Seven Quick Takes No. 79–A Trip to Pittsburgh

It's Friday, so that means Seven Quick Takes! @emily_m_deardo

I.

We spent last weekend and part of this week in Pittsburgh celebrating my grandma’s 85th birthday.

Me and Grandma

Me and Grandma

 We celebrated by taking a dinner cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet, which was a great meal and boat ride around the three rivers of Pittsburgh. We sailed by PNC Park, Heinz Field, the Point, and other Pittsburgh landmarks. Quite a bit of the family– though not all–was there, and it was a fun way to celebrate.

 

Dad and my cousin Diane's youngest child.

Dad and my cousin Diane’s youngest child.

II.

One of the best parts was seeing my cousin Diane, and especially meeting her newest baby (above with Dad). She has two older daughters, whom I’d met before, but I’d never met this little guy, who turns 1 in August.

Diane and I with her little guy.

Diane and I with her little guy.

III.

The next day we went to PNC Park to see the Pirates beat the Phillies in extra innings. I’d never been to a Pirates game where they won, so I was pretty excited about that! Dad taught me how to fill out the scorecard that was in the game program, so I feel very educated in the Ways of Baseball. (Sort of. I find baseball always has new ways to confuse me.)

Our seats were behind home plate and under the overhang of the upper deck, so we were in shade, which was great when it was 85+ degrees.

Pirates win and the Parrot takes the mound.

Pirates win and the Parrot takes the mound.

III.

 After the game we had another party at one of my aunt’s houses. She has a pool and her husband grilled, and there was, of course, jello marshmallow salad, because it’s not a family gathering on my mom’s side without jello marshmallow salad.

Kids like cookouts.

Kids like cookouts.

These kids....

These kids….

Grandma received cards and presents, and then there was Bethel Bakery cake, which is the Best Cake in the Universe. Not kidding. Our swimming was curtailed because of a huge thunderstorm that opened up, but that didn’t deter the youngest from having fun….

ballooooonnnnns!

ballooooonnnnns!

IV.

Diane’s oldest girl (seen above, in the pink glasses) and I:

Me: So, Susie, what’s your favorite movie?
Susie: Frozen.

Me: OK. What’s your favorite song?
Susie: (As if I am deeply, deeply stupid) “Let it Go.”
Me: Well, there are other songs in the movie.
Susie: No there aren’t.

V.

Monday we went to Kennywood, where I hadn’t been in over ten years, so it was nice to be back, and Diane’s husband had never been there at all. Susie and I had fun riding rides, but when I took Bridget on the carousel, she seemed a bit wary, until the ride starting going. She also really enjoyed the ice cream cone.

I had to rescue this ice cream from hitting the pavement more than once.

I had to rescue this ice cream from hitting the pavement more than once.

 VI.

Kennywood really does have things for everyone, which makes it fun, but my grandpa’s favorite ride was “The Restaurant”, so we had dinner there. It’s a large cafeteria style place and it has good food and, the real winning point, air conditioning. It was hot, so we got a lot of water rides under our belts, and then dried off with roller coasters.

VII.

Of course, some of us couldn’t handle all the excitement:

Being this cute takes a lot of work.

Being this cute takes a lot of work.

Seven Quick Takes No. 78

It's Friday, so that means Seven Quick Takes! @emily_m_deardo

I.

mmmm. Summer Friday. Those are beautiful words in the English language, no? 🙂

II.

Since it’s summer, more people read. You can, of course, join the Jane Re-Read (Sense and Sensibility is what we’re talking right now). I’m still reading Prodigal Summer and Northanger Abbey. I just finished I Believe In Love, about St. Therese of Liseux and how she can lead us to a deeper spiritual life, and I really liked that one. There’s a lot to ponder and I’ll definitely be reading it again. (Who am I kidding. I read everything again….unless it’s Moby Dick or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Shudder!)

I keep debating if I should read Girl on a Train. Yes? No? Thoughts?

III.

