Brigid emailed our father saying doctors stitched the baby up today. She and my brother-in-law, Steve, are now at Maeve's bedside hoping this whole thing takes.
The hospital is closely monitoring Maeve to see if she continues to expel the fluid well - we hope the procedure is successful a second time around.
Brig says they will know more about the chances this afternoon or evening, and that's when she will call home to Mom and Dad - who have been given express orders (by yours truly) to pass on the information.
My sister has asked Mom and Dad to forgo an Atlanta visit for the time being - she and Steve have a good routine worked out involving this hospital business and would rather not upset the apple cart. Brig says it would make more sense to have our parents around when Maeve is downgraded to the "step-down unit." Right now Maeve is in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with her very own nurse assigned to take care of her every need. We are praying she won't be so needy for much longer, but only time will tell.
Mom has bought Maeve a huge wardrobe of special clothing that is appropriate for Maeve's recovery - all cardigans and jumper type outfits that won't require Maeve to stretch or pull her arms up over her chest.
That little girl is going to be spoiled, and rightly so.
*** Maeve Sunday Night Update 11:07 pm ***
Brigid called home and said Maeve is getting rid of her fluid. The baby went in to the hospital weighing a bit more than 13 pounds. After the surgery and she was all the way up to 17 lbs. - I cannot imagine that little peanut taking on just about a third of her weight in extra fluid. Maeve is thankfully back down to over 13 lbs.
Maeve is expected to stay at the CICU through Thursday or Friday - that's when we hope she'll get transferred to the Step Down Unit.
My little niece has something like 30 tubes going in and out of her... I can't imagine how hard it is for my sister to go see her baby in that condition.
When you talk to a stranger on-line, do you ever wonder who they really are?
Are they the person they claim to be, or are they someone with more devious intentions?
These are some important questions to consider, especially if you have any young children discovering the wonders of the World Wide Web.
Internet predators are an unfortunate reality, but there are several important things you can do to ensure the safety of your loved ones on-line.
A couple months ago I was pleased to become a member of the board of trustees for the Council On Child Abuse of Southern Ohio. This organization works tirelessly to put an end to Shaken Baby Syndrome, domestic violence, bullying and a variety of other dangers our children face each and every day.
COCA is hosting an exciting event exposing the threat internet predators pose on-line.
NBC Dateline reporter Chris Hansen of "To Catch A Predator" fame will reveal tactics used by internet predators and techniques to help keep your children safe while they surf the web.
The event is the evening of Thursday April 10th at the Marriott North in West Chester.
This is a great opportunity for teachers and parents to learn more about internet safety and predators lurking on the web. This is also an interesting forum for anyone who has ever been "sucked in" by Chris Hansen's special reports.
Please click here if you're interested in registering to attend, or feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions.
I've been holed up in my apartment for the past couple days battling a wicked cold.
You would think the quality time to myself would be full of book and magazine reading and the indulgent spa treatments filling my bathroom closet.
It turns out those options are too draining for someone in my condition.
I'd much rather lay in bed and watch tv or surf the 'net.
So I've done some blogging, created a hot avatar for Second Life and am just discovering the hilarity of Arrested Development thanks to hulu.
Today wasn't intended as a sick day - I was scheduled off Friday in exchange for working last Sunday (thankfully the last Easter Sunday I will ever work in light of my pending departure from television news) but I have spent more time recuperating and loading up on fluids - the water/cocoa/tea variety, not the gin/beer/merlot variety.
I did manage to pull myself together (read: take shower, dry hair, brush teeth) for my monthly hair appointment - my flaxen strands look decidedly more golden after Brigid decided I was straying from my familial assignment as the "blonde" sister.
Unfortunately I missed my friend Sasha's last day at Local 12/WKRC.
Sasha Rionda was brought to Cincinnati's CBS affiliate to launch a Spanish-speaking news program, NuestroRincon. I believe Sasha is the only person I've ever worked with to have her own IMDB profile, a nod to her role in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and also some professional work she's done in other pursuits.
Sasha is moving on to Atlanta to continue working for CNN as a host for a program covering lifestyle trends and entertainment news.
