So finally, I had a weekend with few plans and no work. Sure, working a few hours over the weekend wasn’t much and it was my choice to take advantage of the opportunity for double pay, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass up and I was glad to not even have to make the decision.

So I did the best possible thing when faced with almost a full weekend to do whatever I wanted–I stayed in all day Saturday and didn’t shower until late evening. It was great.

Sunday brought church, which I’m gradually getting more and more tired of. It was okay at first, but the more we go, the more it starts to seem like a chore again. I’m looking forward to being married so we don’t have to go anymore, and that’s a really shitty attitude to have about the whole thing. But it’s how it is.

We spent the afternoon making a brief stop at a Lularoe thing because I think I’m reaching peak white-girl status or something, then had lunch, then got a quick start on our Christmas shopping. We didn’t get much, but we’re at least pretty much done with Emily. The sooner we get done, the better.

Thanksgiving 2016

I was a little worried going into Thanksgiving. As our wedding slowly creeps up, I’m bracing myself more and more for Paul’s mom to start getting pushy and difficult about things. It keeps not happening, which is this bizarre combination of relief combined with a different kind of worry about why because I truly don’t know what to make of it. Is it a calm before the storm, or did she learn a lesson with Jacob and Katie’s wedding, making her attempt to step back and leave us be? It’s a mystery.

On top of that, for reasons even more mysterious, she broke away from tradition and decided to host her own small Thanksgiving dinner instead of the annual trip out to her parents’ with the extended family. My personal hope/theory is, in a vague nutshell, is that she’s recognizing they’re kind of toxic in their own right and is making an effort to distance herself from them, but no one knows for sure. There are other less optimistic alternatives, like the possibility that she’s just isolating herself. Because we didn’t know what her reasons were, we didn’t really know what kind of Thanksgiving we’d be walking into–on one hand, it would be a smaller and likely more low-key event. On the other hand, she could’ve just been really, really difficult to deal with. Like I said, I’ve been anticipating wedding blowups, and like I said, she keeps surprising me.

One downside was I didn’t get to spend time with sweet baby Woody, their dachshund I’m determined to liberate one day. I’m not saying he didn’t get any love without us there, but I am saying he missed out on a significant number of pets, tummy scratches, cuddles, and encouraging whispers in his ear. Poor Woody. We have a nice Thanksgiving and he suffers for it.

We actually had a pretty nice evening, mostly spent talking to Emily. My friends and I used to have this joke that every relationship has sort of an unofficial third member, a close friend who’s always kind of there or hangs out with the couple a lot–even if they’re in their own relationship. Like, I was probably Scott and Terra’s third through college, and Terra was probably mine and Paul’s for a while, but more and more, I think Emily is becoming our third. I know I’ve said this before, but I never thought I’d so enjoy the company of a 19-year-old when I myself am 27.

As for the early afternoon, that was spent at my parents’, which was also a small gathering–Brandon ended up going to the hospital with chest pain, which turned out to be nothing. He’s had it happen before so I’m thinking it’s just some strange quirk of his body’s when he’s sick, and it’s why dinner still went on as planned and my mother didn’t panic and go to the hospital. She told Kelly to let us know if it did end up being serious and if she needed anything, but it was fine. So Paul and I had dinner with my parents and Duke and watched some of IFC’s day-long Rocky Horror marathon, which my mother has somehow never seen in its entirety, despite my dad and I both being fans. On that note, my dad liking that movie makes no sense at all, which we discussed.

So maybe this goes down as our best Thanksgiving to date–no drama and no chaos, just a pleasant surprise of calm.

I thought about it a little over the last day or so, and maybe I’ll elaborate at a later date, but…it seems that being pleasantly surprised by calm is the way things have been going lately. I’m still guarded on pretty much all fronts, mostly because I don’t realistically expect this all to last, but it seems that all the things that used to be my biggest sources of stress and anxiety are just kind of…gone. Well, maybe not gone, but I think things have sort of leveled out, at least temporarily, to where if you would’ve asked me three or four years ago, this is what I would’ve wanted. Now, if I had the choice, I think I’d still have preferred this to come then rather than now. I needed it more then. But it’s still nice, and I’m still grateful.

