Friday Five: Holding

  1. When did you recently experience a pleasantly delayed gratification? I’m not sure. I’ve got some online orders coming in soon, but those are taking longer than usual and I’m getting impatient.
  2. What’s something you’d like to just fast-forward through in the next few weeks? All of winter, but with pauses for Christmas and various other fun things like Punchline’s hometown album release party. Then just go straight to whenever the weather decides to go above, say, 60 degrees.
  3. What’s something in the next few weeks you’ll wish you could slow down so you can savor the experience? Funnily enough, all the fun stuff that’s gonna be coming up in December. I know the month is just gonna fly between holiday parties and some winter traditions like Trans-Siberian Orchestra and hopefully a Nutcracker trip…which, fuck, we wanted to go next weekend and I haven’t even looked at tickets yet.
  4. What’s something that takes you a lot longer than it used to? I honestly can’t think of anything. I have less free/leisure time, though, thanks to mandatory overtime.
  5. What’s something you saved for later, but when later came, you decided you didn’t really want it? I have a new bad habit of forgetting about leftovers and leaving them beyond a reasonable eating point. I can’t think of specifics, but I occasionally change my mind on making certain purchases.

Booking Through Thursday: Thankful

What is it about reading that makes you most thankful?

Just having that as an option for entertainment. Sure, there are movies and TV shows, but reading has always been one of my favorite things to do. Few things are more reliable than a bound paper book you can use at just about any time. And for me, it’s not necessarily about escapism in the sense of wanting to get away from/forget reality as it is just enjoying myself for a bit.

I’m thankful for whatever time I get to read, even though it’s very limited lately. I’m thankful for the writers that have entertained me, moved me, and/or taught me something new. I’m thankful for the fact that I love of Harry Potter has turned into a supplementary writing income. I’m thankful for the connections I’ve made with people over books, whether it’s simply listening to a recommendation or bonding over a mutual love or digging deep into a book. I’m thankful that I have the money for books. I’m thankful that I have the space for books, even if I am currently using the word “space” very loosely and even if “space” currently means “an empty spot on the floor where I can stack books if need be.” I’m thankful that I have friends and value who love books and reading, too, including a grandmother who read to me when I was too young to even remember it now, a grandfather who encouraged the habit by giving us all a dollar for every book we completed, and parents who bought me books and took me to the library or the bookstore and understood that I loved it, rather than questioning it or thinking it was weird the way my boyfriend’s family did. I’m thankful that I have books and stories and writers that inspire me as a writer myself and give me something to not just learn from but strive for, too.

Paul wasn’t too into the idea of seeing The Peanuts Movie, so he stayed home and slept in while I pretty much spent a day out and about with my mom.

I drove to my parents’ place first, hung out with Duke a bit, then we took off to Greensburg for the movie. We toyed with the idea of stopping at the mall but agreed neither of us needed to go and therefore shouldn’t indulge in shopping, so we ran some small errands instead–they recently redid their living room and she’d bought various decorative items over the previous couple of days, so she picked up some stuff to add to that. We started at Michael’s for some stuff for a family-tree wall decal, then I wanted to scour CDs and records at Cash-in-Culture down the plaza, then we hit Pier 1 and found a few decorative items, and I ultimately got sent on a mission to Washington’s Pier 1 to pick up more of the same item.

We spent a little time at my parents’ house when we got in–and I got some dry cleaning done–before the two of us went back out for dinner at Olive Garden, then headed over to Kimmie’s place to give her her very late birthday present we’ve owed her since August. Back when we were in Gettysburg in September, we found that Polish pottery shop and bought all the godmothers tea sets, but we also got a nice painted cat for Kimmie, plus a little “fairy godmother” keychain with our birthstones as dangling gems I’d bought previously. She loved them both, and we spent some time talking and hanging out. More time than we’d intended, in fact. My mom and I both had laundry to do and I wanted to stop at Pechins for cheap groceries while I was in town, and we ended up staying until well into the evening. So I didn’t get any of my chores done, but it was a nice visit. And I know Kimmie was glad to have us.

And I had most of Monday to myself, save catching up on chores that got skipped Sunday, and now we’re back into a shortened work week. Tomorrow is gonna drag.

Movie Review: The Peanuts Movie

Anyone who knows my mother even in the slightest knows she loves Peanuts. No one ever has trouble shopping for her because they know if it’s Peanuts, she’ll love it–the only trouble they do have is guessing at whether or not she already has something. So when The Peanuts Movie was first announced, it was a big deal for her. We’d send her trailer and promos and joke about how she was gonna co-opt Brandon’s birthday to go see it.