Sasha started working at Local 12 one year before me, and for a while we didn't know each other because we worked completely opposite shifts - I was producing the morning show and she was working regular "dayside" hours. I remember seeing her around the newsroom as my shift was ending and her was beginning, and I was always horribly intimidated by her. Sasha is this stunningly beautiful woman who is always dressed to the nines. She doesn't look like the kind of girl you'd know in "real life" because her beauty comes off as very glamorous and Hollywood.
If only I had known Sasha's heart is far more beautiful than her appearance.
Sasha and I have commiserated over time about the demands of local news and how those challenges have a way of changing people - making co-workers more abrasive, egotistical and arrogant.
Sasha and I supported and encouraged each other, what with our mutual appreciation for respect, kindness and courtesy.
I am glad I only have to survive one week in the newsroom without my ally - I will finish my own career in local news one week from today.
I am even more happy about the fact that Sasha is moving back to her American hometown of Atlanta - a place I visit several times a year to see Brigid, Steve and Maevey. I know I will stay in touch with Sasha and look forward to celebrate with her the many professional triumphs of the future.
Sasha was sent off from Local 12 with the traditional goodbye cake. I wish I had been there to share it - I imagine Sasha will never forget the misspelled humor written in icing.
The news director's assistant tells me she is going to try and get a refund from Kroger for the unusual message written by the cake artist.
I got a brief update on Maevey today. Brigid called my dad and says my niece is stable. She apparently has some bruising on her body and doctors don't know what caused it.
Maeve continues to go potty and this is a good sign that she is getting rid of all the fluid in her body.
The heart appears to be doing alright.
Brigid says doctors are hoping to sew the baby up next Monday. They haven't come right out and said it but we think maybe they realize now they were overly optimistic about her recovery.
Maeve is staying in the pediatric cardiology ICU - she's in a big room with about 27 other cardiac babies coping with their own ailments of the heart.
The nurses tell Brig and Steve that Maeve has the most beautiful blue eyes they've ever seen - and I'd have to agree.
Most babies react positively to touch but Maeve will have none of it. She is a bit of a private creature and doesn't want to be manhandled by a bunch of strangers. Brig remarked that she is the same way - not so much a "touchy feely" type and we attribute this trait to our own mother. Dad and I are far more physical in nature and love to express our emotions through hugs and kisses and other gestures.
Even though Brigid's not a touchy-feely type, she says she's just dying to kiss her baby.
I am home sick today - I think my emotions and late night worrying have taken a toll on my health. I've got a long list of unpleasant symptoms including swollen glands in my neck, congestion, body ache and a bit of a fever.
Dad says he told Brig to call me and give me an update sometime today, so hopefully I'll have some new information for you all.
For an update on Maevey, please see the next post on the blog. ------------------------------------------------------------
I consistently battle a streak of worry wart.
I come from a long line of worry warts, and I have the jagged, bitten fingernails to prove it. When I get infatuated with a concern, I have a real problem trying to go to sleep.
So it's past one in the morning, I am sipping on a Hoegaarden (a great Belgian beer I first had in a little pub on London's Portobello Road last September) and typing away to the lovely image of Conan O'Brien in a Latin dance costume, complete with ruffled sleeves.
I suppose God is offering to me his own amusing distraction.
I am a bit of an emotional eater. On occasions when others are too nervous to have a bite, I can successfully inhale a Big Mac, a sleeve of Thin Mints and bag of Doritos while scooping up a pint of Ben & Jerry's (Phish Food is the best) and sipping down a pitcher of margaritas.
'Cause that's just how I roll.
Tonight my cupboards are almost bare (intentionally), full only of items that require laborious preparation - like dry pasta, dry beans, dry oatmeal. Notice a theme here? I suppose the logic is this: if I am really that hungry, I will invest the time and energy to prepare something.
Unfortunately this logic has led me to make my fair share of trips to the nearby Fresh Market for pre-made deliciousness - because I am more often wanting to grab a quick gourmet something than I am willing to take the time to prepare a meal as tempting as, say, Quaker Oatmeal.
It turns out I am not alone.
Recent statistics show at-home food preparation is on the rise. Part of it is the economy - two chicken breasts divided four ways is far more affordable than taking little Johnny and Jenny to the neighborhood Chili's (did I mention I hate chain restaurants?) for dinner. Another reason for the trend is all those cooking shows on Food TV. Giada, Rachael, Emeril, the Contessa, even Sandra (groan) - they all have followers fans who aspire to the same culinary greatness.
