The Pittsburgh Marathon

No, I'm not running it, but I will be there.

In the spirit of volunteering more (preferably our time and not our money) Dave and I are both agreed to participate in one volunteer or service activity of the others choosing.

Dave chose a Water Walk which is an awareness event coordinated by the organization that his brother directs.  I'll write more about that in the near future.

I decided to go with the Pittsburgh Marathon. 

Why?  Well, for starters, I'm trying to get back into running, and being around other runners is a great way to become more motivated to run.  I'm pretty sure that after this experience I'm going to want to sign up for something way beyond my ability level - I'll try to hold back though.

Another reason that I chose this event is because I love - LOVE - being part of something big.  Something much larger than myself, where I am a tiny piece of the puzzle but uniquely able to see the entire finished product.  I love big events where hometown spirit is strong and pride is oozing out of everyone's pores.  Even though I am incredibly introverted when it comes to meeting new people, I am uniquely intrigued to be in places where lots of other people are - it's like people watching, only a little more involved.  When I'm around other people - even if I'm not interacting with them directly - it makes me feel more connected to others.  It's one of the main reasons that I like going out to eat so much - even though I'm not talking or eating with the other people in the restaurant, I don't feel lonely as long as there are others nearby.

So, if you're not doing anything on May 2nd, I strongly encourage you all to join Dave and I at mile 5.9 of the Pittsburgh marathon (in the North Side.)  All you need to do is register here, show up, and you'll get a free T-shirt.  We have a couple of friends who will be running the half marathon and fortunately mile 5.9 is part of the half, so we'll get to see them and cheer them (and perhaps convince them to partake in some of the tasty water or Gatorade that we'll have to offer...)  Another reason that we chose to do one of the earlier water stops is because it's close to the start and finish line, and after our shift ends at 10 a.m., we plan to walk into downtown to cheer people on at the finish line and hopefully attend the party that they hold for volunteers after the race!

If you're thinking of signing up with us, just do it!  You can hang out with great people (Dave and I! and probably some others....) and be a part of a great Pittsburgh tradition!  If you have any questions or you want to join us, feel free to e-mail me! We hope to see you there!

A Dog Year

I just finished reading the book "A Dog Year" by Jon Katz.  If you've been taking note of my book reviews recently, you might notice that the last one was for "Dewey," a book about a cat.

You see, when I start reading a certain author or sometimes a certain topic, I go all the way.  I read every single book that I can by that author, and then go on the waiting lists for the ones that I can't get.  Stephenie Meyers? Check.  Jodi Picoult?  Double check.  Douglas Preston? James Patterson? Check check.  Dan Brown?  Working on his latest....

Knowing that, it should come as no surprise to you that when I decided that I enjoyed "Dewey" enough to continue reading more animal/pet nonfiction, I went all out. 

The sad part is, there isn't nearly as much good nonfiction about animals as I would have hoped.  I have already checked out the vast majority of options at the Northland Public Library. 

I started with "A Dog Year" because I had enjoyed Jon Katz's writing in the past, and this one definitely didn't disappoint.  You know an animal book is good if it has you in tears less than half-way through.

The stars of "A Dog Year" are 2 border collies.  As is my style, I immediately decided that Murph might have some border collie in him.  Crazy running and nipping when he hasn't gotten enough exercise?  Murph does that!  Wanting to go EVERYWHERE with us and being destructive when left behind?  Another border collie characteristic that Murph shares.

 And doesn't he sort of look like a border collie? 

I think part of the reason that I like this book so much is that every day of my life is like "A Dog Year."  This blog in itself tends to be more about my pet and my interactions with him than much else. (Perhaps I should start writing animal non-fiction?)  He's the apple of my eye, and I'm afraid to think about what I'll be like as a parent if I'm this enamored with my dog.  I don't think the world is ready....

So, if you're animal lover like me, and you haven't already read this book (I think it was published in 2003) I definitely recommend that you check it out. 

