Saturday, June 30, 2012

Photo of the Day: Blue Nails Edition

I love blue nails.  That is all.

Friday, June 29, 2012

pride parade 2012

Scott and I joined a bajillion other Chicagoans at last Sunday's Gay Pride Parade.  It was my first experience at this parade, but it was very fun (and also very hot).  The people, posters, and clothing were outrageous, but the message behind the event was both uplifting and sobering.  

We met Scott's cousin Allison and her boyfriend there (actually, meeting them was QUITE a process).  

Obama 2012 campaign posters 

tons of posters for gay-friendly churches across chicago - very powerful. 

Quote of the Day: Fun Edition

"No one looks stupid when they're having fun" - Amy Poehler

Thursday, June 28, 2012

fullerton beach grill

Scott and I went on a walk this past weekend, and ended up at the Fullerton Beach Grill.  It is a temporary (summer only) pop-up cafe at the Fullerton Beach.  I can't stress this enough - it. is. awesome.  

They sell food and beer (Bud Light Lime and Budweiser for the Specials) and it has spectacular views of the Chicago skyline. 

they also serve food - Scott had this pulled pork sandwich
And it's walking distance from our condo (albeit, quite a walk, but nice anyway).  Plus, the walk is also scenic, as it's entirely along the lakeshore walking path.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Quote of the Day: Going with the Flow (Ricky Gervais)

"I don't know what happiness is but it's definitely NOT just going with the flow. Going with the flow, for Christ sake? Don't ever go with the flow. Stop the flow, go against the flow, start the flow, but don't under any circumstance just go with the flow.

It may ruffle a few feathers, but some people's feathers need a little ruffling.

And remember: just because someone is offended doesn't mean they're in the right".

(Ricky Gervais)

Photo of the Day: Cherry Red Edition

I used to think I hated cherries.

... I thought wrong.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quote of the Day: Nora Ephron

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”  - Nora Ephron

chapter five: closing the chapter of Mike

When the moving trucks rolled away and the wedding party was over, all that was left was the three Maloney kids, three Steil kids, and two newlywed parents.

That and an unfamiliar house, new school, new city, new life.  I imagine that I was a tad apprehensive, but Matt and I were each introduced to some local Stoney Point children our age, and somehow that summer turned in to one of the best summers we have ever had.  My parents wisely purchased an unlimited family pool pass, and nearly every afternoon was filled with trips to Cherry Hill pool.

That summer drifted to fall, and the pool was replaced by football games, bonfires, and our new school.  Middle school whirred by, and suddenly it was high school, and school permits and bratty girls and friends and the grey blue Plymouth Reliant.

In April of my freshmen year at Xavier, I went out for the softball team.  (Was I good?  No.  Did I enjoy it?  Kind of.  Am I glad I can throw a baseball today? Yes).  There were a group of moms that did a car pool rotation for us, and Thursday was one of our days.  My mom picked us all up, and dropped each girl off at her house.  When we came inside, the phone was ringing, and my mom answered.

I was looking through the mail, and heard her say "He's my ex-husband and the father of my children". It caught my attention, and I looked at her, and she looked back at me.   I don't remember the next few moments, but somehow she told me that Mike was dead, but I insisted on hearing it from the person on the other end of the phone.  He or she confirmed the news - Mike was dead.  Gone.  Poof.  A life snuffed out, sometime in the middle of my softball practice.

There are parts of the evening that followed that are crystal clear, eleven years later.  The pajamas that I put on (navy with pink piglets).  The cookie that we ate (it was my Uncle Steve's birthday, and we had gotten him a cookie cake).  Sitting in the front room, the piano room where we never sat, making the arrangements.

Though it was already a Thursday night when Mike died, the funeral was set for Saturday.  I decided to go to school on Friday, and in first period, a prayer was said for "Michael Maloney" and I must have been visibly upset, but the day passed, and the evening, and then it was the day of his funeral.

