A dungeon no more!

Let’s talk about my basement. We bought our house back in 2006, the day after Thanksgiving. It is a basic, cookie cutter, bottom line, don’t spend extras Maronda home. But I love it. It’s yellow, in a cul de sac, and it’s mine.

For years we’ve been talking about renovating the basement, but other things kept getting in the way. We needed a new front door, the carpeting was awful and needed to be replaced, the other floors needed to be replaced, the laundry room had to move to the second floor, the kids bathroom floor needed to be replaced, our fridge died, dishwasher stopped working…typical life of a home owner.

Finally, after some outrageous bids, we got a really good one, from a good, honest guy named Steve Mosco. Not only was his price reasonable, but he also let me have a say in every step of the process. That’s a big deal, as I am a control freak.

When our house was built, the person who had it built in the first place had the foresight to add an extra row of cinder block so that if/when someone chose to finish the basement, it would have head room.

I thank that person.

I used to think I wanted to buy a turn key home, but now, having owned one that needed some improvements, I’m glad. Over the years, it’s slowly become *our* place, and not the home of the person who lived here prior.

Having four kids in a house that doesn’t have room for expansion, we need to use every last corner of space. The basement was a dungeon. We used it as a shoe graveyard and a place to run on the treadmill. As far as basements go, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t like I could just throw a couch down there and call it a day.

Here’s what it looked like.


Panoramic, obviously, but it gives you a good idea. It was big enough, had good bones, needed drywall.

014This was where the bathroom was going to go. It’s hard to believe that’s what it looked like, and that a bathroom could be created out of it.

If you notice the exposed pipes almost ceased any hopes of having a full bathroom down there. However, I offered for our contractor to take some wall from the garage (because it really wasn’t a huge deal, four inches) and move the pipes, it worked, and I got a full bathroom out of that tiny space.

002The water heater was moved from the new bathroom area, and tucked under the stairway. That was also a huge game changer. But as you can see here, bathroom!

006Bam! Fast forward and that’s what it changed into.


From this photo, my back is to the door to the garage. We created a half wall so that we could have a mudroom. I’m 29, but I ain’t stupid. With four kids, this was a complete necessity.


I insisted on a few things, one of which was a real banister. I even got to stain it myself. This photo was taken after three coats of stain. I ended up doing a few more before I polyed it. Also, note the cat door. The door to the right is the way to get under the stairs where the litter box is kept. The door is a full sized door, but only the bottom half is accessible, obviously because of stairs. We were stuck with a wall of doors because of needs to have access to the furnace, water heater and such, the bathroom and to get under the stairs. I refused to have a big door, a smaller door under the bulkhead and then an even smaller door for under the stairs, so I used a full sized door that you can’t even notice the difference!

FullSizeRender (1)

Yesterday the carpet was installed, so now our basement is officially finished! Here’s a tour.


It’s hard to take a photo in tiny room, but that’s the shower. For a 32×32, it’s surprisingly roomy.


The banister with it’s final coat of stain and poly.


The walls are gold, but I didn’t want floor to ceiling gold, because that’s just ridiculous. So I had Steve add in wainscot and detail to offset the awesome color.I was very excited when he hung up the wood shim sunburst mirror I had made. It seems right at home there.

1618425_10152561438353791_8759876628262803917_nOur mudroom! The bench is where all the shoes go to die, the shelves are already stacked with things and I will be installing hooks for coats as soon as I remember to buy wall anchors. The floor tile is really neat. You can’t really tell from this angle, but it’s got glitter in it, and every tile has a different look. I even did the grouting. I chose a pinwheel pattern and I’m so happy I did, because it makes the space feel more unique to my taste.


The electrical panel couldn’t be buried in the wall, so I bought some super huge canvasses and had the kids create some really neat paintings for the wall. The electrical panel is behind Luca’s, which is the one on the far right. The bulkhead has a 6’7″ clearance, which is awesome, especially when the carpet guy came yesterday and had no issues. (He’s 6’5″.) The rest of the ceiling has a 7 foot plus clearance. It doesn’t even remotely feel like a basement.


