Sunday, December 28, 2008

Working Mom, Crazy Mom? Part Two: When It's Time to Change, You've Got to Rearrange

Every new mom is a sleep-deprived mom. If you find one who tells you she doesn't feel groggy most of the day, she's either lying to you or she has round-the-clock nanny service.

Part of the problem is that infants don't really have a set routine, no matter how much you try to create one for them. Their sleep patterns can change from week to week or even day to day; they become more active with each passing hour; and you never know what's going to set them off and have them crying and in need of their mothers' arms.

In short, your life is not your own when you're a mom.

When my first child turned six months old, I decided to devote my days to her. Outside of her nap time and the hour she spent in the babysitting room at the YMCA while I worked out, she was my constant companion, and her needs dictated almost every move I made. I still intended to write, but there wasn't time in the day for that, so it was time to make a few adjustments.

The beauty of working from home is that you can do it anytime you like and in whatever clothes you choose. As long as you make your deadlines, you could be working at 3 in the morning in a bunny suit and your employers wouldn't care.

So my workday became my work night. At 10:30 p.m., once the baby and my husband were safely in bed, I would slip into my pajamas and start my writing assignments. Those were my younger days, when there was no internal clock telling me it was way past my bedtime. I would simply work until the work got done.

Some evenings I wrote from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. At other times, when I was faced with more than one deadline at a time, my work night was much, much longer. I distinctly remember several occasions when I dragged my exhausted body to bed, only to hear my husband's alarm sound off five minutes later. Luckily, the baby was past getting up in the middle of the night, and because we put her to bed late, she usually didn't stir until at least 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning.

The work got done, my child's needs were being met, and all seemed right with the world. Except for one thing: If I didn't get more than five hours of sleep in a night, I was...well, I guess you could say mean. Or moody. Or forgetful. Or crazed. Or all of the above. In short, as I look back, I was a mess several days out of the week.

At the time, I certainly didn't see myself as a sleep-deprived lunatic. I was just doing what I thought was natural: taking care of a house and a child during the day and working all night. That sounds completely natural and doable, doesn't it?

My husband appreciated the extra money I was bringing in, but not the extra doses of mania and hormonal imbalances. "No one asked you to stay up all night writing," he said to me on more than one occasion after I had ranted and raved about how tired I was. Well, no, but I had to stay up to get the work done, didn't I?

Who knows. Before we saw just how crazy I could become from my nutty schedule, the situation changed. Another baby plopped into our lives. And then another. And soon I found myself with three children under the age of four, a big house to care for, a husband to keep relatively happy and a workload that would have been doable if I didn't also have the full-time career of motherhood.

Instead of throwing in the writing towel and choosing to focus on the ultimately more important, albeit less financially rewarding, job of being a housewife, I changed my schedule again. And again. And again. Each time a new child arrived or one child developed a new sleeping habit, I adjusted my work schedule to accommodate.

The process worked, for the most part. I made sacrifices in a lot of areas, missing a deadline to care for a sick child, or worse, missing the opportunity to play "Simon Says" with my children so I could complete a project. No matter how I rearranged, I couldn't stay caught up with everything. One thing always managed to catch up with me, though: GUILT. Oh, the guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt.

But we'll save that story for next time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Working Mom, Crazy Mom? Part One: In the Beginning...

Note: This is an ongoing series of blog posts aimed at answering a question that has been plaguing me, and no doubt other women, for several years: Is it a good thing or a bad thing for a mom to work from home? In this series, I'll explore my own experiences--good, bad and just plain frightening--and hopefully gain insight from other working moms.

"I'm going to keep writing from home after I have the baby," I told a friend of mine nine years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child.

If I remember correctly, she dropped the receiver and made loud snorting noises.

When she finally returned to the phone, slightly more composed, she had only one line for me: "Good luck, honey."

"Why?" I asked, filled with indignation and pregnancy hormones. "I can write from home; I'm doing it now."

"You'll see. It's hard," she said. Humph, what does she know, anyway?

For the first six months of my daughter's life, I praised myself for being the mom who could care for an infant, cook, clean and earn a paycheck at the same time. "I am woman, hear me roar," I found myself happily singing.

Then Mia learned to reach for things, like the computer keyboard, and to grab my attention by yelling at the top of her lungs. Hard to conduct a phone interview with that in the background. And that was the beginning of the end. Mia learned how to push my buttons faster than a fish learns how to swim. She knew how to distract me from my work, and how to get me to throw my hands up in the air, take her on my lap and start to hum the annoying songs of "Barney."

Of course, I had to admit to my friend that she was kind of right. She knew what lots of mommies know: Working from home while caring for young children is both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because...

1.) You are there to see all the "firsts": sitting up, crawling, walking and talking. You don't have to hear about them from the babysitter or the daycare provider.

2.) You can spend time teaching your child in a relaxed atmosphere. I can remember sitting on the floor and connecting two blocks over and over again. "Together, apart. Together, apart," I'd repeat to help Mia connect what I was doing with the words I was saying. Not that I couldn't have done things like that if I had worked outside the home, but I probably would have been so tired at the end of the day that I would have fallen asleep with the blocks in my hands.

3.) When they get older, you are there as the children get on the bus in the morning and get off in the afternoon. (Except for those afternoons when you are trying to finish up a deadline project and praying that the bus is a little late, but it arrives six minutes early and your children show up at the back door with their hands on their hips asking over and over, "Where were you?" So you make it up to them by plying them with chocolate chip cookies.)

A curse because...

1.) You feel guilty that you are constantly putting the child aside to do work or putting the work aside to take care of the child.

2.) You give up nice work clothes for drool-stained sweatpants, and you can't remember if you brushed your teeth or washed your hair this morning.

3.) No matter how hard you try, you feel that you will never accomplish a single task--from folding the laundry to fulfilling an order for a client--for the rest of your life.

A working mom is nothing if not flexible, and so you find yourself rearranging your days--and your nights--to make things work. And that will bring us to the next post in this series: "Time for a Few Adjustments."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Illegal or Immoral: What's More Important to Teach our Children?

Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz wrote in Sundays' newspaper about the frighteningly popular trend of teens taking and distributing naked pictures of themselves. Eight people between the ages of 14 and 16, all students at a suburban Cleveland high school, were distributing naked photos that were originally taken by a young girl who wanted to show her ex-boyfriend "what he was missing."

None of the kids knew that circulating such photos was illegal. Even more surprisingly,none of them seemed to know it was just plain wrong.

Schultz's column encourages parents to talk about the dangers of circulating naked photos because, if caught, they could be labeled sexual predators, a title that will follow them for years into their adulthood.

No parent wants his or her child going to juvenile court and possibly having a horrible moniker attached to his or her name. So how best to keep this from happening: Do you first explain that acts such as distributing nude photos is illegal, or do you start by explaining that such acts are immoral? Do you stress that it would be unfortunate to be labeled a criminal, or is it more important to stress the disrespect they are showing their own body or someone else's?