My 10 year transplant testing appointment is on Monday. To put this in perspective: UNOS (the United Network for Organ Sharing, which “does” transplants in the U.S.) doesn’t even have 10 year survival rates on their chart. The last one they have is 5 years out, and for women, that rate is 46.1%. I read somewhere that 10 year survival is around 30%, but I forget where.
So, for ONCE, the odds have been playing nicely with me. I rejoice in this. The actual 10 year date is in July, but we do the testing in June, usually.

IV.

I’ve discovered that a lot of women don’t know basic maintenance things. This sort of scares me, ladies. You should know to put gas in the car (and what kind of gas), how to jump a car battery, how to use tools, how to unclog a toilet. Even if you’re married, your husband isn’t aways around to fix things! I’m amazed at how many women I know who can’t do any of these things and I want to be like, girls. Come on now!

V.

My brother’s girlfriend sent me this photo of him at Disneyland, and I just love it:

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As Br. H said, “How many Evil Empires can you fit in one picture?”

VI.

I’ve started swimming again–yay! But man, the muscles feel it when you swim hard for the first time in a season. They rebel the next day. But it’s so good to be in swim season again, I do not mind at all.

VII.

Almost time for Edel 2015 in Charleston! I’m so excited!! I’ve never been to South Carolina and I can’t wait to meet all the amazing women who will be there!

Seven Quick Takes No. 69

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I.

Welcome, y’all, to another edition of Quick Takes, brought to you by coffee, coffee and coffee. 🙂

II.

It’s not that I’m tired, it’s cold. Yeah. We had some fake outs earlier this week but I think it’s 0 outside right now. But this weekend it’ll be warmer! Rejoice! I just sort of want it to stay around, oh, 30? Could we do that, weather? 30 would be good!

So anyway….coffee. 🙂

III.

The Oscars came and went, and I was right about Birdman winning Best Picture, but wrong about Michael Keaton. I’m OK with that because I love Eddie Redmayne and he did a great job in his movie. Also, if you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, do it. It’s  really cute, touching, and the animation? BAZINGA, people. The colors are amazing.

IV.

Last night I was playing an ancient dice game called Kismet with my mom. This game is a perennial favorite in our house, because you can play it with anywhere from 2 to…I guess 8 or so players (probably more), and my hyper-competitive self doesn’t mind losing so much, because, as the name attests, you get what you get when you roll the dice. You can’t really strategize your way to victory.

So, this game has been in the household since my parents first got married in 1979. Last night, mom and I were rifling through old score cards and found several of note: one from my dad’s best friend, dated Dec. ’82; one from my Aunt and Uncle who were dating when they were playing (they were dated pre-wedding); several from when me and my siblings were kids; and one that says “Mickey {my mom} and Baby, Feb. ’82”.

Yeah, the baby is me. 🙂

So basically I’ve been playing this game since I was in-utero. 🙂

(If you’ve never played it, it’s fun. Give it a try.)

V.

I finally saw the movie Watership Down this week. No, I wasn’t traumatized unduly, but I bet if I was a wee child watching it, the sight of bunnies clawing each other and blood-drenched fields might have put me off sleep for a few nights. As a kid, the movies that scared me the most were Snow White (that witch. Holy cow.) and Pinnochio (the whole kids turning into asses? Yeah, not so much. TERRIFIED me. And then, oh, let’s throw in an enormous whale that wants to eat us!).

However, the moral was pretty clear, in both cases: Don’t take apples from strangers, and DO NOT SKIP SCHOOL.

(Wizard of Oz didn’t scare me until I got a bit older, around 7 or so, and then it was Auntie Em turning into the Witch in the crystal ball. Then I’d just excuse myself and come back when that part was over.)

VI.

I’m also finding myself hard-pressed to read any new books so I’m re-reading Outlander. Yes. Again. I’m on Fiery Cross. I’m also re-reading a variety of other books, but that changes from hour to hour. Outlander is pretty consistent, though. 🙂

VII.

