Friday 5: Forward


  1. What are you looking forward to in your personal life in 2017? I get married in 2017! I’m also hoping to move to an apartment. I found a listing for one I really liked this evening, so once I show it to the fiancé, we’ll see.
  2. What’s something you’re planning ahead for? Said wedding, of course, and the possibility of moving. And if the move happens, it’ll influence any potential job changes.
  3. How intense is your to-do list for the last days of the year? Not very. Mostly just chores and my usual routine of looking at job listings and places to submit writing. I’m all caught up on other paid writing deadlines…for now.
  4. What’s something you’d like to jump past, between now and the end of the year? I’d like to skip past the tediousness of wedding planning to the actual wedding. Maybe also skip the moving process and just be in a new place.
  5. How will you ring in the new year? Well, as of this writing, I’m sick with a sore throat and slight cough, so there’s a chance I’ll be ringing in the New Year at home in my jammies. But I feel a lot better than I did this morning, so I’m optimistic that my original plans to go to Terra’s are still a go.

Friday 5: Something’s Afoot

  1. What’s the nicest pair of shoes you’ve owned? I’m not sure! I’ve owned my fair share of nice heels and boots, but nothing really stands out as a clear winner here. Maybe this pair of plain black suede high heels I have. I wear them a lot when I need to look classy.
  2. What’s likely to be your next shoe purchase? Whatever I see that I like. I’m really, really picky about shoes, so I’ve learned the hard way that if I see a pair of, say, white flats that I love but don’t need, buy them now because when I do need them, I’ll hate everything I see.
  3. Where’s your favorite place to get shoes? Probably DSW because they have a good selection and I always find shoes I like there.
  4. When did you last swap out the insoles or laces on a pair of shoes? Ha, probably years ago. It’s not something I usually do or usually need to do.
  5. What were the last shoes you got rid of like? Worn-out snow boots. The outer lining was all torn. At least I upgraded to better ones!

Friday 5: Back in the Highlights Again

  1. What was your highlight in dining for 2016? I’m gonna go with my recent trip to Conflict Kitchen, because it was the most interesting and most adventurous thing I ate all year. I mean, it wasn’t that adventurous in the grand scheme of things, but it wasn’t one of my dining staples and it was a place I’d been wanting to try all year, really.
  2. What was your highlight in relationships for 2016? I got engaged New Year’s Day and have been planning my wedding at a pretty leisurely place ever since.
  3. What was your highlight in entertainment for 2016? Seeing Stevie Nicks. Does meeting cast members of The Walking Dead and Skinner from The X-Files count? Because I say it does.
  4. What was your highlight in self-improvement for 2016? At some point over the summer and into early fall, my fiancé and I worked up to walking about 4 1/2 miles on weekends. Most recently, I decided I needed to do more physical activity to get in shape, especially now that it’s too cold for said walking, and so the day after Christmas, I went to a gym for pretty much the first time in my life and lifted weights. I lifted a pitiful amount and was sore for days anyway, but I’m proud of myself for having done it and intend to make it part of my routine in 2017.
  5. What was your highlight in completing something for 2016? Probably my 40-ish articles due for AXS that are the reason why I’m writing this now, almost two weeks after these questions were first posted.

Thanks, Friday 5!

On Carrie Fisher

Like most of the rest of the world who is sick of 2016’s shit, when I heard Carrie Fisher had a heart attack, I went into Panic Mode but hoped for the best. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and now she has left us, too. I put together some words on Facebook, and I think they’re worth reposting here, much like I did when David Bowie died at the start of the year.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to “strong female characters”–women who kicked ass literally and metaphorically, who were independent, who did their own thing and made no apologies for it. When I’ve looked back as an adult on the movies and things that have influenced me, in particular that love of badass women, I’ve traced it back to two characters–Dana Scully and, of course, Princess Leia. My dad’s a nerd (he’ll deny it, but he is), so I saw “Star Wars” at a young age, and naturally, the character I loved was Leia, kicking ass and taking no shit. As I got older and the Internet and Twitter became a thing and I was able to watch/listen to Carrie Fisher’s interviews and follow her on Twitter, which was always full of gems, I saw that Carrie herself was just as much of a badass as Leia. I’ve loved hearing her sassy, outspoken, and brutally honest opinions of the world, and I’ve always hoped that one day, I’d get on her level and be able to be just as badass.

So basically, of all the losses we’ve had in 2016 that have made me sad–which was plenty–this is high up there. May the force be with you, Carrie.