She texted me after work one day asking me to call her. When I did, she explained that her best friend wanted to see the movie the Saturday it came out, and I couldn’t go because of my weekend rotation. Her best friend’s schedule didn’t fit with the 3D showtimes, so my mom wanted to know if I would go with her a second time at a later date so she’d get to see it in 3D.

“What if it’s terrible and you don’t like it?” I joked.

“I don’t think that’ll happen,” she said.

It didn’t. After allowing myself a free, chill weekend last week and another open weekend this week, I asked if she’d want to go see it, so we settled on a trip out to Greensburg–the nicer of the local theaters–for an 11 a.m. screening.

I figured we’d be the only ones in there since it was early and the movie’s been out a few weeks. I was right. But I like that.

My brother had reported that my mom and her friend had laughed louder at any of the gags than anybody else in the theater, which I believe. She laughed the second time around, too, and I laughed with her–it was really a cute, funny movie.

The thing about being raised by a die-hard Snoopy lover is that I know all things Snoopy, too. I know some people didn’t like the movie for this reason, but the film was packed with little lines and references to everything from the comic strips to the movies and TV specials. For longtime fans like my mom and even me, who get the references and jokes, it’s a really cute tie-in, and the movie does a really good job of stitching these things together into an actual plot consistent with the familiar characters and themes. For newcomers, especially kids, it’s a good introduction to the Peanuts world.

The plot itself is simple–straightforward–but nice. Things never really go right for Charlie Brown, and when a new girl moves in across the street, he gets his chance to make a fresh start and kind of tries to revamp himself and his image from clumsy and incapable to smart, confident, and successful. I don’t want to give anything away, even though it’s kind of predictable, but in the end, you get to see what degree of success he has but also a little bit of different perspective. While Charlie Brown sees himself as a bumbling failure, his love interest, the nameless Little Red-Haired Girl, sees other qualities in him entirely. It was a pretty sweet message to send to kids, and also a nice reminder even for adults that how we see ourselves isn’t always how the rest of the world sees us and we are not defined by our missteps and mistakes.

In the midst of this, Snoopy finds a typewriter and becomes a bit of a writer, imagining himself as the famous Flying Ace fighting the Red Baron when he stumbles upon Fifi, a dog that’s essentially a pink, poodle-like version of Snoopy. Now, before I saw the movie, I came across another review complaining that the portrayal of Fifi was sexist because she’s, well, pink. I disagree, and not just because feminism has bigger shit to worry about than a pink dog in a movie. Could they have made an imagined love interest for Snoopy without making her pink? Sure. Is it really a problem that they didn’t? Not really. Most importantly for me, though, Snoopy isn’t always the most humble of dogs. I once joked that he’s kind of a douche and my mom yelled at me for it. But it’s true–Snoopy often is a little self-centered, and I think it’s actually very fitting that he imagines a love interest that looks just like him.

Despite my criticisms of Snoopy, though, he is a very loyal friend. He may get up to some shenanigans at the expense of people around him, but he’s there as support system, a personal cheerleader, and a truly loving friend–even though he’s just a dog.

The movie did start to drag a little near the end–I suspect a pacing problem over anything else. But it was a really sweet, enjoyable, and uplifting movie that’s worth a trip out to see, especially if you’re a Snoopy fan yourself or have kids you’d like to treat to a nice, family-friendly movie with a positive message.

Friday Five: Risk

  1. What’s something you’re particularly bashful about? PDA, which is kind of strange because of my contrasting opinions of it. I almost never care when other people do it, unless it’s getting excessive and gross. But for some reason, I don’t like sharing even the slightest kiss or hug with my boyfriend in public. Something about it makes me feel like all eyes are suddenly on me, which makes me uncomfortable. In fact, on our last hike in Ohiopyle, we had a moment while we were sitting on a rock, and I was all, “Nooo, your mom’s gonna turn around and make this a thing,” and damn, I was right. Maybe that’s my problem–that there are definitely some people who make a big deal, even positively, about me sharing a moment with my boyfriend.
  2. What’s something that recently caused you personal shame? I honestly don’t know! It’s not something I feel often. I think it usually gets trumped by a different, stronger emotion.
  3. Who or what keeps you humble? To a certain extent, me–I just think humility is an important quality to have. But in case I ever forget that, I can always count on Terra to knock me down, and nothing will keep you humble quit like a sibling.
  4. In what way did someone recently violate your privacy? I have an account on Patreon, where I back Amanda Palmer, and the site was hacked and some information was compromised. Most recently, some people have gotten scam e-mails that are basically blackmail attempts saying they have your personal information and asking you to send them BitCoins so they won’t release it, but Patreon has confirmed it’s not possible for anyone to have the informant they’re claiming because Patreon doesn’t even store that. All that said, I haven’t actually got one of these e-mails and I don’t know for sure that anyone had access to my info in particular.
  5. What’s something you don’t trust yourself with? Babies. They’re too small and fragile!

