Paul’s been telling me basically the entire time we’ve been together that we need to take a trip up to Erie. I’d always been told that it was just like being at the beach, albeit a little calmer and without the saltwater. I don’t know if I just wasn’t convinced or what, because we never got around to it. But now that Julie and Michael are up there–and Emily’s joined them for the summer–they decided to host a Memorial Day cookout.

On our way up, we stopped for brunch at a coffee house in Pittsburgh. Terra’s sister-in-law recently started a catering business and is now officially making our wedding cake, and the catering business was doing a brunch out of the coffee house for a couple hours. So we got ourselves some drinks, I had the best scone I’ve ever had in my life, and Paul hunkered down and ate a plate of one of everything offered, then a second plate with grasshopper pie and vegan cheesecake. After that, we hit the road. Luckily, the drive to Erie is really simple–it’s pretty much just the interstate we live right by for most of the trip.

W did get a later start than we’d wanted and so didn’t get in until about 2, but we were just in time for food. They cooked the summer picnic staples, and we ate, hung out, and drank.

Julie also had their Aunt Leslie up, who I’d never met before and Paul and his siblings haven’t seen in years due to dumb family drama. Julie had reached out to her a few years ago and they kept in touch, so Julie invited her up and we had a good time with her. She was nice but kind of badass–Paul occasionally cracks what would be misogynist jokes if we didn’t all know he wasn’t being sarcastic, but not being familiar with his humor, she commented on it and I loved it. When we talked wedding stuff as it relates to his mom, she told us to “stick to our guns.”

She and her kids left in the evening, and then us kids dug out the six packs Paul and I took up and spent most of the rest of the night talking and drinking, like ya do. We took a quick trip to the lake to watch the sunset, although there wasn’t much of one since it was a cloudy day with a couple of downpours, but mostly just hung out.

Of course, true to form, I slept like shit, although I got a good few hours in considering. I was glad I took my computer–I wasn’t going to because I knew we’d just gab the whole time, but what’s a girl to do when it’s 7 a.m., she can’t sleep, but everyone else is still sleeping themselves?

Paul and Julie went out for doughnuts when they got up, I showered, everyone hung out some ore over breakfast, and then we piled in the car to go to nearby Presque Isle. We walked a few miles all over the place, stopping for a little bit at the beach, and that’s when I was sold on Erie as a beach destination away from the beach. It’s definitely different–it’s calmer and smaller–but the fact that you can’t see where the lake ends and can sit in the sand makes it enough of a beach fix for those of us who love it. We hadn’t packed any swimsuits because it wasn’t supposed to be warm enough, and it still wasn’t, but we did spend some time just relaxing by the water.

We grabbed dinner on the way back at a Friday’s, and normally Paul and I avoid chains, but everyone else had never been, somewhat strangely. I forget sometimes that there are still certain things they didn’t have back here and that Paul and I were almost an hour away when they were here and were going all sorts of places. Then we made a quick stop at a Lowe’s because they needed…something, I don’t know, but Paul and I took the opportunity to try to find some better storage solutions for the apartment. I mean, Julie and Michael are in a trailer and I was jealous of the amount of space they had. All we could come up with, since Paul doesn’t want to drill holes to hang shelves, was a shoe rack. Baby steps. It’s three months until the wedding, so maybe as that all comes together, we’ll have more time for house hunting. My desire for one is getting intense.

Before we went home, we stopped for ice cream, which Emily adorably insisted on paying for. It’s one of the small ways the age difference between the five of us shows. I’m the oldest at 27, Paul’s 26, Julie and Michael are 23 and 22, and Emily’s the baby at the tender age of 19. For the most part, the difference between Paul and I and Julie and Michael isn’t too noticeable–Michael’s still in school, but other than that, we’re all kind of on the same page and were talking about thrilling things like credit scores and bills over dinner. Paul and I picked up the tab for Emily’s dinner, and this is how you can tell someone’s young and new to the workforce with little to no expenses–she wanted to pay. In fact, she complained that ever since she got to Erie earlier in the month, everyone’s been paying for all her food and grabbing her check and things, so, she said, multiple times between dinner and ice cream, she was gonna buy us all ice cream.

And so that was our last little thing with everyone before we came home. They’re planning on coming in in two weeks for a cousin’s graduation party and we offered to let them stay with us rather than parents, but we’ll see.

We hit the road a good few hours later than we’d originally planned, got in with a little time to spare before bedtime, and lamented having to get up and go to work today. At least it’s a short week.