Here's the difference between my working class, ethnic upbringing and what seems to be going on today: If I had done something as stupid as distribute naked photos of myself to others when I was a teenager and my parents had found out, they would have slapped me upside the head and told me I had disgraced our family name and greatly embarrassed them. Believe me, I grew up believing that embarrassing my parents was far worse punishment than having to appear in juvenile court.

And if I had gotten tossed in JD or been held by the police, my parents would have left me there for a good long time in order to get their point across: What you did was really wrong and we are really, really, really upset. I imagine that it would have been safer for me to have spent a few days in a prison cell than go home and face my parents if I had committed a crime, especially one that involved exposing my naked body to others.

If my father's sisters did something deemed imprudent by the family, my Italian-born grandmother would say to them, "Non you shame-a youself." It was a simple sentence that, translated from broken English, means don't do something that you'll regret or that will cause others to look down on you.

Is there any action out there today that is deemed immoral or embarrassing? Increasingly, our moral code has been shot to hell. If it feels good, do it. Oh, but it could be illegal, so watch out.

Certainly there will be people who will say that if you tell a girl or boy that it's immoral to be nude then you're also telling them they should be ashamed of their bodies. Please note the difference: The human body in and of itself is a beautiful thing, but when someone (especially a young person) exposes the naked body to taunt someone else or to get a few kicks, that is degrading and demeaning.

Yes, we have to teach our children about right and wrong through the eyes of the court, but what about through our own eyes? What do you think about this?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Remembering What It Was All About in Youngstown

Our visit to my parents' house coincided with the Feast of St. Lucy, the patron saint of the church where I was baptized, made my First Communion and Confirmation and was married. The president of the Men's Society of St. Lucy wanted to bring back the traditional "festa," including a procession with the Italian and American flags and part of the liturgy spoken in Italian, as well as a small dinner with music after the Mass.

Even my mother was a bit perplexed by this. "Nobody speaks Italian in this church anymore," she complained to me the other day. But I had a feeling that most people in that beautiful church still recalled the wonderful Italian traditions and songs, and would be happy to relive them.

The service brought tears to my eyes, especially the priest's homily. He talked about the beginnings of the 70-year-old church, and the dedication of the people who founded it and made it strong. These were the same people who labored in the steel mills and fought in world wars. They spoke Italian in their homes and in their church, but they were Americans through and through. Their dream was to build a foundation in Campbell, Ohio, that could be carried on to their children and grandchildren.

But, as the priest said, by the 1970s, their dream began to crumble, through no fault of their own. The steel mills began to close, and young adults moved away in search of their own American dream. This, of course, was good on some levels. First- and second-generation Americans who otherwise might have stayed close to home were able to move to new locations, get a higher education and build their own foundations. At the same time, little Campbell and the other suburbs of Youngstown still stood, proud as ever, but gradually shrinking in population and in opportunities.

Through the decades, schools have closed, churches have closed and people find themselves traveling to far-off areas to visit their children and grandchildren. But the foundation is still there. Not everyone recognizes it, because they are so busy with daily issues. Yet every time I return to Campbell, Ohio, and that church with the elegant stained-glass windows (some bearing the names of my relatives who helped establish the church), I see the foundation, and I still believe.

At the Mass for the feast of St. Lucy, the priest said that the parish was still there for its children, even though they now live far away. He said the church still stands ready to greet them and welcome them home. I feel at home every time I enter that little town and that church. In their own small way, Campbell and St. Lucy and all the other ethnic Catholic churches that dot that landscape act as beacons guiding everyone toward family and worship, patriotism and charity. Inside St. Lucy, there is no disdain for one's country or fellow man; there's no rush hour traffic or pressing business meeting. It's as though life is like it was 70 years ago, full of hard work and simple pleasures. It is, I think, the way life was meant to be, although it didn't last.

Looking back on my eagerness to flee the Youngstown area in 1982, I feel a sense of sadness and guilt. Sadness because I gave up the comfort of that small-town love and hard work in search of something else. Guilt because maybe if I had stayed there, I could have carried on the dream that my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents helped to build. I wasn't the first or the only one to leave, of course, but I carry my share of the responsibility of what happened to my hometown like a heavy cross that I'm forced to shoulder alone.

And so I try in my own way to take a piece of that dream with me and share it with my children. We go back to my hometown often and visit St. Lucy for a dose of small-town humility and strength, and to be hugged and kissed by people who have known me since I was a chubby, shy, (natural) red-headed girl. I'm determined to teach my kids the bits of Italian I know, and to impress upon them the significance that communities like Youngstown once held in our country.

And then there's the message of St. Lucy herself. As children, we would sometimes giggle at the statue of St. Lucy, who holds a dish with a pair of eyeballs. The story goes that the young Lucy refused to marry a pagan and refused to forsake her Christian faith. Roman guards tortured her and gouged out her eyes. What they couldn't take away from her was her clear vision of what was good and true.

Martyr stories today don't seem to hold our attention. How can we relate to someone like this? The priest put it into perspective. Lucy, he said, is a symbol for us to see what's really important, and to realize that what we're looking for is within our reach. "We're all searching for the same thing," he said. "Happiness."

I've lived in large cities and traveled to places around the world, and it turns out that the "happiness" I seek always leads me back to my hometown and my hometown church. Small towns like Youngstown may be shadows of what they once were, but their basic values, principles and dreams are things we should never forget and instead try to emulate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Susan Mikolic Offers "Stepping Stones" to Mental Health

Please click the link below to read my latest small business profile on

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Layaway: A Blast From the Past

I love layaway. It's how I bought my first coat when I lived in New York City. There was no other way a dirt-poor, recent college grad making $15,500 a year and paying $500 a month for rent could afford one. I distinctly remember going to the Strawberry store by Grand Central Station and selecting a knee-length jean coat with a flannel lining. The price tag was too high for me, so I put down a modest sum and vowed to pay a little more every few weeks until I could finally call it mine. Imagine the pride and joy I felt as I walked out the door of Strawberry on the day I had finally paid off the coat! I purchased it without bleeding my bank account or incurring credit card debt.

Layaway has been a friend to my family for years. My mom frequented the layaway counter at the old Hills Department Store in Youngstown. Not only was it a good way to buy furnishings and other items that were needed but immediately necessary, it was also an excellent way for my mom to buy new clothes a little at a time without my dad hitting the roof.

So what happened to layaway? Did we all suddenly get rich and able to pay on-demand for everything we wanted? Of course not. Unfortunately, our parents' quest for us to have a better life than theirs led to our "I've gotta have it now" mentality. Why should I wait three months for a new coat, stereo or whatever when I can put it on my credit card and have it TODAY?

This is not a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I freely admit that I fell victim to this attitude more than a time or two. You see the newest item on the shelves, then see someone you know walking around with it and -- BAM! -- you find yourself coveting that thing and eventually making your way to the store to get one for yourself. Credit card fees be damned!