I wore a white shirt and cardigan, and a black knee-length skirt with a white flower on the bottom left side.  The funeral was held at St. Jude, our church at the time.  I remember being surprised when a few of my Minneapolis aunts walked in.  A few of Mike's friends.  And of course all of us.

And then in walked Mr. Ferguson, my first period teacher.

He came on that Saturday, with his illness-stricken, wheelchair bound wife, and he probably doesn't remember it today - but I get choked up when I remember the image today - him helping his wife out of their car and in to her wheelchair, and wheeling her inside the church.

Among the things that I try most to be is a kind person, a person with compassion.  And while I have been the lucky recipient of much kindness and compassion, the visual image of Mr. Ferguson and his wife have stuck with me across the past eleven years and is one of the most poignant, and bittersweet, memories I have associated with the days surrounding Mike's death.

Photos of the Day: Scott's Guitar Concert

Last week I attended Scott's first guitar concert.  He's been taking guitar for the past eight weeks, and the next session begins tonight.  There's almost nothing I like more than live music, and now I can have it whenever I'd like.  Here are a few shots of Scott (and the rest of his class) performing some Johnny Cash:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Photos of the Day: Summer Style Eats

I take way too many photos of my food... here are a few of the good eats I've had over the past month or so, courtesy of my chef husband.  

corn on the cob & grilled eggplant 
club soda + lemon
corn on the cob + chipotle seasoning 
sweet/regular potato fries with rosemary seasoning
club soda + skinnygirl vodka (plus a strawberry and lemon zest)
club soda + skinnygirl vodka (plus lemon slices & pie crust rim)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

on feminism and 50 Shades of Grey

Many of my contemporaries are enthralled with a relatively new book - 50 Shades of Grey.

Have you heard of it?  According to Wikipedia, 50 Shades of Grey is: Set largely in Seattle, it is the first instalment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of BDSM.

(Oh yes, you read that correctly).

The book has received a ton of media attention, and among my group of friends, lots of praise and gossip and smirks and raised eyebrows.  Many of my "non reader" friends have scooped it up, in large part, I suspect, due to the salacious nature of the content.  I have not read the book, but I'll admit - I'd like to.  Due to it's popularity, it has a huge waiting list at the library.

While my friends have been universally positive about the book, many others haven't been so positive - including a variety of feminist groups.  Criticism ranges from saying that "women deserve better than 50 Shades of Grey" to another interesting critique I heard last weekend - "if a man hits you in the bedroom, what's to prevent him from abusing you in other parts of your life"?  While criticism ranges from content to sexuality to writing level, the fact is - the books are hot right now.

The spicy nature of the trilogy tends to overshadow the really important issues that the book raises, but they are there - feminism, and dominance vs. submission.  And some people seem to think that the two are mutually exclusive - that feminists can't choose to be submissive to anything or anyone, and that women who act submissive (sexually or not) are not feminists.

But of course I disagree - isn't that the point of feminism?  Choice?  The ability to choose a path, whether it be submission or dominance, working or staying at home, motherhood or career.  And perhaps more importantly - the ability to choose or not to choose, to be all of those things all at once?

When people declare that 50 Shades is a step backward for women, they are missing the point entirely. Feminism isn't the requirement to make certain "advanced" or "modern choices", but rather, the ability to make your choice.

Photo of the Day: Warrior Dash

Last Sunday, Scott and his brother and buddy Brad competed in the Warrior Dash (I declined because of a conflicting bachelorette party).  Luckily, Scott does the laundry :)

Our Condo: Guest Bathroom

Scott's bathroom was never horrible exactly, but it definitely needed some modernization. 

Here it was before (with the previous owner's furnishings):

A few months back, Scott swapped out the sink, and painted the base cabinet black so as to give it a really cheap refresher:

And below is the new and improved look, a new, slim base cabinet, with a modern sink:

And with that addition, the condo renovations are officially closed!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Suddenly it's been weeks since I've posted anything significant.