Speaking of books, I’m about to do some nitty-picky editing on the manuscript, as one of my March goals. I need to go through and do a timeline and general note taking about what I’ve included already and how things are structured. No point in writing good bits if they don’t make sense, oui

Seven Quick Takes Friday No. 65

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I.

Happy Friday again, y’all!

Here’s a quick wrap-up of some of this week’s posts, in case you missed them: Daybook, Yarn Along, The Open Guitar Case, Contemplation, How a Dominican Friar Prays (who happens to be one of my BFFs).

II.

There was also this special post. I am so happy. Editing this manuscript went pretty well, except for some parts that made me think why did I write this DRECK?! But that’s what editing is for….getting out all the crap. There are some entire sections that need to be seriously trashed and re-written, and the prospect there is sort of daunting. But first I’m working on adding a more solid ending, which was one of the big problems in the first go-round. One thing at a time, right? But for January, my goal was to just edit the firs two parts of the book, not the whole thing. So I am lightyears ahead there!

III.

Quick Oscar movie posts: I saw Gone Girl and How to Train Your Dragon 2Gone Girl has one nomination (best actress for Rosamund Pike, who plays Amy), and How to Train Your Dragon 2 is nominated for Best Animated Feature.

I wasn’t really impressed with Pike in Gone Girl. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a good actress, but I don’t think she was quite as creepy as the role requires her to be. I’m also not sure if that’s a fault of the writing/medium. In the book, she’s just so creepy. In the movie she’s borderline creepy. Also, the movie doesn’t do as good of a job fleshing out Amy and Nick’s before.” I know, movies are different than books, but in this case it just didn’t translate well. And with the competition in the best actress category, I don’t think Pike will win.

As far as HTTYD2, I thought it was very well done, just as good as its predecessor. Gorgeous animation, great story. I’d need to see more of this category to predict, however.

IV.

If you’re looking for a great Lenten e-retreat, as it were, ladies, I give you this:

RESTORE.

I did this last year, and it was amazing. Please consider gifting this to yourself. It’s amazing.

V.

And yes, Lent. It’s coming soon, peeps. It’s early this year. May I direct you to my Lent series? 🙂

VI.

And to round this out, some Christmas pics:

Me and my cousin Paige (who, incidentally, also asked me to be her Confirmation sponsor.)

Me and my cousin Paige (who, incidentally, also asked me to be her Confirmation sponsor.)

VII.

My cousin Kelly, and another cousin, Justin. These guys kill me.

My cousin Kelly, and another cousin, Justin. These guys kill me.

Daybook: Christmas Season

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Outside my window::

Bright, sunny, and windy. Seasonal–so in the 30s. It was almost 60 degrees on Christmas Eve!

Wearing::

Jeans, grey flats, a blue tank top, a new cardigan (same as the photo below) , and sparkly earrings. It’s the holidays, it means party time in the clothes department. 🙂

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Reading::

Wow, what am I not reading? I got three books for Christmas: The Romanov Sisters, The Little French Kitchen, and Elizabeth of York, about Henry VII’s wife (and Henry VIII’s mother). I’ve finished The Romanov Sisters (good, but nothing really new in there), I’m marking up French Kitchen with stickies to mark recipes I want to try, and I’ve dipped into Elizabeth.

I also bought: In Cold Blood, The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, and Mastering the Art of French Eating. I’m reading both French Eating and Cold Blood, and I finished Manzanilla earlier today. That one is part of the Pink Carnation series, which I’ve been reading since its inception. There are eleven books in the series and the last one comes out next year. Whenever there’s a new one it always makes me want to go back and read the older ones, so I see a reading of the series in my future. 🙂

Basically, I’m being a Christmas book glutton.

Oh, and I almost forgot! Lara Casey’s Make it Happen. People. Go get this. Now. It’s amazing.

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In the CD player::

The Christmas music. 🙂 I try to rotate through all of them as much as possible, so Renee Fleming’s is up next.