That said (I am finally getting to that point about ready-to-eat), most people don't have time to whip up Ina's Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing. I mean, really, it looks delicious. Those perfectly crossed legs look fantastic and the Contessa really had me when her recipe called for real butter, but really - sometimes I don't even have time to wait for condensed soup to heat up.
Ergo - grab-and-go.
The success of places like Whole Foods and Fresh Market have grocery stores clamoring to provide culinary sophistication with the simplicity of add-water-and-stir. They realize there is there is a unique convergence erupting at dinner time: busy people don't have the time to prepare the sophistication their palates crave.
And so we cave in to prepared sushi, made-to-order paninis, a treasure trove of flavor at the olive bar.
Be honest. When was the last time you passed up the Yogurt and Onion Kettle Chips for the organically grown fingerling potatoes?
Gosh, all this talk of food is making me hungry - and sleepy.
I was all set to post an optimistic blog about the progess my five-month-old niece, Maeve, was making in the hospital after her open-heart surgery last Friday.
I was just about to hit "Publish Post" when my cell phone rang. The caller ID said Mom and Dad and I knew it had to be serious because my parents never call after 9 O'Clock.
The clock said 11:05 pm.
Earlier today my sister and brother-in-law called my parents to say Maeve's condition has progressed to the point where doctors were finally able to stitch up the incision. My parents and I were both under the incorrect impression they closed the wound with tape to provide "easy access" for any unexpected, emergency surgeries on the heart. It turns out doctors were not able to stitch the wound up because of some severe swelling in Maeve's chest. The swelling would have obstructed Maeve's heart function if sewn together so instead doctors kept it open and covered it with tape.
Brigid had told us earlier to pray for tinkle as any lost fluid would help relieve pressure on the heart and prove Maeve's kidneys were working properly.
Maeve's blood pressure required additional fluid after today's procedure so doctors were hoping my niece would expel the fluid well and would not have to be re-opened to prevent obstruction of the heart's functions.
Brigid and Steve went back to the hospital tonight to check on their baby girl and that's when doctors told them they had to take Maeve back in to surgery to re-open the incision.
It turns out Maeve is not expelling her fluids any longer and doctors say her incision may have to stay open for several weeks. I, personally, have not talked to Brigid - but my parents have and they say my sister sounds crestfallen. My mother says tonight's call was the first time through this whole ordeal that they heard Brigid crying severely on the other end of the line. They say even my 6'6" brother-in-law is crying and at a loss over this unfortunate development.
Doctors say Maeve's circumstances are very unsusal and they do not know what to expect from here on out. Brigid says she may need my parents in Atlanta at a moment's notice.
This is so difficult for all of us.
Every day we hear an encouraging development or positive outlook on the situation - only to have something more difficult and complicated to happen. The consistent disappointments make it very hard to stay hopeful and optimistic about Maeve's recovery, and for that my heart just breaks.
This little girl is a true gift from God and I cannot imagine a world without her in it.
It's funny - the deadlines, the office politics, the utility bills - they all seem like pure garbage when you consider that a tiny, little baby in Atlanta is truly fighting for her life.
Maeve and her 90 lb. dog, Biscuit
XXX 12:05 AM Wednesday Update XXX
Brigid just called my parents. Doctors say Maeve went tinkle as soon as they opened her back up tonight. This is a good sign, and Brigid apparently sounded better on the phone. Still, Brigid and Steve decided they need some emotional support in Atlanta and have asked my parents to come down... They expect to head south sometime this weekend.
Please keep Maeve in your prayers - and pray she continues to go to the bathroom and expel the fluid in her chest.
My priorities got shifted somewhere between lethargy and despondency.
I can't pinpoint a specific date or occasion, the only thing I know is church took a back seat to so many other things - Charles Osgood and Bill Geist, extra moments under the down comforter, personal commitments.
My calendar got filled up with weekends away and late nights out and lazy mornings in - and before I knew it I was less of a practicing Catholic and more of a perfect lummox.
