Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Forget Fracking – It's Time for Pre-School Power!

Happy April Fool's Day.  In celebration, I am participating in the Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event! Today’s post comes from Valentine Brkich of Small-Town Dad, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on West of Mars, where I am talking about how my parents helped me love books, and how my birthday wish is to pass that love of books on to the children in my community.

Valentine Brkich Guest PostIt’s all over the news. Marcellus shale. “Fracking.” The booming natural gas and oil industries. Western PA is on the verge of an energy revolution, one that could bring in billions of dollars to the local economy. The thing is, not everyone’s convinced it’s safe for our environment. I have another solution to our energy problems. And it’s one that doesn’t involve digging or fracking or any of that stuff: my 4-year-old son.

The boy is a walking, talking, limitless source of clean, renewable energy. I know this because from the moment he opens his eyes in the morning until he falls asleep at night he’s hopping, skipping, jumping, rolling, running, bouncing, bounding, climbing, crawling, stomping, sliding, and shuffling all over God’s creation. And best of all, other than the occasional toot or burp, there’s little or no harmful emissions.

Even when he’s sitting, like at the dinner table, my son is incapable of stillness. He constantly shuffles around in his seat, switching from his bum to his knees to his feet and back again. One second he's in his chair, the next he’s on my lap, or on top of the table, or underneath it. Ironically, the only thing he’s not doing is eating.

Bedtime is the only time we can get the kid to stop moving, and we usually have to put him down with a tranquilizer gun. Just kidding! We don’t even own a tranquilizer gun.

NyQuil works just fine.

What’s funny is I used to have energy like that myself. No matter how much I ran or how far I rode my BMX, I always wanted to keep moving and playing. I’d never tired. Now, by the end of the day I’m completely drained, even though all I did was sit on my tuckus all day, first in my car, then at work, then in my car again, then at dinner, and afterwards in front of the tube.

I guess Newton was right: An object in motion tends to stay in motion, while an object at rest tends to fall asleep on the couch around 8:30.

If there was some way to harness my son’s youthful exuberance, we could forget about all this fracking nonsense and instead tap into his seemingly endless supply of preschool power. Of course we’d want to make sure to only use his excess energy for good. Otherwise the results could be disastrous. Those of you who’ve seen my living room know what I mean.

A simple solution would be to construct some sort of kid-sized hamster wheel that produced electricity. But then, of course, we’d have to find a place to put it, and I’m a little foggy on the laws as far as child-powered electric generators go.

If only I could invent some type of synthetic fabric that captures kinetic energy and stores it for later use! I could come out with a whole line of kiddie clothing for over-active kids like my son. Think about it: At the end of the day you’d just take off your kid’s pants, plug them into some device that would extract all the stored up energy, and then use that energy to power all the lights in your home.

Or, in our case, every household in our zip code.

But alas, I’m just a lowly writer. I’ll have leave it to some electrical engineer to devise a way to capture my son’s excess energy before he burns it all up and grows into another lazy, unmotivated, energy-deficient adult.

Not that I know anyone like that. ~

Written by Valentine J. Brkich. You can read more nonsense like this over at this blog, smalltowndad.com.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: R is for Rainbows

IMG_9332Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day.  For us, this is a day that, for the most part, goes unnoticed.  I typically make some Americanized version of an Irish meal, maybe a green dessert if I am really ambitious, and that is that.  With me working at a library now, I actually put a tad more thought into it this year, making decorations for a St. Paddy's display, showing a movie based on celtic mythology, and I even managed to throw together a cute green outfit that was library lady suitable.  But still, no wild and crazy partying for me.  No foot long green beers, no parade, not even an Irish coffee.  And I can promise you, I did not chase any leprechauns to try to steal their pot of gold.  Nor will I ever.

While a pot of gold might seem like a wonderful thing to get, I was always more interested in the rainbows that would lead me on the quest.  For me, rainbows are so symbolic.  They represent a promise that the storm will pass.  Sure, that storm may shake the walls, it may be loud and frightening, it may even cause some damage, but if there is a rainbow at the end, I am always able to think things will turn out ok.  

Rainbows, to me, also symbolize a journey, a transition from one state of being (rain) to another state of being (sun).  While it is true that all of life is a journey, some parts of it seem more trying than others.  Some parts seem like nothing but rain.  But we trudge on, through the mud, with sodden socks and no umbrella at times, until slowly but surely, the rain lets up, the sun comes out, and there, in all its glory, is that rainbow we have been chasing.