Movies::

I watched Babette’s Feast last night, and I loved it. It’s such a “me” movie–France, Food, Faith. The three Fs, if you will. 🙂 The feast! Oh my gosh. And the part at the end about art….really, it’s a gorgeous movie. It will make you hungry. watch it. Please. 🙂

Pondering::

Why there are tablets everywhere I go. I admit, I’m prone to checking my phone when I’m bored, but I am really good at leaving it in my bag, unnoticed and unused, when I’m in church, when I’m with people, when I’m at the movies, etc. It’s not an umbilical cord for me.
But lately I’ve seen more and more kids with it all the time–at Mass, at nice restaurants, everywherelike they can’t be without it, and it’s sort of ude. What are these kids learning? That they have to be constantly stimulated? That they can be rude to people? (Because it is rude, to ignore the waiter who’s waiting to take your order, if you’re trying to beat level 3067 on Candy Crush, or whatever and he’s waiting for your drink order.)

At Mass I see 8-9-10 year olds playing around instead of paying attention. Guys. Why is this happening? Why have we become so involved in our screens? Why are we not involved in the people around us? Also, why must we be “available” all the time? Really? ALL THE TIME?

Also, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot happier when I’m not on Facebook 24/7. It’s a great resource, and I do connect to people with it. There are things I like about it. But geez, I’ve been so much happier without living on it during the holidays. There’s a lesson there.

(Lara Casey’s new book Make it Happen is huge on this part. Absolutely huge.)

Around the house::

Decluttering, cleaning closets, mopping, vacuuming, putting things away. The general post-Christmas insanity and I’m trying to defeat it. 😛

Food::

Making chocolate gingerbread as a new year’s day dessert, and also the Guinness Cake for a party of sorts on Friday. Tomorrow is sweet and sour pork, because for some reason I eat Chinese on New Year’s Eve. Why is this?

family::

I had a great time with my family over Christmas–seeing all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my sister, who was here from Houston (she leaves tomorrow) is always fun. Especially when there are cute little children that read books to me and cal my name and ask to sit in my lap. I love that part. 🙂

Seven Quick Takes No. 61

Seven Quick Takes No. 61

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I.

This week felt like it flew by.It’s that time of year again, when it just gets closer to Christmas and there’s so much to DO and not enough time to do it! Totally the theory of relativity, right? As a kid, you remember these days going so slowly. And now? Gone so quickly. It’s amazing.

II.

This is partially because there’s a lot going on–tomorrow I’m going to a Penguins/Jackets game with my parents (in which I will be happy with the outcome, because one team I love will win!). On Sunday, it’s the last CCD class before the break, which basically means a video on St. Nicholas and bingo games; then we have a catechist meeting; then there’s a Third Order meeting which concludes with life promises (EEEEK), and then dinner with Mary and lessons and carols at my parish. WHEW. And Monday I have a doctor appointment with all that attends that, and an audition that night.

III.

So, life promises. Yes. Basically, this means I’m a Lay Dominican forever and ever (amen), I promise to live by the rule of St. Dominic for the rest of my life, and be a good Lay Dominican. 🙂 The rule requires that I say morning and evening prayer of the liturgy of the hours, attend Mass as often as possible during the week, go to confession once a month, say a daily rosary, and perform individual religious study. None of these are bound by pain of sin. If I miss vespers one day or something, it’s not a thing I need to confess. But these are the “pillars”, so to speak, of my life, forever, after Sunday. I’ve been in formation for five+ years now, and I’m so glad to be making this final step.

IV.

My Christmas shopping, however, is 98% finished. I still have to get something for two more people, who are hard to shop for. Sigh. I’m hoping to come up with magic inspiration over the next week.

V.

My 2015 calendar is starting to fill up–January has good things (a Symphony concert!) and some unfun/fun things–a colonoscopy (Oh YAY!). Yes, my friends, I need to have one, and the hospital, of course, is freaking because I have a PORT, and we’re going to USE IT, and OH MY GOSH!