The goal - Lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks

In 8 weeks Dave and I will be attending our first wedding of the wedding "season."  I have a dress that I plan to wear - it's the black and white lace one that I modeled back in December when trying to figure out what I wear to Dave's brother's wedding.

 Remember it?

The dress is very form-fitting, so while I can still get into right now, it's a little snug.  When I reach up or bend over, it doesn't fall back into place like it should, and I have to pull it down.  I definitely don't want to be tugging down a dress all night.

After a horrible, stressful week full of snacking, little sleep, and absolutely no exercise, I'm happy to report that I only gained about 2.5 pounds based on my weigh-in yesterday morning, of which I've already lost 8/10ths as of this morning.  But 2.5 pounds is still a lot of work to lose....

So I've decided to start setting short-term goals for myself, and this time it's 10 pounds in 8 weeks.  That just a little more than one pound a week to lose, which seems totally reasonable and healthy.  Losing 10 pounds will mean that I'll look as good on May 8th as I did in that picture above and I'd be completely happy with that!

Last night was a great start - after a healthy and reasonable dinner Dave and I both exercised like crazy.  20 minutes on the recumbent bike, 200 leg lifts, 100 crunches, and then a 5 minute warm-up on the treadmill, 20 minutes of jogging, and then a 5 minute cool down which put me right at 2.5 miles!  And the great news is that it was some of the best running I've done in a long time!  I felt amazing!  If it hadn't been so late, I would have kept going.  What's a 5k? 3.1 miles? 3.2?  Either way, I was SO close last night.  Well.. if you count the distance I spent walking as well...

Tonight I have a new goal for my exercise - 2.5 miles of just jogging without counting the walking distance.  I want to see how close I am to being able to run a 5K, and my thinking is that I'm not actually that far away at all.  Once the weather starts getting nicer (and it's supposed to happen this week) I'm going to try to convince Dave to go to North Park with me and jog about the track there.  If he won't go (he's more a "walking" kind of guy) then I'll go by myself.  I'm definitely interested in trying to run outside, something I haven't done since before my knee injury, which was in 2002. 

I'm excited to finally feel motivated again, and to have a goal that should definitely be achievable!  I credit this beautiful spring weather! Woo hoo!

A weekend of culture

This weekend was full of arts and culture.

Friday night we attended the musical performance of Beauty and the Beast at Dave's high school.  I am always impressed by the quality of shows that high schools can put on - I was part of some of the school musicals myself and know that students are highly talented and hard workers - but it still never ceases to amaze me.  The sets and costumes were amazing (although I later learned that it was all purchased.  Oh well, still great!)

Then on Saturday night, Dave and I attended the senior recital of my student worker who is a vocal performance major and sings opera.  Although I will be the first to say that opera "really isn't my thing," I wanted to go to experience it and support my student worker.  I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would.  She's a great singer and her voice when she's singing opera is totally different from her everyday speaking voice.  She's a tiny little person, and the amount of sound that comes out of her mouth is impressive.

I didn't take pictures at either of these events, since photos weren't technically permitted during the performances, and it didn't seem appropriate.  Sometimes I feel like I need pictures to prove that I actually did something.  But deep down I know it's just because pictures make all blog posts more interesting.  

Both of these events were cheap - the musical was like $7 or so a person and the recital was free! - but were still really entertaining.  After the crazy week that I had last week, it was a great weekend!

I'm Back!... Sort of.

Whew! What a week!  The third week of March is notoriously rough for me, and is the culmination of all of my work that I did in January and February. 

Yesterday I got to work around 8 a.m., and wasn't home until after 9 p.m.  I didn't get a lunch break.  I wolfed down dinner in about 10 minutes.  I was on my feet most of the day.  The entire week was mentally and physically exhausting.  And now it's over. Needless to say, this morning I could barely wake up.

So although it's been over a week (or has it been? honestly, I don't even know) since I last posted here, rest assured that I will be back soon!  I actually have lots of posts in the works, although they won't necessarily be timely.

