Sometimes you have to use passive voice…

Seb is taking his test to get his actual driver’s license today. I’m not with him. Brian is a much more calming force than I am in this situation. One parent told me last night that the whole family went to their oldest son’s driving test. That is intense. The thought of us all going to Seb’s test feels overwhelming to me, which is why we didn’t even think to do that. Seb needs space from other people’s anxiety and emotions during test-taking, so me tagging along on this momentous occasion seemed less than ideal. Oren and I are going about our normal Wednesday “at home” which is really the morning spent at a library doing our homeschooling things, awaiting the news.

    When you have kids, you know that someday they are going to learn to drive, but it’s such a fuzzy, abstract thought when they are little. Then they actually climb behind the wheel for the first time, to soon you think, and it becomes concrete— extremely concrete. So concrete that it’s like a cement wall sitting there in front of the car, and it really feels like they are just going to drive headlong into it, full speed. The first time your teenager drives is the scariest thing, maybe, that you will ever know up until that point in your parenting experience. You are putting your life and your vehicle that costs thousands of dollars (hopefully not tens of thousands) into the hands of an emotional, relatively unpredictable, rather belligerent and unreasonable kid, who, you swear, acts less mature than he did when he was seven. You are also putting other people’s lives and vehicles into his hands. But it’s just your job, just part of being a parent and learning to let go of control, to climb into the passenger seat, the seat of passivity.

    In our English grammar, there is active voice and passive voice. The most effective way to write and communicate in almost all cases is in the active voice. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. We know who is in control.

I am driving.

In passive voice, which most English teachers through highschool will teach their students to avoid (at least mine did), it is vague who is doing the action, who is in control. In passive voice the focus is on who or what the action is being done to. So when you plop down in that passenger’s seat and your child is in the driver’s seat, you become the direct object, the passive object to whom the action is being done.

I am being driven by Seb.

Now you know why people try to avoid using passive voice. You are decidedly not in control. But it is also questionable if your teenager is actually in control instead of you. It may be vague to you both who is actually in control for awhile. Like I said, scary.

    As the parent, we try to stay in control of things for as long as possible. We clutch onto control sometimes for too long and may have to employ the help of a therapist to wrench our clinging claws free of the the thing that we need to give our child the freedom to do. Even in the passenger’s seat, or the backseat if both parents are in the car at the same time when the teenager is driving, we try to control the situation, especially at the beginning. We are constantly telling him what to do: speed up, slow down, use your brakes, stop using your brakes so much, turn on your blinker, you don’t need to turn your blinker on so soon. We try to make rules like, the parent in the passenger seat is the only one who gets to say things, the backseat parent needs to remain quiet, as if we will follow those rules. 

For a short time the parents do maintain some sense of control. The child needs directions on how to get places. He needs to be taught all the steps and mini-steps that are involved in driving without creating mayhem, hitting other cars, and killing people. But then gradually, before we’re ready, he understands what he needs to do. He knows the directions— the directions have been internalized from driving around with you all these years, while he sat in the passenger’s seat; and, if we don’t stop telling him when to use his blinkers and their brakes, how is he going to remember to think of it on his own? We have to stop doing what we have been doing all his life. We have to stop telling him what to do and where to go. He has to do this himself now. We can no longer do the driving for him if we want him to grow into being a good and responsible driver himself. He yells these things at us when we can’t stop trying.

As I write this reflection, Seb has passed his driver’s test. He is in line waiting for the DMV sloths (Zootopia, people!) to create his for-real photo license. Probably today he is going to want to get in the car and drive somewhere all by himself, all alone with no one else for the first time. We’re going to have to let him go (and maybe run an errand for us). In the case of Seb driving places on his own, we parents are not even going to be in passive voice anymore. We’re not going to be in the sentence at all really— except as the nagging voices in his head that he can’t get rid of and the people writing the check for our suddenly huge car insurance bill. Now, Seb is the subject, hopefully invoking the action of driving in a reasonable and responsible and safe way. And maybe paying for the gas he uses sometimes.

Lord, have mercy.