Now, as we find ourselves in a major financial pinch, layaway is making a comeback. According to a recent article in the New York Daily News, many department stores are reopening the layaway counter to encourage customers to get a jumpstart on Christmas shopping. (See )

Putting money down a little money at a time for items you can't necessarily afford right now is sensible and practical. We don't have to deny ourselves everything, but we can plan to acquire them when we are ready. This is an old-fashioned idea that we shouldn't pooh-pooh. Instead, we should recognize the situation we currently face (and probably will face for awhile), and embrace the options available to us to weather the storm.

Welcome back, layaway, we really need you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans' Day!

The only thing my kids wanted to know about Veterans Day was, "Why don't we have the day off?" Unfortunately, not enough is said about this holiday, except to inform people that banks and the post office are closed.

Veterans Day is not unique to the United States. On November 11 of each year, other countries celebrate the armistice that ended World War I. We called it Armistice Day, too, when it was declared a legal holiday in 1938. About 15 years later, President Eisenhower signed into a law a bill that declared November 11 a tribute to all veterans.

My father is a veteran. He served in Germany in World War II. He has stories about his time in the army--what went right and what went wrong, what it felt like to hold a gun and how he got conned into becoming a mess sergeant and, as he says, "the only idiot who would deliver food to the front lines."

But to truly understand what being a veteran means to my father, you have to see his eyes become moist every time he hears "The Star Spangled Banner." Listening to those words clearly reminds him what he and others fought for. He did his part-- whether it was cooking food for battle-weary and frightened soldiers or taking his turn on the front lines to face the enemy--to secure freedom, and I believe he continually prays that his great country will remain free.

My father passed along his nostalgia for the National Anthem onto me. I get emotional for different reasons. Sure, I'm proud of my country and I want it to be the best it can possibly be. But every time I hear the National Anthem, I also think about my father. I think about the sacrifice of fighting in a foreign land, the sadness of losing fellow soldiers and the fear of wondering if you'll be next.

I'm glad I am able to know so much about my father's time in World War II, and I'm thankful for what he did. And even though I don't have the day off, I'm happy that we have Veterans Day so we can honor those who did so much for us and for others.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Will New York Steal Cleveland's Medical Mart Hopes?

Here's the headline from Sunday's Plain Dealer :

"New York prepares its own Medical Mart"

Does everyone get the significance of this headline? If New York City goes ahead with a proposed $1 billion World Product Centre, Cleveland will once again be an almost-ran. We almost won the World Series in 1997. We almost became a world leader in medicine, healthcare and biotechnology. Unlike baseball, there will be no "wait until next year."

If this Medical Mart doesn't get built in Cleveland, it will be a lost opportunity to unite all of our medical prowess: major hospitals, innovative research, dynamic products. We will have pieces, but not the whole puzzle. Professionals in the medical industry will have to continue to travel the globe to convince people to invest in Cleveland, instead of people coming to us. Added jobs, greater traffic for downtown restaurants and hotels and heightened tourism are at stake.

We need our local leaders to feel the fire that's been placed beneath them, decide on a definite site on which to build and get this Medical Mart up and running. Let's go Cleveland!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trying to Feel the Magic of Obama

There was a time, not all that long ago (I'm not THAT old), when the victory of someone like Barack Obama might have sent me out into the street to rejoice. What a breath of fresh air! A man who really embraces "change" and knows that we all "hope" for a better future. He's young, he's amiable, he's got a beautiful family. So what if he's going to raise taxes for 5% of the country; look what he's going to do for the rest!

So what's my problem?

It's not that I've suddenly become a card-carrying Republican. In fact, I don't feel that I belong in either of the major parties anymore. It's definitely not race, because I think this should be viewed as the victory of the right man, not merely the black man. I am a little worried about that top 5% thing, because my husband just happens to be a hard-working, successful professional who is creeping closer to that magic number. And because we are by no means "rich," taxing us as though we were might have drastic consequences.

Nevertheless, that's not the real problem either. At my core, I am a product of the working class and all it stands for, so if it's my family's duty to "be more patriotic" and pay more taxes, I can try to embrace that.

Yet, after this momentous victory, I don't feel victorious. I feel...hollow. And I'm upset that I feel that way. So many people around me are talking about the dawning of a new day, a great time for change, a time when we can restore our significant place in the world and in history. Believe me, I pray that all of those ideas become a reality. I also pray that our economy recovers, that we're able to create new jobs that will make us world leaders and that we never again fall victims to a terrorist attack.

Obama talks about all of these things, and I want with all my heart to shout, "Yes, we can!" But I can't find depth in his words. I can't visualize his plans. I can't feel the magic.

Maybe I'm trying too hard. Maybe I'm not cerebral enough to truly comprehend all this man is promising to do. Maybe, just maybe, I am a little slow coming out of the gate. Perhaps, like doubting Thomas, I need to see with my own eyes what the man can do before I can believe.

If that's the case, then I'll eagerly await January 20, 2009 and the Obama presidency. In the meantime, I'll just keep trying to feel that magic.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Must Miss" Current Cleveland-Bashing

Alleged Travel Writing Expert Peter Greenberg has named Cleveland one of the 12 "Must Miss" places in the WORLD. You can read all about it in this Plain Dealer article:

I wrote a little email to Mr. Greenberg this morning. It goes like this:

Dear Mr. Greenberg:

On the front page of today's Plain Dealer, an article announced that Cleveland's West
Side Market was named one of the "10 Great Public Spaces in America" by the
American Planning Association, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit group that promotes urban and
rural planning.

According to you, Mr. Greenberg, no one from outside of Cleveland should ever visit the
West Side Market, or any other area landmark, because you've deemed Cleveland one of 12
"must miss" destinations in the world.

Your reason for putting Cleveland on this unglamorous list supposedly has to do with
certain areas in the city, including the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood and a stretch of
Kinsman Road. Not sure if you know this, but there are not really any tourist sites in
those areas! Nevertheless because of these spots, you are discouraging people from taking
in treasures such as Severance Hall, where the Cleveland Orchestra plays; the Rock Hall;
Playhouse Square, one of the most beautiful collections of theaters in the country; and
the above-mentioned West Side Market.

Let's see. The American Planning Association also names New York City's Central Park as
one of the best public spaces in the country. Indeed it is, but there are certain parts
of that beautiful park where I wouldn't walk after dark if you paid me. And aren't there
some pretty dangerous areas in New York City itself, even some a few blocks away from
Central Park?

You say you want people to "know what they're getting into" when they come to
Cleveland. But if you're telling people not to visit, there's no need to warn them about
that, is there? Most big cities have areas touched by poverty, decay, drugs or intense
crime. While it's imperative that cities work to clean up these areas, that doesn't mean
you can put a giant black eye around the whole city!

Why do you single out Cleveland as being a dangerous place to visit? I can't help but
wonder if some Steelers fans put you up to this.