Also, after almost 2 weeks of not exercising and consuming snacks for meals because of how busy I've been, I'm absolutely terrified of stepping on the scale.  But tomorrow morning I plan to do just that, and then I need to get my butt in gear!  A wedding in May (and I dress that I NEED to fit into) and the beach in July means that I need to get back into shape!

Can you believe that we still have snow?

Can you believe that we still have snow? After multiple days of rain and 60 degree temperatures? We do!

It looks like this.

Weird places we put our dog, Take 2

I'm going to start out this post by saying that "Weird Place That We Put Our Dog" number 2 was totally Dave's idea.  I believe I was in the bedroom, folding clothes or something, when he excitedly called me into the spare bedroom. 

To show me this.

A dresser drawer.  Why?

Well why not!?!? Do you SEE how deep those drawers are!!??? They're ridiculous! I could practically fit in one of them.

Anyway, the weird thing about this weird place was how much Murphy seemed to enjoy it.

Although, now that I'm looking at it closely,what's not for a dog to love?  Soft clothing, an enclosed cave-like area... It's really just an elevated bed for him.

The other day my mom sent me an e-mail to let me know that Murphy seems to put up with a lot.  It's true.. but he gets a lot of love in return.  If we ever thought that he was scared or unhappy, we wouldn't do these things to him anymore.  But he's just so complacent, how can we not!?

Creaky Bed No More!!!

If you're my friend on Facebook, you probably heard that Dave and I have an incredibly creaky bed.  All inappropriate comments aside, the creaky bed has been driving us crazy.

It's been getting increasingly creaky over the past 2 years, and had gotten to the point where I was afraid to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because I was afraid of waking up both Dave and our 90 year old neighbor who lives at the top of the hill behind our house.  It was THAT loud.

We problem-solved unsuccessfully.  We would take off the mattress and jump on it.  No creak.  We would take off the boxspring and shake it around - no creak. We would put the mattress on the boxspring on the floor and then lay on it - still not creak.  Finally we shook the bed frame to see if that was the problem... do you see where this is going?  No creak.

We couldn't replicate the sound once the bed was not totally set up, which was incredibly frustrating.  One Sunday afternoon I had a spurt of energy and motivation (which Dave can attest is extremely rare for me on Sunday afternoons!)  I single-handedly removed the mattress and got it into the hall.  I then sat on the boxspring trying to identify the source of the creak.  After much examination, I believed that I had a solution!  You see, the bed is a wooden frame, that had 3 wooden support slats.  When I pushed on these slats, they moved, even when they were properly tightened against the floor.  To top it all off, the metal support beams that we got by purchasing the warranty on the bed (which we later contested and received store credit for) weren't supporting the weight of the boxspring and mattress at all because the wooden slats were so much high than the metal ones.

I immediately decided that we needed to get metal support beams to replace the wooden ones, and went about calling all of the furniture companies near us.  No one sold metal support beams, including the company that we got them from originally.

I proceeded to make a purchase on one of the shadiest websites I have ever done business with (seriously - my dog could have made a better looking website.)  And $75 later, I had a box in my driveway that was sufficiently destroyed.  Great.....

But, this story has a happy ending - the beams worked! See the crappy wooden ones that Dave is sitting on?

Dave was a plumber in a past life

A variety of beams under the bed....

If you know Dave, you'll know that he believes that there's one key step that will make any construction or renovation project successful....

Always check your level!

Once everything was finished, the bed was so silent that Dave and I talked for nearly about how quiet it was.  It's days like those that I really feel like we're a weird old married couple...

I'm Not In Baltimore

As I write this, Dave is in Baltimore, MD.  He's there for to celebrate the 21st birthday's of 2 of his nephews. 
I'm not - obviously.  I decided to stay home. 

You see, I'm sort of a snob when it comes to sleeping at other people's houses.  I don't like couches and won't sleep on living room floors.  I like to have my own space to set up and keep my stuff, and without that, I know that I'll be cranky and miserable.  The people who are sleeping in the living room are always the ones who are the last to go to bed and the first to wake up, and as someone who really values her sleep, that doesn't bode well with me. 