Saturday 9: Stars and Stripes Forever

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

Memorial Day is the federal holiday designated to honor American service people who died in battle. Though our song choice is humorous, we honor their sacrifice in our hearts.
1) Memorial Day was introduced after the Civil War. War memorials, as well as the graves of veterans, are to be decorated with flags and flowers on this day to show our appreciation. Is there a war memorial in your neighborhood? You know, I never thought there was, but we actually passed by a small one today on our way to a walking trail. It’s not for anything in particular, it’s more of a general memorial for veterans.
2) Andrew Johnson, our 17th President, was in office the first time Memorial Day (then called Decoration Day) was celebrated. Have you ever met one of our 45 Presidents? I shook Bill Clinton’s hand. I wouldn’t say I met him because it was a very rushed sort of thing at the end of a speech he gave like a mile down the road from where my cousins lived.
3) According to the AAA, 36 million Americans will hit the road this weekend and drive more than 50 miles. Will you be traveling far from home this weekend? I will be, but I normally don’t. We’re not going too far, but my fiancé’s one sister moved to Erie with her boyfriend last year and his other sister has joined them for the summer. They’re having a cookout, so we’re spending Sunday and part of Monday up there.
4) Memorial Day kicks off the summer season. What’s your favorite picnic food? Pasta salad. Which I of course consider appropriate for all occasions.
5) Have you packed away your winter clothes? Or is the weather still so changeable that you still may need something warm? It’s getting a little chilly at night and I’m sensitive to temperature changes, so it’s too risky to pack away long sleeves. But I’m also not the kind of person who packs stuff away for different seasons, and maybe that’s why. I could definitely use the closet space, though.
6) As you answer these questions, is there an air conditioner or fan on? I believe the air is turned to on, but it’s not hot enough outside for it to actually run. It’s in the 60s, and I keep it set in the mid-70s.
7) This week, we are featuring the Muppets. Jim Henson made the first Muppet out of an old coat, and he used ping pong balls for the eyes. Do you have a talent for do-it-yourself/arts and crafts projects? Eh. Depends on what it is. I need a little guidance, that’s for sure–I’m not one to come up with things on my own, but if I have instructions on how to make something, I can do it and I have fun.
8) Random question: Think of the last thing you bought. Did you get a good deal? It was groceries at a chain that’s a little more expensive than others, but we bought certain things on sale and I use Ibotta, an app that has rebates on certain items you can them redeem for gift cards after you earn like $20 in rebates. If you’d like to try it, use my referral code!
9) Crazy Sam needs your help: What song or a performer would you like to see featured in a Saturday 9 this summer? You’ll begin seeing your suggestions as Saturday 9 themes in mid-June. Thanks! I’ll go with what I’m listening to now–The Temptations.

Friday 5: MVP

  1. What’s the most important single ingredient in trail mix? Something sweet. One could reasonable conclude that what I really want is candy, not trail mix.
  2. What’s the most important single topping in a taco? I’m sure some people are gonna say beef, but I’m here to tell you I’m a vegetarian who eats meatless tacos. I’m having a hard time pinning down a single important topping–I’m gonna call it a tie between cheese and lettuce. Cheese for flavor, lettuce for that fresh crunch.
  3. What’s the coolest instrument in an orchestra? I’m really partial to violin. It’s just too pretty.
  4. What’s your favorite animal at the zoo? Oh, man. I go to the zoo every year because I am a child. So…all of them? In no particular order, any large cat (especially tigers), polar bears, monkeys because I find them fascinating to watch, and otters because I love them. Otters might be near the top based solely on the inhuman sounds I made last year when I saw two floating together.
  5. Which are the best pieces in a sampler box of chocolates? A local candy company makes amazing peanut-butter meltaways. I got my parents a box of assorted chocolates for Easter and when I was over recently, my mom offered me a piece, but I wanted a meltaway and she’d already eaten them all. So that about tells you a lot about both of us. A close second would be anything coconut, and the advantage to that is no one else in my family likes coconut at all. Another local company makes really good coconut clusters, and when I was still live with my parents, I basically got them all to myself in the annual Christmas candy box.

From here.

Well, my weekend got off to a nice, shitty start when I got a message from a former coworker about, uh…let’s just say something that attracted his attention while he was with the company. He framed it as the inspiration for a screenplay and was asking my opinion on the matter, but frankly, it seemed to me that it was a hell of a lot more likely that he just wanted to make sure I was aware that he was, say, looking at me in a certain way and for specific reasons. I’ve written a post about it, but for now, I’m sitting on it since it deals with work–I don’t want to risk it becoming bigger than it needs to be at the moment, but rest assured that when I feel I can, I’ll post it. And you can be even more sure that if I hear so much as a rumble of this screenplay actually coming into fruition, I will put this motherfucker on blast and shout from the rooftops of Pittsburgh about how creepy and gross he apparently is.