Disappointment and frustration fueled my disenchantment with the only religious tradition I'd come to known. My faith remained true over these past few months but I relied more on a very Depeche Mode kind of religion - a personal communion with God that happened on walks, behind the wheel and during other far more pedestrian moments of my life.
Last week brought on a roller coaster of emotion - my niece's heart surgery and my accepting a new career in an unfamiliar profession - and I felt myself pulled toward the familiar pomp and circumstance of my spiritual past.
Some unexpected variables led me to observe the Easter holiday alone. I laid in bed as long as I could Sunday morning and then felt disappointed that I hadn't gotten my ass out in time to get to St. Mary's in Hyde Park - for Maevey's sake alone I should have had no trouble going to church.
Too late to make it to my own church's mass, I googled Cincinnati's churches and found a 12:30 pm mass downtown. I didn't know what to expect at St. Louis Church - and was pleased to find a humble crowd of faithful gathered for communion. I didn't think I would be ready for my first foray back into the church scene amidst a cast of thousands and was glad to see a small chapel full of people from the neighborhood.
I sat in a pew next to an older, bohemian woman and focused less on my needs and more on those belonging to the tiniest girl I know. I asked for God's grace and forgiveness - perhaps feeling far more prodigal son than required, grateful I didn't explode into a ball of fire when I crossed the church's threshold.
The time beneath the crucifix reminded me of the one constant I've had while away from the church - I have remained grateful of all the many gifts bestowed on me and cannot begin to express the thanks I feel for the blessings of my life.
I don't know what the future holds for me - or even the weekend for that matter.
But I'm going to do my best to make it to mass again.
It's easy to forget that life goes on when your brain is consumed with concern.
The intelligent design that went into creating mankind fails to provide us with an option to override distraught emotion - no matter how much you may try, your heart and soul never stop forgetting about the big picture.
But a good distraction can help.
I am lucky enough to have come across a few solid distractions since this mess with Maevey erupted.
I enjoyed a brief but sweet visit from my best friend in the whole world - D Money. D is back in the States after living in London for a year and a half. We did our damnedest to stay in touch during that time (my two visits overseas and her several visits to Cincinnati) and I am so so thrilled at the thought she is moving back to our fine continent to take an anchoring job in Eugene, Oregon.
Kate and Denae at the Heineken Brewery tour - Amsterdam - October '07
The return to America is not without some heartache for D Money. The former Local 12 anchor/reporter left the US to get her Masters in International Journalism at London's University of Westminster. She graduated with a brain full of knowledge and a heart full of love. D met an amazing man while overseas and has had to grapple with the challenge of leaving her love for an opportunity to return to the broadcasting business.
We stayed up until 4:00 in the morning yesterday talking about personal goals, challenges and of course the old fashioned gossip that girlfriends have shared since the dawn of time. D's visit went by like a flash but I am thrilled I won't have to bring my passport along next time I visit her.
Saturday night I spent my evening with my good friend Jos. I had tickets to see Dance Brazil at Cincinnati's legendary Music Hall and I brought Jos along since he says he's up for anything. Jos had also indicated he wanted to check out this grand dame of local performance halls someday and Dance Brazil seemed as good a time as any.
Jos and I passed the time before the performance checking out the crowd and admiring the grandeur of the historic hall.
The performance was interesting - the physicality of the dancers was amazing and Jos and I were both simultaneously stunned and jealous of their muscle tone.
After the performance we headed to one of my favorite dining spots - Andy's Mediterranean in Walnut Hills. Great marinaded chicken kabobs and the babaganoush was zesty. The evening was a perfect opportunity to get all dolled up and forget about my worries.
My biggest distraction over these recent days is the news that I am leaving the broadcasting business.
I've spent the past nine years toiling in local news and I've learned a lot. Now I am heading to a new opportunity in the non-profit world. I start my new position in my new career in two weeks and I cannot wait!
I'll tell you a little bit more about my new adventure in the days ahead, but needless to say my heart is a bit uplifted because of the promise of future opportunities. challenges and personal growth.
Thanks to all of you for your wonderful prayers, kind e-mails and comments on the blog about my niece.
My family and I are truly grateful to know we have so many dear friends interested in and caring about our little Maevey. I got a call from my dad at 2:30 pm Friday afternoon letting me know Maeve's operation was over.