I Wrote this for Gma McM’s Memorial Service

Grandma McMillan thought I had the most beautiful teeth. She told me all the time. In these past few years of her life when her short term memory left her, she exclaimed over my pearly whites about ten times per visit, each time with as much enthusiasm as the first as if she had just in that moment discovered the fact. She also gushed over my handsome sons: Did the boys love me? Did they behave? They have grown so much! Do they fight? They are very handsome. 

Although Grandma eventually had no memory of who Sebastien and Oren and I were, she knew she should know who we were and still welcomed us with a happy smile and open arms whenever we visited. Though Grandma had no memory, she was blessed with general contentment. She didn’t struggle with extreme anxiety like my other grandma, Grandma Hemphill, did in her last years. The last time I visited Grandma McM, I read some of the Psalms to her from her dilapidated Bible. In between each Psalm Grandma would stop me with genuine pleasure and joy on her face, pointing at me with her age-crooked finger,  and say, “You have grown spiritually, I can tell!” Though Grandma had no memory of my name, I really do think she knew me in that moment. She always was a bit of a clairvoyant when it came to Holy Spirit things. 

Grandma didn’t often show anger or frustration. She was always so gentle and sweet. Was she the perfect Mother? The perfect grandmother?  There is one memory that I love telling people about Grandma. In fact, I told it to some friends at dinner the night before she died. One year when she and Grandpa lived at The Home on the fifth floor, I decided to learn Russian at the university where I worked. At first I was so excited to try out my new language skills with her. We would sit in her living room and begin a very simple conversation. But every time I tried to say anything past “Здра́вствуйте, меня зовут Jeni,” Grandma would say, “No, Jeni! You must move your mouth more! You can’t get away with mumbling when you speak Russian!” And she would finish every sentence for me. We didn’t end up having very many complete conversations in Russian. It was more fruitful to write her letters. But this is one of my favorite memories of Grandma because it reminds me that she was a normal, flawed — and very Slavic—  human being after all.

strange feelings while watching Stranger Things with my kid

    Oren and I have been rewatching some of Stranger Things together, though we have seen all three seasons. We started a couple of weeks ago with the last episodes of Season 1. Then the other night we started watching Season 2 about half way through. And now we’re watching all of Season 3 again. I am of course picking up on a lot of things I missed the first (ahem) two times through. I’m finding that in watching some of the episodes again, without just being completely carried away by the crazy story and action, I’m able to settle down and have thoughts like, why do I love some of these characters (Hopper, Steve, Max, etc.) so much, and why do I totally hate others (Mike!)? And why does the music make me so happy that I have to hold myself back from getting up and singing and dancing along to it? I’m paying attention in a different way.

    First of all, watching Stranger Things with my teenagers is very fun, but also very… uh, strange. In some ways, as my little nuclear family sits and watches this show together, I think that my kids are getting to experience some of my growing up years. Obviously, there is the music and the fashions, but there’s also the people, the characters. I was the same age, maybe slightly younger, as all the young teenage characters, in the 80s. I knew these characters, so to speak: the nerds, the assholes, the kids with mullets. I grew up with them. I rode around my small town on bikes with them. I roller-skated and sang along to almost every song that is part of the ST soundtrack. The other day Oren downloaded an ST playlist on Spotify, and it puzzled me as we listened to it. Every song that came on (in fact, I just turned on the playlist so I could be inspired to keep writing), I sentimentally remembered (or maybe my mind is recreating some memories) listening to it on the radio as a kid— these songs were just part of the soundtrack of my life— and I can remember almost every single word. I can immediately sing along. Oren however, is trying to remember what scene of the show the song belongs with.  These songs that are working up a nostalgia inside of me for my childhood and small town where I grew up, are working up a nostalgia in my son for the show, and only the show. It’s strange.

    Last night, Oren and I watched the episode from Season 3 when Mike is an asshole (wait, isn’t that all the episodes?) and lies to El, so El and Max go to the mall to go shopping (because that is what girls do). The mall is such a central hub of memories for me—  and the clothes, God help us all, the clothes. Madonna’s “Material Girl” plays along while the two girls bop in and out of shops in the mall, and I begin to sing along (I love Madonna!). “Material Girl” completely appalled my parents, and whenever they heard us (me and at least one of my sisters) singing it, we’d get a dreary sermon with Bible verses quoted about how terrible it is to be a material girl and we shouldn’t even listen to such evil trash. And the song churned up all these emotions inside of me, and I was totally getting into it, until this internal moment was abruptly cut short by the fact that my 13 year old son was also singing along. What the hell?