Diane DiPiero
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

P.S. They put the fire out on the Cuyahoga River a few decades ago.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Event for Recurrent Breast Cancer Research: November 8

Please read the following press release and, if you can, attend the event on November 8 or make a donation:


“Miracles Happen” benefit to raise funds for Recurrent Breast Cancer
Research fund started in honor of cancer patient Diana Hyland of Shaker Heights

Cleveland, Ohio; October 23, 2008 – Miracles Happen, a new benefit to raise funds for recurrent breast cancer research, will be held Saturday, November 8 at Shaker Heights Country Club, 3300 Courtland Boulevard in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

The Diana Hyland Miracle Fund has been established with the mission to advance research for recurrent breast cancer -- focusing on new theories, trials and treatments aimed at managing the cancer and extending lives. University Hospitals Ireland Cancer Center is focused on becoming a leader in recurrent breast cancer research. Ongoing research will ensure that Ireland’s physicians and scientists can continue to develop tomorrow’s innovative therapies.

Ned Hyland of Shaker Heights, said, “We have created this fund and benefit in honor of my wife, Diana, who, after recovering from her first bout with breast cancer 10 years ago, is again battling the devastating disease. Our two children, along with our many friends and relatives, have been very supportive throughout Diana’s illness, however, we feel the need to do more. Our goal this year is to raise $1 million to partially establish an Endowed Chair in Metastatic Breast Cancer Research for Dr. Paula Silverman.”

Diana’s doctor, Paula Silverman, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Director, Breast Cancer Program and Ambulatory Services, Ireland Cancer Center, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, will make brief remarks at the benefit.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m., the night of celebration includes dancing, a silent auction and a gourmet menu designed by: Michael Symon, Iron Chef America and Owner of Lola and Lolita; Paul Minnillo, Owner of Baricelli Inn; and Michael Klocinksi, Head Chef at Shaker Heights Country Club. This will be the first of many events aimed at spreading awareness and raising funds for this critical research at University Hospitals.

Some of the latest statistics and facts state:
ß In 2008, approximately 40,480 women will die from breast cancer in the U.S.
ß Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
ß New research will potentially give hope to hundreds of thousands of women that are affected by this disease.

Tickets are $125 per person. Sponsorships are also available. Cocktail attire is suggested. For tickets or more information, contact Kate Werner at 440-995-4229 or visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Patton; Phone: 216-321-6746; E-mail:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Respect for Women? Really?

Today, in the Wall Street Journal, Catherine MacKinnon, professor of law at The University of Michigan, wrote a column about the ever-increasing need for women to be treated equally in legal and social matters. There is something else that women deserve and I fear are quickly losing: respect.

Clearly, some folks think that equality means you can speak to a woman with the same vulgar words you might reserve for a drunken guy trying to strike up a fight in a bar. Take, for example, the comment Jon Stewart had for vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

According to the Weekly Standard, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart spoke before a college audience in Boston, and at one point reflected on Sarah Palin's comment that small towns are "pro-America."

"She said that small towns, that's the part of the country she really likes going to because that's the pro-America part of the country," Stewart told the crowd, then he added: "You know, I just want to say to her, just very quickly: [expletive] you."

There was a time not all that long ago that if a man said such words to a woman--to her face or behind her back--he would be ridiculed and probably punched in the face by another guy. Today, however, trashing a woman who does not reflect your personal views is not only okay, it's expected and applauded.

There was also a time when a "working mom" would be saluted, especially one who embraced life, including that of a child with special needs. Now, it seems, those aren't respectable traits at all.

I am a lifelong Democrat who is quickly moving into the Independent category. I do not agree with everything the Republicans stand for, but I am embarrassed by the way many Democrat supporters have been acting toward Palin. You don't have to be in accord with all her policies, but do you have to completely rip the woman apart, politically and personally?

A few weeks ago, someone sent me a column by Roger Ebert, in which he expressed rage over McCain not looking Obama in the eye during one of their debates. "Obama is my guy," Ebert wrote. "If you are rude to him, you are rude to me." Fair enough.

I don't know if Palin is "my woman" (what does that exactly mean, anyway?), but I have oodles of respect for her and her refusal to cave into others when it comes to her political positions. If you disrespect her, you disrespect all women, including me. Someone should wash out Jon Stewart's mouth with soap, probably his mother.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pro-Life? Yes, I Am.

The other day, I revealed something to a good friend that I'm sure made her fall off her chair. She was expressing her concern that McCain, if elected president, would select Supreme Court judges who would make it possible to overturn Roe v. Wade. (For the record, I think McCain is far too moderate to do that.) I was kind of quiet, and then my friend said, "You're pro choice, aren't you?" To which I answered, "No...I'm not."

She let out the biggest gasp I've ever heard. "But I always thought you were." After that, we had a very civil 15-minute conversation about the subject before returning to less controversial issues.

After we got off the phone, I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed because I have known this person for 22 years, and I've never revealed my belief to her. I had to wonder: How many other of my family and friends assume I'm pro-choice? And what was keeping me from sharing with them something in which I so strongly believe?

I'm assuming there are others out there like me: Silent folks who hold a pro-life stance deep in their hearts but don't utter it in too many conversations. What exactly is our problem?

After a lot of soul searching, I've come up with some reasons why many pro-lifers keep their opinions to themselves. Some I can definitely relate to, others I can't, but I think they're all relevant:

1.You Don't Want to Offend Anyone. As Rodney King said, "Can't we all just get along?" And since we want to get along with everyone and respect everyone's opinions, we don't want to offend anyone with our own. But when we do this, we run the risk of allowing ourselves to be offended. Is it fair to yourself or others if you sit there in silence? Why carry a heavy heart just so others won't have one?

2.You Don't Want to be Seen as 'Anti-Feminist.' This one has always been surprising to me. By supporting the greatest privilege and gift a woman has--the ability to give life--you are somehow being anit-feminist? Some argue that you want to deny a woman control over her body? Actually, she has the greatest control before she gets pregnant!

3. You'll be Labeled a Religious Fanatic. Heaven forbid someone thinks that your belief is based on your faith! Keep in mind, though, that saying "It's against my religion" is not enough of a reason to be pro-life. Why does your religion oppose abortion? Do you agree with the reasoning and not just the declaration?

4. You'll Have to Get Into the Sticky Topic of Under What Circumstances, if Any, Abortion Should be Allowable. This is indeed a sticky situation. Do you believe it's okay in cases of incest or rape or when there is a potential threat to the health of the mother? Again, you have to have some basis for your argument, and you have to be sympathetic to the rare but nevertheless very real circumstances in which some women find themselves.

5. You're Afraid You'll Lose Friends or Family Members Who Disagree With You. What if you say something about being pro-life and your friend doesn't want to talk to you anymore? But your friend is pro-choice, and you haven't abandoned her, right?

I have known all along that many of my friends are pro-choice. That hasn't stopped me from being friends with them. I wouldn't expect anything less from them.

The shame is that if I had vocalized my opinion, we might have had a meaningful discussion about life and abortion.