I never knew you could be in love with a stairwell. I am! For almost 8 years I have climbed these stairs, and they were loud, creeky and blue. Now they’re absolutely silent, comfy and the walls are pretty neat, too. The hand rail is absolutely beautiful and way better than the one inch thick white pine piece we had before.


And the finished room, with carpeting. The couch is a pullout couch from IKEA. It has the most fantastic grey wool pattern and surprisingly comfy. There will someday be a TV on the wall it faces, but design took priority over electronics, so I got wainscot detailing and no TV. Not that sad, just a little. The french doors were installed way before the renovation even took place. Before it was just a single door with a half window. The amount of light the space gets now is incredible. It’s warm, it doesn’t echo, and the carpet is so cushy under my feet. I’ve been looking at that first photo for EIGHT years. That’s longer than I’ve been a mother. This was money well spent on so many levels.

So that’s it! My basement!

You wrote a blank check

Fashionable outfit of the day for Maelie this morning was a pink striped skirt, jeggings, a star shirt and her purple cape. I had on my Army PT shirt that Claire insisted I wear today. While standing in line at Panera, someone made a comment to Mae, saying she looked super fancy. She said thank you, then saw that he was wearing a shirt like mine and said, “You’re in the Army like my mommy!” He smiled and said, “Yup! I was!” She said, “Thanks!” (Because I’ve always told my kids you thank any person in uniform: officer, firefighter, military, EMT or veteran status.) He then said, “Thank your mom, too!”

When I went to order, I got what I always do, half a salad and soup. When I handed the manager my card to pay, the veteran we had been talking to leaned forward and said, “Did she forget to tell you she’s a veteran? Because she is.”

The manager looked at me, and said, “Oh! You’re a veteran, well then, your lunch is free.” Blushing, I thanked him and scooted over to the side to get our food.

The vet and his wife stood next to us and when our meal was called for, his wife offered to carry it to my table because I was carrying Audrey.

Never in all my years have I felt such a connection and kinship, as I did this afternoon. She could have offered to help simply because I had kids, and that’s always a nice gesture, but this time, it was because of my brief service to the military. I thanked her profusely, and she said, “You wrote a blank check to the US when you enlisted. The least I can do is carry your food for you.”

I have to remind myself often, that while I don’t believe I deserve the same pomp and circumstance that those who were deployed do, I gave what I could. And I would have given more if I had to. That has to count for something.

Sunday, I ran the EQT 10 Miler in downtown Pittsburgh. It was the perfect day for a race. It was sunny, not too windy and the chill lifted quickly once the race began. I wasn’t feeling too good, and wasn’t too psyched about the race, but I made a promise to myself that I would run this race, and I would do my best, because that’s what we do, Conti. That’s what we do. We don’t half ass anything. (I talk to myself often.)

The first five or six miles were all hills. I tried not to look too far ahead, because then I’d get down on myself when I’d see how much further I’d have to climb to get that brief respite before the next hill.

At mile 4, as we were winding up and down the hills, I was brought back to the day I proved to myself that I am unbreakable. After having limped my way through the past 4 weeks of basic training, I had to do my final challenge, our ruck march. No one knew how far we had to go, we just knew we had to keep moving. Minute after minute, mile after mile. We went from daylight, to twilight, to darkness. I remember when the sun first set, we were coming through a break in the trees and I saw a million stars. The sky looked like it was on fire. I told myself to take a picture with my mind and remember it forever, because right then, after miles of hills, hours of silence through the pain, I was untouchable. It didn’t matter that I had broken bones, or that my DS didn’t think I was good enough, or that I could barely lift my foot when putting on underwear. I had made it. I had proved to myself that I can do anything when I tell myself I can.

So when at mile 6 when my knee started to hurt, I thought of all the things I have done and all of the things I will do in my life. I thought of who I was, and what I did to get through. I thought of my IRun4 buddy who can’t walk. I thought of the moment when I sat on the exam table at the Orthopedic’s office when he told me I’d never run again. I felt that fire ignite inside me. That same one that’s always there when something is keeping me from doing what I want to do.