“How do you know this song?” I asked him. His youth group leader on a recent mission trip he went on played it in the car on the drive, was his answer.

    I don’t know if what I’m feeling is protective of this decade of my life and of the show. Certainly it’s sentimentality. And while ST is about this insidious alien thing terrorizing Hawkins, IN, it is also about sentimentalizing the 1980s. It’s portrayal of the kids and the clothes and even the Russians are based on our sentimental feelings from the times. They are all caricatures. Only the music is original and true, but it works up the feelings in those of us who lived through the 1980s that are fuzzy and glowy and warm, kind of like ________ (what 80s music video has a bunch of fuzzy, glowy images in it? Insert here), and they are more sentimental than actual.

whether the weather

I find myself constantly checking the weather.

The first few years of my climbing career, Brian and I climbed outside every weekend regardless of weather; nevertheless, we checked the forecast multiple times daily between weekends just to know what we were in-for. A fifty-percent chance of rain could mean that there was a fifty-fifty chance for any rain at all, or it could mean that it would definitely rain for fifty percent of the day. And you would think that if there was only a twenty-percent chance for precipitation, it should be safe to be outside. Often though the sky would dump tons of rain on those days. There was also the rare zero-percent chance-for-rain-days when a thunderstorm of Old Testament proportions would arrive. So even when we did check the forecast, the weather remained unpredictable, and we would have no idea what was going to happen. By far the worst thing to happen though, was when we would decide to stay home because of a high chance of terrible weather and end up missing perfect weather and climbing conditions. That has happened more times than I care to remember and leaves a lingering feeling of total human failure in my gut.

After about five years of climbing together almost every weekend, Brian and I started getting sick of the unpredictable weather at the New River Gorge, when it rained whether it was forecast to or not, or was so hot that the otherwise dry rock would be sweating: even if we could find dry routes to climb, we’d still getting soaked from precipitation or perspiration while we hiked and camped. Our stuff would get wet and never dry. We kept going though. At that point in our young lives, it was better than staying at home and cleaning the house. Or maybe it was just a compulsion we were unable to thwart. It was the only way we knew how to be.

For a while, climbing seasons meant fall, spring, summer. Winter in Western PA and West Virginia meant taking a breather from climbing outside, though on some nice days we would still try to get on real rock, frozen fingers and toes be damned. As the years went by, climbing seasons became more than weather and temperature, more than fall, winter, spring, and summer. Whole chapters of life became a different climbing season. When you stick with something for more than say, seven to ten years, you begin to notice your life becoming organized in this way. Seasons of life can be even more wild and unpredictable than the weather without a way to check the forecast. Seasons of life can interrupt your climbing career for more than just a weekend here or there. But the thing I realized at some point was that in one season, you might not climb very much, but when that season is over, you can look forward to being immersed in it once more.

So far, I have not lost climbing to Real Life seasons: not to pregnancy, not to life with a newborn, not to injury, not to having a sick parent or child. These times in my life just became a time of climbing inside: climbing with new and different purpose, climbing for sanity, climbing for rehabilitation and healing. And these seasons of only climbing inside taught me something else. They taught me that I love climbing no matter what, no matter when, and mostly, no matter where. If I have to climb inside for the rest of my life, so be it. Climbing is as important to me as eating or breathing.

Climbing seasons began to change all the time once we had kids in the mix. The Season of Newborns: we were too afraid to take them outside when they were so tiny, and we thought they would instantly die or be grabbed out of our arms by giant mosquitoes. The Season of Toddlers: we took them outside knowing we would have to manage temper tantrums when naps couldn’t be had, and we wondered if we were crazy for even trying. We always had to find friends who were willing to join us; and thus, there were always people to witness the mess of our family.

