Saturday 9: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

Unfamiliar with this song? Hear it here. 

1) Bette Midler sings that the bugle boy wakes up Company B every morning by playing reveille. What awakened you this morning (phone, alarm clock, sunrise, etc.)? Or did you wake up on your own? I woke up on my own, but then dozed off for a little bit longer until my alarm went off. I have a seven-month-old, and he generally sleeps through the night and I want to keep him on a schedule, so to avoid getting too thrown off, I don’t let him sleep past 7:30–which means I don’t, either.

2) This single was produced by Bette’s arranger/piano player, who went on to have a successful singing career of his own. Do you have a favorite Barry Manilow song? It was “Mandy” for a while, but probably “Copacabana.”

3) Bette was named after Bette Davis. Her sisters, Susan and Judy, were named for Susan Hayward and Judy Garland. So now we know who Mother Midler’s favorite actresses were. Who are yours? I’m partial to Judy, too.

4) Bette has been married since 1984 to artist Martin von Haselberg. She was 39 years old, already a star, and had never married before. Yet within six weeks of meeting him, she was so sure Martin was “the one” that they tied the knot. Have you found that love takes time, or, like Bette, have you fallen in love quickly? I’d say that falling in love with my husband felt like it happened very fast but that because of that, I tried not to move fast. I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself.

5) When their daughter Sophie was growing up, it was Martin who taught her to cook. What was the last thing you prepared in your kitchen? Did you use the microwave, stovetop, convection oven, blender, coffee maker …? I’m currently making a little bit of pasta. Stovetop, of course.

6) Bette says that listening and compromise have been the key to their happy marriage but adds, “Compromise is hardest of all.” On what have you compromised recently? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like anything’s come up lately needing a compromise.

7) Bette and Martin have a farmhouse in upstate New York. She enjoys feeding the chickens (whom she has jokingly named The Kardashians) and puttering in her garden. Do you have a green thumb? We do well with our garden outside, save a few things that need tweaking–for some reason, cucumbers don’t do so well for us–but we’re horrible with indoor plants. We tend to forget about them and kill them accidentally.

8) In 1973, the year this song was popular, actor Neil Patrick-Harris was born. He’s best known as Barney on How I Met Your Mother, which ran from 2005-2014. Were you a fan? I’ve watched and enjoyed a few episodes.

9) Random question — How often do you put crackers in your soup: Always, often, seldom or never? Never.

Friday 5: Sound Tracking

  1. What are you listening to? Nothing, which is odd because I almost always have music playing.
  2. What are you hearing? The dryer running, the hot-water tank refilling, quiet sounds from a video game my husband is playing, a trill from one of the cats, and up until a minute or so ago, the furnace running. And I guess my keyboard clacking.
  3. What are you turning a deaf ear to? Certain criticisms of Biden. It hasn’t even been two weeks. I think jumping on him about what hasn’t been done yet is a bit premature.
  4. What have you recently overheard? Snippets of my husband’s Zoom calls for his grad-school classes and projects.
  5. To whom have you recently lent an ear? My husband, I guess, and my best friend. She’s dog-sitting for her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, but he’s asked her to do a few things she considers to be outside the scope of reasonable requests. For example, he rents out some properties, and he wanted her to collect rent and handle pest complaints, and she I agree that’s a hard pass.

From Friday 5.

We’re already underway on some of our home-improvement projects for the year. A while ago, Paul’s sister Julie knew someone who getting rid of some large bookshelves, so we took them and his dad picked them up for us and installed them on Wednesday. I spent as much time as I could today filling them, taking some off built-in shelves in Charlie’s room and others off shelves in our living room. I ran out of steam, but there’s a chance there’s enough space on the new shelves to empty and get rid of the old ones, clearing out room in the living room and making the side room the new shelves are in basically a library and music room–it’s also housing an organ and our CD collection, and I’m wondering if we might as well throw the guitars and a record player in there, too, if there’s room.

I took Friday off again, and we spent Saturday visiting our families. Julie did come in but wasn’t feeling great, so it ended up being a visit without her. We then went to my mom’s, and we spent today tackling projects like getting the Christmas tree down, at last, and filling those shelves.

Moving forward, we’re trying to limit family visits to every other week. We’re not really going out and although my mom isn’t, either, she’s babysitting Eliana and Kelly’s a teacher, so there’s enough room for COVID to spread among us that we really shouldn’t be seeing everyone as often as we had been, especially since we’re gonna be last in line for a vaccine just based on how it’s being rationed. Kelly and Brandon can probably get it soon, but the rest of us not so much.

And so next week’s plans are staying at home, maybe aside from a grocery run. Maybe I’ll take Friday off again to burn those vacation days I have other use for. Who knows?

We had a close-but-not-really call with a possible COVID exposure.