I'm not sure how that happened exactly... I didn't mean to take a blogging break.  The past few weeks have been a bit of a life whirlwind, filled with fun and stress and chilling out and dancing.  Bachelorette party and shower in Minneapolis.  Wedding in Iowa City.  Bachelorette party in Chicago.  Craziness at work.  Busy-ness at home.  A new author who's books I'm gobbling up at a rate of about two per week.  Too much summer shandy.  Too many strawberries.  Not enough sleep or time with my family.  Just enough sunshine.  A (belated) obsession with Mad Men and The Walking Dead.  More frequent than normal lakeside runs (and walks).  Rollerblading.  A new baby born in my family.  Blue nails and straw hats.  Signing up for the Beach Dash.  A new bathroom cabinet and sink.

I'm not apologizing, exactly, because I write this blog for myself and sometimes I have nothing to say because living life has gotten in the way.  And yet, I am sort of, because I'm grateful that you're here.

So thanks for being here, and happy Summer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

a week in highlights

It's been one of those weeks.

Evenings away from home four nights this week took a bit of a toll on me, and when combined with craziness at work it has left me with less "me time" then I typically require, and my blogging has suffered as a result.

In a lazy-man blogger move, here are a two interesting things I read on the internet this week:

On Melissa Writes:

I’ve been called a bitch, smart ass, ugly, old, and a whole slew of other names this year. I had a student falsely accuse me of pushing him in effort to get me fired this year. I also had a student threaten me multiple times at work. I’ve broken up several fights and almost gotten hurt in the process. My phone got stolen last year. A student threw a pen at me one day. 

I don’t know very many other professions that have to deal with any of these things.

At the end of the day though, I love what I do. I love making an impact. I love those students that make all of this worth it. For every kid that has caused me pain, there’s about 10 who I absolutely adore. I want that to be clear.

You can see income inequality from space.

Regular blogging will begin... now. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Princeton University's 2012 Baccalaureate Remarks

I rarely post articles in their entirety on The Year of the Kate, but today I am compelled to do just that.  My brother Joe sent me the Princeton 2012 Baccalaureate Remarks last night and I really think it bears repeating.  I added the italics and the bolding.  The part that I bolded is the part that I can't get out of my head... and I think it would make a good starting point to a future blog entry. 

Thank you. President Tilghman. Trustees and Friends. Parents of the Class of 2012. Above all, Members of the Princeton Class of 2012. Give yourself a round of applause. The next time you look around a church and see everyone dressed in black it'll be awkward to cheer. Enjoy the moment.

Thirty years ago I sat where you sat. I must have listened to some older person share his life experience. But I don't remember a word of it. I can't even tell you who spoke. What I do remember, vividly, is graduation. I'm told you're meant to be excited, perhaps even relieved, and maybe all of you are. I wasn't. I was totally outraged. Here I’d gone and given them four of the best years of my life and this is how they thanked me for it. By kicking me out.  

At that moment I was sure of only one thing: I was of no possible economic value to the outside world. I'd majored in art history, for a start. Even then this was regarded as an act of insanity. I was almost certainly less prepared for the marketplace than most of you. Yet somehow I have wound up rich and famous. Well, sort of. I'm going to explain, briefly, how that happened. I want you to understand just how mysterious careers can be, before you go out and have one yourself.

I graduated from Princeton without ever having published a word of anything, anywhere. I didn't write for the Prince, or for anyone else. But at Princeton, studying art history, I felt the first twinge of literary ambition. It happened while working on my senior thesis. My adviser was a truly gifted professor, an archaeologist named William Childs. The thesis tried to explain how the Italian sculptor Donatello used Greek and Roman sculpture — which is actually totally beside the point, but I've always wanted to tell someone. God knows what Professor Childs actually thought of it, but he helped me to become engrossed. More than engrossed: obsessed. When I handed it in I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: to write senior theses. Or, to put it differently: to write books. 

Then I went to my thesis defense. It was just a few yards from here, in McCormick Hall. I listened and waited for Professor Childs to say how well written my thesis was. He didn't. And so after about 45 minutes I finally said, "So. What did you think of the writing?" "Put it this way" he said. "Never try to make a living at it."

