On Monday, we pretty much just got up, got our shit together, and drove home.

We made one turnpike pit stop, got some drinks, and my mom decided to play to the lottery because that’s what she does and she likes playing in a variety of places when possible. She’s also given me a few of those Wizard of Oz scratch-offs as gifts and I’ve hit on about half of them, albeit for only like 10 bucks every time. And I wouldn’t have bothered to play beyond that, but one of the prizes is $300,000 and she heard some of those winning tickets are still floating around. So I played. And I did not win $300,000, but I did about break even.

We got back just in time for me to be able to gather up the laundry I’d left behind and head right back out the door to get my car’s brakes looked at. My mom insisted something sounded off with them and I insisted they’ve sounded like that pretty much forever, but to avoid months of, “Did you get your brakes looked at yet? You better, because the longer they go, the worse it’ll be to fix,” I scheduled the appointment. And I was right–nothing wrong with my brakes. Sure, I had to pay for them to look at it, but 20 bucks is a small price to pay to shut her up. And put her mind at ease, I guess.

On our drive home, Brandon got a call for a job interview. And then as he was discussing scouting out the place and buying a suit, he was like, “I think I’ll ask propose then.”

So basically my brother proposed to Kelly on Tuesday, she said yes, and of course he neglected to tell me or my parents when it was made officially, so I found out on Facebook.

And that’s the story of how my brother became engaged to be married.

I’d say that I talked Brandon into making me dinner Saturday night, but that’s not really true–he did it with little to no begging or coercion, which was great because after driving from work to Terra’s to my parents’ house, I was starving. I normally eat dinner as soon as possible when I get home from work. One of the few struggles I’ve had since Paul moved in with me has been waiting to eat dinner until after he gets home.

So I hung out around my parents’ house and collected my raspberry crop from the bushes I planted there like my senior year in college or something. No one picked them last year, and they’ve since spawned a little cluster of even more raspberry plants. And they’re awesome and I need to keep the damn little beetle things off of them.

I also spent a good bit of time putting some music on my iPhone for the first time ever. I never bothered before, partly because my iTunes peak was like 10,000 songs and I didn’t want to have to pick and choose which songs to carry around with me. But with a road trip looming and no data left on our shared plan, I had to stick to things that wouldn’t, you know, use data. And I did manage to pick out and sync up a respectable 200-some songs.

A few weeks ago–maybe up to a few months ago–my grandfather was hospitalized. He was released not too long after, but it did concern my mom. So she decided that when Brandon got back, we’d take the first opportunity to drive out and visit him. A brief recap, since he’s not often mentioned here: my grandmother died due to complications from diabetes and heart problems when I was 2. My grandfather had cheated on her probably multiple times. She caught him, as discussed in a series of letters she left to my dad and uncles. In the years after, he had some sort of relationship with a friend, Mary. The exact nature is kind of unclear–Mary thought they were a couple, my grandfather later insisted she “misunderstood the nature of the relationship,” which I think is probably just code for “I got caught two-timing again.” Because he said this after a pretty much secret relationship with his now-wife was discovered and a friend told the two women about each other. It’s probably not a coincidence that my grandfather isn’t friends with that guy anymore. But he married the other woman, Joanne, when I was about 13 and moved across the state to be with her. He still calls and sends cards and popped in to visit (including Mary) every so often, but it’s not like we talk a lot. I’m definitely not as close to him as I was my mom’s parents.

He’s my grandfather and I love him, but I know too much to really respect him. Beyond his cheating, he’s a bit two-faced–I used to say, especially early on, that Paul’s mom reminded me of him because of the way they’re both sweet and supportive to your face then run and tell everyone what shit decisions you’re making behind your back. He was particularly pseudo-supportive of my English degree–pretty much everyone but me heard about what a waste of money and potential that was. And visiting him was mostly nice, but I did get annoyed when he once again brought up the subject of me going back to school. Now, his memory’s been getting sketchy lately so I’m legitimately concerned that he just forgot I have a college degree, a job, and that I’ve been supporting myself for four years. But it’s more likely that this is just a rehashing of the time he told me I ought to go back for my Master’s so that in case I ever get divorced, I can support myself. Because again, clearly a Bachelor’s, a job, and the ability to pay my bills is meaningless. Unless he’s expecting me to just be a housewife…on a related note, he did ask when Paul and I are getting married.

