Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Habits Aren't Just For Nuns, You Know.

I am a creature of habit. 

Ever since The Boy came back from his summer at dad's, he's been hogging my Internet connection.  You may recall that we are tethered, one laptop at a time, to a modem here at the Sweet Bachelorette Pad.  You say it's sad, I say it's "retro."  Tomato, toe-mah-toe.

Anyhow, he's been hogging my Internet connection.  He does eventually go to bed, but by the time I get online, it's like 10 p.m. and I'm not exactly in the "writing an awe-inspiring blog post" mood.

"Kat, you are gorgeous.  (thank you for that unsolicited compliment.) Just write your post in Word whenever you want, then upload it to your blog at night.  Problem solved.  And you are really gorgeous."  (thank you again, dearest reader.)

That idea makes perfect sense.  Why don't I do it, you ask?  Simple.  For the past 3 years, I've followed these steps, with little or no variation:

How to Write a Blog Post
by Kat
1. Make dinner.

2.  Do dinner dishes; treat any 1st degree burns received while making said dinner.

3.  Pour Coke Zero with at least 4 ice cubes.

4.  Yell at whatever child is within earshot for not refilling ice tray.

5.  Pour Coke Zero with 2 ice cubes.

6.  Locate laptop, settle into recliner with Coke Zero.

7.  Drink Coke Zero as quickly as possible so that I can eat the ice cubes.  Crunch on ice, all the while thinking of how I'm destroying $10,000 worth of dental work.

8.  Consider what has either excited me/intrigued me/pissed me off over the past 24 hours.

9.  Log into Google Blogger and vent about whatever crossed my mind in #8.

10.  Utter a few off-color words as my computer shuts down unexpectedly.

11.  Locate laptop charger cord and plug in.  Send up a prayer of thanks to the Google universe for its "autosave" feature.

12.  Add whatever pictures might go with my rant (aka "post").

13.  Hit "publish."

This is how it's done, dearest reader.  Any variation from these 13 steps, and chaos ensues.  Skip the Coke Zero - the ice tray - the dead battery - and I seriously think the earth will stop turning and all the people will fall off.

So imagine my dismay when I can't follow my steps because a certain teenager has absconded with my Internet connection.  My fear....my trepidation...my heartache....my nausea.   It's almost like being in love.

My goal for this week - and it's a doozy - is to write something EVERY DAY in Word with the intent of posting it at some future point.  Anarchy!  Insanity!

I will keep you posted.  (Clever pun, yes?)  If you notice that the tides seem to be doing funky things, and gravity isn't working so good - you will know why.

Monday, September 17, 2012

R.A.B. Foundation

Let me start off by saying - I'm not really "into" kids.  I mean, I'm not the Crotchety Old Cat Woman who shakes her cane and throws empty Ben Gay tubes at neighborhood tykes when they dare to violate a blade of her front yard grass with the toes of their precocious little shoes.  But I don't exactly seek them out for a discussion to learn their innermost thoughts, either.  I like kids that are like my kids.  I like kids that are, say, over 12 or so.  I like kids that have their acts together, and I like kids who aren't annoying as hell.  I like kids who actually have a little fire in their middle, instead of just a belly ring.

This is why I like Emily.

This is Em.  She is freshly 17, and she is a sparkly sparkler.  Her dad is my friend Alex, who you all hear about on a regular basis, and who should be hanging his head in shame for not coming to see me since I moved here.  She is stunning.  Emily is the kind of girl that we older, wizened women look at and think, "Wow..when she's 25, men will be dueling with pistols on Main Street over her."  It's safe to assume that Emily spends her days coiffing, texting, driving around town, going to dance lessons, and compressing as much teen angst into her every waking hour as possible. Well, you know what they say about assuming.  Imagine my surprise when I went to Emily's Facebook page recently and saw this:

"Hey everyone:
This is something important to me and I'm ready to take on the challenge if making this change. I'm organizing an *ANTI-BULLYING* group for private schools. I feel like this is becoming more and more of a problem. I constantly hear of children being bullied and I feel it has gone on long enough. If any of you care as much as I do I would appreciate you sending me your stories, thoughts; and anything that could help me....I'm going to try and organize school assemblies, or single class talks from 3rd grade all the way through 8th....I can't seem to find where anti-bullying is stopped in private schools so now I'm going to end it. Help me to stop this now."
Yes, this teenage dynamo has taken it upon herself to stop bullying in the private school system here in Spokane.  I wanted to tell you all, my readership, about this young woman's mission, because it is altogether impressive, noteworthy, colossal, necessary, and by Gawd, I think she's going to pull it off.  We sat down at the mall last week over soft pretzels (I ate, she talked).
Introducing - R.A.B. Foundation.
Kat:  Okay, Emily.  R.A.B. Foundation.  Where did this come from?
Emily:  It was midnight, I was talking to my mom - she told me a story about a little 7th grade girl with a strange haircut.  Turns out the little girl was being bullied at school to the point that she had started pulling her own hair out, so she had to get her hair cut.  So I went downstairs and began brainstorming ideas; I was bullied at that school too as a child.  I came up with Rise Against Bullying - set up a Facebook page - and have asked for people to send me stories.  I've looked at bullying policies in the public and private schools - the public school is a huge folder, the private school is just a few pages.  Basically if you aren't going to be killed in your sleep or have your head bashed in, you aren't being bullied, according to their standards.
Kat:  I've been looking at your Facebook page, watching your updates, which I just love to see.  Sounds like you are trying to get in to meet with some principals?
Emily:  Yes, I've drafted a letter to the principal of the private school at issue and have asked to meet with him about his policies.  I want them to implement a method of reporting for kids to be able to report this bullying without having to to use their own names; they can feel safer knowing that the principal can address the bully and still remain anonymous.
Kat:  So let's say you get in with that principal.  Then what?
Emily:  Then I will go to the rest of the private schools in the diocese to be implemented for all the schools in the system.  If I can get one principal to go along with what I'm doing, then maybe the rest will too.  And from there, if they can push it into other diocese and other states...that would be so great.
Kat:  You know you are stunning.  Seriously.  You are gorgeous.  It's hard to believe that anyone would find a reason to bully you.  Can you tell me how you were bullied? 
Emily:  I liked to be active in grade school, so I was teased about being a tomboy, playing with the boys.  I used to go sit in the tires on the playground and cry because I was so sad about being picked on.  My parents divorced, so that group then used that to pick on me too.  Later on, in middle school, my clothes weren't right, I was petite, the girl groups always found something about me to pick on.  When you get it all the time, every day - you start to believe it.  Seeing these kids go through the stuff I 've been through - nobody deserves that. 
Kat:  So how would you respond to an adult who says to you, "Emily, it's a rite of passage.  It's no big deal.  Everyone goes through it...you are making a mountain out of a molehill."
Emily:  I understand that everyone gets bullied, it's part of life...TO AN EXTENT.  There's a point where it needs to stop.  At that point, it's not a rite of passage, it's a girl pulling her hair out.  It's a fine line that gets crossed and it's not okay.  You do need to learn to step up and defend yourself when kids are calling names, but if a kid is not able to focus in school, it is beyond bullying.  It is affecting the quality of their education.
Kat:  How do you think your generation is defined?
Emily:  Passive - school doesn't matter - "whatever, I'll figure it out later" attitude.  I'm choosing to find the drive to pursue something I love.  I'm a junior and I have to get my butt in gear for college scholarships and all that.
Kat:  How is the response to your call for stories on the R.A.B. Foundation page?
Emily:  I've gotten a few great stories about being bullied.  But I'd really love to hear from the other side - a story from someone who used to be a bully, how they felt about what they did.  I'm not going to judge someone for being a bully, if they found a way to overcome it, there's no reason for me to.  If they would come to me and tell me how they did it, it could really help other kids who are bullying others.  Any kid can play victim.  But if you can take the other side and get them to think about it - "This is what bullies do.  Hey, I'm doing that too."  Takes them out of victim mode.
Kat:  Are you prepared for negative reactions?
Emily:  It's email.  It's words on a computer screen.  One click of the button, it's gone.  If I get any hate mail, it's proving my point even more.  You are only encouraging me even more by cyberbullying me.  I'm not waiting until my senior year for my culminating project.  I'm doing now.  I'm not going to stop.
Do you see why I love this girl?  Can you just imagine what she's going to be doing in 10 years?  I, for one, can't wait to see.  She sees a problem and she's going after a solution by addressing POLICY at the ADMINISTRATIVE LEVEL.  I don't know a lot of grown men and women who would have the courage to do what she's set out to do.
So I have a favor to ask of you all, my dearest readers.  Here's the link to Emily's Facebook page for the R.A.B. Foundation.  Click on it, look over what she's done, and hit 'LIKE'.  You could be really super-cool and even leave a comment for her.  Give the girl some shout-outs, tell her you saw her on Kat's on Fire and want to give her a cyber-high five for what she's doing.   If you happened to be the victim of bullying when you were younger - or even a reformed bully - leave your story.  She will put it to good use. 
Emily - you rock my socks off.  You are a firecracker.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