So, as everyone else is spending today with St. Paddy's day hangovers, lamenting the loss of their pot of gold, I will sit here, patiently, waiting for my rainbow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Sick and Tired

UntitledAt the beginning of the month, Hubby and I participated in an amazing Dr. Seuss event at our library.  I got to dress as the Cat in the Hat, and interact with all the kids who attended.  All 94 of them.  So, you can imagine, after being in a room with 94 kids, it was no big surprise that both Hubby and I got sick.

For Hubby, the worst of it came and went with the weekend.  I seem to be 2-3 days behind him, so just as the week is starting, the full force of the cold is hitting me.  This means nights of little sleep due to coughing, and just generally feeling poopy (that is legitimate medical terminology).

So, it stands as no real surprise that this week's playlists reflects my current state of ill health.  Take two listens and call me in the morning.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Birthday Project for 2014

1450210_10151984962249060_1486467153_nLast year, in celebration of turning 35, I created the 35 Day Project, where I performed acts of kindness for the 35 days leading up to my birthday.  Many of my friends, family, and readers joined in.  It was so awesome.

This year, I want to take on another project for my birthday, and I am once again asking for help. I have decided that, in celebration of my 36th birthday on April 20 (Easter Sunday), I would like to get donations to create a Children's Literacy Activity Center for the Ford City Public Library. This would be a center filled with structured educational activities for children and families to utilize when they visit the library. Obviously, this is something that the entire community would benefit from.

 This is the link to the list of items we would like for the activity center. The items ordered from this list would be shipped directly to the library.

Birthday Project Wish List

 I would absolutely love if some of my friends would like to help me build this tremendous resource for my community. The best birthday gift you could give me would be help on this project. Thank you so much for helping make my birthday special!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Q is for Quirky

IMG_6795I am, well, unusual.  I have very nerdy interests, like Doctor Who and geocaching.  I read (a lot) while most people are watching things like the Oscars and Superbowl.  I think cemeteries and abandoned buildings are beautiful.  I am most content at home with my hubby and dogs.  I love my job more than words can express, to the point where I am willing to make a fool of myself for it.  To put it nicely, I am quirky.

It used to be that quirky was not a word one would want used to describe him or herself.  But in the age of the hipster, quirkiness is not only cool, it is almost required.  Which is fine by me.  I take a look at the interests I hold, and the people I surround myself, the kinds of things I spend my time doing, and I cannot help but smile.  I am exactly the kind of person I would want to be friends with.  I know I am not everyone's taste, and that is ok, that keeps life interesting.  But I make no attempts to change who I am to make someone else more comfortable.

My advice to you?  Find your quirks, embrace them, flaunt them, love them.  Here is your soundtrack.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Unsung Musicals

I have talked in the past about how much I love musical theater.  In the past few years, many musicals have had movie versions produced, and become quite mainstream.  On the other hand, many modern musicals are merely reimaginings of popular movies (Legally Blonde: The Musical, I am looking at you).  As a musical theater lover, it saddens me that so-so movies get made into so-so musicals, while there are tons of high quality musicals out there that no one notices.

Over the weekend, Hubby and I went to see a production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  We went into the show with no knowledge of it.  We had not heard to score, we did not read the synopsis, we we blank slates.  I absolutely fell in love with the show.  It was one of the most innovative shows I ever saw.  And I feel pretty sure that about 90% of the audience did not get the show at all.  They did not appreciate the clever subtle nature of the music and acting.  It got me to thinking about all the fantastic, little known (or little respected) musicals that I love.

So this week's playlist is snippits of some of those musicals.  Give them a try, you just might fall in love.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: P is for Positivity

Have a happy lifeSometimes, we take for granted how good life can be.  We forget about people who struggle daily, we get caught up in minor annoyances, we choose to wallow in our problems.

Sometimes, it takes life handing you a steaming pile of dookie for you to see how precious life really can be.  Sometimes, a thing that seems life shattering can actually be life saving.

Why is it that the same exact situation can happen to 2 people, with one falling apart, and one completely flourishing?  I think the difference is positivity.  Some people are hell bent on making the best of life.  That is not to say that the process does not absolutely suck; it most definitely does.  That is not to say that a positive person is happy all the time, with an unrealistic view of the world; everyone has down moments.  But some people were just born to be survivors.

So today, I choose positivity.  I am determined to make the most of this life, with all its struggles and all its joys.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes:1945

Last week, I was playing around with some vintage inspired hair and makeup.  I did my hair up in victory rolls, and did a toned down version of pin-up girl make-up.  I actually wore the hair and makeup to work Thursday night, but before I left for work, I shared some photos of the style on my social media sites.  The next day, I was talking to my mom, who had seen the photos.  She commented how much I had reminded her of a very specific photo of her mother, my grandma.