You can tell his health is declining. My mom mentioned before that he’s been repeating himself a lot, which he did this weekend. There were a few things he needed to be told again, too, because he didn’t seem to remember, like where Paul works now. He also asked about the ring Brandon bought for Kelly shortly after he’d already been shown it. He’s using a walk and a cane and sort of shuffles around, and he’s not allowed to drive anymore. Joanne was concerned and I don’t blame her, but he’s angry with her and blames her for telling the doctor things that led to the doctor declaring he shouldn’t be driving. I can’t blame either of them–I know I’ll fiercely and stubbornly cling to my independence one day, too, especially considering it seems to be in my genes, but I understand her worrying about his ability to drive and being honest with doctors about why. My mom suggested that my dad and Uncle Eric drive out and bring him home for a week, thinking that being with his own family for a little bit might perk him up. His stepdaughter-in-law told me on a brief trip down the road to check bookstore hours that he’d been really excited that we were going to visit and that he talks about us a lot, so I think my mom might be on to something. My dad has a gut feeling this might be his last year and I agree with him, but my mom’s more optimistic.

Of course, no Sheetz gathering is complete without bitching about the black sheep of the week or reminiscing about whoever fell out of favor in the past, but I mostly blame that on my dad bringing it up.

One thing that struck me, though, was that my grandfather’s basically got a second family. It’s not that this bothers me–it’s just that it’s strange. Joanne’s kids help with him the way my mom and Brandon and I helped Grandma after Pap Pap died, and it was just weird to see them take on that responsibility and to see that closeness coming from people I’ve never met. I mean, they call him “Al,” cue Paul Simon joke, and I’ve never known anyone to do that. They’re very sweet people, though, and it would be great if we lived closer together and could see each other more. There’s talk of another visit, though, which would be nice. This one basically only lasted a day, and it went fast.

We had dinner at a great Italian place, too, and everyone kind of hung out and talked. All in all, despite family gossip and that pesky talk of me going back to school, it was a nice visit, and I am glad we went.

Monday morning, we set off for home.

Terra’s off visiting Scott, and they met up at Disneyworld in Florida for their third anniversary. I always think it’s funny how I barely hear from her when she’s visiting Scott, but I don’t by any means thinks that’s a bad thing, nor am I bothered by it–they’re in a long-distance marriage, she misses him, and he’s getting all her attention right now, as he should. Not to mention they’re in fucking Disney doing fun shit.

But of course, this did mean she needed a ride to the airport to get there, and after the complete disaster we had in getting her there the last time–traffic was so bad on my way to pick her up and then drop her off that she only just made it on time, and her flight was delayed, by some miracle–I decided not to even try my luck with the shitshow that is the parkway and opted to go whatever convoluted route my iPhone maps app decided to take me. I’m not at all convinced it was the best alternative and I had to pay $2 on the toll road to be on if for all of four miles, but it did get me there faster and I did discover a German restaurant on some back roads near work. Gonna have to venture out there some weekend to try it, because as I learned from Herwig’s in State College, small, family-owned German restaurants are the best. I love my Hofbrauhaus, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still a chain and chains do lack some authenticity.

Anyway, this time, we made it to the airport a full hour before, which was a huge improvement over last time. Terra also gave me my birthday present and bonus gifts for staying with her animals for part of the weekend.

So I went from work to Terra’s to the airport back to Terra’s, and being a Friday night, work again Saturday morning. Paul mentioned that one of the times he took her because I couldn’t, his mom said, “She’s giving you gas money, right?” And as much as I love being offered gas money for doing tons of driving in an evening, he and I agreed that–at least when we’re both in a position where we don’t need to be paid–although the offers are nice, actually accepting money from a friend for doing something nice to help them out feels wrong. She’s not medically allowed to drive and my schedule happens to work out well enough most of the time that I’m able to drive her to the airport. I don’t mind doing it. I think these are the types of things friends do. I do not think you should expect to be paid for them.

That said, I did get some bitchin’ homemade earrings and a ring.

Paul came over not too long after I got back from the airport trip. We went to dinner at the nearby Primanti’s, and then the animal-sitting began.