Really, guys, it’s not that hard. They don’t even have to access me–mom can do it. All they have to do is push the lovely happy meds into the tube. I do not understand the freak out. It’s an adult hospital I’m going to, but they treat cancer patients, so a port isn’t some exotic medical things they’ve never seen. Sigh. I guess it’ll be a “teachable moment” for them. AS long as they don’t break the port, I don’t care. Just give me the fun meds and do what you have to do, doc.

VI.

in 2015, revision on THE BOOK will begin in earnest. Yes. I have left the draft alone for a few months, I’ve gotten some feedback from my beta readers, and in January it will be time to start massaging it into shape again, and bring out the long knife of editing. Oh yes, my friends. The knife is coming out!

VII.

Next week has two of my favorite days! JANE DAY, her birthday, on Dec. 16, in which we shall all drink tea, watch the Wet Shirt video, and read her books, and Dec. 17, which is Beethoven Day (it’s the day Beethoven was Baptized.) Such great genius!  They were born five years apart (Beethoven in 1700, Jane in 1775), and died ten years apart (Jane in July 1817, Beethoven in March 1827). So on Beethoven Day we will listen to much Beethoven and rejoice in his genius. (Yes, he’s my favorite composer, why do you ask?)

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(Side note: people: stop using this to mean “pounds.” I See it all the time: “The fish was 8#!” REALLY?!?!?!)

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Seven Quick Takes No. 60

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I.

So we have to start with the big thing: I’m going to Edel!

I am so excited to meet Jen and Hallie and all the other lovely ladies, and I’m also excited to see the City of Charleston. I’ve never been to South Carolina, and my mom has always wanted to go to Charleston. So, we’re going!

II.

The best part about the gathering? Well, OK, the other best part?

My 10th transplant anniversary is that Saturday.

Really, people, how much better can it be to celebrate a DECADE of life post-transplant than with amazing ladies, great food, maybe a spa treat (there’s one in the hotel!)

This is the sort of thing I never imagined before transplant–getting to travel all over the country and have these amazing experiences.

III.

The plan right now is to get to Charleston on Thursday and stay until the following Wednesday, so we can see all we want to see and really enjoy the city, as opposed to “we have a weekend we must CRAM IT ALL IN NOW.” We shall take our time.

Dad is excited because they will be shrimp and grits and there’s a Starbucks in the hotel lobby. He’s pretty set for life, right there.

IV.

When I told my transplant doc that we were going to Charleston, he immediately said, “You must eat at Hominy Grill.” He’s not the only one who has said this, but he sure waxed poetic about it. If you have other suggestions for places to eat, pop them in the com box. 🙂

V.

I was basically a prisoner in the house Monday and Tuesday, because of cold and snow. NOTHING like Buffalo, but it was cold, for sure–unseasonably so. I cannot imagine living in Buffalo. How do you even begin to clear five plus feet of snow?!

VI.

I’m excited to see Mockingjay soon–either this weekend or next week. And also, of course, The Theory of Everything, which opens here next week! Yay good movies! I also need to see Big Hero 6.

VII.

What are your plans for Turkey Day? Ours involve getting Bob Evans’ “Farmhouse Feast” and eating it at home. We’re not huge Thanksgiving Let’s Go All Out People (we sort of were, back in the day). Now we just like it nice and quiet, with maybe a movie or two that day or the day after. We’re low-key peeps. And we do not do Black Friday shopping–unless it’s Black Friday at Barnes and Noble. Because, why not.