The Season of Big Kids was bliss while it lasted. We climbed outside a lot during this season. We chose to homeschool, in part so we could travel and climb any time of the year. So while the happy parents climbed and took turns hovering around them to fend off danger and wild beasts in places like Hueco Tanks, TX, Maple Canyon, UT, and the New River Gorge, WV, the kids played in the dirt, immersing themselves in microbial wild beasts. They loved going outside. They loved camping. They were always game to go somewhere and hang on a rope.

Then came the Season of the Tween. It was a season that seemed to come way too early when our oldest turned nine. Should he really be getting an attitude that young? This was the season when our strong-willed kiddo hated climbing and thought it was stupid. It was a season of forced This-Is-What-We-Do-As-A-Family! climbing. It was a season of Who-Could-Hate-This-Sport!?– You’re-Crazy! climbing. It was almost a season to end all seasons of climbing outside forever for all of us. It was a season of great turmoil.

The Season of the Teen, as anyone could have predicted, did not change the conflict of interest but did increase in difficulty. There was weeping and crying out, “Why?!?” The teenager went to highschool and the freedom of homeschooling both of our kids ended and climbing outside whenever we wanted was over. The teenager became involved with a water sport (possibly the furthest thing from climbing there is) and is happy to step foot in the climbing gym once every two months if that. Ironically, he is still happy to demand we buy him new climbing shoes as he grows. Traveling to climb is out of the question most of the year.

Rightly so, this has also become known as the Season of the Renegade: Nobody wants to climb?! Fine! I will go by myself! I wake up at five am on a Saturday to drive four hours to the New River Gorge and climb with friends who do want to climb. I climb all day and drive home happy and exhausted and sore and hungry and get home at eleven pm. I eat M n Ms and drink Coke so I don’t fall asleep at the wheel. I feel hardcore. This scenario has happened 4-5 times. I have taken my younger son with me a couple of them. I have encouraged my husband to go on his own renegade climbing trips with others. With secret tears and deep heart sadness that our family no longer climbs together, this may actually be sustainable.

The next season I imagine for myself and my husband will be The Season of the Empty Nesters. This could be a resurgence of The Newlywed Season when we were always away from home climbing somewhere. Climbing is a sort of glue that will keep Brian and I together and happy in Middle Age and Old Age. We will sneak away to climb somewhere out West— maybe somewhere we have never even taken the kids!– and be gone for weeks on end. Our muscled arms will have wrinkly and saggy skin dangling off of them. We will look half our age. We will again have a reason to check the weather even though we already always do that anyway.

Too far!

A mom and her young kids just walked past the house. The kids were on scooters and the mom was walking with them. One of the kids got a little bit too far away from her so she called him back, “That’s too far!”

Yesterday Seb started driving. My young boy is now 16 and two inches taller than me and allowed to operate motor vehicles that have the potential power to maim and kill if not used properly. My sixteen year old got in the car yesterday after getting his learner’s permit and just started driving around town, to get home, to pick up his brother, with other cars surrounding him and all the rules to follow. For the next six months he will be required to have one of us, his parents (or possibly another consenting adult), sitting in the passenger seat telling him what to do, reminding him of the minutiae of things to be constantly thinking about as he drives: where are you going, which lane should you be in, use your blinker, slow down (!), pay attention to what the cars are doing in front of you, pay attention to the signs, don’t hit any cars, don’t kill anyone! Seb already knows a lot of the rules because of the mini test he had to take to get his permit. He knows all the rules intellectually that we just have internalized and mostly ignore now. He quotes them while he drives. I have to remind myself that he doesn’t want to hit anything either. Currently, he wants to follow the rules and do the right things.

So we sit in the passenger seat and tell him and he responds with, “I know!” We tell him where to turn, how to get places. But soon enough, even before the six months is up, he’s not going to need us to tell him what to do every five seconds, or where to go. He’s going to know, and he’s just going to drive. Maybe the only thing that there will be left for us to remind him of is to slow down!

Just slow down a little sooner at the stop sign, at the red light. Just slow down a little earlier because I still have that fear that you are going to hit somebody even though I know you don’t want to hit somebody and probably won’t. Just slow down because you are not an expert yet. Slow down and drive the speed limit because you are a teenage boy, and I know all you want to do is to go fast, and if you get caught, “the powers that be” will happily relieve you of your driving privileges. They don’t trust you either.