Her beagle, Lilly, is usually super excited to see me. Now, she was when I came back in for the night, but not so much when I first picked Terra up. In fact, she’s probably caught on that when I come over, Terra leaves, either for a few hours for a concert or for days on end.

I wasn’t thrilled about being out there and not being home, but in the end, I did enjoy it. Lilly and Jasper were fun, albeit mischievous–Lilly stole a nacho out of our Primanti’s takeout box, then plowed the cat, Jasper, over when he was in bed with me, effectively chasing him out and leaving just she and I in the bed. Terra told me she wasn’t sure where Lilly would sleep since I was the one with her, but it was like as soon as she figured out it was bedtime, she was all about cuddling in bed. And beagle cuddles are the best. Until they kick you and bark in their sleep.

Paul stayed up reading for a bit in the living room and got a nice startle from Jasper, who climbed in the windowsill and poked his head around the curtain when Paul didn’t know he was there. And when Paul did come to bed, Lilly got out and sat in front of the front door to go out. I know this not because she barked like a normal dog, but because I couldn’t fall back asleep and heard her pawing at the door.

I’d been keeping Terra updated on her fur babies, and she must’ve noticed I was on Facebook checking out her Disney pictures at 1 in the morning because I did get a message later apologizing if her “asshole dog” woke me up.

I did sleep like shit, though. Still had trouble falling back asleep, which I do a lot when I sleep away from home. I can sleep soundly at my parents’ place, I was able to do it at Paul’s before he moved in with me, and I can do it in hotels if I’m tired and my dad’s not snoring. So my 5:00 alarm sucked, and Jasper apparently doesn’t believe in snooze buttons–right after I hit it, he jumped in bed next to me and started licking me. I hate scratchy cat tongues, so I scratched his head to get him to stop and hoped he’d leave me alone throughout my snooze period, but nope. He laid across my chest and made sure I didn’t got back to sleep instead. Terra and her mom both later confirmed that yep, he knows when you’re supposed to be up and he will not let you sleep beyond that point, which is both a blessing and a curse for a chronic snoozer like me.

And then I learned that I can be at work in 40 minutes from Terra’s place early in the morning with no traffic, which meant I was way early. So I went to the new Dunkin Donuts, ultimately putting too much caffeine in my body, which just made me feel jittery rather than awake. But at least it was delicious.

Paul stayed with the animals Saturday, and the biggest mischievous mishap was Jasper managing to knock over his food and eating it. He’s supposed to be on a diet, and when Terra’s mom came over in the evening to relieve us of our duties, she specifically asked if he’d been fed because he likes to pretend he hasn’t been to get more food out of people. Lilly may have stolen a nacho, but Jasper’s apparently the one you really need to keep your eye on.

But with that, I packed up and headed off to my parents’ house to prepare for a brief trip to visit my grandfather for the rest of the weekend.

