Friday 5: Off Balance

  1. What most recently made you giddy? Hmm. Maybe the last time I went to a concert and had that post-concert buzz going. It still makes me really energized. I mean, I’ve had a lot of fun, exciting times since then, but none that made me feel what I’d consider giddy.
  2. What most recently left you agog? A high-school teacher of mine who was known to send inappropriate messages to girls within the few months after they graduated recently had a stroke. Someone texted me a few days ago saying they’d heard some interesting information surrounding the incident.
  3. What most recently left you aghast? Word that a friend from high school and her boyfriend had broken up at some point because she and her family are devout Catholics and he’s an atheist and some sort of argument ensued. That part’s not surprising–what shocked me was learning she dated an atheist to begin with.
  4. What in your life is the most higgledy-piggledy? Definitely wedding planning. Not so much that it’s chaos and disorder, but just that it’s looming closer–less than a month now–and it’s what taking up most of my time and focus. I do think it feels like a much bigger thing than it is, in some ways.
  5. What was your week a mish-mash of? Work and play. I took Monday off because I’d covered someone’s shift on Saturday, so after working a six-day, 50-plus-hour week and with the company picnic taking up almost all of Sunday, I wanted to feel like I had a proper two-day weekend. So I had a nice day hanging out at home with Paul, who also took the day off–we got my car’s oil changed, we went to breakfast–and then it was back to work Tuesday, with overtime and my usual evening writing routine combined with my usual evening unwinding routine.

As always, from Friday 5.

Saturday 9: Don’t Stop

Saturday 9: Don’t Stop (1977)… because Country Dew recommended Fleetwood Mac 

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

Fun fact, this was the first Fleetwood Mac song I ever loved, back when it was Bill Clinton’s campaign song.

1) Since we’re not supposed to stop thinking about tomorrow, let’s talk about it: What are your plans for Sunday? Okay, so since I’m doing this the Wednesday after it was initially posted, I should’ve been answering this for this past Sunday. I went to Kennywood for my company picnic. As for this Sunday, there’s been talk of going up to the mountains, but no plans have been set.

2) Fleetwood Mac was formed 50 years ago in London. Fifty years is considered a “golden anniversary.” Do you wear more silver or gold? Easily more silver. I just prefer the look of it so much more. In fact, most of the gold I do have used to be my grandmother’s, and that’s the only reason I kept it.

3) This song is from Rumours, which has sold 40 million copies. Is it in your collection? Please. I have the anniversary three-disk reissue.

4) It was written by keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie. She was born Christine Perfect, a name that earned her a fair share of teasing when she was a school girl. Do you recall being teased in school? What about? I have vague memories of it in elementary school, but nothing that really stands out. In high school, there was one asshole who just liked to harp on whatever he could, really. I don’t remember many specifics, but I do remember him sitting behind me at a volleyball game once, and he spent the entire fucking game either making fun of me directly or making fun of things he at least assumed I liked. I was pretty miserable at the time, but looking back on it, it was really pathetic on his part.

5) Before Fleetwood Mac, she was in a band called Chicken Shack. If you were to order out for a chicken dinner, which restaurant would you turn to? I’m a vegetarian, so I’d see whose known for the best fake chicken around here. Which surprisingly, I don’t actually frequent speciality vegetarian places, although not because I’m not interested. I just don’t think to, and I can manage to find something I like almost anywhere.

6) Before she could pay all her bills with her music, she supported herself as a window dresser for a London department store. Do you enjoy walking along, just window shopping? Or do you consider “looking with no intention to buy” a waste of time? If there’s zero intention to buy, yeah, I consider it a waste. But taking a look at things and wandering in and maybe making a purchase if it looks interesting? Sure. In fact, I think that’s how you can find some of the coolest places.

