Friday Five: Sammy

  1. A breakfast sandwich is typically made with some kind of bread with egg, cheese, and some kind of breakfast meat. What’s the best variation on this theme you’ve tried, or what variation would you like to try? First off, I’m a vegetarian, so my breakfast sandwiches are always just egg and cheese. And partly because of that and partly because I’m not the most adventurous eater, that’s about as far as I go–my breakfast sandwiches only get as about exciting as being on a bagel or croissant instead of bread. Now, that said, my favorite sandwich at local staple Primanti’s–and the only meatless one anyway–is their egg and cheese. And in case you’re not familiar with Primanti’s sandwiches, they come with coleslaw and French fries on them.
  2. A sandwich cookie is typically made with two thin cookies with some kind of sweet, creamy filling. What’s the best variation on this theme you have tried, or what variation would you like to try? I’m a huge fan of the chocolate chip cookie ice-cream sandwiches.
  3. A melt sandwich (such as a tuna melt) is typically some kind of bread with some kind of filling plus some kind of cheese, grilled or fried until the cheese is melted. What’s the best variation on this sandwich you’ve tried, or what variation would you like to try? See, the vegetarian thing keeps me away from melts, too. I either eat a salad on bread or grilled cheese, pretty much, although I have had sandwiches that replace the meat with a portobello mushroom.
  4. If all you do is smear some peanut butter and jelly between two slices of bread, you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What do you do in order to make yours just a little better? Jack shit! You don’t understand, my eating habits are disgustingly boring. 
  5. What are your thoughts on sprouts in a sandwich? I don’t like sprouts at all anyway, so I don’t really like them in a sandwich. That said, when I eat sandwiches loaded with veggies, I’m more likely to overlook things I normally wouldn’t like because they’re buried in other flavors. I’m pretty sure I have eaten a sandwich with sprouts in it but didn’t notice for this reason. Similarly, I don’t really care much for avocado, but there was this fantastic veggie sandwich I had a couple times at the resort in Mexico with avocado that I didn’t mind.

Booking Through Thursday: Time

If you had all the time in the world, what would you read?

My answer is stupidly simple–everything on my very large bookshelf. I basically buy books at a faster rate than I can read them, and I’m pretty sure I’ll die before I finish everything. My current goal for 2014 is just to work my way through the entire top shelf.

And naturally, when I finished everything on my shelf, I’d head out and hit book stores and get recommendations from social media and buy a bunch more and keep on reading.

About a week leading up to Mother’s Day, being the good daughter that I am and more attentive than my dad and brother, I asked my mom if she wanted to go somewhere or do something for Mother’s Day. She said she’d subtly left a flyer out for a brunch at a ski resort about an hour away from their place but didn’t expect anyone to figure it out, so I told her to either just tell them outright or make reservations herself. I’m not sure which she did, but either way, plans were set to go and Paul and Kelly were invited. I wasn’t counting on Paul coming because Mother’s Day also happened to be his sister Julie’s birthday.

So Mother’s Day rolls around and Paul’s not feeling well. He blames it on our late night the night before, which is certainly possible, but he has stomach trouble and gets headaches so frequently that I’m convinced it’s just from a toxic environment, both literally and figuratively–either something in the house makes him sick or the stress of being in your 20s with a helicopter mother makes him sick.

The catch is I didn’t completely believe him. I don’t know why–and it’s funny considering the night before, Stephanie had talked about just having a sense of when Garrett’s lying–but I had a feeling he was bullshitting me. I was half right. He really wasn’t feeling well, but he also just didn’t want to go to brunch, so I went into this whole bitchy spiel about how I don’t always want to do things with his family but I do them anyway and do them without complaining–with the exception of his mother, but even then that raises the point that even though I avoid going to their house, I still do interact with them on holidays, and interacting with his mom specifically, as we’ve heard ad nauseam on this blog, usually ends in me feeling shitty at best and crying at worst. And let’s not forget how I spent almost my entire Thanksgiving at his grandparents’, including taking care of their dog, including cleaning up dog piss.

He must’ve decided I was right, because next thing I know he’s like, “Nevermind, I’m leaving now.” And then next thing I know, that turned into “I’m hearing a fucking tirade from my mother”–nearly his exact words.

Having all the information now, I guess the problem went as such: Paul had said he was gonna be home all weekend, then stayed out late Saturday night, then said he was gonna go to brunch with my family, so she apparently threw a tantrum over him going somewhere–and I mean she yelled at him a little then ran away crying because he wanted to go to fucking brunch. And so naturally he didn’t come, not that I can blame him because ditching your hysterical mother on Mother’s Day probably isn’t the best idea. And it’s not like I was stealing him for the whole day–it would’ve been a few hours max and not interfered at all with their plans, which was just another afternoon at his grandparents’. I think this got lost in translation because that family can’t do damn anything that doesn’t take a whole day. You tell Paul brunch, he thinks it’s an all-day affair when really it’s a couple hours, and even then only that long because of the drive and walking around the resort and me buying pajamas in the gift shop with little bears on them that say “Bearly awake.”

