Posts filed under ‘Life Preservers’

Never Forget

As time passes, we grow taller, we go grayer. We live and learn. We spread our wings and hit the earth with a thud. We swallow big wormy bites of knowledge. Our hopeful little faces get shoved behind the curtain for a good long look. And magic slips away, like baby teeth taken by force instead of fairies.

I’m five decades in, and I know storybooks are fiction. I know the good guy doesn’t always win. I’m well aware that things don’t turn out according to plan. I have figured out that the broken places are weaker, not stronger (and I remain baffled by the origin and existence of many other pithy adages).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an unhappy person or a truly cynical one, but my soul wears a tattered cape, and Hope is an aged and weary soldier who, sometimes, late into an evening, talks of retiring. I know bad things happen. I know terrible things happen. I’ve heard the unexpected phone ring. I’ve held a fragile hand. It is an awful, awful truth that you reach an age when you’re wise enough to know that the end is near.

But, here’s the thing:  Experience does not equal omnipotence.

Sometimes, you sit in a hospital room and cry — for joy. Sometimes, luck is on your side. Sometimes, prayers are answered. Sometimes,­ the news is good.

This past Sunday, our family celebrated Mother’s Day with a low-key, quiet dinner. Nothing fancy. No big surprises. Just a simple gathering with good food, three generations at the table, and lots of hugging. Best. Mother’s Day. Ever.

Some weeks ago, my Mom wasn’t feeling well, and we didn’t know what was wrong. On April 24th, we found out:  She had a bilateral subdural hematoma, which is blood accumulating in the skull, putting pressure on the brain. At 8:00 a.m. on April 26, she went into surgery.

I will never forget how it felt to let go of her hand that morning. I will never forget how it felt to wait, and only wait, because it was impossible to read or eat or speak. I will never forget that, except for some incredible luck, the grace of God, and my parents’ dogged attempts to get a fourth opinion, we would have lost her — but that is an abyss from which I must back away. So, instead, I will end with this. I will never again forget this:

My entire life, my mother’s love has been a selfless, unwavering certainty. It has been as steady an aspect of my being as breathing. So much so, that I may have at times treated it like something ordinary. Or as if it were something of mine, like a possession I earned or a prize I deserved. But it’s not about me. It’s not about me at all. It’s all about her. And I don’t know what I would do or who I would be without it.

May 17, 2017 at 7:10 pm 2 comments

Dear Andrew McCutchen


In response to Andrew McCutchen’s article, Dear Pittsburgh.


Dear Andrew McCutchen,

I wanted to sincerely thank you for your letter to me (and everyone).

I have been part of Pittsburgh since 1963. I remember 1971. I remember 1979.

I remember 1992, when a guy who had wished to stay in town and be a Pittsburgh Pirate, a guy who had offered to take a pay cut to stay in town and be a Pittsburgh Pirate, slid to the plate wearing a Braves uniform and knocked the wind out of this city.

I won’t rehash the Pittsburgh pIrate years except to say this: The biggest difficulty wasn’t the losing. We don’t need trophies to be happy (we have plenty). Sure we like to win, but we have our priorities straight. We do not like laziness. We do not admire greed. And we get rather peeved at those who crap on tradition.

In the midst of the bad years, I also remember June 4, 2009.

Your first game in Major League Baseball was a great game, and I was in the stands. You were a stand out, a bright spark, a star. And, as the cheering subsided and I walked to my car, I wondered how long it would be before you were traded away in the night for a handful of beans.

But they didn’t trade you. And you became The Guy.

You’re The Guy we got to hold onto. It was a symbol, a pivot, a change. You’re The Guy who had skill. The Guy who had heart. The Guy who liked being a Pirate. A leader. An inspiration. The Guy who brought confidence—and fun!—back to the dugout. The Guy who didn’t get lazy, didn’t stop trying.

You’re The Guy cynical, middle-age folk snuck a peek at while pretending not to care about baseball anymore.

You’re The Guy who set the tone for the team who gave baseball back to Pittsburgh.

And beyond all that, you’re you. And we love you.

We love you like we love an incline. We love you like we love a parade. We love you like we love pierogi made by little old ladies in the South Side.