Friday Five: Ache But Don’t Break

  1. What caused your most recent tummy ache? I haven’t had a real ache lately, but I’ve had some bloating. The exact cause is a mystery, but I probably ate too much shit.
  2. What caused your most recent heartache? I don’t know! I haven’t had one in a long time. Maybe the closest I’ve come has just been frustration over the messiness of the apartment and feeling like my fiancé isn’t pulling his weight.
  3. How did you deal with your most recent headache? I got a migraine at work a few weeks ago. I took some medicine, called off the next day, and pretty much slept that whole day.
  4. How do you deal with a sore throat? Tea and soup. If it’s really bad, gargle with saltwater.
  5. Where else do you ache? I’m prone to back pain.

As always, from Friday 5.

I’m not dead!

So, AXS needed someone to handle their preview coverage of New Year’s concerts, so I signed up to do it. Thing is it ended up being something like 40+ articles due in batches starting about two weeks after I signed up and spaced two days apart, which wasn’t so bad until stuff kept coming up that preventing me from devoting time to writing over the weekend. In the end, when I was home, I did nothing but write those damn articles from last Monday until I finished them up last night–and they were due last Friday. This is where Neil Gaiman’s ideas on writing are true. Paraphrased, he says that out of being good, on time, and nice to work with, as long as you hit two out of the three, people are happy. I was good and nice, but other than asking me if I’d have them done by yesterday, they didn’t seem displeased.

And since that was all I did for about a week and a half, not counting fun-filled weekends, I decided not to write a damn thing (besides this) for a week. Which then changed to a day. I’ve since changed my mind a second time and decided no writing until after Christmas. I deserve the break, but whether or not I can handle myself without doing work is a whole other issue.

But to recap what I did with my life in the meantime, the day after our museum trip, I took a trip to the mall to pick up boots I’d seen at the King of Prussia Mall when we stopped by after the Stevie Nicks concert. I’d had to order them online and was anxious to pick them up, of course, plus I squeezed in a brief trip to the mall.

The next day, we headed out to Bedford for a surprise birthday Brett threw for Nolan, in which he rented out a small movie theater and we watched the classic Parent Trap. We all commented on things like Lindsay Lohan’s career and how sad it is that Natasha Richardson died. I hadn’t seen the movie in several years easily, and it was a fun one to go back and watch.

We rode out with my mom, who told me initially that she absolutely had to leave on time because she had things to do for work, I believe, and in fact was wondering if maybe we’d be able to duck out before the set end time, but who was the first to accept the invitation to go out for drinks after? Her. So we had some food, drank, hung out a little, then hit the road back home. Paul and I hung around my parents’ house briefly before heading home ourselves.

When I was in college, finals time was filled with events for us to attend, typically as ways to de-stress. The one that stands out most was moonlight breakfast because it was my favorite–a free late-night breakfast served in the cafeteria–but I know there were plenty of other things. And this is a pretty common thing across college campuses. Paul’s sister Emily, who’s actually going to my alma mater, spent some time the other day playing with dogs they brought to campus. I’m jealous. I would’ve been all over that in college. Hell, I’d be all over that now.

Because 2016 isn’t done destroying everything yet, we had a funeral to attend today for Paul’s uncle’s dad. Afterwards, a member of the family hosted everyone for lunch, as is pretty typical, and we ended up at a table with some people from his side of the family we didn’t know. Paul’s dad happened to mention something to me about talking to Emily and hearing about the dogs, and the woman’s reaction was kind of…strange.

She started off by saying that kids who attend things like that weren’t “raised right.” When I explained they’re just little events throughout the week to help the kids de-stress, she said that they need to learn how to handle stress on their own. I was starting to get kind of irritated with her attitude about the whole thing at this point and made the point that it’s not the sort of thing where the events aren’t some sort of crutch, they’re just events and tools, really.

The conversation shifted after that, and had it not, I don’t think it would’ve gone so well. But I was surprised by how strongly she felt about it, and I’m confused as to how de-stress events that are usually pretty simple got conflated into essentially coddling–she didn’t use that word, but it was implied. It was as though in her mind, the school holding any sort of event at all to help with stress was going too far, especially given her comment about students needing to learn to manage stress themselves, but it’s not like these events stop them from being able to do that. Really, they’re nothing more than opportunities for them to de-stress on their own, especially for kids who might be stuck on campus without a car and little to no money to go out and do something otherwise. The school isn’t holding their hand and guiding them through how to handle the stress, it’s merely providing an opportunity for them to actually do it. I’m sure the kids who went knew damn well they’d enjoy it and didn’t need a university to tell them that, and I don’t see it as being much different than being an adult coming home to a pet after a long day.