And I didn't — not really. I did what everyone does who has no idea what to do with themselves: I went to graduate school. I wrote at nights, without much effect, mainly because I hadn't the first clue what I should write about. One night I was invited to a dinner, where I sat next to the wife of a big shot at a giant Wall Street investment bank, called Salomon Brothers. She more or less forced her husband to give me a job. I knew next to nothing about Salomon Brothers. But Salomon Brothers happened to be where Wall Street was being reinvented—into the place we have all come to know and love. When I got there I was assigned, almost arbitrarily, to the very best job in which to observe the growing madness: they turned me into the house expert on derivatives. A year and a half later Salomon Brothers was handing me a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars to give advice about derivatives to professional investors.  

Now I had something to write about: Salomon Brothers. Wall Street had become so unhinged that it was paying recent Princeton graduates who knew nothing about money small fortunes to pretend to be experts about money. I'd stumbled into my next senior thesis.

I called up my father. I told him I was going to quit this job that now promised me millions of dollars to write a book for an advance of 40 grand. There was a long pause on the other end of the line. "You might just want to think about that," he said. 


"Stay at Salomon Brothers 10 years, make your fortune, and then write your books," he said.  
I didn't need to think about it. I knew what intellectual passion felt like — because I'd felt it here, at Princeton — and I wanted to feel it again. I was 26 years old. Had I waited until I was 36, I would never have done it. I would have forgotten the feeling.   

The book I wrote was called "Liar’s Poker."  It sold a million copies. I was 28 years old. I had a career, a little fame, a small fortune and a new life narrative. All of a sudden people were telling me I was born to be a writer. This was absurd. Even I could see there was another, truer narrative, with luck as its theme. What were the odds of being seated at that dinner next to that Salomon Brothers lady? Of landing inside the best Wall Street firm from which to write the story of an age? Of landing in the seat with the best view of the business? Of having parents who didn't disinherit me but instead sighed and said "do it if you must?" Of having had that sense of must kindled inside me by a professor of art history at Princeton? Of having been let into Princeton in the first place?

This isn't just false humility. It's false humility with a point. My case illustrates how success is always rationalized. People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don't want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either. 

I wrote a book about this, called "Moneyball." It was ostensibly about baseball but was in fact about something else. There are poor teams and rich teams in professional baseball, and they spend radically different sums of money on their players. When I wrote my book the richest team in professional baseball, the New York Yankees, was then spending about $120 million on its 25 players. The poorest team, the Oakland A's, was spending about $30 million. And yet the Oakland team was winning as many games as the Yankees — and more than all the other richer teams.  

This isn't supposed to happen. In theory, the rich teams should buy the best players and win all the time. But the Oakland team had figured something out: the rich teams didn't really understand who the best baseball players were. The players were misvalued. And the biggest single reason they were misvalued was that the experts did not pay sufficient attention to the role of luck in baseball success. Players got given credit for things they did that depended on the performance of others: pitchers got paid for winning games, hitters got paid for knocking in runners on base. Players got blamed and credited for events beyond their control. Where balls that got hit happened to land on the field, for example.

Forget baseball, forget sports. Here you had these corporate employees, paid millions of dollars a year. They were doing exactly the same job that people in their business had been doing forever.  In front of millions of people, who evaluate their every move. They had statistics attached to everything they did. And yet they were misvalued — because the wider world was blind to their luck. 

This had been going on for a century. Right under all of our noses. And no one noticed — until it paid a poor team so well to notice that they could not afford not to notice. And you have to ask: if a professional athlete paid millions of dollars can be misvalued who can't be? If the supposedly pure meritocracy of professional sports can't distinguish between lucky and good, who can? 

The "Moneyball" story has practical implications. If you use better data, you can find better values; there are always market inefficiencies to exploit, and so on. But it has a broader and less practical message: don't be deceived by life's outcomes. Life's outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with  luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.

I make this point because — along with this speech — it is something that will be easy for you to forget.