We love you like we love rivers. We love you like we love ketchup. We love you like Christmas morning. We love you like Friday at 5:00. We love you like Primanti’s really late at night.

We love you like we love the street we grew up on. We love you like a neighbor. We love you like a friend. We love you like We Are Family.

We love you like our first baseball glove, the one Dad bought at Honus Wagner’s downtown. We love you like the crack of a bat. We love you like sunshine.

We love you like we love Mario. We love you like we love Myron. We love you like we love Bill Mazeroski and Willy Stargell.

We love that you want to be here. We love that you understand what baseball means to this town. We love that you love Roberto. We love your smile. We love your style. We love your game.

So, last season wasn’t the cherry on top. So what. We’re from Pittsburgh. We are very well aware that not every story would sell to Disney. We know turnarounds take time. We know setbacks make us strong. We weren’t worried.

Until the rumors started.

I heard the trade rumors exactly two days after I bought my brother a McCutchen jersey for Christmas.

(True story. When I saw a McCutchen jersey on a sale rack, I said aloud, in the store, “Huh, they’re not trading McCutchen are they?” And I laughed. I laughed! The sheer absurdity that the Pittsburgh Pirates organization would give up The Guy? That they would decide to trip momentum? Turn back time? No way. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Even for people who don’t give a damn about the love of Pittsburgh, the financial benefits of the resurgence had to be enough to keep them happy enough to not do something as preposterously, stunningly stupid as trading The Guy, right? I laughed.)

Such a punch to the gut. A reminder of 1992 and all that followed. The disconnected years. The fool-me-20-times years. And I wondered if maybe it was all a lie. Maybe nothing had changed. Maybe the plan all along had been to do the minimum required to lure in a new generation and then sit back and make concession/advertising/profit-sharing money for another 20 years. Maybe the decision makers still couldn’t see beyond their wallets to the soul of a thing, to the ripples of a baseball hitting a river, to the importance of The Guy.

I held my breath. I wrinkled my brow. I grew gray hairs. I expected the worst but I hoped.

And then.

Perhaps they recognized the importance of The Guy. Perhaps they saw the error of their ways. Perhaps a collection of lucky circumstances kept a deal from getting done. Or, perhaps, there is simply nothing that can stand against the fervent, collective wish of the people of Pittsburgh.

And perhaps it was coincidence that the news of you staying arrived and we got spring in February.

However it happened, dear Andrew McCutchen, we are very glad you are here.

Sincerely,
Beth Schmidt

February 20, 2017 at 3:22 pm 3 comments

Things That Helped Me Feel Better Today.

fb_flagIt’s a strange and surprising day and a very difficult one for a lot of people in America. I do not make light of anyone’s anger or disappointment, but I place here for anyone’s perusal, a list of things that helped me feel better today.

  • I have funny friends.
  • No President has ever kept all of his campaign promises.
  • Never forget that the media likes it when we feel terrified and sad. (That is when we tune in, and they make more money.)
  • Never doubt that the (established) government also likes it when we feel terrified and sad. (That is when they can add staff.)
  • I know people who are solid Trump supporters. They are not idiotic, racist, homophobic, or in any way deplorable. For now, I entrust my hope with them.
  • Talk to and listen to someone you respect who likes our President-elect. Not to change your opinion but to take the edge off of your despair.
  • Everyone who voted for Donald Trump cannot fit into that basket. (Some of you, oh hell yes, and you should really work on that, but not all of you, no way.)
  • I listened to his full speech on YouTube. (Note:  By design or not, Donald Trump had to give his acceptance speech when most people were sound asleep, which means the TV news channels have control over which sound bytes most people will hear.)
  • I haven’t relied on Fox or CNN for my news since 2012. I’m not as upset as most people. Perhaps there’s a correlation?
  • I am old enough to have seen many elections. Life goes on, kiddos. And it’s lovely either way.
  • Within the broad spectrums of political beliefs and ways of life, Republican and Democrat are more like bickering siblings than polar opposites.
  • Donald Trump will be a member of a branch of a government with so many built-in checks and balances that it is very difficult to get things done. And it’s like that on purpose.
  • He’s not a monarch.
  • He is not Hitler. (Note:  If you genuinely think Hitler could thrive in this country, you’re nuttier than a peanut cluster.)
  • I am not embarrassed to be an American. I went to the polls in red, white, and blue and a flag pin. I left the booth and said “Woo hoo!” to one of the election staff. Turns out, my vote was not for the winner. I still say, “Woo hoo! I voted!”
  • Last night, as I listened to the so-called experts talk about how no one saw this coming except for the Trump campaign, it struck me that Trump had better advisors than the Democratic Party and had better data than the mainstream news media. i.e., He picks incredibly smart, effective people to help him. That’s good.
  • I talked to my Mom, and she has promised not to move to Canada.