I haven’t allowed myself to get too wrapped up in the Paris attacks. My heart goes out to the city and I’m praying for them–and anyone else, from refugees to Muslim, that may end up targets of bigotry and hatred as a result–but I just can’t sit and read account after account of what happened. I know the basics. I feel like that’s all I need.

Paul, though, did get a little wrapped up in it. He texted me while I was at work Saturday saying he’d been reading article on it most of the day and he needed to get out of the apartment, so he wanted to know if maybe we could go to dinner and see the new James Bond movie.

We’d planned to see it Friday night, actually, but his best friend wanted to hang out instead, so I let them go on their way. Said friend is also going through a breakup, and he doesn’t like to come hang out in Washington because his ex-girlfriend frequents a lot of the same places, as do guys who know her who once claimed she was cheating. So they hang out in Uniontown instead.

Anyway, Paul decided he was finally ready to try Noodles & Co. It is, obviously, a pasta place, and he’s not much of a pasta fan, so he had to be in the mood to go. I suspect, though, that he knew I’ve been wanting to go since they opened.

It’s a good place. It reminds me almost of something like Chipotle for pasta, where you order at a counter and they bring the food out to you but it’s not necessarily nicer sit-down dining. But that ended up being perfect–I got stuck in traffic on my way home from work and sat in a busy GetGo for a while, and we were left with an hour to eat before the movie. Normally, that would be a tight squeeze, but because of the setup of Noodles & Co., we actually finished up and got to the theater in plenty of time. I had the pad thai because I was curious. It’s not a match for my favorite Thai, Green Mango in Monroeville, but it’ll do when I don’t feel like, you know, driving an hour including through the city to get out to Monroeville. And since they also serve soups and sandwiches, it’ll be easier to convince Paul to go there to quickly satisfy a pad thai craving than it would be to go get it more authentic.

As for “Spectre,” it was good, but I should’ve seen the previous films first. I mean, I knew enough to understand what was going on, but I feel like it would’ve been a much more enjoyable movie had I seen the previous ones.  It was also the first Daniel Craig Bond movie I’ve seen at all and the only Bond movie I’ve ever seen in theaters, so that tells you how long it’s been since I’ve seen one. I like Craig’s Bond a lot.

And that’s the most we did all weekend, aside from grocery shopping and laundry. We did get an invite to his parents’ for dinner, but I could tell by the way he mentioned it to me that he didn’t want to go, so I encouraged him to decline. He feels guilted into things way too often, and it’s about time he say no and just do what he wants to do.

Plus we’ve been wanting a weekend where we didn’t really go anywhere or do anything, and we finally got it. Dinner and a movie minutes away from the apartment, and that was it. Next weekend’s looking to be the same, although I might check in with my mom and see if she wants to go through with her desire to see “The Peanuts Movie” in 3D or if we ought to pop in and give my godmother her very late birthday present. My godmother’s also been wanting me to keep in better touch–“You’re all we’ve got!” she told me at that wedding last month. She and her husband don’t have kids, so I seem to be a sort of stand-in. She wants more calls and texts, and I am trying. We exchanged a few e-mails, and I told her I’d let her know when I had a weekend freed up. Funnily enough, aside from Thanksgiving, of course, most of November is pretty free…and then I suspect I’ll have pretty constant plans all through December.