I also have an impossible time snoring when I'm in a room with someone who snores, and Dave's brother - who would be one of the 3 people that I would be sharing the living room with if I had decided to go - is a chronic snorer.  I vowed long ago that I would never a share a room with him again, and I have held to true to that thus far. 

So instead I'm home, trying to organize all of my music so that the albums sync properly with my new iPod, which I haven't gotten around to loading with music for two and a half months now.  It's raining, and that makes part of me glad that I'm not out on the streets in Baltimore walking from crowded bar to crowded bar, soaking wet and spending exorbitant amounts of money on food and alcohol.  I like to think that I am saving us a great deal of money, and in fact, probably am.   I didn't go to the St. Patrick's Day Parade this year (the second year in a row that we haven't gone), but I'm not sure that we would have gone even if Dave had been around.  We're ok with drinking outside in the cold, but drinking outside in the rain?  Not so much...

My high school friend who is in town this weekend and told me that she wanted to hang out has been incredibly vague about her plans and still has yet to call me or even send me a message on Facebook telling me where she is.  I'm going to go ahead and say now that we're not going to hang out.  And that's ok - unreliable people drive me crazy. 

So Murph and I have spent the day watching a movie (Duplicity), reading a book (The Lace Reader), and soon we're going to start a load of laundry.  Then I'm thinking about going to Target to get some of our grocery shopping done, since I like to get out of the house at least once a day.

It sounds boring, I know.  But every once in a while I absolutely LOVE being home alone, with nothing to do but some small chores.  They make for the most relaxing and rest-filled weekends, and with the crazy work scheduled that I have coming up over the next two weeks, I will need it.

Weird places we put our dog, Take 1

Over the next couple of days I'm going to chronicle for you what ridiculous things can happen to a dog when two people are cooped up inside, surrounded by 80 thousand feet of snow, with nothing but said dog for entertainment. 

I recently renewed my subscription to Time magazine.  Everything that I know about current events and news comes from either Time magazine or The Today Show.  Seriously.

Anyway, along with my subscription renewal, I apparently earned a free duffel bag.  But it's kind of a stupid duffel bag - too small to use as a "weekend" bag and too ugly to use for anything else.

So, we did what any other non-self-respecting humans would do - we put our dog in it.

See the weather radar on the TV in the background?  Snow, snow, and more snow.  And don't I look crazy!?!?  That's what snow and cold does to me....

We were reminded that we have one of the most tolerant dogs in the universe.  We can basically do anything we want with him, and he just sits there and looks cute.

Even Dave got in on the action, calling this his "man satchel."  Actually, maybe I called it that...

But don't they look cute together!??

So, what do you think about this series so far? Do you want to see more of the ridiculous places that we've put our dog in the past?

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

This can hardly be considered a recipe... But, if your "dining out" budget has been exhausted and yet you're craving the hot, greasy goodness that is a buffalo chicken sandwich (like I oh-so-often do), these little guys just might be good enough to tease your tastebuds into thinking that you're at a bar.

It can't get much easier.

- Frozen chicken breast tenders
- Frank's brand hot buffalo wing sauce
- Mini potato rolls

Cook the chicken tenders, and as soon as they come out of the oven, put them in a bowl and pour buffalo sauce on them.  Then flip the nuggets over and pour on more sauce.  Then, place 2 nuggets on one mini potato roll.  And if you're extra crazy like me, you'll rub the underside of the top of the potato roll into the bowl that holds the extra buffalo sauce before placing it on top of the tenders. 

(Warning: Being extra crazy like this may result in a flaming hot sensation in your abdominal region for up to 6 hours, and may or may not make you reconsider your love of all things buffalo for at least 3 days.)

Goes great with a Bud Light Lime.  (If you're laughing at me for liking Bud Light, first, please go out and try a Bud Light LIME. They are A. MAZE. ING.  Best beer ever. Well, maybe not ever.  But for right now at least.)