Even if it were a matter of providing some guidance on how to alleviate stress, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, particularly if you’re taking young adults who aren’t quite out in the world yet and are teaching them healthy ways of doing it. I understand the importance of people learning how to cope on their own, but some people turn to terrible, unhealthy ways of doing that, and there’s nothing wrong with giving these kids a little nudge in the right direction. It’s not coddling, it’s not babying, it’s not “PC culture,” it’s not that kids these days are wimps who can’t handle anything–it’s a good, helpful thing to do, especially if you end up with kids abusing drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism who might carry that into adulthood. Guidance isn’t a bad thing.

I went to some of those events in college myself, and I appreciated the opportunity to go to them because it got me out of my dorm and at least out doing something else. And here I am, a functional adult who does, in fact, know how to handle stress despite my school holding those events. I rarely get stressed these days as it is, and when I do, I know what helps with it. I even know that if I get too overwhelmed or I just need a little push, I can schedule with my therapist, but I’m gonna guess that people who have a problem with puppies on a college campus probably have a problem with people seeking professional help, too.

The whole thing was blown completely out of proportion, really. I think part of the issue may have been that Paul’s dad specifically said “service dogs,” so I think maybe she misinterpreted their role on the campus and the purpose of the event and thought that it was a little more serious than it actually was.

I also find it kind of funny that someone got as worked up about de-stress events as she did. Maybe she could benefit from them herself.

Booking Through Thursday: Guilty Pleasure

What’s your guilty pleasure, reading-wise?

So I was recently listening to an episode of The Naked American Songbook that had Alan Cumming on as a guest, and they talked a little bit about guilty pleasures in terms of music. He reiterated something I’ve heard said before and something I personally believe, too, about guilty pleasures–basically, that he doesn’t believe in feeling guilty about something you enjoy, especially something like music, or in this case, books.

He puts it really well and I wish I could find the exact timestamp quickly and easily, but I’ll do my best with it. Essentially, I reject the idea that there are certain things we should feel guilty about liking, no matter the reason why. There’s no shame in liking what we like, and we definitely shouldn’t make other people feel like there is.

And you know, originally, I figured I’d go ahead and list some things that maybe people think I should feel guilty for enjoying, but as I was sort of putting my thoughts together and started typing, I started to feel like that wouldn’t make much sense for me. I mean, why spend this time talking about why I don’t believe in guilty pleasures only to turn around and single out books I might consider guilty pleasures? It would be hypocritical, in a way, and it would also play right into the very concept I’m sort of condemning right now. I feel like naming something anyway would only be contributing to the idea when I’d really much prefer the whole thing to go away.

So I don’t have any guilty pleasures, and neither should you. Like what you like, and don’t feel bad about it or like you owe people an explanation.

I tackled two Pittsburgh things on Friday night that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.

The first was eating at Conflict Kitchen, a little food stand with a great reputation that serves cuisine from countries/cultures with which the US is in conflict, with a focus on one at a time. I was really interested in the concept from when I first heard about it and wanted to go the last time I was in that part of town, but they were closed. This time, we’d have just enough time to squeeze in a meal before they closed for the evening, and even though winter weather has definitely arrived, I was willing to brave the cold and skip eating somewhere with warm, inside dining to take advantage of the opportunity to try it.

The current menu is Iroquois. I’m a vegetarian and the entrees were meat-heavy, but I got by with a starter of roasted root vegetables and cornbread, which was the best cornbread I’ve ever had. It was soft with a lot of flavor, to the point that the maple butter you can get with it is unnecessary–but still delicious. Paul had venison with potatoes cooked with juniper and cranberries. To be honest, had he tried something other than venison, I might’ve broken the veg to try it because I think in situations where one gets to experience a different culture, it’s important. But venison, which I’ve had long ago, wasn’t enough for me, nor would pheasant, one of the other menu items. But I did try one of his potatoes, which I did love. The juniper gave it a subtle herb/flower-like taste, which I haven’t liked in the past with stronger flavors like jasmine, but it was just the right amount of flavor here. My ultimate favorite, though, was our dessert, dumplings with mixed berries. It’s in more of a thick juice of the berries, really, and I love berries, so I kind of accidentally ate the whole thing. Paul took a bite while I was still working on my veggies and new I’d love it, and next thing I know, he’s not paying attention to how much of it I’m eating and the whole thing is gone. As a drink, we got root tea, which tasted like warm root beer, essentially. The bad news is I don’t like that sort of flavor at all, but the good news is I dislike it less when it’s warm.