And that pain went away, and so did the hills, and when I finished, I didn’t even note the time. I had no idea what pace I kept. I had assumed it was around a 9:25 pace, because I set out to do just that.

When I got in the car, and saw that I kept a 9:11 pace, I was floored. Absolutely floored. I couldn’t stop smiling. I did that. Me. I was in the Army. I gave it all I had. I would do it all over again.

I am a Veteran.

Happy Veterans Day to all that have served and continue to serve. We are all free, because of the brave. And it truly takes a lot of bravery to do what we have done, in any capacity.


She’s always in a mood

Today at Club One, the daycare lady had all the kids go into the basketball court to run around. She proclaimed today “no tv day.” I like that daycare lady. I really should learn her name. (I am THE WORST at learning names, sadly.)

The group fitness room is right next to the basketball court, so I stood there watching the cuteness of 10 kids run around with reckless abandon. Five minutes before my class started, one of the kids proclaimed they needed to pee. I told the daycare lady I’d be happy to walk her over to the bathroom.

The little girl couldn’t be older than 5. She had a really fancy thick banded lace headband on with a giant flower on it. Her clothes were very nice. She looked straight out of an ad for Gap Kids.

On the way, in the 40 feet from the basketball court to the daycare bathroom, she told me her life story. Then she said, “I’ve never had another mom take me to the potty before. You must be nice.”

I said, “I’m nice, I think.”

She said with a shrug, “My mom isn’t very nice. She’s always in a mood.”

I said, “I get that.”

She shrugged again and said, “Moms.”

Now I’m wondering what my kids say about me when I’m not around.

But I believe that love is the answer, I believe that love will find the way

While on my way to drop off cardboard at the township building where they have special bins, an old Blessid Union of Souls song came on – I Believe.

I remember when I was still in high school, about 14, that was the song I’d sing at the top of my lungs with my friend Tony. On a cool summer night, you’d find us cruising down main street or the back roads of Clarion, windows down, sun roof open, song blasting.

I never had a very good voice, but Tony never cared. His voice was like silk.

One night we stopped at the 7-11 on the corner of 8th and Main. We bought some Lightening Snapples and headed to the Top of the World – a small piece land in the sticks that was on top of a hill. From there, on a clear night, you could see three towns. It was cold out, but we didn’t care. We sat on the roof of his car, with our feet in the sun roof, heat blasting, wrapped in blankets. We had Blessid Union of Souls playing. We laid there, staring at the stars, talking about everything.

When “I Believe” came on, we got quiet. We listened to the words, even though we already knew them all. It was dark all around us; nothing but starlight. You could see our breath quickly dissipate into the night sky. When the song was over, he looked at me and said, “I want that to be us. I want us to always do good; be good.”

Tony believed that wholeheartedly. Somewhere, deep down, I think he knew who I’d be when I grew up, even if I didn’t. Some days he believed in me more than I ever could.

Years after he died, I was sitting alone in my apartment feeling sorry for myself. I went on Napster and found “I Believe.” As I listened to it, I cried. I got angry. I missed Tony. I missed having the feeling of being in control of life. I was so disappointed in who I was in that moment.

If Tony had seen me like that, he would have hit me upside the head and given me one of his great toothy grins. He always hated to see me so down, and stopped at nothing to cheer me up. Now, with him gone, I only had me to do that. I had to figure out how. It felt impossible, and I felt even more alone.

When the song was over, I wiped my tears and put the song into perspective for me.

Walk blindly to the light and reach out for his hand
Don’t ask any questions and don’t try to understand
Open up your mind and then open up your heart
And you will see that you and me aren’t very far apart

Even in death, he’s still there. He’s with me. And even though I don’t know 100% who he would be right now, I do know that I’m doing exactly what he said we should do.

Earlier today the FedEx guy dropped off a package. Our neighbor kids were out, with their grandma. She asked, “Wow, I’ve seen that truck drop off a lot of packages for you guys over the past few weeks. Early Christmas shopping?”