Take heart, America. You’ve always been great. You will continue to be great. You are not poll responses. You are not segments. You are not a political affiliation. You are individuals, each with the power to change the world around you. Maybe you don’t always have the power to pick someone you like for President. But you can be kind to your friends (and your enemies). You can be respectful of all Americans (and all peoples of the world). You can be you. (Pursue happiness! Be free!) You can be willing, perhaps tomorrow or the next day, to consider optimism. You can wait and see.

But please feel better today. I love you, America.

November 9, 2016 at 1:51 pm 2 comments

Your Cat Has Diabetes – Do Not Freak Out

Cat_diabetesSo, about eight weeks ago, with a heavy heart, I took Rocky, my beloved lug of a cat, to the vet. Based on symptoms shared over the phone, the vet thought he might be experiencing kidney failure, and I got a nearly immediate appointment at a very busy veterinary practice.

The diagnosis was not kidney failure. The diagnosis was feline diabetes. And I’m writing this post for anyone who might receive a similar diagnosis for his/her pet and, like I did, freak out a bit and start googling for more info.

MOST IMPORTANT THING:  Do not freak out. It will be okay.

Really.

When I first heard the diagnosis, I cried. Yes, of course, I cried because I was sad he was sick, and I cried from the relief of knowing that I didn’t have to make the toughest decision you make about a pet. But, real-life honesty? I also cried because I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to care for a pet with a chronic illness. The added expenses and the idea of giving shots twice a day (every day of my life for the next 5-10 years) was overwhelming. I cried because I was ashamed that his illness was my fault. And, hardest to admit but true, I cried for being the kind of horrible human being who thought for a moment that it might have been easier if it had been kidney failure.

I want you to know that was a very silly thing to think. So, do not freak out. You can do this.

Here’s what you need to know (and/or this is how it went with my vet; you should follow your own vet’s advice):

  • Not that long ago, a cat diagnosed with diabetes was put to sleep, but that is no longer the case. Feline diabetes is very treatable.
  • Some people might act as if you’re crazy for deciding to keep a pet with a chronic illness. Avoid that sort of person while you’re in the freaking out stage.
  • Remission can occur. It’s not a given, but it can happen.
  • Treating feline diabetes is not cheap, but it’s more manageable than it might at first seem.
    • The initial visit with tests needed for diagnosis was about $400.
    • A bottle of insulin is $125, but, the dosage for a cat is so small, that bottle might last two months. Or longer.
    • Syringes are about $30 for a month’s supply.
    • Glucose checks are about $30 each. (And you’ll have to go weekly for a bit.)
  • The cat will need a high-protein, low-carb food. (The nice folks at PetCo helped me pick out Wellness Core.)
  • You’ll give your cat a practice injection before going home. It will seem preposterous. You can do it.
  • Giving the shots at home will also seem preposterous for a while. But, trust me, it becomes easy. (Way easier than wrestling a pill into this guy’s mouth, I can tell you.)

In under two weeks, the main symptoms (excessive drinking and urinating) had completely disappeared. Since then, Rocky lost weight and the quality and softness of his coat improved. Today, I took him to the vet (Always Compassionate Vet Care in the South Hills, a truly wonderful life preserver) for another glucose check. There was good news and bad news.

The bad news:  We have to go back again in a week for another check because his glucose numbers are still too low.

The good news:  She thinks his glucose isn’t regulating correctly because he’s going into remission.