I will say, though, that now that I’ve had a couple days to think about it and calm down–because when I first read the message, I was so angry that I was shaking and I eventually woke Paul up because I didn’t know what to do and needed to talk to someone–I’ve come to a couple conclusions, mostly about his possible intentions. First and foremost, I honestly think this guy thought I’d take it as a compliment, but that’s exactly part of what makes it so inappropriate. I also think that because there’s at least a few years’ age difference between us–though I don’t know for sure–there may be an element here of an older man counting on a younger woman to be easily flattered and naive, almost like a sort of power thing. I think it’s pretty clear that he didn’t expect me to respond negatively, and respond negatively I did. Granted, I also blocked him from Twitter and I don’t know what impact, if any, that might have on whether or not he got my reply, but I made it very clear that he was disrespectful and disgusting and that he’d crossed a line. I thought about saying, “Guess you didn’t notice my engagement ring,” but it’s also pretty clear that he was, uh, looking elsewhere.

The silver lining? Just about every single person I told was shocked and said something like, “What the hell/fuck?” But the sad part is that when Paul told his tai chi class, the women started swapping stories about similar experiences, with some even sharing stories of being followed. It’s a sad reflection of what women have to deal with. As my mom said, you never know who’s gonna say or do something like this. This former coworker was someone I never really socialized with while he was still there, and we’d only exchanged a few Twitter messages after he left. In fact, I’m even wondering if he wasn’t intending on saying this to me back then when he first contacted me.

Unfortunately, it marred what should’ve been an exciting day–not that it wasn’t, because it’s not like it ruined my whole day, but it was definitely not how I thought I’d be starting it.

I had my first fitting for my wedding dress, which was pretty great. I had some anxiety about fitting into the thing since I really thought my efforts to lose weight would’ve seen faster, more noticeable results, and while it is a little snug, I can get into it, and I’m gonna keep working. It doesn’t need a lot of alteration, and the alterations it does need were pretty predictable for me–it’s too big in the chest and too long. But it was prettier than I remembered, and I think I love it even more than when I first tried it on.

My mom came out for the fitting, so Paul met us for lunch, and in the afternoon, after a change in plans, we went to the South Hills to get his tux rental taken care of. We’re gonna look good.

Sunday brought the church music meeting, where we had to pick out all the music we want played for the ceremony and choose cantors. We decided to spring for the choir–we have a lot more money in our bank accounts right now than I thought we would and we’re coming in under budget on most of what we’ve already done, plus I was afraid we’d regret it. Every time we hear the choir sing in church, we’re impressed, and I’ve said more than once now I’d pay for them to sing at the wedding without realizing I actually could. I figured that the first mass we went to with the choir after the wedding, we’d immediately regret not having them, and as we’re now three months and a few days away from the wedding and everything is coming together, there’s not a whole hell of a lot I’m looking at and wanting to change. That’s good, obviously, but I don’t want the music to be an exception. So we’re going for it. We’ll slip into church next month, when the choir performs at two weddings, both for fellow choir members, to listen to how it sounds since it could impact our song selections, but I can’t imagine we’ll come out of it saying, “Nah, let’s not do that.”

So aside from some other downtime, it was all wedding all weekend, and I’m expecting that to happen more and more over the summer. Except this coming weekend. We’re heading off to Erie to visit Paul’s sisters.

Saturday 9: Him or Me

Saturday 9: Him or Me — What’s It Gonna Be? (1967)

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

1) In this song, a man pleads with his girlfriend to make up her mind. Do you consider yourself decisive? The fact that I was gonna write a response explaining that I can be sometimes tells me that I’m really not. I’d say in general, though, no–I don’t really go back and forth on things. But I’m good for struggling with certain decisions.

Since this song is all about either/or, we’re using that as our theme this Saturday …

2) Choose a condiment: Catsup or mustard? Ketchup, strictly Heinz.

3) Choose a sci-fi series: Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars, mostly because I’m more familiar with it.

4) Choose your spy: James Bond or Jason Bourne? James Bond, but I have a feeling that when I get around to tackling the Bourne movies, I’ll prefer him.

5) Choose your winter sport: Football or hockey? HOCKEY. LET’S GO PENS!

6) Choose your breakfast: Pancakes or waffles? Waffles. With strawberries and whipped cream.

7) Choose your side: French fries or potato chips? Fries. With Heinz ketchup.