Chicken Lo Mein

Thanks to everyone who sent me recipes after my request last week!  I've been trying some new things and I plan to post on my favorites!  Here's the first of (hopefully) many!

I love chinese food.  My two favorite dishes are sesame chicken and chicken lo mein.  I figured out how to make an amazing sesame chicken dish awhile back with the help of a bottled sauce in the Asian foods aisle at Giant Eagle.  But chicken lo mein always seemed too intimidating.  Not all grocery stores sell lo mein noodles, and some of the vegetables that I needed - such as water chestnuts and bean sprouts - seemed a little obscure.

But apparently I never really looked very hard.  This weekend we shopped at Kuhn's instead of Giant Eagle (Kuhn's is a considerably smaller store) and they had everything we needed.  We decided to go with a frozen bag of stir fry vegetables instead of buying fresh, which helped considerably since Kuhn's did not, in fact, sell water chestnuts.  But they did sell bean sprouts and they even had lo mein noodles so we didn't have to substitute linguini.  We were excited.

With all of the ingredients in place it was time to start following the recipe.  Ingredients aside, lo mein is definitely a more complicated dish than I normally make. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish and I was busy the ENTIRE TIME. 


But, oh my god, it was good.  We could not believe how much it tasted like restaurant quality lo mein!  Even more authentic tasting than my sesame chicken dish (probably because I bake the chicken instead of frying it.)

So, even though it's a long recipe, I'm going to post the entire thing, complete with pictures.

- 8 ounces of lo mein noodles (or linguini)
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed with 1 tsp sugar
- 8 tablespoons oil (use less if you can0
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables
- 2 tbsp cooking sherry

1. Boil water for pasta and cook while starting some of the other steps below.  When the pasta is done, put it in a bowl and mix with a little oil to keep it from sticking together.

2. In a medium sized bowl, combine garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce/sugar mix and the chicken.  Mix until the chicken is well coated.

3. In a wok, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over high heat.  Add chicken and cook until browned and done.

Remove chicken from heat and put in a bowl.

4.  Add 2 more tablespoons oil to the wok and once hot, add the frozen vegetables.  Stir-fry for 5 to 8 minutes, then add the bean sprouts the 2 tablespoons of sherry and stir fry for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

 5.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, list vegetables out of the liquid and add to the chicken bowl.  Discard liquid.

6. Add 2 tablespoons oil and when hot, add noodles.  Using tongs, mix noodles until they are hot and covered with oil.

7. Pour on remaining soy/sugar mixture.  Stir until the noodles are covered in sauce.

8. Add chicken and vegetables and stir.

 9. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  Cook entire mixture until hot and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings
633 calories per serving if made exactly as described above, however, it is possible to use less than the listed  8 tablespoons of oil, which will save you a lot of calories.

Breaks my heart....

It's winter, and our tiny little dog - even with all of his glorious fur - really likes to cuddle with us to stay warm.  At night, our heat kicks back to 58 degrees.  So while Murphy will gladly start the night in his dog bed, around 2 a.m. he decides that he needs to be somewhere warmer and he wants to jump up on our bed.

In his younger years, he would just jump up and snuggle.  Sometimes we would wake up, sometimes we wouldn't.  But he's 6 1/2 now, so when he wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to jump on our bed (which I should mention is pretty darn high) he can no longer get the strength together to make the massive jump.  It could be because he's old and just doesn't have the energy, or because he just woke up from about 4 hours of sleep and his muscles aren't warmed up.  Or it could be that his eyesight at night isn't as good anymore.  Or maybe it's because he's fallen off one too many times when trying to make this jump in the middle of the night.

Either way, the jump that he makes multiple times during the daylight hours is just no longer possible at night.

So what does this mean for us?

Well, for the past couple of months, when Murph decides he wants to come up, he puts his paw on the side of the bed and scratches.  Sometimes if Dave's arm is sticking out, he'll scratch that too.  But Dave isn't very good at waking up, and although he'll sometimes reach over and start petting Murph in his sleep, he never wakes up enough to do anything about it.  Sooooo... I get out of bed, walk around to the other side, pick Murphy up and put him on the bed.  Yes, that's right, I wake completely up in the middle of the night, nearly every night so that my dog can sleep with us.  If I don't, he'll just keep scratching.