I explained to her what I was doing, and she immediately asked, “Oh? For a church group?”

I said, “No, it’s just something I do.”

She said, “Well, that’s a good thing you do.”

I told her, that while it’s good, it’s overwhelming to the max. Of course, in the end it’s completely worth it, but gosh it’s stressful.

So when a few minutes later, as I was driving, and that song came on, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, it was Tony talking to me. It was the feeling I got. It was the way the kids got quiet in the car as I sang along. For some reason they knew that that wasn’t the moment to say anything. Tony needed to tell me to press on. To take it into perspective and see the big picture, not the moment. I felt a calm come over me.

I got to the township building, let the kids help me put all the cardboard into the bin and then drove off to the gym. I tucked Tony’s memory back to the back of my mind. And I smiled.

Hindsight is 20/20, or so they say. While I don’t think for a second Tony knew he would die at such a young age, I do believe that Tony saw the bigger picture from the beginning. The way he talked, and listened was beyond his years. The way he treated me and spoke to me, I was always respected.

There are some days that I miss him so much, it almost hurts to breathe. My eyes fill with tears instantly and I just wish he would be able to answer my questions. And some days, he comes into my life, seemingly out of nowhere and reassures me I’m doing okay. I can never explain it.

I just miss you, Tony. I miss you.

But I believe that love is the answer
I believe that love will find the way


I’m almost completely done with the Amazon.com wishlist. Thank you to all who have donated so far. I have updated it with the needs of the second family, most importantly, the boot and coats and bedding items.

I had to verify sizes. The 10 year old girl is a size 18/20 in womens, so it was hard to find a coat that would work on Amazon. It’s a real shame, the lack of variety for plus size women online.

Here is the link again.

I’m still waiting on a wishlist of gifts for the kids of family two. The mom didn’t give us one initially, because she didn’t want her kids to think that it won’t happen for them. I don’t blame her for being skeptical. I would be, too. But if I know myself and everyone who helps, we will make sure these kids will have a great Christmas. Because they’re kids, and kids can’t help it if their parents aren’t getting along. They can’t go to work for their mom and dad. They didn’t ask to be different from all the other kids. So this is for them. All of this. It’s to show them that the world really can be a good place. That there are people out there who care about them, and we never have to even meet.

It’s about knowing that sometimes we need a little extra help. They’re not a charity case. They never asked for help. I sought them out. I did it because I can. Because I know how to ask for help. I do it, because, what if that was my sister? Or my mother? Or what if I was the one who had nowhere to go? What would I tell my kids? How would I explain to them that there wasn’t going to be any gifts under the tree? What would I do when they came home from school, sad, because everyone was talking about what they were asking Santa for, but Santa didn’t love them? How? I know life is more about things and toys, but when you’re a kid, you don’t understand that. And they shouldn’t have to understand that.

I know I always say thank you over and over, but honest. Thank you. I don’t know what else to say. Two years ago when I started this, I had no idea what we would be able to accomplish. Truth be told, I couldn’t do a thing of it without people willing to part with some of their hard earned money. I appreciate it especially because times are tough for some, you guys continue to come through for me. It means more than you’ll ever know. You guys are the reason it happens.

Thank you.

Unusual friends

Last year Claire wanted to be a big kid and sell Pens raffle tickets on her own. They raised money for the ARL and she was so proud to say, “I’m a volunteer for the ARL, can you help me save the puppies and kitties?” So I sent her off to school with a book of 10 tickets and figured she’d come back home with ten and a sad face.

When she got off the bus, she ran to me and shouted, “MOM! I SOLD THREE!”

She sold one to a cafeteria worker and another two to Miss Merchant.

Claire sat down at the kitchen counter and told me all about it. Miss Merchant is an aide who helps at lunch and recess time. Last year she was paired with the Kindergarten class and Claire always would talk to her about this or that. On the day Claire announced she was an ARL volunteer, Miss Merchant said, “Well, I am, too!”

