Christmas was nice, despite me having to work due to what I think was a miscommunication/me missing the announcement of how holidays vacation time would be handled.

I went home after work, got ready, then met my family at my Uncle Vince’s house. The one advantage to me working was having a shorter drive over from my place, although the disadvantage was then having to drive back to my parents’ house after 10:30 mass. Because I guess local Catholics don’t have it in them to do midnight anymore. I prefer it, although I don’t have the energy for it unless I power nap in the afternoon. 5:30 a.m. wakeups are a bitch.

It was a nice time hanging out with the cousins and significant others, eating and playing Cards Against Humanity. We even opted to play longer over opening presents, and we did get some gems. I think my favorite might be this nice lace shirt with a skull on the back from Aunt Gina and Uncle Richard.

I spent the night at my parents’, and after we discovered last year that Duke runs right into the living room to get his presents, my mom didn’t put his out until he was out taking his morning bathroom trip so we could see his reaction this time. He’s like a little kid–he runs to his own stuff, plays with everything, then looks to see what everyone else got, probably because he hopes we’ll share.

My mom got me some pretty cool stuff–a handcarved wooden box from my Etsy list, giraffe bookends, Wizard of Oz bath soaps and bombs, a nice new wallet. Another highlight was 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die from Brandon. I thought I had a well-rounded musical background, but I’ve heard only maybe 20 of the albums in that book. I have a lot of work to do.

I got Brandon some Magic cards, got my dad a Harry & David gift set, and Brandon and I combined and got my mom some nightshirts, Stevie Nicks’ new album, Snoopy cups, and two scarf-and-glove sets.

After lounging a sufficiently long time and eating breakfast, I headed to Paul’s parents’, where I ate and lounged some more, fell asleep in Paul’s lap in the armchair, and then in my tired, half-asleep state swatted his hand away like a bitchy little cat when he tried to touch me affectionately.

And then I came home, back to the work grind…if only for a day before the weekend.

Friday Five: Big Latin

  1. Ad infinitum is Latin for “to forever.” What’s something in your life that continues ad infinitumWork and Paul’s mother being irrational and difficult.
  2. What’s something (mostly) only fellow alumni know about one of your alma maters? I think my favorite is how upperclassmen at Geibel used to tell freshmen that you could get to the pool by taking the elevator to the third floor. None of those things exist. For my college days, I’m a fan of vast disapproval of things like tuition going up while the library got new teak furniture.
  3. In what way did you carpe diem today (or yesterday, if you’re doing this early)? Well, it’s an unseasonably warm day, so I’ll soon be taking advantage of it by going out for a walk with Paul.
  4. In flagrante delicto means “in a blazing wrong” or “while the crime is blazing.” What’s something you remember being caught red-handed perpetrating? One of my first adventures in underage drinking was at Sarah’s house, and her brother-in-law came over early the next morning and we had bottles all over the kitchen table. With no time to clean up or cover our tracks, we threw a blanket over the table. Despite suspicious bottle-like protrusions, he didn’t question a thing…so technically, we weren’t caught.
  5. What is so far your magnum opus (great work; masterpiece)? Probably the 40-page manuscript I had to do for my capstone in college, but I’m also pretty proud of everything I’ve put out there, from the blogs I’ve maintained to the writing I’m doing semi-professionally now, including the work I’ve put into Inyourspeakers the last few years–even though I just resigned as managing features editor.

In Which We Finally Succeed in Seeing ‘The Nutcracker’

What a busy time of year.

Thursday, I met my mom up at the outlets to tackle some Christmas shopping, then we went to dinner at Max and Erma’s. Then she stopped off at a Walmart and took forever to get home because apparently, the roads back there were covered in ice and there was a wreck somewhere.

I worked late Friday and ran some errands before Paul finished up, and he’s now working 10-hour days, so it was later than we both would’ve liked and I headed over to his place, where we went to eat at Primanti’s before another brief round of Christmas shopping. My mom and I had picked up these cute little hot-chocolate cups from Harry & David at the outlets but were short a few, so I was on the lookout for a couple more to gift to Paul’s siblings. I went up and looked every day this week and with little time left, settled on getting a different neat Harry & David for the boys and stuck with the hot chocolates plus Christmas cookies for the girls, as well as Kelly.

We lounged Saturday, then met Kelly and Brandon in Pittsburgh for dinner and The Nutcracker.

Now, the past two years trying to see the damn beloved ballet have been a disaster–the first was the infamous year in which they all stayed home due to a snow storm and I went anyway without a working phone, and last year we got stuck in traffic and were really late and had to sit in the back of the theater until intermission, because the back of the theater is where they stick late jagoffs.