After we got off of the phone, my mom spent several hours looking through old photos, and she found the photo she said I reminded her of.  She also found a photo of herself as a young girl.  When I was younger, a lot of people said I looked like my mom, but as I got older, people started saying I favored my dad's side of the family.  But looking at these photos, I think it is clear that I also favor my mom's side.  My grandma is on the left, mom in the middle, and I am on the right.  I personally think I am the perfect blend of both parents.


Along mom's trip down memory lane, she found a love letter that my grandfather had written to my grandmother while he was stationed in Belgium in 1945.  He calls her Sweetheart, and writes of how sad he is that he cannot be with her on her birthday.  It was kind of a remarkable piece of family nostalgia.  In today's fast paced, instant gratification communication, we tend to get a little impersonal.  As we are heading into Valentine's Day, I thought that this little romantic letter from a soldier to his girl would be great inspiration for a playlist that recalls the romance of 1945.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: O is for Ocean

I know, I know, just one short week ago, I was singing the praises of the beauty of winter.  And I still stand by that 100%.  However, sometimes, you just need to daydream about the ocean.  Today is one of those times.

It has been a rough winter.  The snow started early (Novemberish) and we have had very few reprieves.  We have heard the words polar vortex way too many times for comfort.  There have been as many school cancellations attributed to sub-zero temperatures as there have been for actual snow.  Last week, Pennsylvania was colder than Alaska.  So, yeah, it has been a rough winter.  But as Hubby's new favorite song says, you "only miss the light when it starts to snow".  And I miss the light.

But beyond missing the sunshine, I miss the ocean.  I cannot believe it has been almost two years since we went to the Outer Banks and sat seaside.  While I am not one to spend much time lounging on the beach itself, there is something so soothing about being near the ocean.  The air is crisp and tingly, the breezes ruffle your hair, time moves slower, life seems sweeter.  Everything is better when you are sea side.

So, in an attempt to bolster my spirits for the 6 additional weeks of winter (thanks stupid groundhog), I came up with an ocean themed playlist.  It may not be exactly what you would expect (sorry, no Beach Boys) but to me this captures the richness and magic of time spent on the shore.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In The Big City: Dark Sisters, presented by the Pittsburgh Opera

Last night, I had the opportunity to see the Pittsburgh Opera's presentation of Nico Muhly's modern opera, Dark Sisters.  It has taken me several hours to try to process my feelings about it, and I am still not sure how well I am going to be able to convey them.

The opera is about a group of people who belong to the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as FLDS.  The are a polygamous family; one husband, 5 wives, and countless children.  The opera opens with the group's ranch having been raided by government officials.  All the children have been removed, and we see each wife crying out for her children.  The husband, who serves as the prophet, tells the women he is leaving to ponder God's will, as the women are left behind to seek perfect obedience which will lead to perfect faith.

32 the prophet receives a revelation

One of the wives, Eliza, is beginning to doubt the validity of the group's beliefs; when she learns her teenage daughter has been promised to a middle aged man in marriage, she begins to think the prophet is a false prophet.  Most of the other wives are perfectly obedient and accepting of the religious dogma; only Ruth, who suffers from mental illness, does not follow blindly.  Eventually the husband returns home, as we see the wives deal with the jealousy of sharing the person they love the most, in the most intimate way possible.

The second act opens with the wives being interviewed for a national news show.  The women try to emphasize that they only care about the children, and that they are happy and free in their choices.  Suddenly Eliza reveals on national television that she was a child bride, and that she is not free.  As the show closes, we learn that Eliza has sought freedom by leaving the sect, while Ruth has also sought freedom, by committing suicide.

0369 Eliza says goodbye

This was an incredibly complex show; the music is complex, the moral themes at play are complex, and the emotions evoked are complex.  I was surprised, first off, to find frequent moments of levity and dark humor in the show.  I think they were perfectly timed, and absolutely necessary.  They helped counterbalance the starkness of the reality of subject matter.

In terms of the topics, as I already said, I am fascinated by the FLDS.  It saddens me to see the women enslaved by the bounds of their religion.  The increase in child brides is tantamount to human trafficking.  I feel for the women who have no choices.  But some women do feel they have a choice, and they are willingly choosing their faith.  This is where the matter becomes sticky for me.  At what point does this stop being a human rights issue, and start becoming an issue of religious freedom?  Are the two things mutually exclusive?  I was glad I went into this experience well read on the topic of the FLDS.  It made me appreciate the extreme attention to detail in the music and staging.  The show was on point with everything I have ever learned about the FLDS life.  And the constant muttering of "keep sweet", meaning to put on a happy face and be a perfect wife, was almost eerie.