Now. as pissed off as I obviously was (and still am), it was the perfect example to point to and say, “This is why you need to move out if you want to stay together.” First of all, it’s ridiculous to throw such a fit when your kid wants to go do something. Beyond that, it’s selfish and disrespectful–to me and my family–for her to guilt him into not going because it’s not what she wanted him to do. And finally, it is just the latest example of how I feel like I have to fight with her to spend time with Paul, and what makes it even more frustrating is that it seems to be implied that I should be splitting my time between my family and his and he should just always be with his family and fuck me and mine. And there’s another problem that goes all the way back to about a year after we first started dating, and that’s that I feel like she’s inconsiderate of both mine and Paul’s feelings to the point that I’m not treated as his girlfriend–instead, it’s like I’m this little toy that mommy can take away when she thinks he’s had too much time with it. It happens off and on with her where I get fucked out of plans or spending time with my boyfriend, who I only see on weekends as it is, because mommy got upset.

The good thing is that this whole debacle did result in Paul having what he considers to be the most productive conversation with his mom ever. There are a few points he didn’t hit that I wish he would’ve, like the disrespect thing, but he ended up being able to focus on one or two specific issues and really getting some points in. He even stopped her when she started to interrupt him and told her she needed to listen to what he had to say first, so that’s good. One of the things they touched on dealt with her coping mechanism for her kids dating, to which I say you shouldn’t need coping mechanisms for your children dating, so please see a professional.

Now, I’ve resolved that should she mention anything to me, I’m going to nicely but firmly tell her she was disrespectful and she best not do it again.

The Mother’s Day Shit Show: A Prelude

First, an update: I guess Paul and I aren’t taking a break, at least for now. He’s made an effort to look for apartments and while I’m still concerned he’ll kind of stall out–and I’m not going to sit and prod him because that’s a big part of the problem–he is doing things like contacting people and packing up stuff he doesn’t need right now, like winter clothes. The problem is he hasn’t actually scheduled any tours, so we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.

The good/bad news is that Mother’s Day was a huge fucking mess, and as stressful as it was, it had him in hardcore “I need to move out mode” and me pointing and saying, “This entire day is why our relationship can’t work while you’re living at home.” But first…

I went home Friday night because the national tour of Hair was making a very surprising stop in little old Uniontown. I’d heard about it back when the State Theatre announced their theater season and put off getting tickets because I didn’t expect Hair to be a sellout in a relatively conservative area, and then the weekend snuck up on me. But I wrote all about that already over here. I gave Paul a free pass because I figured he wouldn’t be a fan, so I was third wheel for Brandon and Kelly. And in short, the show not only sold really well but was quite warmly received. And we ran into an older woman we used to go to church with as we were leaving, so I guess Fayette County secretly has far more hippies than I thought.

Saturday night, the original plan was to go to Lynn’s. Paul and I hung out a little bit during the day. My mom had some last-minute Mother’s Day shopping to do for godmothers–and she said something really depressing about how since Grandma died, she forgets the godmothers until the last minute because she ends up focusing more on not having her mom anymore–and Paul hadn’t even started his shopping, plus he had the double-whammy of Julie’s birthday falling on Mother’s Day, too, and being unsure of what to get anyone. And holidays that involve shopping for his mom ale involve lots of agonizing over what to get her because, as I’ve heard plenty, she has no hobbies, doesn’t do anything, and doesn’t collect anything. And I can’t remember if I posted about this–a quick searched turned up nothing–but there was a whole catastrophe over her birthday when he bought her a gift card because he was out of ideas, his dad told him not to give it to her because she complained that that’s what lots of other friends and family did and it was too impersonal, so he didn’t and then she threw a fit over not getting anything at all. My mom and I tried to help this time around, and I’m not sure how much help we actually were, but he did leave with presents, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Lynn’s got scrapped because Stephanie ended up sending a group text wanting to hang out, so he and I met up with her and her husband Garrett, plus Meri and Marissa, and we had a really nice night of dinner and drinks and lots of talking. And sitting in Meri’s family room and hearing a very drunk priest leave her parents a voicemail and freaking ourselves out talking about ghosts and shit.