Claire couldn’t believe it. She kept saying to me, “She’s a volunteer, too! She walks the doggies with Jen Brown!” (Jen Brown is my dear friend and the kids just love her, too.)

They talk every day at school. Claire always tells me so. She says, “Yup! Miss Merchant and I talked about fun stuff today!” and then she goes about her homework.

When school started up again, Claire was featured as the kid of the week in first grade, as each kid gets their own turn. On it, they asked what’s her favorite color, what’s her favorite sport, what’s her favorite things and who does she admire?

She wrote:

Penguins Hockey
Taekwondo and Volunteering for the ARL
Miss Merchant

I took a photo of the paper and texted it to Miss Merchant. She called me back a little while after, in tears, thanking Claire for being so kind. I told her, “She meant it, there wasn’t anyone else she wanted to list.”

Last weekend Matt and I went to the Paw Prints event for the ARL at Heinz Field. Before we left, Claire asked if Miss Merchant would be there. I told her she would, and Claire whispered in my ear, “Tell Miss Merchant I hope she looks beautiful. I know she will.”

And she did.

When I told her what Claire said, she had tears in her eyes.

There are all different kinds of people in the world. Some give and are very vocal about it. Some do things and have to be vocal about it, in order to make it happen. And some just give for the sake of giving. Miss Merchant is that person. She’s done countless things for good since I’ve known her, and far before I ever knew her, all without asking for a bit of recognition. She’s adopted dogs who were on the short list for euthanasia. She’s put up adoption fees for dozens of animals. She’s supported my kid and her fundraising efforts in both by buying raffle tickets and helping to sell tickets. Every time Claire and I would go to an event to bring our fosters for hopeful adoption, she would show up to help, too. She’s silently helped animals who were in need of surgery. Most of all, she’s given time more than anything else to the shelter and the dogs in it. Day after day, patiently walking them and giving them extra love. You simply can’t fake that. She is inherently good.

As we were leaving the event at Paw Prints, one of her friends came up to me, and said, “She has done so much in her life. So much good. She’s a good person. I’m glad she’s my friend. Having a kid like Claire in her life makes her so happy. Claire’s love is pure.”

Sometimes you never know who you will meet that will touch your life. And on the other side, you never know whose life you may touch. While Claire is just being Claire and not realizing it, she’s making Miss Merchant’s days a little brighter. But what Miss Merchant doesn’t realize either, is that she makes Claire so happy, too.

And me, too.

Thanks, Miss Merchant for being in our lives.

So many things.

There are so many things I have to say right now. Let’s start with the most upcoming.

In less than a month, I’m hosting another spinathon for two families we have adopted. I’m really feeling the crunch and disorganized. I have just started getting the Amazon.com wishlist together and I don’t feel as if we’re going to be able to repeat what we did last year.

I’m a little stressed.

Okay. I’m a lot stressed. I can’t let these families down. I feel like I may.

At this point, it’s mostly out of my hands. I just have to hope people sign up, I have to hope people will donate, I have to hope the wishlist gets mostly taken care of.

The first family I have is a husband and wife with two children. The husband works two minimum wage jobs, and the wife recently lost her job when she was very sick during pregnancy. (I’m assuming she missed a lot of work because of it.) They have a 6 year old girl and a 4 month old boy. Here is the wishlist. Anything you buy will help. It all gets shipped directly to my house and I’ll keep it safe until we drop it all off.

So if you’re buying some toothpaste or shoes or an mp3 player on Amazon, please consider adding even just one item to your basket. There’s little things on there, like baby food and diapers. Every little bit helps.

I’ll continue to add to the wishlist as I learn more about the family’s needs aside from the children, and about the second family we’ve also ‘adopted.’ What I know about them so far is the wife was left by her husband and she’s living with her mother and three kids because they had nowhere to go.

Next on the agenda is Claire. She is selling paintings to raise money for the ARL. All money goes directly to the ARL and it can be paid for through our crowdrise page. Here are some that are available. She’s sold two already.

UntitledUntitled. 12×12 on plywood, acrylic paint, paper towels. (Update: this has been sold.)