Two weeks ago, on a Saturday, Paul’s parents visited his sister in Erie and stopped by our house on their way home. That Tuesday, his other sister came and stayed with us for the rest of the week through Saturday morning. She told us later that day that she found out their brother-in-law in Erie had COVID and had been sick, also since Tuesday. Now, no one actually interacted with someone who was sick, but the timing was tight and we were concerned there was a possible exposure. Technically, the CDC advice on quarantining didn’t apply to us, but we decided to play it safe. By the time we found out, though, it had been eight days since we’d seen his parents, and I figured that if they had it, between them, us, and Paul’s siblings still living at home, someone would’ve gotten sick. The possibility of that many people not showing a single sign eight days in seemed too unlikely, and I was right–no one ever developed symptoms in the few days after.

We were supposed to spend Sunday at my mom’s with some homemade potato salad, which she’d made ahead, and we figured we’d be extra careful and just stop over and pick some up and say hi, so that was our Sunday last week.

I took this Friday off again and we spent almost the entire weekend at home. I ran some errands, and we met up with Terra again at her brother’s pizza place to exchange our Christmas presents. Like last time, we left with takeout, this time with a cheesecake dessert pizza and a small order of BBQ seitan wings for me.

Saturday 9: Thank U, Next

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) In this song, Ariana Grande thanks her former boyfriends for what they taught her about love, life, patience and pain. Do you believe you have learned more from your successes, or your mistakes? Maybe an even mix of both?

 2) One of the young men mentioned in the song is Pete Davidson, a cast member of Saturday Night Live. SNL has been on for more than 45 years now. Who is your all-time favorite cast member?  Kate McKinnon is certainly high on the list, as are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I also come from a family of Dana Carvey fans.

3) Thinking of funny people … As you can see from the video, Ariana performed “Thank U, Next” on Ellen Degeneres’ talk show. Ellen makes people laugh every afternoon. Who in your life can you always count on to make you laugh or smile? My husband and my son, but my son is six months old and it’s a very different kind of laughter.

4) It looks like Ariana Grande’s personal romantic saga will have a happy ending because at Christmastime, she announced her engagement. Do you know anyone who is getting married in 2021? I have a cousin who is engaged, but I suppose COVID is a factor in the wedding. Other than that, no, I don’t know anyone who has set, concrete plans to get married this year.

5) Ariana loves Harry Potter and named her dogs Snape, Lily and Sirius Black after characters in the J.K. Rowling books. Are you a Harry Potter fan? I am.

6) She loves board games, especially Monopoly. Sam isn’t crazy about Monopoly because it takes so long. How about you? Are you a Monopoly fan? I enjoy playing it, but it does tend to take a long time. I have to be really in the right mindset to play.

7) In 2018, the year this song was released, Toys R Us closed all its stores and went out of business. Who received the last toy you purchased? What was it? My son, for Christmas. He got some stacking toys and a play mat filled with water and little fish.

8) Also in 2018, Aretha Franklin died. What’s your favorite Aretha song? Gotta be honest, I’m not a big Aretha fan.

9) Random question: Are you more likely to shed a tear at a wedding or during a movie? A movie. I cry easily when I watch something, but not as much at real-life events.

Friday 5: Groovy, Rad, Lit

  1. Which slang term from your youth, no longer in common use, do you remember fondly? I was a ’90s kid, and I said “talk to the hand” and “whatever” a lot as a sassy, attitude-filled child.
  2. What slang do you still use, ‘though it’s no longer in common use? I still do say “whatever” a lot, and “sweet.” Do the kids say “sweet” these days?
  3. Which current (or sorta recent) slang terms do you particularly like? I like “lit” and “stan,” although I don’t really use them.
  4. Which slang terms, past or present, do you especially dislike? I hate “bae”! And I hated that period of time when people said “preggo” or “preggers” instead of “pregnant.”
  5. What slang terms are specific to your geographical region? I mean, have you heard of Pittsburghese? We’re known for “yinz” in particular, but there’s a number of other words, phrases, and pronunciations unique to the area. Some have suggested that it’s largely a class thing–that blue-collar workers in particular use it–but I’d argue it’s age, too. I know very few people my age who do, save a few “yinz”s thrown into texts.

From Friday 5.


Last year’s goals got kind of upended between COVID and pregnancy. Despite my intentions, pregnancy wiped me out physically much more than I expected it to, and COVID affected things all over the spectrum. Even with the arrival of the vaccine and our intentions to get it, we’re pretty much the bottom of the list–I work from home and Paul’s unemployed/started grad school online. So my 2021 goals are split into two parts, the second being contingent on either a vaccine or a significant drop in cases near us, and I’m operating under the assumption that that’ll take at least six months.