So I was a little apprehensive about it this year.

Brandon and I decided if we were gonna eat, we’d best do it either near the theater or in the North Shore, which is close enough to the Cultural District that eating there was pretty easy. And then he filled me in on his city secrets I always forget about but really need to commit to memory. He suggested we park at the casino, which is free, then walk to restaurant of choice Grill 36 a few blocks away, then walk to the subway station between the restaurant and casino and ride it over to the Cultural District because riding the subway to downtown destinations is free. And the subway station in the Cultural District is right across from the theater.

Now, I started getting worried when Paul and I hit traffic on our way into the city. Brandon and Kelly got an early start to Christmas shop and were gonna get a table, but still–I started to get concerned that we’d be late enough to throw things off and that Brandon misjudged the timing of our walking, despite him insisting we wouldn’t need to adjust our eating time of two hours before I wanted to be at the theater. I had a feeling we were doomed to be late yet again, which would’ve been particularly horrible this year since I sprung for Director’s Circle tickets when they were on sale and got us second fucking row of the balcony, which ballet fans will recognize as nearly the best seats in the house.

But we had a great waiter, who made sure we got our food fast–and I don’t think he even knew we were going to the show, although the fact that they were already busy and the Pens were playing that night might’ve been factors. I wanted to be done eating by 6–we’d arrived between 4:30 and 5–and we finished well in advance of that and got to the subway station just in time to catch it over to Wood St.

I wanted to be at the theater by 6:30, and we made it by 6:20. I have to give Brandon credit on this one–he had a good, cheap plan that worked out perfectly.

And the show was fantastic, as it has been the previous two years. I love The Nutcracker so fucking much, it’s ridiculous.

I’d plan to stop at Sarah’s Christmas party later that night, but by the time we got back to Paul’s, it was late enough that I didn’t feel like driving out there then driving to my parents’ to crash, so I spent an extra night at Paul’s, which he certainly didn’t mind.

On Sunday, after having made plans to go to my mom’s Aunt Elaine’s annual Christmas party, Paul was informed that Emily had a Christmas concert to attend, so he did manage to squeeze in both. The party was nice, I hung out some at my parents’, and now it’s off to work tomorrow to wait it out until it’s time to leave and enjoy Christmas festivities.

Oh, and I stepped down as features editor for IYS.

Friday Five: All I Need Is a Miracle

  1. When has something miraculous or seemingly miraculous happened to you or someone you know? I think my favorite story along these lines belongs to my friend Leah’s grandfather. He’s blind, and the story goes that when he was in college, a fire broke out in his dorm. He was trying to make his way out of the building when someone found him and guided him out–I think they spoke, too, and the person grabbed his hand, but it’s been awhile since I’ve heard it so I’m not positive. At any rate, he got out safely and was greeted by his very relieved friends, who asked him how he got out. When he explained someone helped him, they told him he’d come out of the building alone. SPOOKY. Mr. Mac from high school had a similar eery story about picking up a hitchhiker who had a long heart to heart with Mr. Mac about his future, then disappeared when Mr. Mac let him out. Not to mention Mr. Mac has nearly been killed more than once but somehow always made it out relatively okay, compared to, you know, death.
  2. When were you last part of an amazing coincidence? The last big one I can think of is about a year and a half ago, when I first contacted my therapist. About two years ago, about this exact time of year, I was super depressed and suicidal, frankly, and decided to see a therapist, but I couldn’t find anyone near me who seemed good and took my insurance, which only upset me more. I came out of the depression a bit but some months later did decide to try a therapist hunt again, which is when I found my current one. I’m not sure how I didn’t find him before that, honestly, but it doesn’t matter much now. He seemed like a great fit for me, took my insurance, and had great reviews, and I mentioned it to Terra. And it just so happens that she of all the people in the area I could’ve picked as my shrink, I picked someone she knew–he’d worked at her middle school for a time, and she’d really liked him.
  3. What have you recently accomplished against magnificent odds? Getting paid–albeit literally pennies–to write. But it’s a start. I’ve got content that I’ve written out there on the internet that’s been seen and promoted, and I’ve gotten money for it.
  4. In what way this week has luck been in your favor? Hmm. I was just telling relatives how I’m not the lucky one in the family–Brandon is. The best I can think of is that after three years of trying, Paul, Brandon, Kelly, and I made it to The Nutcracker not just on time but well in advance this year, despite me being concerned we’d be late or miss it entirely again, but it was nearly perfect. I’ll talk about it later.
  5. What was the last outcome you consciously decided to leave up to chance? I can’t think of anything really recent, but I sort of approached dating this way. I wasn’t interested in anyone around me, and they very night I met Paul, I told Meri and Sarah at a bonfire over at Sarah’s house that I didn’t want to date my senior year of college, all the college guys were immature and not worth my time, and that I’d rather wait it our and meet an older man out in the workforce or something. And then Paul won me over and we’ve been together ever since–and that was almost four and a half years ago. We’re talking moving in together/marriage.