7) When she found herself making big money, one of the first things Christine bought was a pair of matching Mercedes for herself and then-husband, John McVie. If you were handed a check for $1 million, what’s the first thing you would do with the money? Buy a house. Like, I’d be so antsy about it that I’d be doing the best I could to look at houses immediately.
8) The other girl in Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, founded the Soldier’s Angel Foundation. She believes in the healing power of music, and so she’s proud to provide wounded soldiers with iPods already loaded with music. When you listen to music from your phone, MP3 player or iPod, do you use ear buds or headphones? Earbuds because they fit into my purse easily, but I prefer headphones by far. I can’t stand wearing buds for more than, say, my elliptical workout.

9) Random question: Let’s pretend your high school reunion is coming up. Which classmate are you more curious about: the one who was your first date, or the one who was too cool to give you the time of day? My class reunion actually is coming up! It’s in September. 10 years. I am hands down more curious about all the assholes.

Friday 5: Let’s Get Physical

  1. How confidently could you turn a cartwheel right now? I am very confident I can’t do one at all. I never did master it to begin with.
  2. How (physically) flexible are you? Not very. I used to be more flexible when I did ballet, but I’ve probably lost all of it.
  3. How are your Frisbee-throwing skills? I haven’t done it in years, but they were never good. I’d imagine they haven’t improved.
  4. Which carnival game do you have the best shot at winning? I’m not sure, because my parents never let us play them because they knew it was a waste of money. But because I am a child, I like the dumbest, simplest games that, of course, involve zero skill and animals–duck ponds, where you pick a duck, and fishing games with a little rod. Also note that you always win a prize in both.
  5. How good are you at toss-the-paper-in-the-wastebasket? I am probably less terrible at this than I am everything else in these questions. I typically don’t toss things in garbage cans because I know my skill set, but it does tend to go better than most other things.

As always, from Friday 5.

Like I said, wedding stuff has started to dominate our time. I had another dress fitting Saturday and need one more, basically because my boobs are too small. Mom had a fitting at the same time and barely needs anything done.

We followed it up with dinner at Roland’s, because nothing says “my dress is a bit snug and I want to drop my waist measurement a tad” like ordering a plate full of rigatoni. I’m great at health and fitness, guys!

I followed that with brunch Sunday morning with Paul’s parents. We decided on President’s Pub for rehearsal dinner because the cost is similar to other local restaurants for better quality, and since his parents are paying for it and his mom has a tendency to want these things her way, Paul invited them out. I’ve actually never gone to the jazz brunch and have heard very good things, and it’s probably become my go-to brunch spot now. Live jazz music with a pretty typically brunch menu with locally sourced ingredients. I honestly don’t know why there aren’t bigger crowds at this place, like, ever, but they seem to be doing okay. We plan to go Tuesday for a fundraiser to benefit residents of an apartment building that collapsed downtown, and I’m kind of hoping this place sets itself out as a community staple.

Anyway, the point is as usual, I went in preparing to have to defend our choice to have it there and lay down the law about how it’s our wedding and we won’t accept financial help if it means the final say isn’t ours, and she ended up loving the place. I’d say it was a smart move on Paul’s part, but I’m not convinced he knew it would go that way. I think maybe we got lucky.

Meanwhile, at work, I’ve been promoted! I had a very positive review with nothing but praise for the good work I do and how reliable I am, and it comes with an 80-cent-per-hour raise that’ll kick in at the end of the month, just in time to focus on paying down credit-card balances from the wedding–which, fortunately, isn’t a lot. We have a couple expenses we put on cards, in some cases to take advantage of no-interest deals, and I’ve been steadily paying things down after all other bills are paid. Paul got a raise, too, so it’s great timing all around.

Wedding planning has reached that point where we don’t have a lot of major things to do, for the most part, but instead have a bunch of little things that need handled. And that’s kind of how everything else has been–we’re not so busy with life that we’re bogged down and constantly doing something, but we’ve been doing things.