Sometimes we would let him start out the night in our bed, because that way I wouldn't have to wake up later.  But that results in me sleeping poorly, since Murphy's favorite sleep spot when on our bed is right between my legs, which is not so comfortable for me.  And Dave doesn't like when he starts out in the dog bed, because then he's woken up when Murph starts scratching (although I regularly point out that he is still not the one really inconvenienced by this.)

So last Tuesday night, Dave did something bold.  Something that I did not agree with at all.

He made Murphy sleep in his crate.

Instead of a cute little dog bed, we now see THIS at the bottom of our bed

Some background details - you see, Murphy actually loves his crate.  It's got a nice L.L.Bean bed in it with a comfy fleece blanket.  It used to in our living room with a plant on it (as if the plant somehow made it look less like a crate.)  Most of the time the door to it is just open and Murphy comes and goes as he pleases.  It's his bedroom, except for at night when he sleeps in OUR bedroom, in a different bed that we have for him with a different fleece blanket.  He's got a good life.

Anyway, we only occasionally lock him in his crate.  We wanted to make it a "safe place" for him, not a place where he felt like he was being punished.  We were really successful with this, hence why he loves it so much.

AHHH! Just go ahead and break my heart already, why don't you!?!??! Lock up our "little one" at night.... I was so sad.

But, like they always say... "it hurts the mom more than it hurts the child."  Murph could care less about being locked up.  He's content as can be, and while I have a lot of guilt, it's true that both Dave and I have been sleeping better at night.  And after nearly a week of being locked up, last night we left the door open.... and he stayed there all night anyway!  Success!

The view from the floor

Are you tired of seeing pictures of my dog all of the time?  Well, sorry, but it's winter - there's nothing else to take pictures of.   It's just one more reason that winter needs to be gone. ForEVer.


I'm a sucker when it comes to books about animals.  I'm a dog-lover at heart, but I'll read just about anything about just about any animal.

So when I saw a book on display at the library that featured the face of a beautiful orange cat, I knew it was for me. I didn't even read what it was about.  It didn't matter, I knew I would love it.


So maybe it's not fair then to call this a book "review."  After all, I'm a sucker for a good tear-jerking story about a beloved pet, and "Dewey" did not disappoint.  Dewey was a cat in Iowa who was shoved down a return book drop at at library, and was rescued by the librarians there.  He lived there for 19 full years.  The entire community loved him, and he actually became rather famous - apparently people would drive long distances just to meet him.  He had more character as a cat than even most dogs, and that's coming from a true dog lover.

I won't say anything more about the book, since I think you should just read it for yourself.  Especially if you're an animal lover, and even if you're not. 

8 years ago yesterday

8 years ago yesterday Dave and I "officially" started dating.  I saw officially because we were friends for over a year and half before this time, and had been on dates, but were not exclusive.

We started officially dating when we were in New Orleans on Spring Break, in the "jungle" area of the Baronne Plaza hotel, which closed for awhile following Hurrican Katrina, but now seems to be back up and running.  It's incredible nice and still appears to be one of the best deals around. AND it's only like two blocks from Bourbon Street.  We've stayed there twice now!

Anyway, the night before, Dave had professed his love to me by saying, "Dippold! I want to lay next to you for the rest of my life. I think you're great!"  Very romantic, right?  I will admit that at least a few drinks were involved prior to his declaration.

So the next day we decided to make it official, and the day after that, we headed off to Panama City, Florida.  We found a bar that did a happy hour special from 5 to 7 - $5 all you can drink.  This place was clearly designed around Spring Breakers.  The concept was great - you paid your $5 up front and for the next 2 hours the waitress filled your cup constantly, even if it was over half full still.  At about 6:30 that night, Dave said to the waitress, "Have you met my girlfriend Lisa? She's as beautiful as the sun."  We all just laughed and the waitress moved.  Clearly Dave is known for his one-liners.