Doctors told my sister Brigid and her husband Steve the surgery was a success but that there are still several complications in play.
The good news is doctors discovered the left side of Maeve's heart is fine. This is excellent because that's the more important side of the heart - it directly pumps blood to the brain and body.
The right side, though, it's a mess.
The right side of Maeve's heart (which pumps blood to the lungs) had a faulty valve that surgeons removed. Doctors told Brig and Steve that the baby doesn't need the valve now but will need it when she's five or six - and that at least two other heart surgeries can be expected down the road.
The doctor also confirmed that a heart transplant may be needed eventually.
Maeve's heart has been working overtime to keep that little girl alive and so the muscle itself has gotten quite tough - about the consistency of a body builder's heart (I don't believe Miss Maevey's been pumping any iron when Mom and Dad weren't looking), and this is apparently not a good thing. Doctors hope the heart will soften over time.
Doctors initially said Maeve was going to stay in the hospital for 10 days. Right now she is in an ICU unit with other cardiac babies and was expected to move to a private room next Wednesday or Thursday. This new room would have a bed for Mom or Dad to stay so they could catch some ZZZZs while hangin' with Maevey.
Yesterday afternoon the doctors stressed Maeve was in for a tough recovery and that proved true last night. Some complications arose and doctors had to re-open Maeve's chest last night. Brigid said in an e-mail that doctors are keeping Maeve's chest open for a few days - I am not sure what the circumstances are leading to this situation but we are confident little Maevey is getting the best medical care available in the world.
We are fortunate that Maeve's treatment is at the Sibley Heart Center at Atlanta Children's Hospital. The journalist in me was comforted in knowing Child magazine ranked Sibley as one of the top three pediatric cardiac programs in the nation.
While Miss Maevey is getting the best possible care available through modern medicine - our family believes science and technology alone will not heal this little girl.
We continue to ask for your prayers and kind thoughts.
I'll keep you updated on the blog, KtG (or in this case, Aunt Katy)
This weekend she was a smiling, wide-eyed child whose gaze was glued to her parents' whereabouts. I spent the weekend making goofy faces and talking in a high-pitched tone, exchanging conversation with a five-month-old. Maeve would moan her own "words" and then a smile would shine between her pillowy cheeks when Aunt Kate would mimic the same low, nasal groan.
Out little conversation of moans and smiles lasted about 15 minutes. I spent the rest of the time singing silly songs and cooing glowing affirmations.
Little did we know Maeve would take an ambulance ride to the hospital one day after my visit.
*** *** ***
Maeve battles chronic acid reflux and so feeding time is an occasion ushered in with tears - tears of hunger and tears of dread. Maeve is so so hungry sometimes and yet she knows the 90 mL of milk she needs to drink (she only eats as much as a newborn and so she has extra feedings through the day) will hurt going down - and back up.
Feeding Maeve is an ordeal.
Where most babies would spend five to 25 minutes drinking a bottle - it takes Maeve about an hour. Then Bridge or Steve must burp her gingerly as to help prevent Maeve from spitting up. The whole process is tense if Maeve is keyed up and crying. Sometimes my sister or brother-in-law will try to get the baby to fall asleep before feeding her because then Maeve is more likely to take the bottle without any trouble.
Monday night Steve was taking a turn feeding Maeve. Bridge decided to take the opportunity to go to the grocery store - a chore for most people has become a welcome break from the challenges of feeding a five-month-old.
Bridge arrived back at the couple's Suburban Atlanta townhouse and found a crisis in progress.
Steve was trying to help Maeve, who had turned blue. They grabbed one of the oxygen tanks on hand from when Maeve came home from the hospital to try and help her breathe better. The baby was born with a laundry list of health problems and we were anticipating an open heart procedure in a few weeks, but this new situation proved to need instant attention.
Bridge held on to her sweet baby as Steve drove the young family to a neighborhood hospital a quarter mile from home.
Medical personnel attended to Maeve, and then she and my sister got in the back of an ambulance bound for Atlanta's children's hospital. Steve followed behind in the family car - running red lights and breezing through traffic along the way.
*** *** ***
Today we learned Maeve had a collapsed lung and yet another heart problem (congenital heart flaws now number four). Doctors are uncertain what came first - the new heart trouble or the lung problem, but they are certain Bridge and Steve saved the baby's life.