It's not too late. After my friend got over the shock that I was pro-life, we talked a lot about both sides of the controversy. And we actually found common ground. We concluded that with all the talk that goes on about abortion, not enough is being said about how to avoid the situation in the first place. Maybe when opposing sides come together in a humane and dignified way, they can find common ground about how to solve a problem. But that can't happen unless we overcome our fear and speak up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Orphan" Diseases Find Hope Through Adopted "Families"

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease must be one of the most traumatic events in a person's life. The reassurance that research is continually finding new ways to control or cure this disease can ease feelings of sadness and uncertainty.

Imagine, then, learning that you have an "orphan disease," one that is rare and receives little direct funding for research. What is known about this disease? Is it brought on by environmental or internal conditions? How is it best treated? Is there a cure?

Aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) are orphan diseases. They are noncontagious, life-threatening illnesses together known as bone marrow diseases. Within a body's bone marrow, blood-forming stem cells produce red and white blood cells and platelets. When production is disturbed, problems can occur, such as severe anemia, infections and the inability for blood to properly clot.

If you aren't familiar with the names of the particular bone marrow diseases, it is probably because they are very rare. Approximately four new cases of aplastic anemia per one million people in the United States arise each year, for example. Nevertheless, you probably have heard of some of the people who have fallen victim to a bone marrow disease: According to the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, former Congressman Robert Matsui of California and writer Susan Sontag all died from complications related to MDS.

The only known "cure" for a bone marrow disease is a bone marrow transplant, but a patient must find a suitable donor. Even then, the body's system can choose to reject the transplant, causing further complications.

It's no wonder that many people with bone marrow diseases express frustration. Writer Mark Schreiber described his personal struggles in a January 2008 issue of Newsweek. "During my first trip to the oncology ward--oncology because there are no wards for aplastic anemia--four successive roommates, all leukemia patients, returned to their lives after receiving treatment while I stayed and reflected on mine...When you're an orphan you envy people with families, even such horrific families as cancer."

In the midst of Schreiber's grief over being diagnosed with an orphan disease, he found a father figure of sorts: Dr. Jaroslaw Maciejewski, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic. The Polish-born Dr. Maciejewski (pronounced ma-SHEFF-ski) is head of the Experimental Hematology and Hematopoiesis Section of the Clinic's Taussig Cancer Center, and his specialty interests revolve around bone marrow failure syndromes such as aplastic anemia, MDS and PNH.

Dr. Maciejewski is currently working on a study to investigate the viral causes of aplastic anemia.There is a great deal of evidence that at least a proportion of cases of aplastic anemia can be triggered by a virus that is as of yet unknown. In this study, bone marrow failure researchers will use a "viral chip" containing little pieces of DNA to identify a virus responsible for aplastic anemia and ultimately develop diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive measures.

The results of the study could prove beneficial to a variety of diseases, according to the doctor. "This could have a tremendous impact...on the improvement of care across the board of all [bone marrow failure] diseases," he says.

While the study brings hope to people like Schreiber, Dr. Maciejewski cautions that results may not be immediate. "Science is all about delayed gratification," he says. "The value could be quickly obtained, but it could result in a scientific lead that needs to be followed for years."

Those affected by bone marrow diseases understand what the doctor is saying; they also know that this study provides a great opportunity to get out of the "orphan" stage and determine real ways to fight the illnesses.

Two people who passionately believe in Dr. Maciejewski's work are Jeff and Sherri Kitzberger of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Their youngest daughter, Annalyse, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and PNH when she was five years old. She endured chemo and missed out on most of her kindergarten year.

Three years later, Annalyse acts like your average eight year old. She plays soccer, sells Girl Scout cookies and dreams of some day owning a dog. But the aplastic anemia and PNH that dragged down her immune system when she was five could rear their ugly heads again without warning. Every bruise or bump on Annalyse's body, every sore throat or persistent cough is a cause for concern for the Kitzbergers. With the help of Dr. Maciejewski and other doctors at the Clinic, the Kitzbergers feel less like "orphans" and more like part of a family of caring practitioners.

To lend support to the viral chip study, and raise awareness of bone marrow diseases, the Kitzbergers created Jungle Jam, a benefit taking place Friday, October 17 at Cleveland House of Blues. Five local bands will play: Blues de Ville, Eclyptic, Heart and Soul, Horizontal Party and Rusnak Jarrett Jazz. There will be an auction, hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Proceeds from Jungle Jam will go directly to Dr. Maciejewski's viral chip study.

In creating this benefit, the Kitzbergers have embraced all people diagnosed with bone marrow diseases, thus expanding the network of care, compassion and education. In their way, the Kitzbergers are helping to remove the "orphan" stigma from these diseases, with the hopes of someday completely wiping them off the map.

You have an opportunity to be part of the "adoptive family" for those with bone marrow diseases. Tickets for Jungle Jam are still on sale. You can also make a donation. For information, call Sherri Kitzberger at 216.312.3109, or visit

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let It "V"

It's only late September, and we're already in crisis homework mode at our house. Last evening, my daughter threw herself down on the dining room chair, shaking her head repeatedly as she chanted, "I can't do it! I can't do it!" It is a cursive lower-case "v."

Two weeks ago, she missed two words on her spelling test. In one word, her "v" looked like an "r"; in another, the "v" looked like a "w." In other words, she spelled the words right, but she wrote the letter "v" wrong.

At first I felt bad for her. What a shame, to know how to spell a word but miss it because you're having trouble with one of your cursive letters. I believe I even said something embarrassingly old-fashioned like, "When I was a kid, we never had spelling tests in cursive." (Why didn't I just go all out and announce that they hadn't even invented cursive when I was in grade school?)

Then it dawned on me that it wasn't I who was deciding what my daughter did and didn't need to know. It was the teacher; the person with whom I trust my child five days a week. If she thinks that a third grader should be comfortable enough with her cursive letters to use them on a spelling test, she's probably right.

Thus, the attitude at home immediately changed to, "Well, you just have to practice your "v." Which she has been doing. But she's still not doing them the right way.

And after an hour of frantic erasing, pencil-throwing and screaming, my daughter sits before me crumpled and defeated. Which leads me to do the only thing I can think of at this desperate point: Fix the letter for her. This is on her weekly homework assignment where she must write all of her spelling words twice, in cursive of course.

I wrote the "v" on the first word for her, certain that my little bit of assistance would no doubt help her to master the letter. "Do it just like this the second time," I tell her. She tries. She fails. The word "divide" looks like "diride." She passes the paper to me and looks at me hopefully, but she knows she's missed the mark. And again she crumples.

"It's fine," I assure her. "You tried your best. Let's step away from it for now and come back to it later." But she doesn't want to come back to it later. She now hates the letter "v" and every word that contains the letter, and she wants to rid herself of all memories of "v" for the evening. I decide to leave her alone.

This morning, I opened her yellow homework folder and stared at her spelling assignment. How easy would it be for me to correct the "v" again? Wouldn't it be helping her to see what a proper "v" looks like?

But I realized, while changing the letter might help her to receive a check-plus on her paper, it wouldn't help her to take responsibility for her work, nor would it allow her teacher to see that she has a problem that needs attention. I can't be right beside her on the day of the spelling test, quietly erasing her flawed letter and replacing it with a more proper version.