It's time to introduce a new character to the amphitheater of chaos that is Kat.

World - meet Thor.  Thor - meet the world.

So back in June, SP and I had the heart-to-heart about how we needed to face the reality of our future together; that I was to move on with my life and be extraordinarily happy, etc etc etc.  Can I just say - that's easier said than done?  True, I moved 160 miles away; true, I changed careers; true, I've grown my hair out, bought some good-fitting jeans.  But moving on in my love life and looking for someone with whom I could have a serious relationship with felt, well, abnormal.  Unnatural.  Wrong.  And no, having permission doesn't really help. 

(Update on SP - I talk to him every 48 hours or so.  He has been undergoing gene therapy and is feeling better lately, believe it or not.  There came a time, not so very long ago, that I was sure every time I spoke to him would be the last.  Now he tells me that the funeral home is really pissed off at him for screwing up their booking schedule. Go figure.)

Over the summer, my son was gone and I was alone, so I dated some men.  A lot of men.  Okay, before you start calling me skanky Kat, I didn't say I SLEPT with a lot of men.  But I went out on a good number of first dates; a few second dates, a minuscule number of third dates. They all fizzled, for one reason or another.  Our interests didn't mesh.  His kids were too young.  His kids were grown and he had grandkids.  He was a player looking for a booty call.  He was dishonest about his appearance and/or age in his dating profile. He was in love before I even ordered my entree.   He was a felon.  (Yes, I'm serious).  And admittedly, I might have pushed a couple promising prospects away because I wasn't really ready to face a commitment.

Then I met the man we shall call "Thor."  He is a gentleman, gainfully employed, handsome, deliciously spontaneous, and I'm 99% sure he has no criminal record.  Yeah, I really like him, and I hope he doesn't read this so he won't know just how much.  We had "the talk" last weekend and now we are exclusive.  Thor knows about SP and how I will remain in his life for as long as SP requires me.  Thor's response to my SP story was a very tender embrace.

Yikes.  This one is quality.

Wish me luck.  Wish HIM luck.  We will both probably need it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tears and Patriots

Tomorrow is September 11th.  I told Alex today, if I could lock him in a padded room until 9/12, I would.  I would do that for every firefighter, if it were at all possible.  I'm moderately to severely superstitious, and I have to be honest, I sort of lose it on 9/11.