So, before I gave the go-ahead for Stevie Nicks tickets in Philadelphia to be purchased on my behalf, I probably should’ve looked at the schedule to make sure I could get the next day off. Fortunately, despite the lack of foresight, it wasn’t a problem and this isn’t gonna be about how I was a dumbass who bought concert tickets and ended up not being able to go.

When Stevie Nicks does’t come to you and you can easily road trip to go to her instead, you do. The original plan was to hit the show the day before closer to where my grandfather lives–also making it a slightly shorter drive–but it was sold out. So we sprung for a show just a day later and a little farther across the state. When the day rolled around, we piled in the car and hit the road.

I should mention, considering past happenings, that my cousin Nolan joined my mom and I on the trip. We’ve texted some and have seen each other around now that he’s back from California, and we were both clearly okay enough with driving across the state to see Stevie Nicks that we went ahead and did it.

It was a pretty simple, straightforward trip–my mom drove, and the drive seemed to go pretty fast for me, which was surprising since I’m gradually losing my taste for long drives. I blame regular trips to and from State College in the early years of my relationship with Paul. We stopped a couple times for bathroom breaks and snacks, had a little bit of time in our hotel room to hang out and change into more Stevie-esque clothes, then it was off to dinner and the concert, which was pretty great, as one would expect. I prefer her performance-wise when she’s with Fleetwood Mac, but part of the fun of the solo show was listening to her just talk and ramble between songs.

The next day, we spent a few hours at the King of Prussia Mall, the second-biggest mall in the country. We went in with a slight plan–only visit stores we don’t have at home. We ended up not buying a whole hell of a lot, but we did get some Christmas shopping started and did walk the whole mall. Before my phone ultimately died, it had logged 2 1/2 miles of walking for the day. Not bad when you’re trying to be active, yet still a good bit for a mall.

The drive home seemed to take longer, possibly because I was tired. We were back by evening, and I hung around my parents’ house for a bit, grabbing some dinner and hanging out with Duke before heading back to my own place and into a short work week.

Saturday 9: Baby’s in Black

Saturday 9: Baby’s in Black (1964)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) Black is this week’s signature color because Friday, November 25, was “Black Friday,” when retailers cut their prices and consumers flock to the stores. Did you score any “Black Friday” bargains? Nope. I don’t go out for Black Friday, and I had to work anyway. I’ve been working a lot lately to take advantage of some overtime pay, so even though I had a short week, I was anxious to just relax. Black Friday shopping isn’t likely to provide that.

2) Feasting and football are also popular Thanksgiving weekend pastimes. Do your Thursday-Sunday plans include pigging out or watching a game? I did feast for the holiday, but I’m not a football fan. So no games. Except the hockey game I had on last night.

3) At Thanksgiving dinners, Crazy Sam’s homemade gravy is always a hit. (Probably because she’s so generous with the cognac, which gives the gravy a nutty taste.) What was particularly delicious at your Thanksgiving table? My mom made my grandma’s potato salad with a little tweak–she made the same recipe but with macaroni noodles instead of the potatoes. It’s a good solution for when we’re hungry for it but want to cut the prep time. It was delicious.

4) Among the biggest the Black Friday advertisers are Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Best Buy. If you could have a $100 gift card to any one of those stores, which would you choose? I’d be okay with any of them, honestly. They all have things I like/want/need.

5) This week’s song, “Baby’s in Black,” is about a girl who wears black because she’s in mourning. Do you find that the color you’re wearing reflects your mood? Almost never. I know some people dress to their mood, but I just pull out whatever’s closest.

6) The woman who inspired this song, Astrid Kirchherr, has been friends with Paul McCartney since he and his bandmates (John Lennon, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best) met her in Hamburg back in 1960. Tell us what youbelieve are the components of a strong, lasting friendship. Trust, honesty, respect, and just general compatibility. I don’t think people have to have the exact same interests and beliefs to have great friendships by any means, but not having anything in common or disagreeing a lot probably isn’t gonna go well. For the record, these are the same things I think make up lasting romantic relationships.

7) In the early days of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon began writing a play but abandoned it. Do you have a novel, painting, play, song or poem that you’re going to finish “someday?” I’m a writer, so…story of my life.