Although not my first live opera, this was my first experience with a modern opera.  As a chamber opera, the experience was much more intimate.  It was in a smaller setting, and the minimalist set helped draw the audience into the characters and story.  The music was complex and rich, but what really made the show, for me, was the amount of feeling the performers portrayed from an acting standpoint.  I felt the anguish of these women.  The moment that struck me was when Eliza revealed her child bride status on television, and the wives began to insist she was lying.  Oh, the looks on their faces, it just made that moment so real, so frightening.

I highly recommend the show to anyone well versed in opera, or particularly interested in the topics of polygamy and the FLDS religion.  This was a much different experience than any other cultural event I have ever attended, and now, more than 12 hours later, I find myself feeling like the show makes the concepts of right and wrong much less clear cut.

0220 the sisters hold on to each other

I received tickets to this show compliments of the Pittsburgh Opera in exchange for my honest review.  All views presented here are 100% original and honest.  All pictures were provided by the Pittsburgh Opera and used with permission.

In addition, the Pittsburgh Opera provided me with tickets to give away to a reader.  Congratulations to Samantha Miller for winning those tickets.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Across the Snowy Places

This has been one of the coldest, wickedest winters of recent memory.  Certainly the worst since I moved to Kittanning.  I find that most nights, we are perfectly content to snuggle in the bed with the dogs, and read or watch movies.  Who would want to go out in these frigid temperatures.  Why, at this very moment, I am writing this post to help avoid going out into the cold to start my car and let it warm up.  Schools have missed a million days, pictures of negative temps on dashboards or phone apps flood my Facebook feed, and pretty much everyone is grumpy.  Which may make what I am about to say a very unpopular statement:

I am kind of in love with winter.

Long Shadows

Now, do not get me wrong.  I hate driving in snow.  It makes me a nervous wreck.  I worry about Hubby's daily commute to and from work.  I avoid driving in snow when possible. And I do not especially like the chapped skin, the piercing cold, the higher heating bills, the gross salt on my car, and pants, and shoes.

But those moments when we are cuddled together, under mountains of blankets, looking out at a vast white canvas of land, those moments when the sun paints gorgeous colors across the woods those moments when all it takes to warm me is a kiss and a cup of coffee, well, how could I not be in love with those moments?

So whether today is a snow day full of cocoa and blankets, or a day when you are out braving the negative temperature, let this playlist remind you of the breathtaking beauty that winter can hold.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: N is for Nineties

My senior picture, oh the hair.
I miss the 90s.  There, I said it.  Do not get me wrong, I would not want to go through high school or puberty ever again, that ish was hellacious.  But everything else about that time was, in my opinion, amazing.  I was relishing my teenage years, I could eat whatever the heck I wanted with pretty much no consequences.  The bigger my hair was, the better my day was going to be. When I finally started straightening my hair, you know it was adorned with little barrettes. We had only recently gotten cable, and I loved watching 90210 and Melrose.  I was reading VC Andrews, Stephen King and Danielle Steel.  I was wearing flannel, overalls, and showing my belly button in a discrete, classy way.  I wanted to date Jordan Catalano.  I knew that Rose had plenty of room on that piece of wood for Jack.  The time was, in a word, iconic.

By far, the most iconic thing about this time was the music.  I know everyone has songs that mentally transport them to their youth, but I feel the 90s was extra rich, musically.  You saw the surge of grunge, the birth of indie rock, the mainstream acceptance of rap and hip hop.  There were so many amazing musical moments in this decade, that a tiny little playlist can hardly do it justice.  I have boiled it down to my very favorites, ones that shuttle me back to specific moments in my youth.  So put on your doc martins and baby doll dresses, grab that jean jacket and have a listen.  See if this doesn't make you want to watch Reality Bites.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Giveaway: Dark Sisters, presented by the Pittsburgh Opera

Loyal readers of this blog know that I have not posted much lately, and I have not done a giveaway in forever, but this week presented an opportunity that I could not wait to share!

Have you ever become totally fascinated with a topic?  I do not mean merely interested, I mean fascinated.  You devour every book, movie, documentary, web page, television series, or news article related to the topic.  It consumes your mind during moments of idleness.  You try to immerse yourself in the topic, to experience it from all angles.  This happens to me a lot.  And lately, my fascination has been with polygamy.

