What's the deal with all these dogs?

We didn't get a dog. However, we are dog-sitting four huskies that belong to our friends, Tony and Rita. If you've been following my Facebook updates, that's what all the dog references are about.

At first, I was really freaked out about even telling these dogs apart. (I have the same problem with children, unfortunately, it always takes me a long time to figure out their names at the beginning of a school year). Luckily, Rita left extremely thorough directions including pictures of each dog with their identifying characteristics. With that help, I was able to very quickly get to know them. She also labeled the dog dishes and their crates. (Thank you, Rita!) Each day, at 6 am and 6 pm, we feed the dogs. This involves lots of measuring and stirring, and then a precise feeding order. The dogs finish their food in about 3 minutes. They are efficient. I would not dare face four overly hungry huskies, and therefore we have really stuck to the clock all week.

Tomorrow they are coming home from Hawaii, and M and I will be going back to our new house, where we will finally have a chance to unpack our boxes, and possibly create some much-needed order in our lives. It's been a while.


Good News from the Bureaucrats

One thing that has been a constant source of angst and irritation for me over the past year has been my on-going battle with the excessively bureaucratic Pennsylvania Department of Education. You may remember that I actually drove three and a half hours to the state capital for a 15 minute meeting in August.

Luckily, they liked what I had to say. Fifteen weeks later, I finally received my letter saying that the initial rejection was overturned and I am deemed qualified enough to teach the good children of Pennsylvania! This is especially good since I am currently in a grad program that requires certification and in fact my degree would have been rather useless without this little piece of paper from the state. Just in time for Thanksgiving, so I have something else to be thankful for.


My First Mistake as a Homeowner....

I really ought to be studying for finals right now. However, I thought that I would just check my email real quick, and found it full of inquiries about this latest adventure. Well, readers, I hate to leave you hanging, so let me tell you about the hilarious escapades of M & K and their first 24 hours as homeowners.

After we pestered the closing attorney endlessly last week, he suddenly consented to coming down and doing our closing on Saturday. Hooray, we thought, but then remembered that we had agreed to be the keynote speakers at the Butler Outdoor Club annual dinner. More on that later. In any event, we were hoping that the closing would be fast and without problems, so that we could go up and present our awesome slide show. Plus, Caveman of Ohio and Flick were coming into town for the big event, so we were eager to see them.

The first problem started when we went to do the final walk through, and Could Not Get Into the house. The key just wouldn't work. We tried everything. I thought there was a disgruntled spirit, and so began addressing this spirit and trying to convince it that we were worthy of taking care of their property. Turned out, there is a tricky little latch lock that absolutely cannot be opened from the outside, so we had to get other keys from the seller, and go in the back. Luckily, that was the only hold up of the event. Signing papers took approximately 20 minutes, leaving us with a breathless did-we-really-just-do-that feeling. But off to Butler we went, had a stellar time, met up with Caveman and Flick, and then decided that we should all take our Thermarests back to the house and camp out on the floor. Matt and Sloan joined us for champagne, and we were having the best time. Before we knew it, it was 3:30 in the morning. Yikes. I woke up the next morning at just barely after 7, starving, and very excited. I am only saying this so that you will understand that my fatigue had something to do with my very dumb mistake, later in the day.

Caveman had watched some Food Network special featuring the Dor-Stop Diner, and although we are always reluctant to cross the river and go through the tunnel, we made the trek, and let me tell you, it was well worth it...their pumpkin pancakes taste like pumpkin pie.

Anyway, despite some rather nasty hail-sleet-snow combination of precipitation, we decided to move our furniture. Back and forth, back and forth, all day long. We stopped to watch the Steelers game, with the intention of going back to our apartment later in the evening to take showers, get Rosie the Cat, and pick up our work clothes.

So then comes the end of the game, which was very exciting down to the last second, and M says to me, "K, where's the garage door opener?"

"Why, M," I say, "it's in the car!"

Flashback to earlier in the afternoon. I went out for cleaning supplies, then drove back home and parked in the garage, leaving the opener on the visor, taking all of my shopping bags out, and hitting the button on the inside of the door on the way out.

"How much better this is than parking on the street," I thought to myself. And went inside, where I did a very bad job of cleaning the bathroom, partly because the drains were all backing up, and partly because I was really, freakin' tired.

But we have only one garage door opener.

There is no regular door into the garage.

I had effectively trapped the car inside the garage.

We could not take showers at our new house, because the drains needed to be snaked.

M took this news very calmly, considering that he had to get up very early the next morning and go to work, and had not had a shower or changed his clothes in two days.

Then I realized that I had removed Rosie's food and water dish from the apartment, so we really couldn't leave her there for another night.

After attempting to disengage the automatic garage door by turning off the breaker (which obviously didn't work), I called Sloan, who came to the rescue, driving us back to the apartment so we could pick up Rosie the Cat and get our clothes.