8) When he was 16, George Harrison dreamed of moving to Canada, Australia or Malta. In just a few years, he would visit all those places with Beatles and eventually decided there was no place like home and stayed in England. Have you ever thought about moving to another country? If so, where? I kind of have, but I think there’s a tendency to romanticize life in other countries, so I’m not convinced it would truly be better. But I think I’d do well in Canada, Australia, or certain parts of Europe.

9)  Random question: Finish this sentence — If you want me to give you “yes” for an answer, the best time to approach me is _____________________. Just about anytime, as long as I’m not tired, hungry, or in a bad mood in general.

Friday 5: You, Too

  1. What are you too short to do? Reach anything on any sort of top shelf.
  2. What are you too smart to do? Stay with a genuinely shitty significant other/think someone will change for me.
  3. What are you too fearful to do? Hard drugs. And actually, I guess I’m too smart to do them, too.
  4. What are you too lazy to do? Give my apartment the full cleaning it needs. I do little bits at a time instead.
  5. What are you too young to do? Complain about being old. One of my biggest pet peeves is when my fellow 20-somethings complain that they’re old. I mean, my great-grandmother lived to be in her 90s. That’s another 70-ish years of life past your 20s. That’s a long-ass time. Hell, that’s a long-ass time past the dreaded 30s or even 40s or 50s.

When Paul’s sister Emily first went off to college, she kind of went all out and got involved in all kinds of activities and things. Not all of them lasted because, you know, freshman year of college and no time for everything, but she did stick out the theater she took on, and we ventured out last weekend to see a play of hers.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’d never seen her do anything beyond, like, background parts in high-school musicals, but I was truly pleasantly surprised. She had a decent part and did a good job of it, and I hope she sticks with it throughout college.

It was an evening of three one-act plays, and she was in the second, a fun kind of dark comedy in which Shakespearian leading ladies meet up to talk some damn sense into Juliet. The first play was I believe a Moliere, and the last was actually an interesting student-written play about relationships and dating that was a pleasant surprise, too.

We had dinner at Wasabi, a Japanese placed that had opened up just before Paul moved away from the area and in with me. I’ve been wanting to stop by for a long time, but we’re rarely in Greensburg these days. Emily being there is a nice excuse to head in, and dinner was really good.

It was a nice night out for us but pretty low-key, too. It would’ve been nice to hang out with Emily a bit afterward, but I’d signed up for a few hours of overtime starting in the morning, so we headed back so I could be up for work the next morning and once again get that double overtime pay.

I’ve been at my parents’ house a lot lately–it’s just the way things have worked out, between dress shopping and Walking Dead viewing parties and, of course, the election. I went back a few days after that mess for a Snoopy-themed murder mystery dinner, because of course my mother wanted to go.

Paul understandably decided to pass, but Brandon, Kelly, and I went with her, and it was a good time! It was at a nice restaurant up in the mountains, so we got a good dinner, some entertainment, and some prizes from raffles that benefitted the nonprofit hosting the whole thing. I’m now the proud owner of a cute mini Christmas tree, which works out particularly well since the apartment is officially too crowded to put up a full-size tree.

Since we were in the area, Brandon wanted to stop at the casino, and of course no one objected. I’m not as crazy about the Nemacolin casino–Pittsburgh and Washington have more games I enjoy, but the rest of my family typically does well at Nemacolin. And there might be something to that. I was playing some random game and was at it a little longer than I usually stay at a slot machine that’s eating my money, waiting for my mother to get organized and want to relocate herself, when I ended up in a bonus round that hit for just under $500.

We spent a couple hours out there before we were ready to head home, and I left with my winnings intact and deposited them on our way back.

Since it was late and my dad was out of town, I crashed at my parents’ place and hung out for a little bit in the morning before heading out for our weekly walk in the park while we still have the weather to do it.

Saturday 9: Cabaret

Saturday 9: Cabaret (1972)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) In this song, Liza Minnelli encourages you to put down “the knitting, the book and the broom.” Which of those three were you most recently doing: knitting, reading or housework? Housework. Washed a couple dishes, unsuccessfully searched for a new credit card that I know came in the mail and needs activated.

2) She sings that we shouldn’t allow “some prophet of doom to wipe every smile away?” Do you know anyone who reliably looks at the downside of life? Not consistently, no. I know people who are going through some shit, though, and have every right to be less than optimistic.