I'm rerunning last year's 9/11 post because I think it's one of the best things I've written about the 343 heroes of what is now called "Patriot Day."  Tomorrow I'm wearing my FDNY gear and Johnny's dog tag, to hell with the work dress code.  I pity the fool who challenges me.

God bless the FDNY tonight.

I recently got a silver dog tag on a ball bearing chain. On September 11th, it hangs from my neck. The rest of the year, it hangs from my rearview mirror in my car. It is inscribed as follows:

You might not immediately know what “The WTC” stands for, until you see the date that immediately follows it. Then I’m sure it’s crystal clear in your mind. “VOT” stands for “Victim of Terrorism.”

This is his picture. Cute guy, huh. Looks like a baby to me, but maybe that’s because my years are advancing. Tierney’s aren’t. It keeps me awake most nights lately.

I wanted you all to meet Tierney, get to know him the way I have. Here’s his story. I’ve cited my sources below, and I hope that you will visit those sites to learn about other heroes like him.
John Tierney was last seen in the lobby of One World Trade Center. Tierney's shift was ending just as Ladder 9 received the call to head to the financial district, said his cousin, John Schreiner. Tierney, 27, of Staten Island, was told he didn't have to go, but he insisted, even though it meant he'd have to sit atop another firefighter's lap. At the World Trade Center, he again was told he didn't have to go in; again, he insisted. He has not been heard from since. He attended St. Joseph's by the Sea High School and was graduated from St. John's University in 1997 with a degree in psychology. This was his rookie year as a firefighter; he was graduated from the fire academy only in July. "For the past two years or more, all he could think about, and his only goal, was to be a firefighter," Schreiner said. Tierney loved fishing and camping, "but his passion was the guitar. He'd just started playing a year and a half ago, and he wanted to be really good - he practiced until he had blisters, and he loved Bob Dylan." Patriotic, "he has a picture of George Washington kneeling before he went into battle of Valley Forge, and a picture of Paul Revere." As a probationary firefighter in Queens, Tierney achieved a bit of immortality: a newspaper photograph caught him holding a hose, spraying down a building. It was his very first fire. "He died a hero, and we know it must have been quick," Schreiner said. "He would have been so proud of what he did." He is survived by his parents, John and Helen; a brother, Thomas; sisters Mary and Jeanne; two nephews and a niece.
And this is the tribute submitted by his brother, Thomas:

John Patrick Tierney was a firefighter with FDNY Ladder Company 9 (located on Great Jones Street in Manhattan). Johnny, as his family and friends called him, was an amazing young man. At the young age of 27, Johnny was among the 343 missing firefighters helping the thousands of New York citizens down to safety. He was last seen in the lobby of the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center, by a fellow firefighter from Engine 33, located with Ladder Co. 9 on Great Jones Street.

Johnny was born and raised in Staten Island, and is survived by his mother, Helen, his father, John, his brother Thomas, his two sisters, Mary and Jeannie, his two nephews Thomas and James, and his niece Margaret. Johnny attended St. Charles Catholic Elementary School, he then attend St. Joseph by the Sea Catholic High School and went on to attend St. John's Catholic University all located in Staten Island. He was an amazing person, not only to his family, but to all those who encountered him. He was very happy with his life and for that I am grateful.

His dream was to become a firefighter and he was for 8 months before his death. He worked for Ladder Company 9 for 6 short weeks before September 11th. The morning of September 11, 2001, Johnny had worked an overnight shift which had ended that morning at 9:00 a.m. His fellow firefighters insisted that he go home, but being Johnny, he jumped onto the fire truck going to the World Trade Center. That was Johnny, a very loving and giving person, never concerned for his own safety, but the safety of others.
(Tribute submitted by Mildred Rodriguez and Thomas Tierney.)

On Father's Day, as Helen Tierney heard the news that three firefighters in Queens had been killed on the job, her heart broke. For the men who died, she cried. For her son John Patrick Tierney, 27, a probationary firefighter training in Queens at the time, she rejoiced that he had had that day off. "He always said, 'Don't worry, Ma. Everything will be fine.' And it was."