008The Woods. 12×12 plywood. Acrylic paint on newspaper finish.

009Mama Eagle and Her Babies. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint.

10730875_10152540246438791_1126582704534618454_nElephant. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint. (Update: this has been sold.)

10410694_10152540246528791_8678537186061301210_nHot Air Balloon and the Mountain. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint, paper towel.


Splattered Leaves. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint, newspaper finish.

If you want any of these, let me know! It’s a suggested 10 dollar donation per painting, but of course, more is better! Here’s the link to donate.

Over and over and over

I’m a fairly open person when it comes to my personal life. I’ve freely talked in the past about cutting, postpartum depression, and even the time I didn’t want to be pregnant.

One thing I’m not very open about is something I’ve struggled with since, well, forever. Reason being is mostly because I’ve had it my whole life, I just kind of jive with it, and have gotten really good at hiding it. But this past week I’ve been having a very hard time. A very, very hard time. I’ve been speaking backwards, (or as I call it, Yoda-style) while trying to instruct. I’ve been writing 3′s as E’s and E’s as 3′s. I haven’t been able to focus on verbal instructions from people. And worst of all, I’ve been having to read, reread, and read again basically everything in front of me.

I have dyslexia.

Developmental reading disorder is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. It shows itself in very different ways and different levels of severity in each individual it affects.

It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my teacher took me aside and talked to me about what she thought I had. She looked at my school records and noticed a pattern that apparently makes it painfully obvious. I owe her a lot to taking the time to care.

But at the same time, it makes me so sad. It took until I was a senior to figure out why I wasn’t ‘smart’ like the other kids. To figure out why I couldn’t take tests very well, and why I constantly had to ask for clarification from my teachers because I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand what they were saying. I was a smart kid, and in high school, I was often mistaken to be one of the straight A kids, but that wasn’t me. I was a C average student because I just. couldn’t. understand. (And of course sometimes I was lazy.) Me trying to learn a foreign language was a laugh, but that’s another story for another day.

Once I figured it out, it made a lot of sense. Finally I understand why I couldn’t do orienteering for the Army well. Finally I understood why 6 is a 6 and not a backwards 6. Finally it made sense.

It only comes out when I’m really tired or frustrated, which makes it obvious as to why it happens when I’m teaching. But I’ve been in this fog for the past week and it’s been so incredibly frustrating. Simple things I want to say come out all wrong. Something I want to write comes out backwards. I can’t spell words correctly, and they look foreign to me.

I’m even kind of scared to post this, because I’m sure that something isn’t clicking in a sentence. I typically don’t write when I’m having a hard dyslexic day, as I call it. But why not now? When I’m most frustrated?

I think Claire has it, too. Mildly, for now. When I mentioned it to her taekwondo instructor, he said, “Oh, I’ve known that for years.” I have, too. But I think I’ve just been in denial. It’s not a huge thing, but it totally is when you’re having a dyslexia day.

Last night I sat at the dining room table with Matt after the kids went to bed and talked about how I’m seeing the signs in Claire. I explained to Matt how it was growing up. How incredibly annoying it was to not be able to function like everyone else. And mine isn’t even that bad. I have, however, been able to teach Claire tricks that took me nearly a lifetime to do. One thing is,  I have her use her bookmark to isolate lines in a book if she’s having a hard time reading it, when all the words blend together. She’s a very proficient reader, but when she’s tired, the lines blur together and she has a hard time deciphering easy words like “of” and “this”. The bookmark helps her stay on task and isolate. At least, I hope it helps.

I’m having a dysleixa day. Scratch that, a dyslexia week. And it’s awful and frustrating and it makes me cry, but it’s not the end of the world. There are far worse things I could have wrong with me. I just think, that for me, it makes me sad that it took so long for me to even realize what it was. On the flip side, I was glad to know that I’m not just stupid. Because of it, I just realized I had to work twice as hard and walk away when I can’t understand what I’m looking at.

Dear Claire

Dear Claire,

I never really thought much about being a parent. I just really wanted a baby; something of my own that would love me through all my flaws. Somebody who would need me in a way that’s not obsessive.