But there were also a lot of very adult conversations, like careers, moving, weddings, babies, and just general life things. I mean, we talked and hung out for hours. Now, Paul and I originally weren’t gonna be out too long, partly because we’re getting old and boring and we’re both used to going to bed early to be up for work early. We ended up out till like 2, and here’s where I think the Mother’s Day Shit Show started to creep its way in.

I crash at my parents’ house when I come in so I’m not driving an hour and back, especially on nights like that where I drink and stay out late. My parents don’t mind, and I wouldn’t say I’m on the level of a guest in that house, but I definitely don’t want to act like I still live there and can do as I please, and staying out that late is generally rare. Now, when I did still live there, my mom used to wait up for me. Gradually, that got downgraded to my dad waiting up, which got downgraded to Brandon, who I think cheats and doesn’t do it and now I just wake up Duke, who has to come sit with me before we both go to bed. My trick has always been–especially when it’s getting really late but I’m not ready to leave–is just to stretch whoever’s waiting to annoyance but not anger. You know, like I’m not back yet but I lie a little and say I’ve just left when I really haven’t–it’s more like I use the “Are you on your way home?” texts as my cue to go rather than being more responsible and considerate and leaving before I get them.

Now, Paul had originally told his dad he’d be back by midnight, which was fine until we all got to talking. But his dad–and no one else in the house–ever sent the typical parental “Where are you?” text, and like I said, we ended up being out until 2. Turns out his parents were waiting up for him and were pretty pissed, and I do feel bad that we ended up out that late, especially since they waited up, but I have some annoyances, too, which to an extent play into the issue of independence and moving out.

First, while I understand wanting to make sure he got home safe and I’ve even experienced parents waiting up, I do think it’s a little ridiculous that for as pissed as his parents apparently were, they didn’t bother to text either of us until a solid two hours after he said he’d be back. My mom’s on that shit within a half hour. I’m not saying it’s their responsibility to check up on him, but I am saying that I think it’s silly to freak out without bothering to try to make contact.

But the biggest issue for me here is the freaking out in the first place. Between leaving Bud’s and getting to Meri’s, we were a solid few minutes behind because Paul had to sit and text his dad first to tell him what we were doing, so there was a point where he wasn’t around when I made an annoyed comment because of this about how he needs to move out. Because a quick update is one thing, but it’s a little ridiculous to be out with a bunch of 20-somethings–including a married couple–and be talking about very adult things and essentially being on your own…except for one, who has to report back to mommy and daddy and be home to mommy and daddy. It’s a frustrating juxtaposition, and I think it was something little that was in part a catalyst for a hellish Mother’s Day.

Friday Five: Shadows

1. When have you had to choose the lesser of two evils? Here’s a life lesson I learned about the lesser of two evils (sort of): I always toed this line between keeping quiet about certain issues to avoid conflict versus speaking up, which could make things worse, sure, but it could also make things better. And what I’ve learned is keeping your mouth shut actually creates the bigger messes. So both options suck, but the lesser of the two evils is to address a problem as soon as it arises and save everyone involved lots of pain and frustration.
2. When have your good intentions resulted in something awful? You know, the previous question and my answer are actually a good example–I’ve let people get away with doing and saying some pretty shitty things in an attempt to avoid  conflict, but I ended up fucking myself over and getting hurt in the end. I’m not saying not to consider other people’s feelings when handling things, but there’s never anything wrong with saying to someone, “This hurts me and it is not okay.” And I once expressed concerns over someone’s relationship that someone else ultimately used against me.
3. In your experience, have two wrongs ever made a right? Not that I can think of.
4. When have you had to let virtue be its own reward? I don’t really brag about things I do well, good deeds I do, and just generally being a nice person. And there’s a handful of people who have said such racist and generally terrible things on Facebook and Twitter that if I was motivated enough and didn’t feel it would be a huge bitch move, I could easily get them fired. There’s also a high-school teacher of mine that’s done some things that would probably wreck his marriage and career.
5. What is the worst toll stress has ever taken on you? Physically, not much, and I think it’s less stress and more just poor sleeping and eating habits, but I do occasionally get really run down and end up sick. I’m on the verge of that now. Emotionally, I just end up crying a lot or dwelling on the stressful thing. I cried a lot the summer I effectively left the Craigs. I cried a lot last summer when the combination of Paul’s mom and the various effects night shift has led to lots of relationship stress. And I cry when I get frustrated–if I feel kind of stuck or don’t know what to do, it’s like the only reaction my brain can come to is tears.