Make a plan for my vacation time. This year marks 10 years with my employer (!), and so as of the New Year, I have four weeks of vacation time with no intentions to do any significant travel. Ideally, just to make things easier to plan and to avoid a huge chunk of time left, I’ll use two weeks in the first half of the year. I took this past Friday off and plan to take this coming Friday off and I think I’ll probably just burn days like that, giving myself short weeks as often as possible, but I’d like to be a little more organized about it. And hey, if I use even some of it to just hang out at home with the baby, I call that a win.
Read 16 books. Last year’s goal was 15, and I just missed it. I also realized last year’s reading was uncharacteristically light–not even some depressing nonfiction political/current events read. As the baby gets older and doesn’t need quite as much attention, and with 20 vacation days to burn, I should be able to finish 16 books. Adding one more to my goal this year is a pretty safe bet, I think.
Create a proper, professional personal website. A bio, links to published works, that sort of thing.
Send writing out for publication at least once a month. At first, I was gonna set this as once a week, but I think that’s unrealistically ambitious with a baby.
Be more organized about tracking submissions. I used to be, and then I wasn’t, and if I’m intending on hitting it at a decent pace this year, I’d like to get back on it–a spreadsheet of pieces and where they’ve been sent, when, and if they were published or rejected.
Home improvements. Exactly what and when depends on COVID. I don’t want to do anything that’ll be an added monthly payment until our siding is paid off and I don’t want anyone coming inside to do anything unless we’re vaccinated, we know they’re vaccinated, or cases are down. I’d like to look into what little things we can do to add some curb appeal before we’re ready to take on landscaping, particularly around our little front porch, or maybe look into the cost of planting a few trees in the front yard for some added shade and privacy. I don’t like how wide open the yard is. The deck could also use restained, there are some stumps out back I’d like to remove, and like last year, I’d like to look into replacing our water heater with a tankless one, but that’s definitely a post-COVID project.
Spruce up the garden. With pregnancy and then a new baby, the garden kind of got away from us. I’d like to get it cleaned up and organized and plant more this year–cherry tomatoes, big tomatoes, add another strawberry plant, maybe look into something like peppers and try cucumbers again.
Organize the house. I currently have a tab open of a hanging rod to add another row to the closet that I intend to buy, and the baby’s room is still a a bit overrun with our stuff–clothes in the closet, random things that got shuffled in there because I don’t think Paul knew where else to put them. There’s a bag in there that’s been hanging around for God knows how long that’s almost definitely full of stuff to donate. We also have big bookshelves coming from his sister in Erie that’ll go in our side room, and hopefully we can empty out the smaller shelves and either get rid of them or more likely stash them in the attic in case we find another use for them. And if we’re doing that, I’d like to think about a small loveseat or something, basically make it a tiny library. The cats’ litter boxes are in there, too, so I’d like to hide those in something like end tables. Because I don’t want to spend a lot on furniture, that might get put off, and at some point, I’d like a new coffee table with a top that lifts up for more hidden storage. If we are able to empty the current shelves, I’d like to put a little bench in place of a set near our front door so that when people come over, they have a place to sit and take off/put on shoes and store them and purses and things. When those make their way here, we’ll need to clear the room out. It’s become another sort of holding area for miscellaneous things.
Knock out debt. We have some small balances we can take care of easily, and my car is on track to be paid off in October, sooner if I can swing it.
Be a kick-ass mom. I’m not perfect. I spend a lot of time alternating between feeling like I should be paying more undivided attention to him and acknowledging that when he’s playing, he’s fine on his own (I mean, I’m present and constantly glancing over) and it’s fine to crank out a blog or read or something. But I try to make sure he gets my complete attention a couple times a day–always at bedtime and first thing in the morning, if I’m off and am the one to get him, plus a few times throughout the day. Looking ahead, we have his first birthday in the summer, and I’d like to have a small party for immediate family at our house.

Post-COVID/vaccine, and there’s less than I thought:
Travel. Regardless, we’re not going to want to go far. Between Paul’s MBA program, money, and traveling with a baby, a big, extended trip more than a couple hours away is almost certainly out of the question. But if we’re comfortable with it, I wouldn’t mind long weekends away. There’s family to visit in Erie and D.C., and we can spend time as a new little family in Deep Creek or the mountains.
Concert photography. This is something I had on my list to do a year or so ago. I can’t remember if it was on my 2019 list and my dad got sick and died and I got pregnant shortly after, but something happened that put this way on the backburner. I’d like to buy a good, legit camera, get photo passes for some local shows, and start shooting. At first, it’ll probably just be for posts on Medium or something, but eventually, I’d like to ramp it up as a side hustle or hey, even a full-time gig, maybe.

Saturday 9: All Shook Up

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.Chosen because January 8 is the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth. 

1) In this song, Elvis shares quite a list of maladies: he’s itching, his hands are shaky, his knees are weak, he has chills … How are you feeling this morning? Sleepy, but fine otherwise.