8) Choose your chore: Washing dishes or doing laundry? Laundry, easy.

9) Choose your nextdoor neighbors: Munsters or Addams Family? Hmm. I guess Addams Family.

Friday 5: Malfunction Junction

  1. When have you had a wardrobe malfunction? I came close last weekend–I had a loose top on and was outside in the wind, and it was just the perfect combination to wear it was blowing my shirt right up.
  2. When did you last have a problem with your alarm clock? It didn’t go off a few days ago, but we have no idea why. Although we can’t rule out the very real possibility that I turned it off while I was half-asleep the second it went off.
  3. What was your most recent computer problem, and what was the fix? I have trouble sometimes with certain pages not loading. Usually a browser restart fixes it.
  4. What’s something about cars you know specifically because you had to have one repaired? Um…nothing. Not because I’ve never had a repair, but because my brain doesn’t retain the information.
  5. Have you had any brain malfunctions this week? There were a couple errors in transcripts at work that I didn’t catch until I’d looked at the same sentences a few times and finally realized it, but with transcripts, it’s super easy to not really read them closely. And then I forgot what day of the week it was just about every day but Monday and Friday.

2017 Resolutions, Only Five Months Late

Sure, the year’s almost half over already and I’ve already had my resolutions in mind, but I like having a record of them.

Do no harm, but take no shit. It’s a repeat from last year, but I think it’s worth repeated. Granted, the “take no shit” part is what needs the most work.
Enjoy what’s left of the wedding-planning process, and be a good wife when it’s over. I know people say married life is different, but honestly, by the time we’re married, we’ll have been together for seven years and living together for two, so I don’t think this is gonna be a huge adjustment, and we’re doing pretty great. But it doesn’t hurt to strive to keep it up.
Get more paid writing gigs.
Get a new job? 
It hinges on having the time to look, as well as whether or not that’s something I want to do if we…
Buy a house.
Save money. 
I mean, buying a house isn’t gonna help, but once the wedding is over, it’ll be easier to put money away.
Go an a real vacation. I don’t think we had a proper vacation since we went to Jacob’s Marine graduation, and even then it wasn’t just the two of us. Honeymoon plans are kind of up in the air for a couple reasons, but we’re looking at maybe doing something in January of 2018 when our vacation time resets. And there’s a very real possibility we’re gonna be talking kids within the next year or so, and I’d like to get traveling done before that.
Purge stuff we don’t need/want/use.
Pay off a credit card.
Publish some writing.
Continue to be active.
Take more initiative in…everything, I guess.
Get involved in politics. I’d like to maybe volunteer or something, but this absolutely must be after the wedding. Unfortunately, there’s just no way I can squeeze it in before. But I’d like to try to get involved more, be more proactive, and try to actually make a difference in things.
Get back into semi-abandoned hobbies.
Put the phone away when socializing. Honestly, this isn’t something I’m bad at and feel I need to work on, but it’s something I do think is important. I’m actually pretty good at ditching the phone when I’m with people, but I’d like to keep that up.

I mean…it’s a pretty simple year. I tackled a lot of what I wanted to last year,

Well, I’d say it was a successful Mother’s Day.

Paul’s mom was hard to shop for, as always, but we managed with trusty Harry & David gift sets and some neat warming coasters we found at the gift shop at Phipps when we were there a few weeks ago taking advantage of the membership we got for free when we switched to an energy-efficient electric company on a prior visit early in the year. As for my mom, we got some charms for her Snoopy bracelet, some Lush bath bombs and bubble bars, and a Snoopy cup we found grocery shopping this morning. Obviously, can’t go wrong with Snoopy with her.

I’d wanted to go to Phipps Saturday to see their blooming corpse flower, but Paul had plans with a friend and I spent the day doing some wedding planning and playing Skyrim. We went to Primanti’s to watch the Pens game in the evening, and I kind of lucked out when Paul talked to his dad about Mother’s Day plans–they were going to Phipps in the morning, and as long as they made it there by 11 to make it worth the trip for us before we had to meet my parents for lunch, we were going. And we made it, despite some traffic and delays because of a relay in that area that had streets closed. Having been there a few weeks prior was kind of an advantage, because we weren’t focused on taking our time going through and instead were able to catch up to his parents and enjoy the things that had changed in that brief time, like large glass sculptures. And enjoy things that were the most enjoyable about the last visit, like the butterfly garden. It’s kind of neat to see so many butterflies flying around freely. And of course, we got to see the blooming corpse flower, which is apparently a pretty rare event. And then I bought myself pretty things in the gift shop.