Booking Through Thursday: YA

Do you read books written for children or teens? Or do you stick to books for adults?

I read more books for adults than I do young-adult books, but I’m open to reading almost anything and I don’t believe in being dismissive or shutting myself off to certain experiences–and not just when it comes to reading. I did recently read The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and I’m a big fan of The Giver.

And of course, I love Harry Potter.

I’ve ended another long weekend, yet again in an attempt to use up as many vacation days as possible before I lose them in February. I doubt I’ll get down to the one week I’m allowed to carry over–there are just too many days and I started taking them liberally too late. What a first-world problem to have.

Paul came over Friday night and we ventured out briefly for beer and milk. I picked up a gift card for him not-so-secretly while we were out. One of my goals for his Christmas present is to get him a bunch of small gift cards for both places he regularly spends money on necessities and some for fun stuff. I’d like to try to get him a Visa one, too, to use anywhere he wants. It’s Operation Save Paul money, since they cut his overtime until now and money’s been tight. Like every Christmas we’ve been together, I’m in a better financial position and thus buy him more than he buys me, which makes him feel bad no matter what I say or do, and in that sense, Operation Save Paul money is going to backfire–he’s gonna be able to see how much money I spent on gift cards, and even though he’ll be grateful for the help and he’ll accept it since it’s a Christmas gift, he won’t be happy. That said, I told him he can buy me presents after Christmas when his overtime paychecks come in. Of course, the “you don’t have to get me anything” line never flies.

I went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra Saturday afternoon with my parents and Kimmie and Joey, and it was a cool show, as always. It helped it feel more like Christmas. I also lost four Instagram followers after a TSO photo-posting binge, which I can understand might be annoying, but it’s also annoying to know some acquaintances would rather see food, cats, and selfies than actual stuff happening. At the same time, it is a nice, easy way to weed people out of social media. Social media has this way of enabling people to linger in our lives longer than they probably should.

After the concert, we ate across the street at the Steelhead, a restaurant in the lobby of the Marriott, which was really good.

Meanwhile, Paul was back at my apartment–sort of. Jacob was due in at the airport that night, so Paul was hanging out while I was out, as he didn’t want to see TSO. Jacob’s first flight was delayed, leading him to miss his second, so Paul hung out with me an extra night. While I was gone, he ventured out and ran into his friend Marc and his girlfriend, so he went out to dinner with them then played Skyrim on my fancy new TV until I came home.

The writers’ group from work met up again Sunday, though a little smaller in number. It went well once again and I really enjoy it and look forward to going in the future. They simultaneously boost my writing ego and give me constructive criticism–and they’re pretty great at giving constructive criticism. We even discussed what we like as readers versus what we like as writers. I did a little Christmas and grocery shopping before I headed home.

Monday brought another annual Christmas concert–B.E. Taylor, who I think just gets better every year. I’m hoping to write full, proper reviews of him and TSO over the weekend for AXS. I dropped off recycling on my way, got stuck in traffic because of buses and probably pedestrians and shitty Pittsburgh drivers, and was late for dinner. But this is also why you plan to eat two hours before your show starts.

And yesterday, I went over to see Meri, as she’s in town from El Paso for the next couple of days. Since I had the day off and I’m sure we’ll both be busy between now and when she heads back Thursday night, I wanted to take the opportunity to see her while I knew I could squeeze it in easily. So my mom and I both went over and had a delicious Polish dinner. Nolan was in, too, and I think it was the first time I’ve seen him since Stephanie’s wedding. We didn’t talk much, but things went well, it was nice, and we hugged at the end of the night.

And then I had trouble sleeping because I had a stupid dream about, like, a college/work hybrid involving people I don’t know and circumstances that don’t make any sense.

I’m hoping to but not counting on seeing Meri again before she goes home. This is why living an hour away from everything but your job and the city is a pain in the ass–it’s easier for everyone else to hang out, but I have to worry about getting home because of work at 7:00 the next morning.

The good news is Sarah’s having a Christmas party Saturday night. Same night as our Nutcracker tickets, but I’ll at least be able to make an appearance, even if everyone will probably be drunk by then and won’t even remember said appearance.