But then, the problem remained...although we don't use our car most days, eventually, we were probably going to want it again, if for nothing else to move the rest of our crap out of the apartment. So how does one free their car from inside a locked garage?

Enter, the Garage Door Doctor. I was skeptical of his service when I talked to him on the phone. I was expecting him to have some sort of electronic radio devise that would open the door, which he did not. But he assured me that he "always gets in", so I told him to come over. This guy is essentially a burglar. I will not post how he got into the garage, because it was ingeniously easy, and I don't want any would-be robbers to read it. But if you come and visit us in our new house, I will show you!


We're out there somewhere...not anymore

Yes, it's true. M and I bought a house. We can't guarantee that we won't show up un-announced on your doorstep...but now that we have a doorstep of our own, we invite you to return the favor. Of course, we have no furniture yet, so it's BYOC (Bring your own chair).

I have several amusing stories about the first 24 hours of home-ownership.

I also want to tell you about the presentation we gave on Saturday to the Butler Outdoor Club.

Alas, there is no internet at the new house, but that should be resolved in a few days, so stay tuned...


The Looming Strike

The big news in the Burgh right now is the possible Port Authority strike that will shut down bus service around the county.

PAT has been plagued by problems for years, one of which, in my opinion, is their really terrible website. Critics of PAT claim that ridership has decreased in recent years, as fares have increased to one of the highest in the nation. Last year, I occasionally commuted to my job in McKeesport, and paid $6.50 each day for the convenience. Well, convenience is a bit of a stretch. I left home at 5:30am, walked two miles to the 61C bus stop, rode for 45 minutes, and then walked another half mile up a giant hill.

I'm not sure where ridership has decreased...the 54C is packed every time it goes by. So is the 71A. So is every bus, for that matter, that runs between Bloomfield, Downtown, Oakland, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. Since agreements between the universities and PAT were forged several years ago, thousands of students have come to rely on this mode of transportation to get to class.

I already ride the bus far less than I used to. When I lived in Pittsburgh before, Bloomfield seemed like it was too far away to be convenient to Oakland. Now, I either walk the 2 1/2 miles (30 minutes) or ride my bike (10 minutes).

However, this summer, when I was hanging out with my three-year-old buddies, I learned quickly that walking is definitely out of the realm of possibility for busy parents. Kids walk slow, have to go to the bathroom at all kinds of random times, and stop to look at every dog/twig/crack in the sidewalk. While this is highly entertaining, forget about it, if you're actually trying to get somewhere.

Lots of people are talking about biking to work...they can take advantage of Bike PGH's new street map, to plan their routes. I've even heard about people who will plan to meet up and ride with others. I personally, have purchased a new jacket and gloves to get ready for the winter season. Once we move over to Point Breeze, it will be a little too far to walk (about 4 miles), so I'll probably be biking every day, especially if the buses aren't running.


The House

I thought that by this time tonight I would be able to write to you about our descent into buyer's remorse induced depression, as we sat in our newly acquired 3 bedroom house with a detached two car garage.

However, it is difficult to have buyer's remorse for something you have not yet bought.

Difficult, but not impossible.

On Friday, we got a call from the Title Insurance people, who were all in a tizzy about the survey not being right. Naturally, they waited until the day before the closing to look into this. According to our lawyer-y friends...this is par for the course in real estate.

The problem has something to do with a pin at a distance of 83.84 feet from the Westerly corner of Braddock Avenue. And Nellie G. Coll's property. Nellie is unmarried, by the way. It says that on the deed.

Anyway, tomorrow is a holiday. For some people, not me. The courthouse is closed. Nobody can go there and sift through crumbling, faded papers to see if they can clear up the problem with that pin that is 83.84 feet from the corner. So we wait.

Unlike the title insurance people, I'll be going to work, which is good because I already have some of the new expenses of home ownership. I turned on the utilities in anticipation of the closing, so that they would be on and we could have heat and hot water when we acquired our property today. So in addition to all this other crap, I am paying utilities on a house I don't own. Although, really it is M who is working to pay for these expenses, since I make peanuts right now, on account of my other problem. I'll get to that in a minute.

Instead of enjoying the heat and hot water in my new house, I am sitting in my crappy apartment listening to the downstairs neighbor say "Pow!" and the upstairs neighbor...nevermind, you don't want to know what I can hear him doing.

Additionally, I am still waiting to hear from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to find out if they will grant me a license to teach here. You may recall that my saga has to date involved approximately $2,000 in testing and administrative fees, $15,000 in lost wages, and $350 in travel expenses. It was a mere 14 weeks ago that I traveled to Harrisburg to plead my case in front of the Certification Appeals Committee. You may remember that one of the first remarks after I gave my well-crafted and impassioned speech as to why I should be permitted to educate the youth of this Commonwealth was, "I don't see why this girl doesn't have her certification. What's the problem here?" This was from the former head of education in the Department of Corrections. He's a real no-nonsense kind of guy. He also was on a first name basis with the very girl whose position I took when I moved to Phoenix. Small world.