Things I Think About

A list of random things that are occupying my brain:

  • Does anyone else think the Comeback Canyon on Biggest Loser isn’t working? It’s like it’s always week two over there. The person who is the newest is always going to win. It’s a decent idea in theory, but in practice? not so much. (Much like many government policies!)
  • I’m always glad when people come out to see a show that I’m in. Heck, I’m glad when people support live theater in general! But if you’re going to come, don’t play video games. Don’t play with your phone. Don’t hold conversations in the middle of a big musical number. We, the actors, can see you! We can see the light from the phone, and we can see you talking! It’s distracting! It’s RUDE! STOP IT! You paid money to see a show–how about you, I dunno, watch it? A few random whispered things, like “I’m leaving to answer the phone, because the President is calling”, that’s fine. But these people were having a multi-person conclave across an entire row. Folks….just don’t. This is especially true in smaller theaters. It’s not like you’re at the Met and you’re in the family circle. You’re right in front of us!
  • My dad is a really funny guy. Proof here.
  • James Levine celebrates his 2,500 conducting outing at the Met today. That’s amazing, as is the music he leads. I’ve got  one of his Ring cycles on DVD, and one of his Otellos, and man….that’s good stuff. Bravo, maestro.
  • I wish it was November so I could start writing my novel, but I’ve got about a week of planning left. NaNoWriMo, here I come! I’ve got the family trees roughly sketched and a (rough, of course) timeline, and I think I need to start making some character notes, just so I have an idea. I don’t generally plot the end of my books. I like to see where characters take me.
  • In CCD tomorrow I’m teaching the kids about Abraham and Noah. Actually, that should be Noah and Abraham. I think. I always mix up who comes first. Thank God for the book. 🙂

Life and death

Everyone says the same thing about that day: It was beautiful.

And it really was. It was like a postcard, almost, the clear, vivid blue sky that covered the eastern part of the country; the temperatures, warm but not hot. There were hardly any clouds.

My brother’s sixteenth birthday was that day.

Easter in the 80s

Easter in the 80s

We didn’t celebrate that day.

Today he turns 29.

Easter 2014

Easter 2014

It’s very strange to me, to have life and death so vividly connected. It happens every day, but for us, 9/11 was a special day before it became 9/11, before my brother’s birthday became a national shortcut to mean something we will probably never understand.

But life goes on. That’s one of the things so many people died for, in the wake of 9/11: to ensure that our lives would go on, that no more families would know the pain of the 9/11 families, that no one else would board a plan and have it hijacked and taken into buildings. That beautiful September days could stay just that–beautiful September days–and not days of loss and mourning and incomprehensible things.

So many things were lost that day. But many things also endure.

Seven Quick Takes Friday No. 52

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I.

Happy Friday, everyone!

II.

It’s been a busy week at ma maison. On Monday I had my “annual” transplant clinic visit–I see them much more than once a year, but at this particular visit we draw more blood (for vitamin levels and all that jazz), and have some additional testing. The only additional test this year was the abdominal ultrasound, so that’s pretty exciting. My bone density is normal so we were able to skip that test this year, and we’d done CT scans and all that in previous appointments in this crazy year. Pulm Rehab restarts on the 30th, which is also my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary and my grandma’s birthday.

III.

Also this week, Dad had his birthday (yesterday) and mom has hers on Sunday. And a friend of mine is due to have her first baby any day now!

IV.

The Music Man progresses splendidly! This is actually a light rehearsal weekend for me, which is good because after this weekend the schedule gets really intense. I only have one rehearsal on Saturday, but it’s a lot of rehearsal–almost all of Act I. For me, this means “Iowa Stubborn”, “Trouble”, “Columbia”, “76 Trombones”, and “Pick-A-Little”. But I am having so much fun doing this show, it’s fantastic. It’s going to be great!

V.

If you missed it, here’s my first Summer in the Little Oratory post. The next one will be up on Tuesday!

VI.

There’s been some good times with friends this week. I had dinner with my friend Mary on Wednesday night (much needed girl time) and then got to hang out briefly with my wonderful first transplant nurse and one of her adorable daughters. Besides the whole “staying alive” thing, Karen is definitely the best thing to have come from transplant. I just love her. 🙂

VII.

And the Book–the draft is 227 double spaced pages. Wowza. But it’s rapidly nearing the finish of the first draft, which means I can send it to my LOVELY first draft readers once we reach that point! Exciting!