We ended up running a bit late for lunch. We left later than we’d wanted and would’ve been on track to make it on time anyway if not for a bridge being out and delaying traffic at the other bridges. But we had a nice mid-afternoon at a restaurant in Washington, Palazzo, and then stopped by the apartment to grab my mom’s gift before making a brief stop at the outlets. We owe Paul’s sister Julie a birthday present when we visit her in a couple weeks, but unfortunately, we didn’t have much success–even her live-in boyfriend struggled with what to get her this year and couldn’t help us much. We found a necklace with her birthstone, at least, and will hopefully find a couple other little things before we head up.

Next weekend, it’s all wedding stuff all weekend, which to me means shit is getting real. I have my dress fitting Saturday, then a meeting at church about music Sunday. I’m getting more excited and the few things I did get done this weekend made me feel a little less overwhelmed, but we’re now just over three months out and I don’t know how the time went so fast.

Saturday 9: Mama Can’t Buy You Love

Mama Can’t Buy You Love (1979)
Unfamiliar with this week’s song? Hear it here.

1) This week’s artist, Elton John, was made an Office of Arts and Letters — one of France’s highest honors for people who have contributed significantly to the arts.What’s the most recent compliment you received? My fiancé compliments me pretty regularly. I got a couple as he was walking out the door for his tai chi class just now.

2) In 2013, Elton had to cancel an international concert tour because he had an appendectomy. Do you still have your appendix? Yes.

3) In 1979, Elton John was the first Western rock star to tour the Soviet Union. Would you like to visit Russia? I mean, I’d like to travel all of the world, honestly, just to see it, but Russia doesn’t strike me as the best of places to visit these days.
4) Elton and his mother hadn’t spoken in years but he reached out to her and healed their beach in honor of her 90th birthday in 2015. Who is the oldest person you know? I’m not sure! My great-grandma was in her 90s when she died and my grandfather who died recently was in his 80s. Maybe my grandfather’s wife, who I think was pretty close to him in age.

5) Flowers and plants are popular on Mother’s Day. How is your yard or garden? Is it green and/or blooming? I live in an apartment, so I don’t really have one–just a little courtyard with some trees and plants. But the goal when we buy a house is to definitely have a garden.

6) Mother’s Day is a big holiday for card shops. So are birthdays, weddings, and St. Patrick’s Day. Hallmark sells greetings for everything from “Congratulations on Your New Job” to “Happy Retirement.” Who received the most recent card you bought? My godmother, and this just reminded me that I forgot to put it in the mail.

7) Sam’s mother is very careful when she unwraps presents because she likes to save money by to reusing wrapping paper and gift bags. Tell us one way that you economize. I save gift bags, but not actual wrapping paper. I’m more likely to patch holes in clothes than replace them outright, depending on the level of wear and stuff. I resell things when it makes sense to, and if it doesn’t, I donate them or find a place that’ll recycle.

8) Mother Winters used to scold Crazy Sam for leaving her dirty dishes in the sink. Sam admits it: as a grown up, she still leaves dirty dishes in the sink. How about you? Is your sink or dishwasher empty? Ha, almost never. Dishes are hard to keep up with if you don’t have a dishwasher, even with just two people.

9) RANDOM QUESTION: What size mattress do you sleep on — twin, full, queen or king? My fiancé and I cram into a full, and the day we upgrade to a king will be the best day of my life.

Friday 5: Guestimation

  1. How well do you adjust to sleeping in an unfamiliar place? If I’m not at home or somewhere I’m really comfortable, I sleep like shit, at least compared to how I usually sleep. I wake up a lot.
  2. When were you recently someone’s guest, and when were you recently someone’s host? My last overnight stay was probably at my parents’, but aside from that, friend Emily hosted us last weekend after dinner. I rarely host–the apartment is too messy and too small, but I’d like to do it more. Our last overnight guests were probably my fiancé’s brother and sister-in-law when they were in town for my brother’s wedding, but his sister Emily hung out for a little bit once.
  3. What’s the ickiest place where you’ve ever showered or bathed? I don’t know. I honestly can’t think of a place that was really terrible. Even outdoor showers at the beach aren’t bad because, well, it’s the beach. Maybe at camp with Terra? There’s no running water, so we just kind of rinse off in the river.
  4. What’s something you don’t need but insist on taking when you travel? I always pack more clothes than I need just in case, and I always take a book. I consider this a need, though.
  5. Who’s got a comfy couch? My Uncle Clark used to have a great one, but he got rid of it. Maybe my parents? Mine’s comfy but as old as I am and falling apart, so…

From here.