Eight years later, we're married with a dog, we own a house, we both have jobs.  Life is crazy when you look back at where you started and think about how far you've come.  When I first met Dave in fall of 2000, he told me that he had just ended a relationship and wasn't allowing himself to date anyone for 7 years.  Almost exactly 7 years later, we were married. 

Happy 8 year date-iversary, Dave!  Shall we plan a visit back to New Orleans for our 10 year?

(Oh, and extra points for Dave for even remembering this anniversary! It seems like once you have a wedding anniversary you forget about your first anniversary - which we call our date-iversary - and I totally forgot!!!)

My Clear Channel experience

So remember when the other day in the Ben Folds post, I mentioned that I don't go to concerts much anymore? Here's the full story of why. As you can see, this is a rather lengthy post, and although I could have created an abbreviated version for that post, I decided it would be more fun to tell the entire story, since it's something that I don't talk about much anymore!

During the summer of 2002, I interned with Clear Channel Entertainment, who - at the time - ran all of the concert events in the area.  I worked for the main corporate office in Pittsburgh in their public relations department.  On a normal day I wrote press releases and coordinated contests and giveaways with local radio stations or alt weekly newspapers.  But on concert days, particularly on their big weekend shows, I worked on site, usually either at Post-Gazette Pavilion or the Amphitheater at Station Square.

It was an awesome job, although "job" probably isn't the right word, since it was unpaid and I more or less worked a full 9 to 5 workweek including nearly every evening and weekend event of the entire summer.  During festival shows - such as Farm Aid or Warped Tour - I would get there at 8 a.m. and not get home until midnight.  And I didn't even notice or care.  I had full access passes to both sites.  At PGP I had a little space in one of their trailers where I could take a break in air-conditioning and check my e-mail.  For most shows (except the really big ones) I also got back-stage passes although I was always too busy working to really get to take advantage of it.  During shows, I usually ran press relations.  This meant that I met the photographers and writers before each show and gave them their passes.  I showed the writers to their box seats and escorted the photographers to the area directly in front of the stage where they could take unobstructed pictures.  For the first 15 to 30 minutes of each show, I stood right against the stage in front of the left speaker.  My job was basically to make sure that the photographers didn't do anything crazy, like jump up on the stage or something like that.  But they were all professionals and they had no interest in doing that, so I just stood there and watched each show from a perspective that very few people ever get to experience.  Sometimes I would watch the performer. Sometimes I would turn around and watch the audience.  It was an amazing feeling to be able to see a concert from the performer's perspective.

After the photographers got their pictures, I escorted them to their seats and then I was more or less done for the day.  Sometimes I would stay up front and watch; other times I would head to the top of the lawn and marvel at the difference in experience that these fans had compared to the ones down below.  At some point I would go backstage to the catering trailer to eat dinner, or to get a bottle of water, and chat with the opening acts who were relaxing at this point, most of whom I didn't know.  During larger festival shows, I would sometimes work the VIP booth or just provide general support when needed.  Many times, it was just important to have a staff presence around - someone in an official shirt that kept people in line, as if I could do anything to stop them if they wanted to do something. 

I met tons of musicians, but it's different when you're a staff member.  You're not allowed to ask for autographs and the musicians count on you to be chill and normal - not crazy and star-struck like the fans that they deal with all of the time.  Over those 4 months I fell easily into that lifestyle, and didn't really think twice when I would meet someone that others would swoon over.  In fact, I have a hard time even remember who I met back in those days.  I learned that musicians are people just like you and I who were having a streak of good luck and good fortune.  Most didn't think of themselves as superior to others in any way (with the exception of Tom Petty and John Mellencamp, both who were ridiculously strict and wouldn't even let venue staff backstage - jerks), and just wanted to relax and have a good time.  