Friday 5: So Rank

  1. What memories do you have of an old-fashioned general store? The one in Leisenring near Meri and Nolan’s house, by the post office and Divito Park. It was a straight-up old coal-mining-patch general store. I only remember going once, despite spending a lot of time nearby as a kid and up through college, but I do remember getting slushies. It closed at some point, and then in college, they reopened it and its reopening was one of my assignments when I was a stringer for HeraldStandard.com. My article on it is still accessible online, but you’ll need a subscription to the site/paper to read it. I know for current news articles, you can sign up and read so many articles for free, but I believe that since this one is four years old already, you need to be a paying subscriber.
  2. What’s something people think incorrectly of your home state (or country) but still contains a kernel of truth? I decided to Google Pennsylvania stereotypes. I’ll be addressing some from this list, so here we go. So, no, the state’s not full of Amish people, but there are a good bit, especially as you get to the more eastern part of the state. People don’t hit deer all the time–I mean, I haven’t hit one–but it is common. My mom’s hit a few, my dad’s hit at least one, a friend’s mom hit one taking us home from dance class once, and at certain times of the year, the highways are full of blood and corpses. Everything doesn’t stop for hunting season, but in Fayette County, where I grew up, we always had the Monday after Thanksgiving off  because of hunting season. As far as I know, that doesn’t even happen in some neighboring counties. Not everyone loves sports–I’m not a football fan, let alone a Steelers fan–but a lot of people do really love it and jerseys are acceptable attire basically anywhere and I’ve known priests to mention games and kickoff times in sermons and consider that when it comes to length of sermon. And the best time to grocery shop or do just about anything that doesn’t involve a sports bar is in the middle of a Steelers game. Not everyone’s father worked in a coal mine or steel mill, but enough of that heritage is still around to hear stories. That general store I mentioned was from a coal-mining patch town, as was the nearby post office, and you can still see the coke ovens behind Divito Park across the street. And people around here have very strong feelings about the fate of the coal industry, in part because they’ve seen the economic impact from when the steel industry left the area. We don’t put ketchup on everything, but by God, give me Heinz or give me death. The Pennsyltucky stereotype isn’t too far off. Conservatism and redneck culture is huge here, and Paul describes his mom as a typical “patch hunky” who has to know everybody’s business and then tells everybody else everybody’s business.
  3. What are the major differences between you and your best (non-romantic) friend? All right, we’re gonna go with Terra for this. So, she’s much more passive-aggressive than I am. I mean, I’ve been accused of being passive-aggressive before, but I at least do try to address problems when I’m upset with someone. She doesn’t–she’ll give you attitude and hope you figure it out. Yet strangely, at the same time, she’s much more willing to call people out on, say, Facebook when they’re being shitty, and she’s somehow more assertive than I am. I’ll gently tell you to depart and fornicate with yourself, she’ll tell you you’re a piece of shit who should’ve been drowned years ago and to go fuck yourself. She’s also craftier and a bit more spontaneous, borderline irrational–she once wanted to take in a stray cat in our pet-free dorm in college, despite her numerous allergies and health issues and nowhere to keep a cat in a dorm. Like, she actually was trying to figure out how to take the screen out of our window to smuggle this cat past our RAs until Scott and I were like, “NO FUCKING WAY.”
  4. What’s something you were the captain of? Hahaha nothing.
  5. What’s the story of your first private moment with a high-school romantic interest? Oh no. Okay, so, I didn’t really get any private moments with guys I was actually interested in. One day, I’ll tell the story of my fucking terrible first kiss with a guy I wasn’t interested in. It’s too long a tale for now. Anyway, in retrospect, this worked out kind of great because I liked shitty dudes as a teenager, so I dodged some bullets there, and my first real private moments that I valued were with Paul. Also tales for another day. But the one exception would be Brandon’s friend Ian, and although there was on and off interest and such between us (but never at the same time), I don’t remember having any private moments. But I DO remember when we went to see Green Day on their 2005 American Idiot tour–and I still have and wear that tour shirt, and Stephanie noticed it the last time I saw her–and I remember during “Are We the Waiting,” which is a bit of a slower song where everyone had cellphones and lighters out, he was standing behind me and wrapped his arms around me and we kind of swayed with the music. And that was basically the closest Ian and I ever came to anything remotely romantic ever.

As always, from the Friday 5.

Booking Through Thursday: The Other Side

What do non-reader friends think about your reading habits? Do they understand? Are they sympathetic? Or are they always trying to get you to “get your nose out of that book?”

I don’t really have non-reading friends! I have friends that aren’t on my level of bookworm, but none that dislike reading or don’t understand the appeal of it for others. And I’ve never been discouraged from reading by anyone ever.

But what I do get is awe about how many books I read at one time, and I’ve talked about this before–including the book I keep in my purse in case of a reading emergency, I’m currently reading 11 books. I’ve done this since I was a kid. I fell out of that habit in college and aside from required readings for class, I had it down to just one or two books but somehow in the years since fell off the wagon. So when people find that out, they’re generally impressed that I can read that many books at one time without getting confused, and recently, some coworkers suggested I try to find a way to market this skill. So employers, if you need someone with an English degree and writing experience who can read many books at a time and keep them all straight, I’m your girl!

My boyfriend has a slightly different reaction, though, especially now that he’s living with me. He insists that it would make more sense to read a smaller number of books at a time and therefore devote less time to trying to read them all per day and therefore finish them faster, and he is right, but old habits die hard.

26

I’d like to do one of those “26 thoughts on turning 26″ type posts, however cheesy they may be, but I might save it for another site. I was in talks with HelloGiggles regarding a piece I wrote about turning 25, but I haven’t heard back from them in a while.