Good boy, Rocky. Good boy!

That would be the best possible news, and I am happily goosebumped at the possibility. But, here’s the important bit:  Even if that is not the case, it’s okay.

I’m two months into this now. Giving the shots is nothing more than part of the feeding routine. I’ve had to begin setting an alarm seven days a week to get the timing right, but that hasn’t been as awful as I thought it might be. I’m less nervous about remembering everything. I’m less clumsy with the syringe. Haven’t stabbed myself in weeks. I missed a shot one day because of a client meeting, and the world did not end. Even wrangling Rocky into a carrier for vet visits has become (nearly) routine.

Remission would be absolutely awesome. But, if that’s not the case, I won’t freak out.

October 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm 2 comments

Things I Learned From Jody Lange

Cuter than Dumbledore, more upbeat than Virgil, cooler than a majorette, and way smarter than a lemming, she led the way . . .

Continue Reading September 24, 2016 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

Let’s Be Friends

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump never helped me toilet paper a house.

Continue Reading July 22, 2016 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

The Present, for Alex

Sometimes, in the resurfacing of a memory, you find treasure.

Continue Reading June 25, 2016 at 10:20 am 2 comments

A Very Good Day

Pompeii_steepleEaster is a Christian day — one of the most holy days. Those of Christian faith do not need me or a blog to understand this day. But today I write for everyone else; because, especially in the light of recent events, today is a day worth noting.

Whether you believe the story of this day to be fact, fable, or fantasy, it is a day worth celebrating because Easter is about that rare and wonderful thing we see too little of in life (and religion):  Pure Joy.

Easter is the one official day of the year designated to remind us that miracles can happen. It is about being brave in the face of the impossible. It is a tale about friendship, loyalty, and love. It is about being true to what matters to you.

Easter is the day to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. It is sunrise after the darkest night. It is the beautiful surprise of happiness after deepest sorrow. This is a day that reminds us all:  No matter what — no matter how you struggle, no matter what you face, no matter how terrified you may be — you can always, always, always find hope in tomorrow.

And that’s a pretty good day. That’s a life preserver.

He is risen. It is spring. There is goodness in the world. Happy Easter.

 

Photo may not be used without permission. © Beth A. Schmidt. All rights reserved.

March 27, 2016 at 10:26 am 4 comments

Let’s Go Bowling

Life Preservers Blog Let's Go Bowling 2I used to say, If I win the lottery, I’ll buy a tropical island and live there in sunny bliss with a couple of gorgeous cabana boys. Today, the 22nd of January, 2016, with snow piling up outside, I announce to you this official change to my Lottery Winning Prospectus:

If I win the lottery, I will buy a bowling alley.


 

I just found out that Route 19 Bowling Center (the place where I currently bowl) will be gone in a few months. Done. Gone. Bulldozed. For a mall.

Crap.

I like that bowling alley. I like bowling. I like bowling night.

Bowling is a family-friendly, date-friendly, friend-friendly, clutz-friendly, age-friendly outing. It’s an inexpensive bit of fun. It’s a stress-free escape. It’s a place where everybody gets a level playing field, and being average is perfectly all right.

I’m a single person who works from home. Bowling night is a life preserver. On bowling night, I get to leave the house. I get to knock down pins, knock back a couple of brewskis, hang with my friends, and laugh a full week’s worth. Bowling is the last vestige of Younger Days, when nights out were almost nightly. It is also the near end of a thread that weaves back even farther, to my earliest childhood . . . if an unsanctioned four-year-old wearing no shoes, standing at the foul line, and dropping a 12-pound ball onto a big toe can be considered bowling.

That cherished moment took place at the Mt. Royal Bowling Alley in Glenshaw, an alley within walking distance of where I grew up. It’s where I won my first bowling trophy.

I should note that (A) it was a mother-daughter tournament with the winning score based on a combined total; (B) my mom is a really good bowler; and (C) it’s where I won my only bowling trophy. But I broke 80 that day, my mom kicked butt, and we took first place. In the tangled jungle of my aging brain, that moment is a sun-drenched clearing. Unadulterated joy. Vainglorious triumph. In my mind, that bowling alley is perfectly preserved.