Looking at the bigger picture, I won't be right beside her down the road, when she's studying for college exams, applying for a job or raising her kids. She's going to make mistakes, but hopefully she'll learn from them. And maybe learning the hard way to write a proper "v" is just the beginning of lessons that will make her a strong, responsible person, who hopefully also has great penmanship.

Learning to let go when your child is about to make a mistake: That was my big lesson of the day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Text Messaging and Train Operating: Not a Good Mix

The article ran as a news brief in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Monday. The article titled, "Dispatcher Tried to Warn Engineer," about the deadly train collision in California last Friday, states the a dispatcher supposedly tried to alert the engineer of the commuter train that there was danger ahead, namely, an oncoming freight train. The call supposedly came too late.

Buried near the bottom of the news brief was this chilling piece of information: "A teenager told CBS2-TV that he had exchanged a brief text message with the engineer shortly before the crash. The Los Angeles station said the teen was among a group of youths who befriended the engineer and asked him questions about his work."

Now there are more reports surfacing about an investigation into whether the engineer for the commuter train was text messaging while on duty.

Let me just say this: Even if you are operating the old-fashioned cars at an amusement park--you know, the ones that run on a track--you should not be text messaging.

Does it take a train wreck that kills 25 people to scare everyone about this?

Many cities and states across the country have banned the use of cell phones while driving. . Only a handful also ban text messaging while driving, including New Jersey. (And if you've seen people drive in New Jersey, you know this is a good thing.) California has a new no-cell-phone law pertaining to drivers that went into effect earlier this year. Currently, there is no ban on text messaging in that state. And all of this refers to car and bus drivers. There is no mention of train drivers.

But doesn't it just seem like common sense that someone in charge of a train carrying hundreds of passengers should not be allowed to chat on a cell phone or send text messages? No doubt, if it turns out it's true that this engineer was texting while on duty, swift action will take place to keep this unfortunate event from happening again.

It seems, though, that some people may still not understand the potential risks of text messaging in certain circumstances. So here is my personal list of people who should not text message:

• Drivers behind the wheel-- this includes car drivers, truck drivers, bus drivers, train drivers, grocery cart drivers and tricycle drivers
• Airline pilots-- commercial or private, it doesn't matter
• Cyclists, joggers and roller bladers-- this should be a no-brainer, but allow me to beat the obvious to death
• Doctors performing surgery-- I don't care if you're only removing a wart from someone's finger; your texting can wait
• Teachers
• Students
• People seated at dining tables with other people-- in other words, how rude

Please feel free to add to the list.

P.S. Photo courtesy of

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The First Newsletter for My Copywriting Business!


A newsletter for small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to build their companies one word at a time
Fall 2008

Diane DiPiero has written extensively about and for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Diane's copywriting services target every aspect of content—both in print and online—that small business owners and entrepreneurs need to tell their story and grow their business.

Diane DiPiero, Copywriter

QUESTION: What makes your website so good? Killer graphics? Awesome content? User-friendly design? Tell us what makes it great (include the web address), & be featured in the next newsletter!

To capture the attention of visitors to a website or readers of a brochure or newsletter, the content must “sing.” That doesn’t mean you need to employ trite slogans. The words should be conversational and catchy without being corny, and there should be a clear message.
When your content sings, readers end up humming your company’s tune, which can lead to greater awareness and increased business. Here are some ways to create content that sings. For more, visit
A.) Grab interest with sharp headlines (Just like memorable song titles. Think “Strangers in the Night,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or maybe “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”)
B.) Highlight great quotes from customers; give credit when possible. (Powerful words make for a powerful song.)
C.) Avoid telling your company’s whole story, especially on the home page. Tell an engaging but short story. (If they like this song, they’ll want to hear your whole repertoire.)
D.) Keep paragraphs on the short side, about 3-5 sentences. (Make it a tune they can stick with.)
E.) Avoid technical jargon as much as possible. (Wordy songs never catch on.)
F.) Be creative when appropriate; for example, when telling your company’s history or sharing employee bios. (Don’t be afraid to belt it out in an unusual way.)


If you’ve never Tweeted; you’re not LinkedIn, and you believe that Face Book is for teenagers, you’re probably someone who still believes in the power of the postal system. Many a small business continues to get its message to prospective customers, vendors or partners through “snail mail.”

When targeting through direct mail, you’ll want to create the best possible effect to impress your audience. Here are some tips from

• Hire a professional copywriter and graphic designer
• Have an objective 3rd party read your piece
• Personalize as much as you can
• Break up copy with bullet points and graphics/white space
• Use a "P.S." because those are frequently read
• Use easy-to-read typestyles
• Put a call to action at the beginning, middle and end of your copy


Diane DiPiero’s copywriting services are customized for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
• Newsletters (print or online)
1.) Editorial Content: Researching, interviewing and writing all newsletter articles; proofreading all copy
2.) Full Newsletter Package: Writing and layout, maintaining database and sending out newsletters

• SEO Writing
Strategic Writing: For strong SEO Results

• Web Content
1.) Writing and Researching: For new or updated websites
2.) Ongoing Content Updates
3.) Complete Web Content Package: All of the above

• Blogging
Regular Contributor: To your company's blog.

• Press Releases
1.) Writing Press Releases: Based on company news
2.) Complete Press Release Package: Includes writing and distributing press release + follow-up with media

• Speeches
1.) Speech Writing
2.) Consultant Services: Advice on content, grammar, etc.

• Article Writing
1.) Bios & Company Stories: For industry publications
2.) Ghost Writing: For small business execs + entrepreneurs

• B to B and B to C Communications
A variety of print and online options

• Case Studies
Interviewing, researching + writing of case studies

Note: Fees vary based on project scope. To receive a rate sheet with general price ranges for each package, call 216/551-1764 or email

Friday, September 12, 2008

Voting "No" on Absentee Ballot

The only thing more depressing than receiving a registration form for an absentee voting ballot must be receiving your first AARP card. "There must be some mistake," you say to yourself in disbelief. "I'm too young and healthy for this."

It turns out the folks in Ohio don't think I'm too old or frail to vote in person; they've sent out hundreds of thousands of mail-in registration forms across the state in the hopes of cutting down on long lines at the polls on Election Day. Voter convenience is cited as one of the reasons for the push to have citizens mail in their ballots.

I'm a little leery about this. Why is everyone so concerned about my convenience all of a sudden? Many a time I've stood in long voting lines, enduring heavy rain or snow as I waited to get inside, then watched as someone worked painfully slowly on fixing voter machines that were down and eventually stared longingly at the baked goods table while cursing myself for not bringing money with me.

No one seemed to feel bad for me then. What's with all the concern this time around?

Well, it might not be all about what's most convenient for me and other Ohio voters. This state has been plagued with controversy over its voting procedures for several years. The electronic voting system the state introduced a while back was fraught with problems. In other instances, voters in some urban areas of Cuyahoga County complained that long lines close to the time that polls were closing prevented them from casting their votes. Ohio recently switched back to paper ballots, but that came with its own set of woes.