2) He also mentions being “tongue tied.” The dictionary defines it as, “unable to speak freely, as from shyness.” Do you often find yourself tongue tied? I wouldn’t say often, but it does happen.

3) Even after he was wealthy, Elvis never lived away from his parents. At one point Graceland Mansion was home to four generations of the family: his grandmother, his father and stepmother, Elvis, his wife and daughter. Have you ever lived in a multi-generational household? I have. We lived with my grandfather when I was a kid.

4) Thinking of family, Elvis Presley was a distant cousin of President Jimmy Carter. Both of their family trees can be traced back to the 18th century and Thomas Preslar (before the surname was changed to Presley in the early 1800s). Have you traced your ancestry? If not, is it something you’d like to do? I personally haven’t, but there is a relative on my mom’s side who tracks all of that, and I think some aunts and uncles on both sides do, as well. Unfortunately, the relative of my mom’s was referencing the QAnon conspiracy theory in a family Facebook group, refused to stop, and got really nasty about it when asked, and I decided that nonsense wasn’t worth the occasional throwback photo and I left.

 5) As an adult, Elvis never wore denim (except for a movie role). That’s because when he was in school, his classmates teased him for “dressing poor” in jeans and coveralls. Is denim a big part of your wardrobe today? At this moment in time, no, because six months postpartum, my jeans technically fit but are a little too snug to wear comfortably. Normally, absolutely.

6) Before becoming famous, Elvis drove a truck in and around Memphis. Have you ever had a job that kept you behind the wheel most of the day? Nope. I’ve had long commutes, though.

7) In 1957, the year this song was a hit, the Allstate Mechanical Freight Set was popular, too. Kids would wind up the engine and watch it pull two cars and a caboose around the track. To enhance the realism, sparks would shoot from the engine’s smoke stack as it rumbled by. Did you ever play with a toy train? If not, tell us about a childhood plaything you remember fondly. I did not, but my brother did, and I do remember he had a little train that spewed smoke, too. I was a Barbie girl.

8) The best-selling book of 1957 was Peyton Place, a scandalous tale of life in a small New England town. Do you suppose there are enough steamy stories behind closed doors in your town to fill a novel? Oh, I’m sure. Where we live now is quiet enough, but knowing the general area and also just knowing that all isn’t always what it appears to be, I’m sure there’s plenty of scandalous, page-turning gossip.

9) Random question: Can you do 10 push ups? I cannot, but check in with me when I feel comfortable with going back to the gym.

Friday 5: Watching My Figure

  1. What are some figurines you own? I have a few Funko pops.
  2. What are you trying to figure out? Ugh. Whether or not I should stick around at my job and the pros and cons of either scenario.
  3. Two circles or one continuous motion: how do you write the figure 8? One continuous motion.
  4. How do you feel about Fig Newtons? They’re okay. Not my favorite, but I don’t mind them.
  5. What’s a good metaphor to describe your first week of 2021? Man, I don’t even know. It’s been nuts. For me personally, it was fine, but it had a lot of shitty things for other people. And that’s not even considering the chaos at the Capitol the other day.

From Friday 5.

My dad’s birthday was Dec. 30, and my brother wanted to mark the day with a visit to his grave. My mom and I wanted to join but I had to finish work first and Brandon and Kelly had timed tickets for the zoo’s Christmas lights, plus my mom wanted to get back home before dark, so she and I decided we’d wait until the weekend and Brandon could join us then if he wanted. He took us up on that.

I had a hair appointment in the morning (and came out with a beautiful sunset-y dye job, possibly my favorite thing we’ve ever done to my hair), so I offered to pick up some takeout on the way home. It looked like our plans might get rained out, but we ate and hung around the house for a little bit and had a good window to head out. We visited the grave for a little bit, and that was it for the weekend.

The week got off to a rough start. I’d recommended my sister-in-law for a job where I work, and she was among those let go on Monday. On Tuesday, the family’s six-month-old kitten went to get spayed, had a reaction to the anesthesia, and died. Paul offered to let my sister-in-law come stay with us for a few days to decompress, so she’s been here since Tuesday night and is hanging around until Saturday morning. At some point, we plan to take Charlie for a visit to help distract everyone, plus my mom is tempting us with homemade potato salad.

The vibe at work is weird. I think being remote sort of shields you from the full effects of such massive staffing changes because you’re not walking into an office and being struck by who’s missing. I felt shitty clocking in Tuesday morning knowing who was gone and feeling like maybe I didn’t deserve to be left. My attitude is sort of “the writing’s on the wall, I should probably look for other opportunities,” by my mom’s is “you survived a huge staffing cut, which means they like you, and this could benefit you in the long run.” And I get that. I guess I’m not sure which version I want to put my weight behind.