in all the gaps.

And when it's all over there are those few minutes at the end of a night. When you're on your side of the bed, and I'm on mine. And the window is cracked and at least one bedside lamp is still glowing. And you're eyes are growing heavier by the second, a book dipping closer and closer to landing on your nose. And I'm already halfway to sleep, my own book thrown to the floor.  And my blanket is draped over my eyes. It's hard to remember the past. Because I never thought it could be this way.


List #238: Old Apartment

Locking Up for the Last Time

I locked up my apartment for the last time this evening. I haven't slept there since mid-October. And I have been living with the boyfriend since before Thanksgiving. But the lease is finally running out at the end of March. And after weeks of procrastination, mixed with bad weather, we taped the last box and threw away the garbage. 

I'm certainly not going to miss it. The carpet was awful, the heat hard to regulate, and the refrigerator was ancient. I was living in one of the last units in my building to forgo a renovation and it would have driven me crazy if I had stay much longer anyway. My rental company was run by shady people who had were guilty of tax evasion. Too many big dogs lived next door. And I never really talked to any of my neighbors.

But, it was mine. It was where I moved on after the most difficult year of my life. It was where my friends showed their love for me by moving all of my stuff, building my kitchen table, and picking up my estate-sale love seat and couch, without any of my help thanks a hospital stay and a Coumadin prescription. It was mine in a neighborhood that I loved, just steps around the corner from the first coworker I was ever really good friends with, and with a fantastic pizza place only a block away. It was spacious and warm and where I always knew quiet would welcome me home.

Two years. (Or, more correctly, a year and almost a half.) Here's what happened inside those walls.
  • Radley Cat was adopted.
  • I learned to sleep alone in a big bed nearly every night.
  • Many bubble baths were taken.
  • Chinese food was ordered. Regularly. 
  • Hours of Parks and Recreation were watched.
  • The cable bill was often paid late.
  • A guy once made me cry in my own bed.
  • I cried on the couch, not related to a guy.
  • Friends danced to Thriller.
  • Friends burnt themselves on glue guns.
  • Cards were played at the kitchen table.
  • Bean burritos were cooked in the kitchen.
  • Parades were watched.
  • Pierogies were taunted.
  • Dance parties. In the living room.
  • Many bad dates were never invited over.
  • Dance parties. In the kitchen.
  • Piles of clothes were ironed while watching television.
  • Tipsy friends slept on couches and in beds with me.
  • Floors were scrubbed.
  • A vacuum was borrowed. 
  • Many candles were burned.
  • One online dating profile was created.
  • My first Christmas tree was displayed
  • Snow fell.
  • One Christmas party was hosted.
  • Pictures of far away places I've visited were hung with care.
  • Friends moved away and I stayed.
  • Saturday mornings meant shopping at the farmer's market.
  • Weekday walks with my mom were treasured.
  • Books were read in bed, in the bathtub, on the couch, in the kitchen, and on the floor.
  • So much of this blog was written.
  • One smoke detector woke me up in the middle of the night.
  • Artwork was purchased to decorate white walls.
  • Clothes were always on the floor.
  • One great date was invited upstairs.
  • Two beers were sipped after one great date.
  • One first kiss.
  • One boy and girl up against a wall.
  • Two people pretended to watch Lincoln.
  • One girl fell in love.
So many things changed within the walls of that apartment. Not overnight, to be certain. There were a lot of lonely nights, uncontrollable self-doubt and sobbing, and unending life questioning. But slowly, things turned around. I may not miss that apartment. And I will certainly not miss those crippling feelings. But I will always look back fondly on that place simply because of the journey that was all about discovery, and failure, friendship, and family, and love.

Good-bye crappy apartment. I hope your next person experiences just as many things. 

List #237: Irish Eyes are Smiling

Even if I didn't get the chance to join in the revelry of Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day celebrations this year, I can still hold my head high and declare my ancestry. Because honestly, America's habit of holding on to our family's pasts generations after our great-great-great-great grandfathers settled on this land is one of the things I love most about this country. Yes, I am American. But I am also Irish, and Polish, and a little bit Austrian too. 

So in honor of those ancestors who came over on ships, worked harder than I can ever imagine, and found Pittsburgh there home, I raise a glass and listen to a few little songs.

Molly Malone
Because my mother taught me this song as a young girl. She sings it every year, teaching her preschool students the chorus and first verse. It's adorable. And it will always remind me of her sweet voice and love. 
Dirty Old Town
Because Pittsburgh used to be known for its dirty and grit. When I was a little girl I thought all songs that talked about downtowns and anything that referenced dirty cities was written about my town. I still think this could fit the Pittsburgh of those days. 
Because this song was in heavy rotation during my middle school years. When I was awkward, and my family had little money, and I was just trying to figure out who in the world I might try to try and become. A female Irish rockstar sounded like a pretty good idea.

Drunken Lullabies
Because I'm embarrassed to admit that up until a few years ago, I weirdly thought that Flogging Molly was Pittsburgh-based Irish band. In my defense, it often seems that this city (or more aptly many of my Irish relatives) have a very big thing for them and no one else outside of this city had ever seemed to hear of them. So I thought they were Pittsburghers who just really embraced their Irish culture and maybe had one or two real Irish members. 

Because when a name like mine, you're required to wear green on St. Patrick's Day...May your day be touched with a little bit of Irish luck.