So the best thing for all of us to do, it seems, is to stay home on Election Day--stay far away from the polling place. Help cut down on voting controversies. Do your patriotic duty and mail in your ballot!

I hate to disappoint you guys over there in election land, but I'm not biting. On Election Day, I'm walking down the street to my polling place--whether it's sunny, raining or snowing--and standing in line--no matter how long that line is--to patiently and patriotically cast my vote.

Why? Because it's the American way!

Part of the beauty of our election process is that we are able to make a supreme effort and sacrifice to get out and vote. We leave 20 minutes early for work, give up our lunch break, drop our kids at a babysitter's house or forsake dinner to stand in line with other fellow Americans. 

And when we finally get to pull that lever, touch that electronic pad or pop out that chad, we are realizing the brilliance and awe of living in a free society.

Where's the rush of patriotism when voting by mail? You don't even get the satisfaction of putting a stamp on the envelope! The state of Ohio has already done that for you.

Sure, it may be hassle-free, but what's life without a little hassle? It can actually make voting in person that much more memorable. In fact, I can recall the last several elections as if they took place yesterday.

On Election Day in 2000, I stood in an incredibly long line while balancing an infant carrier from one hand to the other. People walked by and admired my little one as I read up on the issues in the hopes of making the best possible (albeit last-minute) decisions.

Two years ago, I stood in what seemed to be a line to nowhere.  The voting equipment was down, and no one knew exactly whom to seek for advice. I could have gotten upset, but instead I saw it as a chance to chat with those around me. I started talking with a woman who, it turned out, lived just a few doors down from me. We never crossed paths until that day. If I had voted by mail, I still wouldn't know her from Adam.

I'm not saying voting by mail is all that bad. I have the luxury of being able to vote in the middle of the day and wait for as long as necessary until it's my turn. There are people whose jobs or other activities prevent them from getting to the polls. So more power to you if voting by mail allows you to have your voice heard. Go for it!

I'll admit, though, that absentee voting scares me just a tad more than voting in person. All sorts of things could happen to my precious votes.

What if my ballot gets lost in the mail? 

What if the person counting the absentee votes opens up my ballot, leaves to get a cup of coffee and then a strong wind blows into the room and my ballot flies into the trash can? It can happen, you know.

What if while ballots are being opened, a curious child walks by with a Number 2 pencil and playfully fills in lots of circles on mine? I shudder to think about that!

No, it's safer for me to take my votes straight to the polling place. While I'm there, I may meet some interesting people. I'll get to put one of those nice "I voted today" stickers on my sweater. And I'll feel a sense of communal pride. I just have to remember to bring some money for the baked goods table, and I'll be all set.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Medical Mart, Schmedical Mart?

Driving forces behind the proposed Cleveland Medical Mart addressed fans and foes at an informational meeting in Cleveland Heights last Tuesday. I did not attend the meeting, so I don't know exactly how many attendees were for the project and how many were against. The Plain Dealer published an article that stated the concerns of several people who oppose the Medical Mart idea (
The Sun Newspaper also has an article today quoting objectors.

One person said the question wasn't where the mart should be built, but whether it actually needed to be built at all. The same person stated that medical conventions are no longer necessary because of modern technology.

Others were concerned about the lack of taxation without representation, and expressed a desire to have a referendum on the mart put on the ballot.

The latter idea fits in with the democratic society in which we live, especially since taxpayers have already begun to foot the bill for the Medical Mart

The other concerns expressed at the Cleveland Heights meeting leave me trembling. Here we stand in a city that even many residents believe is dying, yet there is opposition to a plan that would generate revenue, jobs and credibility.

Cleveland is a world leader in biotechnology, and home to some of the most amazing hospitals and researchers on the planet. A Medical Mart would complete the package. Just as the Merchandise Mart draws people from around the country and around the globe to Chicago, the Medical Mart could do the same for Cleveland. 

Although modern technology is amazing, there still exists a need for people to meet face to face and to see products in person. And as these people gather at a mart, they need places to stay, eat and shop. Thus the greater impact to the community.

Understandably, some people may have a fear that the Medical Mart could fail. But opposing its construction creates two other fears that are perhaps even more dangerous: 

* The fear of trying something new
* The fear of doing anything at all

I grew up in a town that had those fears, and the results were devastating. When the steel mills closed in Youngstown, many people waited anxiously for them to return. Years were unfortunately wasted hoping for the city's once-great industrial power to return. New ideas for business never really materialized, although small strides were made along the way. Today, Youngstown is making a go of it with a business incubator and other efforts, but so much time has elapsed that older folks who remember the "good old days" of the steel mills sometimes feel Youngstown's time has come and gone.

Cleveland has a lot going for it, but it needs a lot more. The city needs a major attraction that can generate jobs, draw in visitors and stimulate the local economy. Fred Nance of the Greater Cleveland Partnership believes that a convention center for the "fastest growing industry in the country" would be a boon to the region.

Fear of the unknown is understandable. But if we don't do something new, if we don't do anything at all, we have a bigger dilemma to address: How can Cleveland grow its economy and go from being a fast-decaying city to the renaissance city it was just 10-15 years ago?

Personally, my biggest fear is that if the Medical Mart is rejected, many people may see only one other way to bring jobs and business to Cleveland: casinos. And that has me trembling all over again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

P.S. on Sarah Palin

Wow, am I suffering from Catholic guilt. I had mentioned that I was looking for some scuttlebutt on Sarah Palin, woman extraordinaire and presumptive vice presidential nominee for the Republican Party. All I wanted was to find out that her pantry wasn't well stocked, or that she hadn't cooked a meal for her family in seven months or that her closet was a mess. I didn't want or expect to hear that she had a pregnant teenage daughter.

The pundits were already laughing their heads off yesterday about this situation. But so far, Palin seems to be handling it with dignity, and I wish her the best. And if I find out that her house is a little messy during this time, I promise to let it slide.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Life in a Dying Town