Maeve was originally admitted to the Trauma ER but is now in the cardiac ICU. Doctors have pushed up her open-heart surgery from sometime in April to this Friday.
My parents and I would take a trip to Atlanta in a heartbeat - but Bridge has asked us all to stay put. She says she'd rather avoid the commotion of a hospital full of anxious family members, but will let us know if our support is needed.
We are literally waiting by the phone - on our knees in prayer.
Who Was St. Patrick? St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.
Taken Prisoner By Irish Raiders It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)
Guided By Visions After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice-which he believed to be God's-spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation-an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission-to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)
Bonfires and Crosses Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. (Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick's life became exaggerated over the centuries-spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.)
The muddy brown snow and the salty remnants of road treatment are wreaking havoc on the bottoms of my pantlegs. My car looks like its paint job was finished with a dusty, gritty glaze left behind by last weekend's snowfall.
Yeah. I'm ready for spring.
I finally broke down and got some razors for my second annualFirst Shave Of The Season - because I know skirts and capri pants will soon be making the rounds (well, all except for the chicks at FNC).
I know spring is eight days away can you tell someone's counting? but I'm a bit anxious to get on with the warmer weather so I'm taking a trip to Atlanta Friday, where I am looking forward to temps in the 60s (or higher), sunshine and warm attitudes.
The escape to warm weather is a bonus - my primary objective is to spend some quality time with my niece, sister and brother-in-law. The Bean is just over five months old and is apparently quite the flirt.
I haven't seen my niece since November and I'm told she's gotten quite big and is developing a sassy personality.
I just finished watching the documentary on the credit crisis, Maxed Out.
The film was made in 2006 so it only hits the tip of the iceberg in relation to this nation's financial quagmire.
Like most Americans, I have my own financial bumps and bruises - fortunately I started only paying with cash three years ago. Since then, I've taken a couple trips to Europe, the East Coast, Las Vegas and not a penny of it was put on credit.
There is some security and comfort in knowing I don't have to pay someone tomorrow for the food I'm eating today.
That said, I still have a few kinks I'm trying to work out from yesterday.
I was one of those suckers college students who signed up for a few credit cards to get free t-shirts/wate bottles or other crappy promotional items. It's amazing - my credit limit was no more than 300 bucks - and yet the debt on two of those cards escalated to something around $1500 each when compounded by late fees, over-the-limit fees and other charges.
That's what happens when a college student with no job is given a little bit of credit she can't afford.
I now have a $200 limit credit card that I typically pay $50 on each month - even though the minimum payment is 15 bucks. I have improved my credit rating thanks to those consistent payments and those which I'm making on my car.
I am not exactly rolling in money. People don't get into my line of work to build up a solid financial portfolio, and I don't live the luxe life enjoyed by many of my friends in the corporate world. That said, I am fortunate I can fill up my gas tank, afford the rent, my utility bills, car payments and insurance and still have a good chunk of cash left over for my sophisticated eating and drinking habits.
But I used to have night sweats and sleepless nights five years ago.
That was when the creditors were calling. That was when I was playing a shell game - using the rent money to cover the late car payment, and then paying the rent late. It was a massive orchestration of liquid assets - I still can't believe I kept most of it straight.
My tax bracket is a good bit higher than it was five years ago and I am confident my salary will continue to rise and be at a different place five years from now.
Hopefully I'll still rely on my cash and not my credit.
This movie - Maxed Out - you should really see it if you've ever struggled with staying afloat.
The film doesn't just reveal the financial irresponsibility of people like you and me, it also paints a picture of a federal government with blinders on when considering its own fiscal obligations. It's shocking how the U.S. government has raped the Social Security fund to cover our interest payments to the foreign nations that have lent us money over the years.
The national debt will continue to escalate, our obligations will continue to mount - as will the amount of resources our nation continue to shirk.
The documentary shows a great clip of President George W. Bush talking about how we were financing the Iraqi war through loans. This was at a press conference about how he decided to raise the national debt cap to $800 billion. A reporter asked W. why he didn't want to impose a debt on the Iraqi government for our commitment to their nation.
The President replied that those people didn't need to be weighed down with a heavy debt, and that the only currency they would have to pay us back was oil.