Friday Five: Figure Five

1. In what way was someone recently rude to you? Paul’s mom essentially threw a temper tantrum last weekend when he said he was going to go to brunch with my family–I’m talking like threw a bitch fit and complained, then ran away crying. So despite the fact that my parents made reservations and are considerate enough to include him in these things, he didn’t go because mommy didn’t want him to. Now, granted, it puts him in a shitty position, but I definitely pin it on her and say it was a very selfish, disrespectful thing to do, and it’s the latest example of me getting fucked over and treated less like Paul’s serious girlfriend and more like Paul’s little toy she can keep him from playing with.
2. What’s the most macho thing you’ve done recently? I had a dream last night that Paul’s parents came to my apartment and his mom started being really, genuinely mean to him, so I kicked her out. In real life, I don’t even know. I live a pretty non-macho existence. It was probably like opening a jar or bottle by myself.
3. What was the last occasion for which you wore a mask? A real, tangible mask? I don’t even remember. It had to have been Halloween, but I never had a Halloween costume that actually required masks. Maybe wearing this skeleton mask Brandon used to have to try to scare someone? But a metaphorical mask–hmm. I like to think I don’t, but I guess in certain situations, I play nicer than I am. Like when I encounter Paul’s mom.
4. What’s a nice encounter you’ve had recently with nature? Paul and I went to the mountains a few weeks ago on a nice day and just spent a good few hours hiking. We’ve resolved to do such things more often. We’re checking out this huge park between my apartment and work tomorrow.
5. Who cuts your hair? Donald Stalnaker at Shear Symmetry! My mom’s been going to him since I was little, and I like him and his staff and I trust them with my hair. I think my latest cut is my favorite and looks really nice with my combination of curls and facial structure.

Booking Through Thursday: Plot or Characters

Which is more important when you read — the actual story or the characters? I’ve read books with great plots, but two-dimensional characters, and I’ve read multi-layered characters stuck in clunky stories, and I’m sure you have, too. So which would you rather focus on, if you couldn’t have both?

I think they’re of equal weight–I don’t prefer one over the other. That said, I do think the strength of one can make up for the weaknesses of another, or at least help to make a more enjoyable read if the book can’t be entirely redeemed. One of my tell-tale signs of a bad writing–characterization specifically–is when I can’t remember who is who in a book. I’ve been such a bookworm my whole life with kick-ass reading comprehension and grades in English that it’s very rare, so much so that I can remember almost every time it’s happened–American RustFountainhead, and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant about sum it up (should be noted that I also dislike the plots and writing styles of all three of those books in general anyway). I think it also ties into a writing rule that I think holds up 99% of the time–if the reader misunderstands something or struggles with something, it’s the writer’s fault. It’s the writer’s job to be a clear and effective storyteller, and granted I’ve seen exceptions where people impressively misinterpret things or miss huge details in a book, but I generally find it to be true.

Now, sometimes I hate the characters in a book just because they’re terrible people but still like the book itself. Wuthering Heights is the perfect example–that damn couple is one of the worst in literature, so far in my reading experience only being beaten out by Christian and Ana in 50 Shades of Grey, but they’re written well and fleshed out and you understand why they’re terrible. In fact, them being terrible is the whole plot.

Speaking of 50 Shades, that’s a good example of a book where the characters are fleshed out but horrible and the plot is generic and weak yet I still want to know what happens yet I still hate it. I’ve been toying around with the idea of doing a post all about what I’ve learned about myself through reading 50 Shades, which is basically a long list of things I hate and why.

And then there’s Twilight. Now, on its most basic level, I like the plot of Twilight. I’m just fine with teenage vampire romance, but the writing is bad and things start to fall apart when Stephenie Meyer starts contradicting her own pseudoscience. Authors make shit up all the time, but you can’t make shit up for the sake of fitting something into your plot when it just doesn’t make sense. You don’t get to say vampires are physically dead except for the fact that they somehow can impregnate women. It doesn’t make sense. Please consult Anne Rice for lessons on what happens to vampire dick. Spoiler alert: forever limp. Anyway, Twilight did have some characters I truly enjoyed, mostly minor ones. Bella’s dad, Charlie, and Edward’s sister Alice were both fantastic, and it’s been argued by Twilight haters that the reason they’re so good is because they were minor characters, meaning their lack of screen time meant Meyer didn’t have an opportunity to ruin them. They weren’t enough to save the series, but they’re certainly good.

And then there’s the fact that sometimes, so much hinges on character that they are the plot. You can have a whole hell of a lot of not much happen, but if your characters are interesting and the reader relates to them and cares about them, you can get away with plot issues. Hell, not all writing is even traditionally plot-centered anymore–James Joyce’s short fiction was much more character-focused, and usually the “what happens next” bit we love as readers involves what happens to the characters, not so much what the next event is, and in that sense, plot and characters can become delightfully tightly intertwined.