3) In 1972, when this recording was popular, so was The Brady Bunch. In the two-part season premiere, The Bradys went to Hawaii. Do you have any warm weather vacation plans this fall/winter? Unfortunately, no. Holding off on travel until after more wedding planning is done and I have a better idea of how much I can realistically spend on a vacation.

4) Though not her uncle, just a friend to both of her parents, Liza always called  Frank Sinatra as “Uncle Frank.” Is there an older person in your life who isn’t a blood relative, but who refer to as “aunt” or “uncle?” Not so much anymore, but my godmother used to be “Auntie” Kimmie.

5) Liza collapsed onstage during a Christmas concert in 2007. She says she’d been nauseous before she went on and simply fainted. Sam has never fainted. Have you? No, but I’ve had some moments where I was really sure I would.

6) People are often surprised when they learn Liza is good friends with Gene Simmons — the KISS member with the long tongue. Tell us about one of your good friends. I mean, the one I talk to the most now and am the closest to is Terra, who I’ve known since high school. We’re both quiet introverted, opinionated vegetarians with weird senses of humor and a love of sci-fi and horror.

7) Liza told US Magazine that she loves to eat at Olive Garden. Do you? I do. If I could eat pasta every day, I would.

8) She keeps apple juice and yogurt in her refrigerator at all times. Would we find either in your refrigerator right now? Definitely yogurt, but no apple juice.

9)  Random question: Which would be a more frustrating dinner companion — someone who won’t shut up, or someone who won’t say a word? Someone who won’t shut up. They bother me more because you feel like they sort of dominate the whole situation and that you and others can’t get a word in. Plus I also like brief lulls in conversation. I get why people feel the need to keep things from going silent for too long, but a few moments of quiet are totally fine.

Friday 5: Fair Use

  1. What was the last thing you put in the freezer not to freeze, but just to chill? Probably a drink that I inevitably forgot about, causing it to freeze anyway.
  2. What’s a non-food item you’re storing in a zippered, plastic bag? I have a bag somewhere full of old pens and pencils. I also occasionally use plastic bags to store toiletries when I travel.
  3. What’s the most unusual item you’ve used as a bookmark? I’m a stickler for using real bookmarks, but there’s currently a Giant Eagle receipt in my Two Towers.
  4. What’s something unusual for which you’ve used a kitchen utensil? I don’t know! I’m sure there’s been something, I just can’t think of it.
  5. How many different kinds of balls do you have in your house? The only one I think we have is a medicine ball. There might be like toy bouncy balls lurking around that survived childhood and somehow ended up here and not in my parents’ basement. And then there is the fact that I do live with a dude. Har har.

The opportunity for double overtime pay keeps coming up at work on weekends, so I keep taking it–most weeks, I’ve been able to squeeze in a few extra hours pretty easily, and the money is worth it. It’ll definitely be nice when we’re not so busy that we still need it, but for now, I’m taking advantage of it.

Meanwhile, the quest for a wedding dress continued. My mom and I stopped into a store near my apartment to try some on and I found a winner there, but I was set on it. So after a quick trip to the outlets and dinner, with a few days in between, I left from my parents’ house post-election with Kimmie to meet up with my mom for dinner and another round of dress shopping.

This time, it was a bigger shop run kind of similarly to the way you see on shows like Say Yes to the Dress, so we were paired with a consultant who pulled things for us based on pictures of things I already liked, and she helped me get in and out while Kimmie and Mom sat and watch and probably would’ve been just fine sitting and watching all day. There were a couple winners, but funnily enough, it was the last dress of the night–and one I didn’t expect to like much–that ended up being the dress. They even do the whole thing with putting a veil on you with a whole spiel about picturing your wedding day that turned Kimmie into a weepy mess, but my mom and I must be stone-cold bitches, because it didn’t work on us.

Mom suggested I take a day to sleep on it before committing, so I did, and I found myself excited about it and definitely ready to buy it the next day. Of course, I ended up stuck at work past the shop’s closing time and had to wait an extra day to actually call and officially order the thing, but I did just that and got measured for it and got it ordered yesterday.

It’s exciting, and I feel like I’ve made very, very little progress on planning lately, so it’s nice to have something definitively done and taken care of. I don’t really have to worry about it until it comes in in a few months, and in the meantime, I’m gonna stick to my plan of eating less shit and being more active.