And that's when he said surely something will be worked out down the road.
I guess I don't understand why Generations X and Y are expected to pay for this war with our Social Security contributions. We can't afford it, and it looks like our government is just as trapped in the credit crisis as its people.
So this is how it looks like it's boiling down:
There won't be any Social Security for anyone who's likely 35 or younger (and Medicare is going to run out even more quickly).
Most people don't have the cash to contribute to their 401k because they're embroiled in debt.
The federal government has made it even more difficult to file bankruptcy and get a clean slate from those ruthless collectors.
Debt portfolios (which include outstanding accounts belonging to you and me) are one of the most lucrative and most traded things on Wall Street these days.
GOP Big Wig sent me an email today that broke down each astrological sign.
I thought mine was dead on...
SAGITTARIUS - The Happy Go Lucky One (Nov 22 – Dec 21) Good natured optimist. Doesn't want to grow up (Peter Pan Syndrome). Indulges self. Boastful. Likes luxuries and gambling. Social and outgoing. Doesn't like responsibilities. Often Fantasizes. Impatient. Fun to be around. Having lots of friends. Flirtatious. Doesn't like rules. Sometimes hypocritical. Dislikes being confined – tight spaces or even tight clothes. Doesn't like being doubted. Beautiful inside and out.
There is something so delicious about throwing on the coat, grabbing your drinking key and walking to the end of the block for a couple beers and a bite to eat.
In my case, it is the fine Habits Cafe in the heart of Oakley Square.
I lucked out and had the day off from work today. Unfortunately I still had to head out for an appointment in Mt. Auburn this morning - I spent an hour and a half driving back to my neighborhood through the first round of wicked snowfall. Madison Road was a complete bitch and I entertained myself by singing very loudly to the fine mixology offered by 94.9 The Sound. The traffic crawled along the icy swath through East Walnut Hills and dodged the terribly inconvenient/frequent red lights of O'Bryonville.
Eventually I made it to the outskirts of Hyde Park and I knew I was only a few painful minutes away from a nice, cold pint.
I finally cruised through the square and dashed inside my apartment to put on my weekend uniform of comfy jeans and a cozy sweater. Then it was time to suit up for serious business - the three minute walk down the corner to sweet salvation.
I toted along some old newspapers and magazines I'd been meaning to tackle and picked a spot in the center of the long, wooden bar.
The bartender took my drink order and returned in a flash with a tall Bell's Two-Hearted Ale (which is my new favorite beer of the moment. It's a great IPA out of Michigan with a solid, crisp flavor. I suggest you try it if you see it on draught at a bar near you) and dropped a menu. I was going to need it because while my taste buds were salivating for the Habits Grilled Cheese, my sometimes reluctant dedication to Catholicism reminded me it was a Lenten Friday and so that meant no bacon between all that greasy goodness.
Instead, I went with the fish and chips - it was great, though the herbs and seasonings on the fish made me think The Colonel was working back in the kitchen, but I knew the likelihood of that was directly related to whether the Second Coming had begun.
...What's up with all the religion in this post?
I followed the Two-Hearted with a nice pint of Smithwick's (am I the only one who is incredibly annoyed by people who can't pronounce this beer correctly? I hear the incorrect version and it makes me think of nails on a chalkboard) and a perusal of the travel section from last Sunday's paper.
The bar got incredibly crowded as the afternoon passed on. More people poured in off the street, brushing big, fluffy flakes off their North Face. The virgin white gusts swirled around on the other side of the tinted plate glass and I gazed longingly out the window with my cold suds in hand.
The afternoon was something I wanted to savor - not just on an epicurean level.
The romance of the snow, the free afternoon and the solitude was not lost on me.
As we walked through the door, I felt like maybe some bouncers were going to come out from nowhere and force me to leave.
Two drop-dead women stood at the hostess stand in dresses that Wardrobe grabbed from a rack at White House Black Market. Every hair was in place as they poured over the seating chart and considered where they'd seat the likes of us.
We weren't exactly the Beautiful People, but the chicks at the door were astute in surmising we had the cash (or credit) to cover the cost of dinner.
So they sat us at a table facing the spectacular open kitchen.