What you have given me was more than I ever imagined. More than what I have ever dreamed of. While, yes, I didn’t think much about what I was going to get, Claire, you are the reason why I have four children that I love dearly. You gave me confidence that I could be the kind of parent that can raise a good child. You showed me how to be fair and reasonable. Because of that, I knew I could do it again.

Today I looked at you, and my breath caught. I don’t understand how you are seven already. I’m always at a loss of where the time goes. You tell me stories and your words are clearer. You write me letters, and you read me books, and I shake my head because you were just toddling up to me saying, “Book, mama! Book!”

You’re still in there – that baby I held every night. The little girl that I sang songs with and danced to Billy Joel in the dim light. The one who climbed up on my lap whenever I was sad and asked for hugs. The baby who didn’t want me out of her sight. The girl who held my hand until one day decided she could run. The one who looked at me and said, “I want to be just like you.”

I know where the time has gone.

Claire, we have had time well spent. Because of you, I am a mother. Because of you, I look at myself in the mirror and try to be better than I am each day, because I can be. Because of you, I am proud.

I am proud of your love for superheroes. Your fearlessness. I love that you don’t really care what anyone thinks of you. That you give any kid a chance to be your friend. You don’t discriminate and you try to involve everyone – even someone you may not usually be friends with. You listen and help and don’t give me a lot of lip. You love your siblings. You love hockey, Buccos baseball and Batman. Every day you are you, and that’s my very favorite thing.

I don’t really know who I’d be without you in my life. You changed me in a way that I am forever grateful for.

Thank you for being my daughter.

Happy birthday my little Wonder Woman.



Easier said than done

Twice today someone has said to me, “I SAW YOU ON TV LAST NIGHT!”

The donut dash has happened. And let me state for the record, it is not nearly as easy as it would seem.

First, it was cold. Then again, anything below 60 degrees in spandex would seem cold. But the wind was brutal and the sun was no where to be seen. And yet, there I stood in a parking lot with a dog who looked at me like, “Lady, you ain’t taking my fur coat.”

Can I just say I hate maple donuts?

And strawberry?

And most of all coconut?

Well, wouldn’t that just be the case that the plate I grabbed had each one of those flavors?


So anyhow, Champ the dog and I ran the first mile. We did well, too, because we came in under 7 minutes. But then I had to eat the donuts. And remember how I said it was cold? Well, my jaw was straight up frozen. I got to the eating area and took my first bite and nothing. I couldn’t chew, I couldn’t move my tongue, nothing. Ginny (one of the volunteers and a dear friend) looked at me and said, “Want me to get you some water?

I obviously looked pained. Then I turned around to find Mary (the community outreach coordinator for the ARL and another dear friend) with her iPhone filming my suffering. So I started to laugh.

When I turned around again, there was a camera guy from KDKA who wanted a statement. Because, who doesn’t want to be filmed while stuffing their faces full of donuts?

It took me ten minutes to eat those donuts, but damnit. I ate them all.

Even the coconut one.


It wasn’t pleasant, but I’m no quitter.

Then Champ, who let me say was a real champ about this thing, ran our last mile in 7 minutes flat. We finished at 24 minutes, and best of all, I didn’t throw up.

My friend Ron Brown came out and did the donut dash with me, in full firefighter gear. He’s the same guy who did the Marathon twice and just earlier that morning did the Lemieux 6.6k race in gear. He’s kind of a big deal.

donutdash2It was great exposure for the ARL. There were three dogs on the course cheering on the racers, and then of course, there was Champ who was a real trooper putting up with my nonsense of running and eating.

He got all the free pets.

dogjog4When all was said and done, the Donut Dash raised just over 100k for Live Like Lou foundation and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.

Even though I mainly focus on raising funds for the animals, it’s mostly because I have to force myself to focus on just ONE charity. If I could I’d give to every single one, and wouldn’t think twice. But I’m only human with a normal bank account, so being just a small part of something so huge was so awesome.

donutdash5Until next time!


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