Additional perks included free tickets for my friends and families to basically any show that they knew wasn't going to sell out.  Dave and his brother came to one of the large festival concerts (I can't remember what it was called!), I got my whole family tickets to see Chicago (I think it was Chicago, again, I can't remember for sure), and even after I stopped working there, I was able to get tickets to the first ever concert at the Peterson Events Center on Pitt's campus for free.  We had amazing seats to see the Counting Crows performed.  It was during this summer that I discovered Howie Day, one of my favorite artists now, and I even gained a new-found respect for Michael Bolton - that man is one hell of a charmer. 

Anyway, I could go on and on and on, but what I'm getting at is that after that summer, concerts weren't quite the same for me.  Once you have that kind of experience, it's hard to go back to being a regular concert goer.  Spending a ton of money to sit in the grass surrounded by a bunch of drunk people just wasn't doing it for me anymore.  I had officially become a snob.  I had encountered enough musicians to know that they were just regular people who happened to have a lucky break and made it big.  I don't think I will ever feel "star struck" when I'm near a famous person ever again (not that I am ever around famous people.... ever.)

I think a lot about how one single event can change the course of your life forever.  I was originally scheduled to complete this internship during the spring semester, not the summer.  After all, why pay well over $1000 to take summer credits when I could roll them into the full-time tuition that I was already paying in the spring?  That way they were essentially free.  But during that first week of January in 2002, I fell, broke my leg and dislocated my knee, and everything changed.  I had to back out on the internship the day before I was supposed to start.  Suddenly, taking 18 credits didn't seem so important - I had to drop down to 12 credits and even then was concerned about making it through those while on crutches and in a haze of hard-core painkillers.  I survived that semester, and near the end of it called up Clear Channel to see if I could do the internship in the summer.  The woman that had originally hired me was no longer there, and the office had already filled all of their intern slots.  But the new PR guy listened to my story and agreed to take me on - and I'm so glad that he did.

I wore a crazy enormous brace during those first 8 weeks or so - my leg was still not strong enough to support me reliably, and I had a reputation for collapsing unexpectedly while walking.  Dave and I had started dating "officially" during March of 2002, and he quickly came to terms with my random collapses.  In fact, usually when I would fall, I wouldn't be able to get up right away, and Dave was incredibly good-natured about joining me on the filthy sidewalks of the student ghetto that is South Oakland.  I should have known he was a keeper right then and there.  Anyway, although my brace was an eyesore and really gross and sweaty on particularly hot days, it was also a great conversation starter, since no one could look at me and not notice it.  Introverts like to have an "in" topic of conversation - a sort of go-to conversation starter when meeting new people - and my brace was it.  During a summer full of meeting more new people than I could have ever imagined, the one thing that held me back from a dream in the spring semester, carried me through it in the summer.

I loved working for Clear Channel, and I fit in well with the people there.  In February of 2003 I received a call from the PR guy that I had worked under the previous summer, and he more or less offered me a full-time job with them.  I would have loved to take that job, and I can't even begin to imagine how my life would have been different if I had.  But the starting salary was pitiful - about $24,000 a year - and they needed me right then.  I had three months left of my college career and although I thought about it long and hard, I decided that I couldn't throw away my entire undergraduate degree for a job that paid $7.50 an hour or less after you factored in all of the overtime.

So, now all I have are these memories and all of those backstage passes that I saved as mementos.  I don't even have an pictures to show - after all, if I did you know I would be showing them here.  But that doesn't matter, because I'll never forget.  Even time I see a band or go to a concert, I think about my 4 month peek into the glamorous and exciting life of a rock-star, and my memories take me back to that amazing summer in 2002.


This year for Valentine's day, Dave's mom decided to be super-sweet to her sons and their significant others and sent them all Valentine's Day gifts.   We were on the receiving end of a bouquet of tulips.

 When we first received them, still all closed up

 And then a few days later, we sent this photo to his mom!

 It was a really sweet and unexpected gift, and perhaps for the first time ever, Dave received flowers instead of giving them. They made a beautiful centerpiece for nearly 10 full days.  

Love it!