In real life, it’s a drug store.

Folks in the North Hills of Pittsburgh will also remember another once-great bowling alley: McKnight Lanes. That building is now a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. (I still stick out my tongue anytime I drive by.)

McKnight Lanes is where I bowled in my first league and enjoyed many happy, silly times as a kid, a teenager, and a young adult. I broke in my very own bowling ball there in the late ’70s. It is actually the same ball I used right up until a couple of months ago when it was, well, broken in completely. (See photo to fully appreciate bad pun.)Life Preservers Blog Let's Go Bowling

Mount Royal Lanes. McKnight Lanes. And now, Route 19 Bowling Center. The three main places I have bowled, gone, gone, and going soon.

I am bummed. I am sad. I am disappointed with the world.

I want to wail like a four-year-old with a bowling ball on her foot.

Yeah, I know. Time rolls on. Things change. And, while I kind of adore the tradition and kitsch of bowling, it’s not the everyman activity it used to be. I know not everybody loves bowling. But do we really need another mall?

No. We do not.

We need more bowling alleys. Bowling alleys with cabana boys.

January 22, 2016 at 8:01 pm 2 comments

Anna & Oscar Schmidt

In 1916, Anna Groll met Oscar Schmidt. And the rest is half of my history.

The Schmidts are a special kind of life preserver.

We like jokes:  good jokes, bad jokes, new jokes, old jokes, older jokes, and jokes your great great grampa fell out of his cradle laughing at. We appreciate clever wit, dumb puns, and the corniest corn. We enjoy intentional and unintentional physical comedy. We love practical and impractical jokes. We like to make other people laugh, and getting our own family members to laugh is one of our favorite things.

Seriously, if we were in a situation where the sound of one tiny titter could trigger an avalanche that would kill us all, someone would tell a fart joke.

(And you know Joel just giggled at the phrase tiny titter.)

As much as we like to laugh, we like to talk. We are story tellers. We are enthusiastic conversationalists. We have this hereditary ability to take part in three to four conversations simultaneously, which comes in handy in a large family. Sometimes, after an evening together, going back out into the real world is like being in a bar when the music suddenly pauses.

I guess what I’m saying is, we’re loud.

We are a down-to-earth and practical people. We were taught to live by good, old-fashioned values. Do what’s right. Help others. Be kind. Tell the truth. Share your stuff. Honor your parents. Help with the dishes. Don’t leave your camera unattended at a family get-together.

And never ever ever forget that family is important — and that you are loved. From the day you are born til long after you leave this world, you will be cherished and adored, warts and all and always, no matter time nor distance.

And that’s a good counterweight for the merciless teasing.

If you’re not family, we won’t tease you . . . as much. But we’ll shake your hand and welcome you in and ask about your family and treat you like a long-lost friend. Even if you were only stopping by to take our order.

We presume jolly goodness in everybody. If you are a meanie or a sourpuss, you will confuse the heck out of us.

But we’ll try to make you laugh. And we’ll probably try to feed you.

We like to cook, and we like to eat, but mostly? We like to see other people eat what we have cooked. Bring us all together and we could feed an army. And send each soldier off with a leftover container. And a hug. And a story about Grandma’s donuts or Aunt Theresa’s nut rolls. Or Uncle Tom’s mashed potatoes, Aunt Margie’s green beans, Aunt Annie’s maple brownies, or Uncle Joe’s fried sweet potatoes. Or a time you picked berries at Aunt Marie’s and she put them in a pan on the stove and made the best jam you had ever tasted (or ever will). Right on the spot. Without a recipe.

And I’m sorry if I just made you tear up. Or feel hungry. But you know and I know there’s a crowded, bustling kitchen in the afterlife. And it smells like heaven.

Yes, we are also a sentimental people. And, despite a great deal of splashing about, our waters run deep. We know heartache can be survived. We know Goodness triumphs. We know the world isn’t perfect. We know Life can be funny. We know we are blessed and lucky.

We are who we are. Because sweet Anna Groll met Oscar the nut.

August 12, 2015 at 6:05 pm 1 comment

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