So, on Sept. 11, when his unit, Ladder Company 9 in Manhattan, was called to the World Trade Center, she clung once again to her youngest son's words. Her prayer was that he had headed home to Staten Island that morning. But Mr. Tierney had hopped a fire truck so crowded that he was forced to sit in a colleague's lap. "The other guys told him he didn't have to come," Mrs. Tierney said. "But from the first day he went to probie school, he worked hard, he really wanted to be part of the Fire Department."

And he was, for six weeks.
I can’t personally memorialize all 343 firefighters who died that day. But I can remember one, and Tierney is the one I’ve chosen. And I can tell people like you about him.
Back on September 10, 2001, the day before life changed as we know it, I was 31. I would have looked at Tierney and said, “Meow! FDNY! Sign me up!” He’s definitely someone I would have wanted to date…I’ve always had a thing for first responder-types. Seriously, even as a little girl, I liked the firemen/police officers/paramedics/military guys. Any man in a uniform was all right with me-okay, and still is. I guess I’m a groupie. God, was life ever that carefree?

Fast forward 10 years. I’m 41 and twice divorced. Tierney is still 27, and always will be. He never got married, he never had kids. He’s still a probie with 6 weeks on the job. In these intervening years, we’ve sent thousands upon thousands more of our young men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan to satiate and protect Americans like me. I sent my own son, and praise be to God, he came back to me. I no longer look at Tierney’s photo and think about what a nice guy he would have been for me. I look at him and think, what a nice boy for one of my daughters. I don’t think of him as “Tierney” so much now. I think of him as “Johnny.” Like a mom would. Like his mom would. The difference being, my son came back. Her son didn’t. I didn’t get the call that Mrs. Tierney got that morning. I didn’t have the memorial service for my son, and my son’s name isn’t engraved on some random girl’s dog tag, hanging from a rearview mirror.

My son didn’t have to go into the Army, there was no draft. He knew when he did that he would certainly go to war; it had been well underway for years. But he did it anyway. Johnny didn’t have to go either. Read the articles – he had just finished his shift; his supervisor told him to go home. But Johnny did it anyway. Because that’s what our American sons do when we raise them right.

On September 11, 2011, the memorial will be open to the public at the site. Next year on September 11, the associated museum is scheduled to open. I hope to go someday. The Patriot in me wants to put my hands on Tierney’s name etched in that bronze slab and honor what he did. The Mom in me wants to wash Johnny's name with my tears.

I’m proud of Tierney. I’m proud of Johnny. God bless FDNY and everyone else who runs into the building when everyone else is running out. As long as I live, at least one of you will never be forgotten.

Information about John P. Tierney was pulled from these sites and publications:
New York Times 11/28/2001
For info on dog tags and other memorial items for military MIA, KIA and 9/11 victims, go to: www.memorialbracelets.com

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Friday.

Four women, pulled from 4 very different walks of life, clustered together in a clover of cubicles.  Each taps away at a keyboard, relentless as the ocean, loud as the waves it longs to produce, yet not uttering a sound.  The reverie of their own fruitful imaginations placates them, along with a steady stream of Usher from a shiny red iPod.

One blue-eyed beauty looks up from her ever-growing mound of paperwork and states, "On September 30th, I'm going to win a fire truck."

An eternally youthful yet wizened cohort glances her way.  "Really.  Are you driving it to work?"

"Of course."

"I will be interested to watch you park."

"This building's parking lot is 75% empty.  I'll park it wherever I want.  The grocery store will be a little more difficult."

"You know, it's a fire truck - you could just park in the fire lane."

The eyes of the blue-eyed beauty widen, her perfect lips part and her jaw drops.  Somewhere in an alternate universe, entire cities lose power for 38 minutes as their energy is funneled into the lightbulb over her lustrous brunette head.

Problem solved.