But in six months or so, sometime in December, there is going to come a time when he gets his actual license and is going to be allowed to drive without a parent or other consenting adult in the car, and we’re going to have to trust him with his own life and the life of others every time he gets in the car and drives away from us. And we won’t be able to holler after him, “That’s too far! Wait up!”


Six months before my 100 year old grandmother died, she stopped wanting to eat. She didn’t stop eating. She still ate. She grew up in an orphanage in Poland, and there was a certain duty around eating and cleaning and making beds.

She stopped wanting to eat.

Working from home, my whole routine revolves around eating. I am consumed by thoughts of food. I want to eat all the time. At 8:00a, I can have my breakfast smoothie. At 10:00a, I can have some chocolate. At 12:00p, I can eat lunch. And so on and so forth. In retaliation, this Lenten season I fasted. I wanted to think about Jesus’ words that we do not live by bread alone, but on the word of God. I fasted parts of days, skipping a meal. Once in a while, I fasted for a whole day.

Fasting for 24 hours is hard. When I think about food while in a fast, I want to lean into it and fully experience the discomfort. I want to dwell on what it might be like to be hungry long term. When hungry for a few hours, I’m tired, I can’t think well, I’m crabby. What happens to a young child who is always hungry but expected to learn? What happens to an adult who is always hungry but expected to work? I hope ruminating on being hungry changes how I consume food. I hope it will change my habit of eating for entertainment— every day cannot be a feast day.

As the end of Lent approached, I began to think of the joy of resurrection and that I will see my grandmother again someday. I allowed myself to think about the menu for the party we will attend after church early Easter morning. The celebration of Life over Death should be a feast of food, drink, and fellowship. The feast teaches us to hope for a time when all will be fed and satisfied.

It’s been a long time…

Almost three years of life have remained undocumented here! I will now attempt to get back to it and turn this into… something. A place where I write stuff, share life experiences. Our anklebiters are now teenagers, and life with teenagers is much different than life with babies, or toddlers, or big kids. I don’t even know if they’ll let me share anything about them anymore.

Also, I’m planning to finally publish my book that I started years ago, and I hope this blog will become a place I can share that walk too… and maybe a way to market myself and said book. Eek. I don’t even like the way that sounds. Publishing a book requires the author to put themselves OUT THERE. I’m beginning to look at book proposal templates, and my heart rate is up and skipping. I’m intimidated, and a voice in my head is telling me that there is no way I can pull this off. And then I read in the book proposal template (thanks,, and it literally says in there, if you don’t think you can do this, you won’t be able to convince a publisher that you can do it either. Damn. So first I have to work on changing that voice in my head and gain a little confidence in myself. This blog may be a good place to start.

living the dream 2009-2016

seven years and at least eight road trips have passed. in the moment of a double take, while i turned, blinked and then quickly looked back, so much time has gone by in those short years. the 3 year old baby is well into his 10th year. the 6 year old big kid is going on 13, a big kid on the slow transformation to an adult. it seems like we were just at the AAA in east liberty, getting the title of the 2001 red vw eurovan weekender transferred into our names. we were giddy with excitement at the road that lay open wide before us with this purchase. a dream all wrapped up in one pop-top van. this vehicle was going to be our only car, our every day transporter to things around the city, and our weekend transporter to our other life, our climbing life. oh the road trips we could take! we had barely owned the van before we began planning life around it. the kids couldn’t wait to romp around the pop up. this eurovan was the perfect purchase for us. absolutely perfect. it was just a vehicle, yes, but it also became our symbol of the good life.

it’s hard to try to sum up these past 7 years. i can list all the big road trips: 2009 denver, colorado; 2010 hueco tanks, el paso, texas; 2011 6 week tour of the u.s. from pittsburgh to hueco to tucson, arizona to santa cruz, california, to salt lake city, utah to denver, colorado and back home; 2012 maple canyon and salt lake city in utah; 2013, steamboat springs, colorado and heuco tanks; 2014, hueco tanks; 2015 hueco tanks. and there were some other trips to connecticut and philadelphia and florida. but what’s hard is conveying in this short post what these trips meant to us. how we were challenged and how we grew as a family. the really amazing take your breath away good moments and the punch you in the gut hard moments when you just wish you were back home. all the stuff we got to see! we had birthdays on the road. the boys lost teeth on the road. we made new friends on the road. we made old friendships better. the van got us to every destination. she only broke down when we were home, around pittsburgh.