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn't. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader's shirt.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He'd been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.  

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I'm sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything. 

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you'll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don't. 

Never forget: In the nation's service. In the service of all nations.

Thank you. 

And good luck.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

chapter four: adding some Steil

A few months after my mom started dating Shawn Steil, our families were introduced.  His older daughters, and his three sons at home.  The three Maloney children.  I don't remember what we thought initially, but I do remember that we always got to have crazy fun with them.  Cholesterol night with friend cheese poppers, camping, bowling, movie nights, bike riding, bringing fried chicken to the beach, hula hoop contests, games of HORSE on the driveway.  I'm not saying that we loved each other initially - but I would say that something clicked in to place, and really worked.

And "the parents" (as they began to be known as) must have seen that, and surely felt it themselves.

Before he was my brother, Austin wanted to learn how to ride a two-wheel bike.  One of my most vivid memories from Koser Avenue was of Austin on a two-wheeler, and Shawn running along behind him, beside him, coming to the realization that Austin could do this by himself, and letting go.  Austin zooming down our street, past our house, and the neighbors house, and in to a huge tree down the street.  Apparently he didn't know how to brake on the bike.    I can't even type this story out without giggling out loud.

Those days were fun, plain and simple, and somehow our families blended - unofficially, and in August 1997, it became official, and the Staloney's came to be.

When the moving trucks came to our house on Koser, I don't remember being sad.  In many ways, the book was closing on that chapter, and in looking back, that's the moment I pinpoint as the end of my childhood.  And yet, I don't remember tears, just excitement and anticipation.

So the Maloney's moved north, and the Staloney's began, and perhaps more importantly - merged both on paper and in reality.  The first time I saw what would be our new house, I thought it was gigantic.  I brought a picture of it in to school to show my teacher, and I was proud to say I had my own room.  The backyard seemed as endless as the possibilities.

That summer (and many of them after) were filled to the brim with friends who lived within walking distance, long afternoons spent at Cherry Hill pool, iced tea and popsicles on the front porch, and hide-and-seek at dusk, until mom had had enough and called us in.

It wasn't all warm and fuzzies though.  I've always wanted a closer relationship with my stepsisters, and even with my beloved younger brothers, there have been rocky patches.  But I think the reason it works - it being the Staloney family - is that we all know that this isn't some passing thing.  For better or for worse, we're part Staloney, and we're a family.  For good.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy birthday Joe!

I've mentioned Joe several times over the past few months, but he deserves another mention today because today the youngest Maloney turns a whopping 23 years old.  Hard to believe little JoeJoe is all grown up - but he is.  Happy birthday JFM!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jane's Bachelorette Party: 6.2.12

After the bridal shower, we transitioned in to a different type of event - a bachelorette party extravaganza.  There were eight cousinfriends present, and about the same amount of Jane's friends, and the group of us started with a fun honeymoon shower, champagne, spiked punch and games at the house, and then headed to downtown Minneapolis to part-ay.  

And did we ever.  I'm not sure the dance floor of the Pourhouse will ever be the same.  The bar was playing great dance music, and then a live band took over.  At first I was a little apprehensive about the live band - but they were FABULOUS.  They played all kinds of hits (Walkin' in Memphis, Wagon Wheel, etc) and we rocked.   So much fun.   (Too much fun?)

A very fun way to send the bride-to-be off to her wedding events in style.  

Can't wait for 7.6.12!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jane's Shower - 6.2.12

My cousin Jane celebrated her bridal shower this weekend with a bevy of Rank beauties.  The shower was hosted by my other cousin (Jane's sister) Anne.  Anne is Jane's maid-of-honor, and if you recall, was 1/2 of my lovely MOHs as well.

The shower featured a gorgeous (and delicious) spread of girlie foods, thoughtful shower gifts, a fun shower game, and beautiful fresh flowers throughout their home.

grandma and her five daughters  
After the shower, the cousinfriends stayed put for a bachelorette extravaganza...

(to be continued).