But at any rate, 26 was a really good, nice birthday. Woke up, got my presents from Paul (tee shirts and a book), and hung out for a bit before meeting my parents and Brandon and Kelly in town for lunch. We went to Fusion, the Japanese steakhouse that I’ve been wanting to try since I moved here like three years ago. It was your typical hibachi place but still good, although my pad thai was to spicy for me to handle all of. Which is where Paul comes in handy, because there’s no such thing as too spicy for him and he’s a human garbage disposal. He also finished some of Kelly’s food. Plus I got a free dessert!

Then we went to the casino, and I was doing really well at first–I kept winning a good bit of money and probably should’ve just quit as soon I started losing. But gambling money was my gift from my parents, so I didn’t feel too bad about it, and behaved just enough so that I didn’t spend all of it. And I did get back up a tiny bit, but I lost it again when the gambling bug bit me watching Brandon play a wonderful Batman slot machine. He ultimately won $200.

We ended up being there a few hours in the end, and my mom wants to head back sometime for the horse races. In the meantime, I was also gifted with Wizard of Oz scratch-offs, which won $10 each. My mom tells me there are still winning tickets for $300,000 floating around, which is tempting me to buy more scratch-offs when I normally don’t bother. Yep, I think playing the lottery is pointless, but I loves me some slot machines.

Paul and I then went off to cash in said scratch-offs, when we decided might as well do the week’s grocery shopping while we were already up there. And while we were at it, I decided I wanted a Rita’s frozen-custard cake, but they ended up being sold out. We got ice-cream cookie sandwiches instead.

And then we came home and had great birthday sex.

I spent most of last week at my parents’ house, watching Duke while they and Brandon’s girlfriend, Kelly, went off to Oklahoma for his AIT graduation.

I went in Tuesday night, and they left really late that night. And from then on, it was me and Duke.

It was pretty easy–walk him, feed him, and give him his eyedrops and insulin. The eyedrops I’m used to, and as nervous as I was about the insulin, I was pretty used to doing it after the first day. Plus he’s good with it, which makes it much easier.

It was weird to have three days away from my apartment yet not on vacation, either, where I really didn’t have to do anything. I took time off from work to stay at the house since it’s an hour away, and I spent my days pretty much just lounging and doing a few important-ish things here and there. I did some writing, of course, and some submitting, plus some job hunting and laundry. I even finally remembered to look up optometrists near me, since my mom heard stories about my current one missing some pretty big things in other people we know. And Marissa, who’s in school for optometry, confirmed this when we were all hanging out while Meri and Erio were home when she grimaced when I told her who I see. So now that I’ve found someone new–and within walking distance–I’ve scheduled my long overdue eye exam for sometime in August.

I ventured out a little bit–Subway for lunch one day, Vinny’s for ice cream the next–but that was pretty much it. Other than the night Duke really pissed me off by refusing to go outside the whole night until the next morning, it was a pretty uneventful week, too, but in a good way. And even though Paul’s only been living with me for about a month, it was weird to be by myself for that long. Not good or bad–just weird. It was nice to come home, even though I am anxious to get both a new job and a new place to live.

I stuck around Friday night, the night they were coming home, to see Duke reunited with everyone, especially Brandon. It was pretty cute. He wagged his tail a lot and licked Brandon’s face a lot, then everyone went to bed–it was 2:30 in the morning–and I got up again a few hours later to head off to work, since I’m on rotation this month.

After work, Paul and I went to his cousin’s graduation party–the third in a week in his family and the only one we’ve been able to make. He forgot to show me and I forgot to ask to see it, but his mom sent him a very long text while I was at work all about how she misses doing those things as a family. Him being out of their house, let alone with me, is far preferable to the dynamic of him living at home, but that text felt like a step backwards for me in what’s felt like a fight against her for Paul’s time and attention. We talked to Emily a bit and she’s older enough now and opening up enough herself that I feel comfortable filling her in on some of this, and when I mentioned to her I’ve felt that way about most of our relationship, she said I was pretty much right but that I’m “winning.”

She filled us in on how their mom’s doing, too, though, and she and Paul both got some healthy venting done, even if it was a brief session. She reminds me a lot of Paul in her attitude and what bothers her and even how she handles it, the only difference being she’s a lot sassier. Paul will rant and yell and get angry and even get mean, but Emily throws in a lot of snark.