Friday Five: Creativity

  1. When did you last attempt to create something outside your usual realms of creativity? My usual realm is writing, of course, and I’d say it’s been years since I did anything. I used to do a little crafting and I used to play guitar, and those are both things that kind of waned when full-time work–and balancing some freelance work–took over. But I’d like to get back into them again.
  2. Where do good ideas come from? Sometimes experience. Sometimes mere desire for expression. I get a lot of my memoir/creative nonfiction ideas from life, of course, and just what I have to say or how I feel about something. My rare fiction ideas, though, almost always come from my weird dreams, unless I’m playing with something like, “Huh, what if this happened?”
  3. Rainer Maria Rilke famously said, “If my devils are to leave me, I’m afraid my angels will take flight, as well.” What are your thoughts on the portrayal of artists as tortured souls? I dislike the stereotypes of writers as being very dark or depressed or something. I remember once in high school, a bunch of my classmates started cracking jokes about writers being depressed and suicidal, and I disagreed and spoke up even then. That said, I do think writers sometimes have a different way of looking at life, and we often also have a different way of processing it. People tend to use creative outlets of any time to work through something, not necessarily to express something happy or positive. One of the reasons I started blogging again after a couple years away from it was because I was frustrated about a lot of things and I really needed to get them out of my head, and I just happen to like doing that to an audience, however small it may be. I don’t know that I’d say my writing is at its best when I’m pissed off, but it’s certainly more interesting.
  4. What situations or environs put dampers on your creativity? Anything that’s really pulling me away in general. If my mind is occupied with something going on in my personal life now and I’m tweaking a memoir piece about the past, it can be hard to stick with it because I get distracted. Generally, if something is bothering me, I have to write about it pretty quickly, otherwise it eats away at me until I get to it. Other than that, I don’t think there’s a lot that throws me off–one of the things that’s impressed my boyfriend, Paul, since moving in with me is the way he can be sitting right next to me playing music or a video and I can be writing and so absorbed in what I’m doing that I truly don’t take in any of what I hear. He’s watched entire episodes of Sherlock and Dr. Who right next to me, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in any of them.
  5. Who are some people you admire for their creativity? I’m pretty sure I’ve talked before about why I value well-done sci-fi and fantasty–whether it be TV, movies, or books–but I admire writers in those genres, especially when they’re good, for the ways they’re able to create complex worlds and stories I could never think of. Specifically, I admire Paul for his creativity. I was so apprehensive early on when we were dating and he told me he wrote a bit and asked me if I’d read some of his stories, because I was scared they’d be terrible and I’d have to either lie and deal with that for the duration of the relationship or I’d have to be honest and risk hurting his feelings, taking it bad, and dumping me. Fortunately, he’s actually quite good, and one of the things I consistently comment on is his interesting plots. He has all these neat ideas that I never would’ve considered myself.

Booking Through Thursday: Nostalgia

What book (or books) from your childhood do you think about most often? That had the most effect on your life?

I think about “Harry Potter” pretty much daily. I write about the latest news in the series for Examiner–and there’s been a lot lately–so I either save links to news and make a mental note to write about something or I creep around social media and fansites to see what’s happening so I can write about it. And of course, it is one of my favorite series. As far as effect, I am now getting paid to write about a series I loved growing up, so it’s affected me financially.

But as far as impact on me as a person, I’d have to say it was early introductions to classic writers and literature. I’ve mentioned before how I read very few traditional children’s books–I learned to read at a young age and loved it, ultimately ending up at a higher reading level for my age in school, so most of what I read was abridged versions of classic literature adapted to be easier to read and understand for kids. I used to get tons of them. I’ve never really thought about it, but having access to that, plus parents who totally enabled me, and being introduced to these stories and writers pretty young probably did shape my taste in literature. I mean, I got introduced to Poe and Dickens that way, and I even now I have a beast of a book that’s Poe’s collected works and I have at least a large chunk of Dickens’ novels. A lot of what I read then I later revisited and re-read, only this time the full versions, and loved even more. And with studies showing that readers tend to be more empathetic and open-minded, I think those things probably started happening when I was pretty young. I mean, I read about so many different people and places and stories, even though they were fictional, that I have a hard time thinking that didn’t somehow leave an impression and shape my views of the world.

And, of course, they impacted me as a writer. Just about as far back as I can remember–with the exception of childhood phases of wanting to be a vet or a teacher or an astronaut–I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even as a kid, I wanted to be as talented and regarded as the writers whose work I was reading. And I’m obviously not on that level, but all that reading has definitely shaped me as a writer.

Brandon’s birthday isn’t for about another week, but since he’ll be on his monthly drill with the Army that weekend, he wanted to celebrate a week early.

Which happened to be the same weekend “The Peanuts Movie” came out. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on here, but anyone who’s ever met my mother knows she loves Snoopy. The running joke leading up to the weekend was that Brandon was gonna celebrate his birthday seeing that movie whether he wanted to or not. And they did end up going–my mom’s best friend, Lisa, wanted to go with her Friday night but Brandon already had other plans, so they pushed it to Saturday. I missed out because I started Saturday rotation at work last week, but my mom asked if I’d go with her a second time so she could see it in 3-D since the early showing that fit everyone’s schedules was just the regular version.

So yeah, brandon saw “The Peanuts Movie” in the weekend he wanted to celebrate his birthday, but he got to do some other stuff, too. He wanted to come out to Washington and gamble.

Now, since we started gambling locally, our casino loyalties have shifted a few times. My mom and Grandma used to stick to Wheeling, and I got to tag along once on my 18th birthday back before Wheeling introduced table games and upped their playing age to 21. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the experience at the time, but in retrospect, I’m especially grateful that I got to do it since Grandma died a year or so later. Both my maternal grandparents loved gambling, and coming of gambling age and being able to share that with her even just once was so great. But I digress.