we aren’t going to remember only the road trips in the van though. there is also the every day around-home memories too. the van took us to back and forth to the hospital every day for 2 weeks when oren fractured his skull in 2009.  giving friends rides to places around town. moving furniture. sitting in the van for two hours on the coldest night of a very cold winter waiting for a tow on washington blvd the time the alternator belt broke. looking out into a sea of cars in a parking lot and being able to spot the van poking her head up above every other vehicle. driving to the pool in the summer. driving to the ice skating rink in the winter. driving to soccer. piling bikes in with the kids and driving to the bmx track. driving, just driving the van. i loved driving that van.

we had a rough 2015 with the van and as a family. the van started breaking down in small ways a lot. i don’t want to go into the litany of all the things that went wrong. but it was really starting to wear on us, especially brian who was the one to get her to a mechanic and have to figure out how to get to work around it. the last half of 2015, we drove my dad’s jeep about as much as we drove the van. for whatever reason, 2015 was also sadly devoid of camping and climbing–the things that reminded us of why we really loved this vehicle, why we spent so much time fixing it. and things were tense in our family with a tween in the mix. it was like the dream was falling apart.  things just didn’t fit right anymore. it seemed like we were forcing it too much and failing. we didn’t want to admit it, but we were outgrowing the van.

the last trip to hueco we took began to convince us. although the van had a newly rebuilt transmission, it would go into safe mode randomly here and there. this meant that it wouldn’t shift out of second gear and the engine had to be turned off to “cool down.” the first time this happened was in dallas, texas when we were already over a twelve hundred miles away from home. so for the whole trip, in the back of our minds, we were worried we might not get home without some serious trouble and maybe a long distance tow. it was too stressful. it tainted the whole trip. but the last nail in the coffin came back home. it was christmas eve. there had been some noise in the front end for a while, but now it was really, really loud. so loud that people would turn and look and not because the van was so cute. but on our way to church that night it got really, really, really loud. embarrassingly loud, and it seemed like the van was losing power. brian drove the van home that night, but it barely made it. the alternator was broken. and so were we. we had to get rid of it. it was time to buy a new car.

today, saturday, april 9, 2016, almost exactly 7 years to the day, the van’s new owner drove her away from our house. it has been months since we have driven her more than a few blocks. she sat out back in the alley, her top peeking over the back fence at us. we sold her on ebay to a man from new york with two boys. he has friends who are vw westy folks, and so the van goes to a good home, to people who appreciate her charm and will care for her well. i am writing this little piece as a sort of eulogy to her–not because the van died. i really thought up to last year that we would drive her into the ground, that we’d be her last owners. but she’s gone on to possibly bigger and better things. this is a eulogy to her, but also to what our life was with her. things are changing for us. our family is changing and our needs are different. the dream has to change too. so i’m saying goodbye to all that for now, at least to how it’s been until now. we aren’t a family of little boys anymore. and it seems we have less time to gallivant around the country to the next climbing destination. it’s not that the dream is over, it’s just changing. now we need to figure out how to live the dream in this new phase of life.  and with a different vehicle set up, one that doesn’t feel so perfect. and it’s hard, for me at least. it’s hard to say goodbye.

there is water running down our street.

when brian and i bought our house in may of 2004, we had a healthy fear of being homeowners, being responsible for an entire, free-standing building with electric, water, sewer and other utilities that were to become OURS. or maybe the fear wasn’t healthy enough. for the past almost 12 years, we have avoided any of the emergencies that we have been afraid of: fire, exploding water heater with lots of water damage, sewer back-ups, freezing or breaking pipes with lots of water damage, and i don’t know what other nightmares danced in our brains when we would contemplate home ownership in the deep dark of the early morning hours. we have had some big things come up like a roof  being replaced, and a bathroom and kitchen being redone, but nothing emergent–nothing completely out of our control. i think we were kind of lulled into a false state of homeowner’s bliss. but this week, we have been properly disillusioned, and it’s possible that we may have truly reached home ownership maturity. this week the water line to our house broke.