The committee was, naturally, quite charmed by my eloquent words, and I'm sure would have issued a certificate on the spot, if they could. However, for some reason they have to wait 12-16 weeks before making a recommendation. I was going to call them tomorrow, just to check on the status, since I've heard NOTHING so far, but, of course, they'll be closed.

Par for the course.


My Life as a Student

I know I've said this before, but being a student again rocks.

I have not been taking enough advantage of the free goodies available to me. For instance, I walked into Hillman Library Saturday morning, and discovered rows upon rows of free computers, free printing (well, limited to 900 sheets per term, but still...), free wi-fi, and endless empty tables in quiet nooks and crannies.

There is even a coffee bar. In the library.

Pitt was not like this when I was an undergrad.

Plus, the library was virtually empty. Of course, I (unlike the current undergrads) am too old to stay up all night drinking. Also, there was a football game going on.

In any case, I quickly churned out a brilliant piece of analysis on social cognitive theory and phobia therapy, and realized that I should stop trying (and constantly failing) to do my homework at my home. There is always something better to do at home. Like cleaning my bicycle chain. Or making butternut squash ravioli. Mmmmm.

Or packing.

We finally made a mutually agreed upon arrangement with our landlord, in which we found a new tenant for him, and he agreed to terminate our lease without charging us $1,710.00.

In other news, on Thursday night, M and I were sitting around saying, "boy oh boy, this buying a house thing sure is easy."

Then on Friday, we got a call from the closing attorney who seemed to be freaking out over a problem with the survey. So, I guess we jinxed ourselves somehow. Anyway, hopefully all that will be straightened out soon. In the meantime, Rosie the Cat is looking more and more perturbed over the accumulation of boxes. Where did we get all this stuff? Just a little over a year ago, we had only two backpacks worth of stuff!

Well, I'm off to study some more flashcards and watch the Steelers.



I went to bed early last night...long before any network was calling the election. I woke up to a loud bang...firecrackers, and audible cheers, ringing up and down the alleys of Bloomfield and Garfield.

Mark and I both woke up at once.

We won, we said to each other. And smiled.

Like most of our generation, we have a collective memory of September 11. I could pick out the exact shade of blue of the sky that Tuesday morning. Can see the towers crumbling on the television screen over and over again. I intimately know the sense of dread, that hasn't left me since, when President Bush announced war, and then war again. I remember the sickening feeling of seeing an old high school friend's picture on the television, when he was killed in Iraq. My adult life has a constant backdrop of casualties and uncertainty and fear. And Bush has used fear as a motivator for action, time and time again. It's hard to listen to all that fear talk without having it sink in a little bit, and permeate other aspects of your life.

Barack Obama is different. He didn't promise me anything. He simply gave me, and my generation, permission to take back our country. To act in our own best interest. To reject fear as a reason to form national policy. He gave us the courage to collectively stand up and say, things can be different. We can live peaceably. We don't have to fear the rest of the world. We can take care of each other.

I get all tingly when I think about his acceptance speech. Although I have a certain sense of relief that this election is over, and my chosen candidate has prevailed, I know the work has only just begun.

And I'm excited. I'm excited to see what I can do in the coming months and years to make sure that every single child in this country gets a decent education. I'm excited to help solve the public health crisis of uninsured Americans, a group I've been a part of on several occasions. I'm excited to think of a world that I can proudly travel as an ambassador of this great country.

This sense of excitement seemed to energize the whole city today. Everybody had a spring in their step that was not there yesterday.

And yes, Barack Obama is the first black president and that's historic and wonderful in its own right.

But even better is the message he brings. There are problems, but together, we can fix them.

Yes, we can.



Well, not really.

But the polling machines were not working when I went to vote this morning. Luckily they had a stash of "emergency ballots," one of which I filled out and stuffed into a "secrecy envelope". Supposedly they will take them downtown this morning and count them there.

But then the machines started working again, and M got to vote on one of them.

I hope my vote counts. But it's really an act of faith, this whole voting thing. You do your little piece, and then you have to trust the octogenarians manning the voting polls to follow all the procedures correctly. And then you have to trust that the television networks won't prematurely and inaccurately call the race, causing the western states to not bother showing up to vote. And then you have to cross your fingers and hope that voting patterns will fall such that the electoral college results will line up with what the people actually demand. Not to mention, hoping that there is no need to involve the supreme court at the end of all this.

Hope. Trust. Faith.

Democracy is kind of like a religion.