We got sucked into going over to the house for a bit, which I’m afraid is going to be our next hurdle–most of the time, Paul doesn’t want to go when we’re around, but he does because it saves face, basically. My concern, though, is that every single time we go do something, it’s gonna turn into, “Why don’t you come back to the house?” which can easily turn into hours spent there. It is admittedly different, though, when it’s the siblings asking because they want to hang out–Joh wanted to show us stuff he’s made in their blacksmithing classes, and Emily wanted to talk to Paul. And Paul and I have told Emily before we can’t say no to her especially. She’s basically our favorite.

We did manage to make it a short trip, though, then came home and went to sleep just before midnight struck and it was officially my 26th birthday.

Friday Five: Scattergories, Part 5

The randomly generated letter I got was “v.” Because of course this can’t be easy for me.

  1. What’s a refreshing beverage whose name begins with the letter? I enjoy some of the sweeter, fruitier V8 juices. And vodka, preferably mixed with something else.
  2. What ailment whose name begins with the letter have you suffered from? Look, I really did some Googling to see if I could avoid using the word “vagina,” but nope, I can’t, so we’re just gonna be blunt here. As a woman who has periods and did once lose her virginity, vaginal bleeding. You’re welcome.
  3. What horrible creature whose name begins with the letter do you resemble in your foulest mood? Velociraptor! When I get really bad and I allow myself, I rage.
  4. What emotion whose name begins with the letter have you experienced in the past week? I wouldn’t call this an emotion, necessarily, but it’s close–valued. Because no matter what, that’s how Paul always makes me feel, and no matter what may happen to us over the course of our lives/probable marriage, I’ll always be grateful for that.
  5. What’s an item in your purse, wallet, or backpack whose name begins with the letter? Visa! My debit card is also a Visa card.

Booking Through Thursday: Vacation

When you travel, do you bring one book with you? Or a pile of them?

And, is that pile still a load of paper to lug around? Or do you use an e-book reader like a Kindle or your iPad to help carry the load? (Because, even if you prefer paper, it can get heavy when you’re traveling!)

So, I always keep a book in my purse, so that one always goes with me, then I take a second one in case I finish that one. Sometimes I’ll toss in a third or if I’m gonna be on a long flight. When I went to Mexico, I threw in all my Rolling Stone back issues I hadn’t had time to get to, too. When I went to visit Brandon, I took my purse book and a spare, which I ended up not needing. Now that I’m at my parents’ house, I did the same thing. I doubt I’ll get to the spare, but I have tons of downtime since I’m all doing is watching the dog.

So yes, obviously, it still is a load of paper–physical books. I’m not really interested in getting an e-reader because I prefer books, but if I traveled more, I’d probably consider it. As it is, the occasional vacation or weekend trip doesn’t really need it,

Friday Five: Alt

  1. A sandwich is usually some kind of ingredients between slices of bread, but what’s a great sandwich that has no bread at all? Ice-cream sandwiches. Of any kind.
  2. A salad is generally thought of as a mixture of fresh greens, but what’s a great salad whose main ingredients are not veggies? I’m a big fan of fruit salads, and I made a real good one a few summers ago that had mint and like rum or something mixed in it.
  3. Juice is usually the liquid squeezed from a fruit or vegetable. What’s a juice you enjoy that isn’t? Only one I can think of is Jungle Juice, which did me in at my 21st birthday party thanks to having an entire handle of vodka in it. It tasted great because of everything else that was mixed in it, but it was potent and it was easy to forget that. Between that and the Smirnoff Ice drinking game Bros Icing Bros, I threw up a lot that night.
  4. Milk is usually the food that a mammal produces for its young. How do you feel about milk alternatives that aren’t animal-produced? Not too long after I became a vegetarian, I decided to try soy milk. I didn’t dislike it, but I also satisfied enough by it and wasn’t committed enough to cutting out milk that I didn’t really try it much after that, other than maybe having a bit with cereal if I was at Meri’s place or if she had some. But I think they’re great alternatives for people who don’t want to drink milk or can’t.
  5. A staple is usually some food that forms the basic constituent of a cultural diet. What’s a staple in your diet that doesn’t exactly fit that definition? Pasta.