sunday morning before church there was  a noise–under the house? out in the street? under someone else’s house?–and the floor in the living room vibrated a little bit. the kids were alarmed. i was sure there was work being done outside somewhere on our street and it was probably nothing to be worried about. until i went in the kitchen to rinse out the smoothie-splattered vitamix carafe. the water didn’t turn on. hmmmm, so maybe the noise was from under our house. nah. probably the water company doing work somewhere in our neighborhood. it’ll be back on by the time we get home from church.

i was soon to learn that any work that involved the water authority is very unlikely to be done on a sunday morning, or maybe at all. but i digress. sunday was a mess of waiting around… for plumbers to diagnose the problem. unfortunately when the plumber who responded to our urgent call went to the basement to see if the problem was at the point where city water comes into the house, he was almost electrocuted because of a faulty neutral electrical line coming into the house.

so sunday became waiting around for duquesne light, our electric company to come fix it. thankfully, DL responded promptly, and the electrician not only fixed the neutral line, but all lines going into our house since they were being held together with electrical tape. (they had been like this for almost 12 years or longer?!?) that done, the plumber returned and tried to find the valve box where you can turn off the water coming in from the city at the street.  the water needed to be turned off in the street so that he could open the pipe in our house to see if it was blocked. if the water wasn’t turned off, it would just spray in all over our basement. well, the valve box was not to be found. and here is when we started to deal with Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

so sunday became a day of waiting for PWSA. and monday, and tues, and wednesday, and thursday, and today….. don’t get me wrong. they came. not sunday, but they have been at our house every day this week. they have come long enough to mark where the valve box should be one day. they came another day to fine find the valve box and dig it up. and the other days have been a fiasco of them trying to turn the water off. thursday morning the water started to pour out of the sidewalk and down the street. and so it still is, more than 24 hours later. dom costa (our PA representative)’s office has become a liason for us. and our plumber has a friend at PWSA who is trying to find out their plan.

there is still water running down our street.

meanwhile, i can’t really complain. i mean, i guess i am complaining a little bit. i’m not at home, and i’d really like to be. we are staying at my parents’ house, and while this is the most comfortable place to be if we can’t be in our own home, it is not our own home so we’re not sleeping really well. we’re all feeling a little edgy and frantic. how long can this go on? til a warm day?

and then today i read on the news about a water main break in a different part of the city. cars are under water. there is a big sink hole. hundreds of people are without water too. and maybe tomorrow and who knows for how long. so if that’s where PWSA is right now, if all their workers are trying to put a lid on that problem, i think i can convince myself it’s okay to wait. i can hang out here at my parents’ house for a while longer. and pray that those hundreds of people who are also without water have somewhere just as lovely to go to wait until their water gets turned back on.

yes, there is water running down our street, but i’ll just sit around here, warm and dry as the snow begins to fall, and be thankful that i’m not stranded out in the cold. and that there are three toilets close by that flush at the mere touch of a handle.

first things at forty

i turned 40 mid-november of last year. just a few weeks ago, really. brian threw me a lovely, low key, small party with a few of my  very loved and close friends from pittsburgh (just so those of you from out of town know you were missed! and if you are here, and didn’t get invited, it’s all brian’s fault). and it was at a wine bar.

this is the first party brian has thrown for me in all my years with him. though, i think once or twice before, he finagled casual gatherings for drinks.

soon after my birthday, we left for hueco tanks to rock climb, which some of you might be sick of hearing about (BUT I’M NOT TIRED OF WRITING ABOUT IT). anyway, while in hueco, i sent my first V8. a stout grade! the hardest i have ever climbed! a first and a best.

another first is happening today, and is truly what prompted me writing this quickie. today, for the first time in my life, i’m making lasagna. i gradually have been coming into a more domestic time in my life, taking on baking and cooking meals with pleasure instead of dread. i usually do a pretty good job following a recipe for the first time, even complicated ones since i like to dabble in grain-free baking. and i make my own yogurt, for crying out loud. i’m not done with the lasagna yet, so i have no idea if it will turn out well. but here is the recipe, and it is not a toy. yum.

so far, 40 is looking just fine.