Despite the intimidation factor at the door, we felt quite welcome and comfortable at our spot. In fact, Nada projects a definite feeling of warmth. The walls are covered in the color of a vibrant, fiery sunset. Diners can gaze over a wavy partition to check out the action in the kitchen. The steamy, sweaty scene is orchestrated by chef David Falk, and it's a perfect visual appetizer to get you all hot and bothered before your food comes.
Because what you'll get is the equivalent of porn on a plate.
Where the former Bella was sleek and cool to the point of distant, Nada has a just a dash of rustic mixed with gregarious sophistication.
My eyes soaked up the delicious offerings on the drink menu and decided to go with the simple Nadarita. The house margarita is a perfect way to judge the pouring talents of any bartender, and mine was a spot-on mix of tequila, triple sec and lime juice. The drink wasn't too tart, it wasn't overly sweet and the liquor didn't taste cheap - and for seven bucks it shouldn't.
Our service was exceptional and I am kicking myself for not remembering our server's name.
She knew the short-but-sweet menu inside and out and was glad to grab us a bowl of guacamole while we drooled over our options.
I'd heard about the guac from several people and my tastebuds were anxious to try the traditional concoction. The fresh dip was a bright, chartreuse green and fairly unadulterated save for a few chunky strands of onion on top.
As you can see, we didn't like it one bit.
I decided to sip on a mojito during my main course. It was full of bits of fresh, earthy mint and even with the rum it made me think of how Derby Day is only a couple months away.
The drink was a perfect acompaniment to the glorious orb of ceviche I savored. Ceviche is a common dish in Latin America - it involves using a blend of citrus juices to "cook" seafood. Different regions have their own techniques for preparing the dish and in Mexico the recipe for ceviche traditionally calls for tomatoes. I was pleased to dine on a sparkling jewel of shrimp and scallops bathed in a broth the rich red of a strong Bloody Mary. The scallops looked like floating angels and the chunks of shrimp were as big as pieces of Bubblicious bubble gum.
My spoon dove in to the gorgeous dish and fished out some of the seafood - the scallops were incredibly tender but the shrimp was just a dash too tough and rubbery. The ruddy broth was tangy - a mix of citrus juice, tomato and the flavor of clean cilantro. There were a few other elements I couldn't peg - all gave the ceviche an amazing depth.
I also enjoyed the macaroni and cheese - the flavor wasn't too sharp and cheesy, but instead very creamy and dotted with chunks of zesty jalapeno.
The mahi mahi soft tacos were okay. The soft, flour tortillas were filled with a a couple pieces of what looked to be pan fried fish, along with some lettuce, cheese and guac. The tacos were nice but they didn't really pop.
The manager sent over a dessert of caramel covered flan since we had to wait (seriously three extra seconds) for the tacos to arrive at the table. The flan was creamy, sweet and the perfect size to finish our meal.
The menu at Nada isn't as extensive as other places but it showcases a variety of carefully crafted elements to please your palate.
I am anxious for another visit to the restaurant, as long as I can get past the hostess stand.
Some people bury their feelings - I embrace them. There is something so genuine and cathartic about experiencing pure, unadulterated emotion. Like most people, I bask in the tingling warmth of joy, but I have to say it's pain and sadness that most remind me of my humanity.
To the rest of the world, I present a picture of contentment. Most people would assume I am happy with the circumstances of my life, but I pin my disposition on something else - an acute awareness of how fragile life is.
I'll admit it - I've shed my fair share of tears after seeing commercials shilled by Corporate America, but by in large my sensitivity is stirred by thought.
Sometimes a memory will flash through my brain, other times its a realization - a strong sense of love for my family, an appreciation for my life and its gifts, a moment of empathy.
Whatever it is, I'll take that feeling and suck on it like a sugar cube, wanting to prolong the experience.
And I think that's one of humanity's greatest gifts - the ability to feel.
These profound sensations, I guess they give me some perspective on life - and that's what keeps me going.
I wish more people took the time to consider the emotional path traveled by other individuals. Some of us are walking wounded - carrying inside the disappointment of diminished dreams or the anguish of exquisite heartbreak. Other souls are full of vengeful anger.
It is only with care, patience and understanding that we can begin to overcome the emotional obstacles that get in the way of sharing kindness.