About 5 years ago, I stumbled upon a television series that was a fictionalized account of a polygamist family.  I instantly became hooked.  When the series ended, my interest in the topic dropped.  Then a reality show about polygamy became popular, and once again I was hooked.  Only this time, the topic had staying power.  I found myself spending hours searching online about polygamist cultures.  I have read numerous books written by former polygamists, and I have watched several documentaries.  I sought out any type of media on the topic.  The only thing I was missing was something musically oriented.

Photo: SOOOOO EXCITED! The first orchestra rehearsal for Nico Muhly's DARK SISTERS is in a few minutes, right here in Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters. Can't wait to hear it! Live orchestra music in our offices is pretty awesome.

Which is why I totally geeked out when I learned that the Pittsburgh Opera was presenting Nico Muhly’s opera Dark Sisters.

Exploring issues of suppressed individuality and subservient women’s roles, the opera uses episodes from the media – most recently the 2004 raid on FLDS leader Warren Jeffs’s compound in West Texas – to tell the story of the women’s suffering, and how one woman tries to escape. Premiered in 2012, DARK SISTERS revolves around sister-wife Eliza, who has a profound self-discovery after the world comes to the gates of her family’s complex, run by The Prophet. During an appearance on national television to defend her way of life, Eliza makes a dramatic confession, and her world falls into chaos. Resolving to make her own way in the world, she faces the consequences of leaving everything she has ever known.

Doesn't that sound amazing?  I learned that this particular opera often sells out, so I really doubted I would get to see the chance to see it.    So when the Pittsburgh Opera presented me with a chance to see the show and review it, I was ecstatic.  When I found out I was also going to be able to giveaway 2 tickets for my readers to see the opera, I was over the moon.

This is a wonderful opportunity to experience opera.  This is a modern opera, sung in English.

Entry to the giveaway is easy, using the form below.  I simply want to know, what topic fascinates you?

Additional entries are also available.  Participants must be 18 or older.  Tickets will be available at will-call with photo ID. The performance is at 8 PM on Friday, January 31 at the CAPA Theater, 111 Ft. Duquesne Blvd. Winner will be notified Wednesday January 29 via email.

What are you waiting for?  Enter now!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: M is for Melancholy, Baby

IMG_2089 edit
In general, I am a pretty happy person.  I laugh all the time, I smile a lot, and I can start a conversation with darn near anyone.  I am laid back and easy going.  I think happiness is one of the greatest things ever.  However, I fully believe that in order to fully appreciate happiness, you need to experience sadness.  For years after graduate school, I was terribly lonely.  I lived alone, in a strange city.  The only people I knew were the people I worked with, and most of them were married with families.  I did not have many friends, and other than the occasional date, I did not have anyone keeping me company, other than my cat.  In short, I spent many years being pretty melancholy.

Even though I am no longer lonely, because I have a husband whom I adore, as well as wonderful friends and family, pesky but adorable pets, and I job that makes me super happy, I still appreciate the beauty that can be found inside melancholy.  Some of the greatest stories in the world have dark, melancholic tones.  Some of the places I deem most beautiful are places that others see as stark and sad.  And the music, oh the music; I adore a piece of music that can move me to tears.

Life is never all good or all bad, all light or all darkness, all joy or all despair.  It is by experiencing both ends of the spectrum that we truly feel, and truly live.  So, as I sit here with a life full of abundant happiness, I reflect on the sadness I have endured in my own life, the struggles of the others around me, and the beauty that can be found therein.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: L is for Library Ladies

UntitledAbout six weeks ago, I started working at a local library.  And I fell in love with my job.  This comes as no surprise, I have been an active library patron since childhood.  As a kid, my parents took my to the large, beautiful library in our county seat.  I loved it there, I wanted to live there.  I spent a lot of my summer days at that library.  When school was in session, I loved the days the Bookmobile would come to school.  In college and grad school, I spend hours upon hours in the libraries.  When I moved to Pittsburgh, I did not change my voter registration for many years, but I immediately got a library card.  So, yeah I kind of love libraries.

You know how some kids play school, or house, or doctor?  I played library.  I taped little pockets into the backs of my books, and made registry cards so people could check out the books.  Not even joking.

The best part of my new job is it combines so many things I love:  books, social media, technology, pop culture, community outreach.  It is pretty much the perfect job for me.  I still cannot believe I get paid to do this stuff!  And the ladies I work with are so awesome.  They are supportive and encouraging, and I love going to work each day.

So, the heart of this book worm is going pitter pat with love over the fact that I now get to be a library lady.  Because I do not have a Library Science degree, I am technically not a librarian, but who knows what the future holds.  In the mean time, enjoy this bookish playlist for all my library ladies out there.