When casinos came to Pennsylvania, we ditched Wheeling. For a good couple of years, we stuck to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, with its huge buffet and fun games. And although my stubborn gameplay saved me money–I tend to stick to the same games and quit and move to a new one once I’m down only $5 or $10–my family was consistently losing money.

We’d previously avoided The Meadows in Washington because my mom had never done well there, but when she started losing at Rivers, she decided to switch it up, and it’s been our go-to ever since. We even spent an evening at the horse races once over the summer.

it started out like a normal trip–I took out some cash, we met up, got some food coupons as a promotion for buy one, get one half off at the buffet, started playing, lost a little, won a little. I sat down at one of my beloved Wizard of Oz machines. Now, some machines display your monetary in balance in credits, and some display it in dollars. Just depends on the settings. I wasn’t really paying attention and did notice my balance didn’t seem right, and I didn’t put it together that I was at a nickel machine–normally, at a penny machine, if you have, say, 1,000 credits, it’s $10, and my brain was in penny-machine mode, for some reason. So after a few minutes, I hit for 5,000 credits, which I was pretty excited about as it was. And of course, I started losing not long after, so I cashed out…and to my surprise, got a voucher for around $270, which included my winnings and whatever I’d put in to start with. Because I had a brain lapse and forgot I was at a nickel machine, what I thought were winnings of $50 were really $250.

When I told my mom which machine it was, she said, “Of course.” Because I play the Wizard of Oz machines all the time. Paul and I also both did pretty well on new Jurassic Park machines, which were really fun. The only games Rivers has that The Meadows doesn’t that I do miss are Princess Bride slots, but as far as I know, Rivers doesn’t have Jurassic Park. Or as many Oz.

The original plan was to eat at the new-ish Primanti’s right down the hill, but the casino was having that promotion for the buffet, so we opted for that instead. We’ve never eaten at the buffet because it’s expensive, but my mom says it’s worth it when you can get a deal on it like that. We’ve eaten at the Rivers buffet plenty of times and although it may be bigger (and it has sushi), we agreed that The Meadows buffet is superior in quality. It was brunch so I don’t know what, say, the dinner is like, but they had a bunch of really good, neat pastries and breakfast dishes. Small selection, but high quality.

We kept playing after that. Paul pretty much quit after he started losing, and I was up and down–I never had as much success as I did earlier and I actually lost some of those winnings, but I still came out ahead and walked away with double what I came in with. And even then, I hadn’t even spent all of that when I won.

And then there’s that lucky bitch Brandon, who was $900 richer by the time we left. This is the second or third time he’s done that.

Sounds like everyone did reasonably well–Paul lost but mostly only played with what I gave him, and my dad lost but my mom’s suspicious that he says he loses and just keeps the money she gives him to play with. I think my mom at least broke even, and Kelly was up about $170, which almost covered car repairs she needed.

As for me? I paid in cash when I bought groceries, plus I bought some clothes on a trip to the outlets afterwards.

Brandon loved his present, too. I knew he’d like it, but I didn’t expect his level of excitement. I got him a Star Wars ugly Christmas sweatshirt and two belts–one Assassin’s Creed, one another Star Wars. He apparently needed belts, too. What luck!

All in all, it was a fun and successful day of gambling. As for the rest of my weekend–today–it’s been lounging with some laundry in my near future.

Friday Five: Symbol

  1. Which of the standard keyboard symbols best describes your mood right now? I guess 🙂
  2. On your brand-new family coat-of-arms, created right now whether you already have one or not, what animal is the central figure, representing the spirit and character of your family? If it were up to my and only representing me, it would absolutely be an otter. Loungin’ around in the water, relaxing, eating. Sounds good. I wasn’t sure about a good animal for the whole family, though, so I asked my boyfriend to name an animal that’s lazy and loves food and he suggested a groundhog. So there ya go.
  3. In what ways is your vehicle symbolic of you? Small, reliable, kind of messy.
  4. What charms, figurines, or objects do you keep at hand to remind you of something or someone? I don’t know if I’d classify them as that, but I have some of my grandparents’ belongings–mostly some of my Grandma’s jewelry. Plus one year for Christmas, my Aunt Gina made us albums of Grandma and Pap Pap’s wedding pictures.
  5. What song lyric best sums up your feelings heading into the weekend? Huh. Maybe “everybody’s working for the weekend” since I’m on Saturdays this month and a bunch of people came in today to do overtime. At least I have Mondays off!