We had a graduation party one Saturday, then spent a little time at the Whiskey Rebellion Festival that weekend, although we missed most of the big fun things. We’re still going with our dance classes, and we’re still regularly going to the gym. We’d started slacking on our weightlifting routine, so we’re getting back into that.

I started watching The Handmaid’s Tale thanks to a Hulu trial we got trying to find a different show, and I figure I might as well use it. I wish I would’ve known sooner what this was actually about, because I would’ve picked up the book much, much sooner than I did otherwise. I didn’t find out until all the buzz about the show–which, by the way, I’m loving, for all of its creepy fucked-up-ness. I’ve read and watched a lot of shit and maybe it’s just because I’m a woman, but I think this is hands down the most extreme, disturbing sort of dystopian fiction I’ve seen. It’s a nightmare. I love it.

I also made some progress toward cooking more. I mean, I make dinner just about every night, but I never really do any baking, and I thought with the wedding coming up, it could be a good idea to try to make some of our cookies. That said, that’s not what I made. We were at Giant Eagle one night grabbing some little things, so I figured I’d get on my Pinterest and find a delicious food we didn’t need to buy a lot to make. I found a banana cake and made it a couple days later, and I have to say, being that this was the first time I’ve baked basically anything from scratch, I did a pretty good job. I also enjoyed actually making it more than I thought I would. I get impatient with cooking because I get bored with the actual act and just want the finished product, but I think actually having something delicious to show for my work makes it feel less annoying. But I don’t see myself doing it often, and definitely not the way Paul will bake cookies to cheer himself up. It’s also not something I want to devote a ton of time to, in the sense that when articles need written and a wedding needs planned, I feel like I don’t have the time to spare. So for now, culinary adventures in general are gonna be limited to days off with nothing else going on. I feel like I’m losing time I need for other things otherwise.

Lack of space doesn’t make it easy, either. We have basically no free counters and the kitchen table depends on whether or not it’s recently been cleared off, so that’s why I mixed a cake while sitting on the floor.

We made our annual trip to the zoo two weeks ago, which I enjoyed as much as I always do, and then we had lunch/dinner at Burgatory. It was a nice, fun day out with the family.

We didn’t do much for the 4th, at least not what one would expect. One day, we’ll host our own cookouts, but for now, with nothing else going on–and partly because I wanted to anyway–we went out to Row House for a screening of Pan’s Labyrinth. I watch it every couple years, it seems, which is about good. As good as it is, it can also be depressing and intense, so it’s not something you want to be watching frequently. But it’s one of the many movies I’ve been wanting to show Paul, so when it popped up in a fantasy theme at Row House, that was my opportunity. And that’s what I love about the fact that Row House shows older movies. You get the theater experience with movies that have long left them. I saw Pan’s Labyrinth when it first came out in theaters, so I’m glad Paul got that.

The movie was great, of course, and I cried at the end, which has happened every time I’ve seen it. I’m not sure about the first time, but the last time I watched it, it was late, I was up watching it alone, and I had a good sob session. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen it  enough times now, but I did a good job of not being a total mess leaving the theater.

We walked down the road a bit and found some dinner, spent the evening walking a trail near our apartment, and that was our 4th. It was kind of nice.

Saturday 9: I Will Never Let You Down

Saturday 9: I Will Never Let You Down (2017)
… because Smellyann recommended Fastball

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

1) Fastball is a trio from Austin, Texas. Austin is the capital of Texas. When you were in school, did you have to memorize the state capitals? Yep.

2) Have you ever visited your state’s capital? A couple times. My uncle lives in a suburb of Harrisburg, so whenever we’d visit, we’d spend some time in the area and went into the actual capitol building once or twice.

3) Fastball played dates throughout Canada this past spring. When did you last leave the US of A? When I went to Mexico a few years ago.