Yesterday, my family had a great brunch at a restaurant in Cleveland's Tremont section. Across the street, a small farmer's market attracted passers-by with its fresh produce. On our way back through the city, we passed the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, then pulled off the Shoreway to watch part of the Cleveland Air Show. Much to our delight, five parachuters drifted down to the lakefront airport leaving streams of red and green smoke in their path.
Finally heading home, we saw the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, the Western Reserve Historical Society and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Our car climbed the steep hill through Little Italy, where dozens of people strolled in and out of cafes, restaurants and shops.
Yes, it's good to be living in one of America's fastest-decaying cities.
According to Forbes Magazine, Cleveland is among a handful of cities dying before our very eyes. Indeed, the city has problems. The poor keep getting poorer, brain drain is a major concern and development downtown isn't what it could be. But if any city has the strong bones on which to build--or rebuild--a thriving metropolis, it's Cleveland. 
In addition to the aforementioned museums, Cleveland has a world-renowned orchestra and a beautiful string of green space known as the Metroparks. The city is a leader in biotechnology and with any luck will in the near future be home to a state-of-the-art Medical Mart. Two major hospitals (Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland) call Cleveland home.
There's a lot going on here.
You may think, oh she's just a poor local who never made it out of Northeast Ohio and feels the need to be a cheerleader for the area. Au contraire mon frere.
I lived in Manhattan and just outside of New York City for ten years. Now there's a place that certainly isn't dying. 
But here's the problem: I was usually too poor to afford most of the activities that the city had to offer. I lived near the theaters my first few years in New York, but during those extremely lean times I never had enough money to actually take in a show. In summers, as asphalt practically oozed beneath my feet, I watched people high-tail it out of the city for the Hamptons while I ran to the local corner deli to cool off by sticking my head inside one of the frozen food cases. 
During my last couple of years in the city, I eschewed fancy dinners and out-of-town trips so that I could pay a ridiculous price for a tiny two-bedroom apartment with a bath tub in the kitchen and a family of mice that taunted me as I watched television. As much as I loved New York, I also regretted that I never made enough money to make it mine.
By the time I'd lived in Cleveland for a year, I'd seen a couple of Broadway plays, visited the Rock Hall a half-dozen times, gone to the beach and had some lovely meals. What's more, when I walked the streets, there weren't seven million people on top of me. There's space here, and it feels good.
The point is that quality of life in a city can't be measured against what other cities have to offer. Cleveland is no New York or Chicago, and no one here wants it to be. If Cleveland ever got too big for its britches (and the chances of that happening are slim to none), the locals would revolt. For as much as we want big industry, brand-new construction and high-end amenities, we also want walkable neighborhoods, courteous drivers and small-town values.
Cleveland needs work, and that work needs to start immediately. But first we need to fully appreciate what we already have. My gut feeling is that Cleveland isn't dying; it's just sleeping. Unlike New York, other cities take a nap once in awhile. Now it's time to wake up and build on what we've got. I'd like to see more activity on the lakefront and more shops and businesses downtown, among other things. Can we turn that dream into a reality?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Most Talented

Just when you think you're the ultimate Wonder Woman who does it all and then some, along comes someone else who does even more, and seems to do so with a smile. 
I feel pretty cool sometimes about being a mom who also writes, takes care of a house and pets, volunteers, acts as a Brownie leader, gets her kids to the bus stop on time (usually) and is there when they get off the bus (except when the bus drops them off early and I'm not yet at the stop, and I can hear them yelling down the block, "Mommy's late! Mommy's late!") I jog, read to my kids every night, try to make a tasty dinner most evenings and do it all without complaining. Okay, that last part is a lie, but I've learned to complain considerably less over the last year or so.
In the middle of one of my "I am woman" moments, a Breaking News alert flashes across my television screen. John McCain has picked his running mate. She is my age, 44, and was a journalism major in college. I started out in journalism, although I wound up as an English major. Still, I'm sure our college classes were similar.
That, however, is where the similarities between Sarah Palin and me ends. She is governor of Alaska, has five kids including a newborn with Down Syndrome, hunts, ice fishes and has run a marathon. 
I cannot balance the family checkbook, let alone try to run a state. I often throw up my hands and wonder how I can possibly handle my three children, who are perfectly healthy. She is governing Alaska while raising five children, one of whom has special needs.
The youngest person and first woman to be governor of Alaska, Palin expressed reservations about the V.P. slot a month before she was hand-picked by McCain. "I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration," she's quoted in Wikipedia as saying. "We want to make sure that the VP slot would be a fruitful type of position...." See, if I was told that the role of vice president would require less work than I was used to doing, I'd be doing a happy dance.
Palin seems to be amazing, and that really irks me.
It's not that I don't cheer on other women who reach for their goals and beyond;  it just annoys me that I can't seem to reach as high. And it's hard to complain about the housework, the schlepping of children and the writing deadlines that come every week or so, when you know there's someone out there hunting moose, catching fish and taking care of 683,478 people, 683,471 of whom are not part of her immediate family.
I'm not the only woman who has experienced this blow to her ego. I've got plenty of friends who do more than most people can imagine, yet feel inadequate when they see someone else who seems to be even more productive.
So how do we overcome this inferiority complex? We search for the one flaw--however small--that will make the "perfect" mom/wife/working woman appear human. Maybe she's always late for school functions, or yells at her kids in front of other people or gets into lots of fender-benders.
I remember talking with a friend about another mom we know who, as far as I could tell, was perfect. Her children were always beautifully dressed and well-behaved and got good grades; she volunteered for absolutely every school event; and she never had a bad word to say about anyone. "I can't compete with her," I said sadly to my friend. "Don't worry," my friend replied. "I've been in her kitchen, and it didn't look very organized."
What joyous news!
It's not that I want other women to have flaws so that I can make fun of them or feel better about myself. It's that I need to know I'm not the only one who doesn't have it all pulled together all the time. If I get my work done on time, get the kids to the bus on time and volunteer, my house will be a mess. If I clean the house, help the kids with their homework and get my daughter to gymnastics practice on time, dinner will be late. It's like life is a ball of yarn that's rolling along at a good speed and in a positive direction, but there's always one strand that's out of place. When you fix that strand, up pops another one. 
And you know what? That's pretty normal from what I understand. Still, it's hard for busy moms to always feel like they're doing the best they can. And so we get a little giddy when we discover that someone else has a thing or two out of place.
So my hat's off to Sarah Palin: wife, mother, hunter, fisher woman, pro-life advocate, governor and the presumptive Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States. Secretly, though, I'm hoping for a little dirt, like maybe her kitchen's a mess.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Call It Coincidence...

A day after the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the historic acceptance speech by Barack Obama, on the birthday of both John McCain and Michael Jackson (could we find two more disparate people born on the same day, by the way?) and on the day before my 44th birthday (at which point I will begrudgingly agree to call myself middle-aged), I happily post my first blog on this site.

First, I need to set the mood. I sit before my computer at my "lovely" home office, a pile of laundered clothes rumpled on the floor beside me. Pictures drawn by my three children hang lopsided on the cement wall behind the computer. Three Post It notes stuck to the screen taunt me with "to do" items that must be completed by the end of the day. C-Span's live call-in show, my favorite morning program, blares in the background. Every few seconds, I look at the clock and hold my breath as I wonder when the youngest member of the family will come traipsing into the basement and want to play a game that does not involve mommy writing her articles.

This picture gives you an idea of the complex life I lead. Part mom, part writer, part madwoman. I am not different from a lot of other people out there, although sometimes I feel as though I am. Everyday, I find myself learning a new lesson about parenting, housekeeping, working, being a wife and much more. Each day (or so I hope), I will share some of the more interesting lessons because I think it's important that my follies provide a chuckle or two. 

And just like that, the four-year-old pads across the basement floor, taps me on the shoulder and says, "Let's watch kids' shows." Let the games begin....