The other great thing about Conflict Kitchen is that they make an effort to educate patrons about these cultures, rather than just serving the food and being done with it. You get a little pamphlet with your food that has excerpts of interviews from people in that community explaining some of the issues they face. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to read it, and I keep forgetting to make time for that.

And a major downside to eating outside in December? Food gets cold really, really fast.

Thing I Wanted to Try #2 was the museums’ After Dark series. I suspect this is also a thing elsewhere, but it’s when one of the area museums choose a theme and opens up after hours for just those 21 and older, with food, alcohol, and events centered around that theme. A few have come and gone since they started doing it that I wanted to go to, and either the timing didn’t work out or they sold out, but I finally made it to the most recent Lord of the Rings event. I thought Paul would love it, and although he did enjoy himself, I think I’m the one who had the better time.

The theme’s admittedly applied sort of loosely, but I didn’t really care. They had a tour of the museum’s most precious items, which was my favorite part, honestly. We got to hear about why some of these items are so special to the museum and some of the history behind them in more detail than you get from just looking around on your own. My favorite part, though, was hearing about how Andrew Carnegie was basically so damn rich that he just kind of bought shit from Egypt, which is kind of how the museums got started. I mean, imagine having so much money that you’re like, “Damn, I guess I’ll buy a mummy.”

That took up the chunk of the event’s time, but we also stopped by other smaller exhibits, like jumping spiders and live reptiles, plus grabbed a little more food. As it got close to being over, we listened to some of the musicians they had performing but decided to sneak out before the whole thing officially shut down so as to beat the traffic.

I think what I liked most about it is how different it made the museum feel. When we walked in, they had a DJ playing, and everyone’s being loud and walking around with beers, which is so different from the atmosphere the place usually has. On top of that, I’ve been to the museum recently enough that it’s sort of lost its appeal unless there’s a special exhibit in, and this event kind of brought some of the excitement and curiosity back with the tour and other events. It was a totally new way to experience the museum, I’m glad we did it, and I’d like to go again.

Saturday 9: Take My Breath Away

Saturday 9: Take My Breath Away (1996)

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

1) When were you last breathless? I’m not sure, but it probably involved physical activity.

2) This is the love theme from Top Gun, and the romance was between a pilot and his instructor. Have you ever had a crush on a teacher? No, but I was probably close to crushing once.

3) The pilots in Top Gun all had cool nicknames — including Maverick, Goose, Merlin, Cougar and Stinger. Give yourself a cool pilot name. Tiger.

4) The actress who played the instructor, Kelly McGillis, owns Kelly’s Caribbean Bar/Grill and Brewery in Key West. It’s known for its cheese and beer dip appetizer, served with warm pretzels. What’s one of your favorite between meal snacks? Depends on what I have in the apartment. Ideally, junk like cookies and chips with salsa, but when I’m behaving, fruit.

5) The group who recorded this week’s song is called Berlin, but they’re really from Southern California. Have you ever been to Berlin? How about Southern California? No to both, but I would like to visit both.

6) Lead singer Terri Nunn has a weekly radio show, Unbound on KCSN. How often do you listen to the radio? Do you tune in for music, comedy, news or talk? I listen to it daily in the car during my work commute. Most of it’s music, but a couple stations have morning shows and one is news–NPR, of course. I’d say I probably end up listening to NPR the most.

7) In 1986, when this song was popular, PeeWee’s Playhouse premiered. While ostensibly for children, PeeWee Herman’s show had many, many adult viewers. Do you watch still watch any kid’s shows? No, although we are currently watching Avatar: The Last Airbender through Netflix, and that was a kid’s show.

8) Robert Pattinson, the actor who played Edward the vampire in the Twilightseries, was born in 1986. Have you read the Twilight books? Seen the movies? I’ve read all the books but lost track of the movies. I was on my ass with a sinus infection when one of the sequels came out and missed out on the trip to go see it that all my other interested friends took, and I never got around to seeing it after that. That said, I think it’s a terrible series, and we were intending to view it ironically. I remember lots of joking about laughing out loud at things we weren’t supposed to.

9)  Random question: In an alternate universe, which of these professions would you like to find yourself in — United States senator, Ivy League professor, or imminent psychiatrist? Honestly, I’m interested in all three of them, but I think I’d probably do best as a psychiatrist. Unless this is a universe where I have a thicker skin and charisma.