4) Tony Scalzo is a founding member of Fastball. He’s the singer in the video for this song, and that’s his wife, Jennifer, playing the organizer of the speed-dating event. Have you ever gotten a job because you knew somebody? Yes and no. My first writing job was for the local paper, and my dad had asked–against my wishes–a reporter he knew if they had any openings. They asked for a portfolio, so I submitted one, and I got a job as a stringer, which is sort of a freelance-type job where I wasn’t a full-time employee but was instead paid per article. So while he did know someone, I don’t think they gave it to me for that reason, and the reason I’m so confident in that is that they were pleased with my work, rarely edited it, and offered me a permanent position after I graduated. Unfortunately, they got to me after I’d already accept elsewhere.
5) In this pitch to a perspective lover, he admits he doesn’t have much money. Last time you went to the ATM, how much did you withdraw? I think $20, maybe $40 at most. It was to stop at the farmers market, and I don’t spend a whole lot there.

6) He sings that at times, his mind is hazy. Do you have a good memory for names? I think it’s slipped a little because I feel like I used to be better at that, but that said, I’m still better than a lot of people. Like, I forget the names of people I’ve only met once a long time ago, not someone I just met.

7) Fastball guitarist Miles Zuniga admits that he once had a crush on Carrie Fisher (aka Princess Leia). Tell us about one of your one-sided love affairs, either with a celebrity or someone you knew in real life. I think the best one-sided story I have is this guy I met doing stage crew for a local ballet. I had a pretty solid crush on him and worked up the nerve to ask him to our Christmas dance and he accepted, but he had to fill out a form to go and just kind of…didn’t. I saw him a while later at a free concert and sent him a message on MySpace, because it was that time, and he ignored it. I mean, I was already fairly certain he wasn’t interested as it was, but that really sealed it. And I’m not the type to keep pushing it. I’m marrying someone else next month and don’t have a MySpace anymore, so I feel like I came out on the good end of that.

8) Fastball’s drummer Joey Shuffield is partial to drums from Pork Pie Percussion. This company was started by Bill Detamore, who began making drums as a hobby. Do you have any hobbies that, under the right circumstances, could make you money? Oh, writing, for sure–and I do make money at it. In fact, when I finish this, I’m gonna do an article. And some others, too. I like crafty things, even though I haven’t done one in years, and stuff like that can always be sold. If I played guitar more and developed skill, that could be monetized.

9) The fast ball is the most common pitch in major league baseball. Now that the MLB season is past the halfway mark, how is your baseball team doing? I mean, I don’t pay too much attention to them–it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates, and anyone familiar with baseball knows how that tends to go. I know things were looking up for them the past couple seasons, but it sounds like that’s maybe not really happening this year.

Friday 5: Mornings Are for Coffee and Contemplation

  1. Why are waffles better than pancakes? I don’t know that I’d say they’re better, but I love them both for different reasons. For example, for some reason, heaps of fruit and whipped cream seem more appropriate on a waffle than a pancake, so that’s a huge plus, especially given the texture of a waffle. And when they’re made perfectly and they’re really fluffy, it’s perfect.
  2. What’s something you remember about being 11? Not much! I would’ve turned 11 the summer of 2000, so by that point, we knew that Y2K wasn’t a thing. I probably spent that summer playing with our dog at the time, Mandy, a lab we’d gotten maybe the year before. That’s how I became a dog person–I’d been afraid of them, actually, up to that point.
  3. What experience do you have with role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons? Pretty much zero.
  4. How do you feel about carnival rides that make you go upside-down? I always used to be afraid of them, and then when I was 17 and on a school chamber ensemble trip to Disney in Orlando, I went on the Aerosmith roller coaster and loved it. I still enjoy them, but I get so nervous before I go on.
  5. You’ve seen Matthew Modine in more films than you realize (which he famously admitted during his opening monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1988) (filmography here). Which have you seen, and which was the best? Apparently, I’ve actually only seen him in Weeds.

As always, from Friday 5.

One of the advantages to having your fiancé’s brother get married first is that you can watch how their very difficult mother handles it and plan accordingly for your own wedding.

It didn’t take long for us to figure out one of the things we were gonna have to do was be selective with how much we told her. It’s how I’ve learned to handle her normally–answer her questions and don’t say too much, because it’s way too easy to step over the line into saying something that pisses her off. I remember once when some story about Katie and Jacob’s wedding planning got back to me, I said, “Oh, they’re telling her too much.” As we’ve been going through planning ourselves, my goal has been to get as close to the wedding as possible with her knowing only the basics. We used to joke about doing as much as possible while Katie and Jacob were doing their planning so that we could kind of fly under the radar. People don’t ask too many questions about your wedding when someone else’s is much sooner, so we used that to our advantage.

I knew she’d want to be included, and I get that, but it’s tough to be open to that when she’s spent the bulk of our relationship being rude to me, for one, and when I know wedding planning for her means acting like it’s her day, too, and she gets a major stake in the decisions. That’s why we’ve done almost everything alone–that and it’s our wedding, not our parents’. Shit, even when I was wedding-dress shopping and trying to get honest opinions out of my mother, I heard a lot of, “It’s your decision.” Plus my parents don’t feel the need to be involved every step of the way. They offer up occasional thoughts and I’ve updated them more frequently than we have Paul’s family, but they’ve been very hands-off. It’s an interesting contrast, although one I can’t help but thing exists because they’ve heard the stories before.

Strangely, as we get down to less than two months to go, there’s not a whole hell of a lot to do. Cookies have been delegated to basically whoever is willing and able to make some. The rental company sets up all the tables, dinnerware, etc. The florist is taking care of centerpieces. Leading up to the day won’t require a lot of work, with everyone banding together like they did for Jacob and Katie’s. So we’re kind of limited in ways to include Paul’s mom, but the one place I did see an opportunity was sending invitations. I asked my parents first, then suggested we all go to their place to get invitations ready, even though six people doing wedding invitations seemed like overkill.

It’s the one time in wedding planning where I was grateful something wasn’t super simple. Our invitations included cards for not just RSVPs but hotel info, directions, and reception information, and everything came wrapped separately in plastic. Great! That meant everything had to be taken out, folded, put into the invitations, and then we’d have to put stamps and labels on things, and I wanted to follow the advice I’d seen of numbering them to keep track of guests. That way, it would feel a little less like too many cooks in the kitchen, as they saying goes.

On the whole, it went well. I mean, mission accomplished–she loved our invitations, and she was excited to be included in something. But it wasn’t without some frustration. It took way longer than it needed to to do everything, and it would’ve been faster and easier had it just been my mom and I doing it on our own, with a little help from Paul. Even though more needed done than I thought, it still wasn’t enough to be a six-person job, and it was hard to get everyone to focus on actually getting it done. We ended up not getting home that night until midnight, although part of me must’ve known it wasn’t gonna be quick and easy because I arranged all this specifically on a Friday night.

But still, we made it out unscathed. I expect it’s gonna be all downhill from here, in terms of hearing a whole hell of a lot about what someone else wants out of a wedding that isn’t their own. Rehearsal dinner is shaping up to be an adventure.

Saturday 9: The Joker

Saturday 9: The Joker (1973)
because Stacy recommended it.
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) In this song, Steve Miller claims he’s a picker, grinner, sinner, lover, smoker and joker. Do any of those six words describe you? Joker, mostly.

2) He maintains he’s still a midnight toker. When’s the last time you got high? It’s been a few years.

3) The lyrics include a reference to peaches. Name your favorite fruit. Raspberries, strawberries, and cherries.

4) This song had a big impact on the character of Joey on Friends, who had an imaginary friend named Maurice with the occupation of space cowboy. Did you ever have an imaginary friend? Kind of. I didn’t have imaginary friends that were totally made up, but I would imagine myself in scenarios with fictional characters from stories and movies I liked. No wonder I went into writing, even if my fiction anymore is rare.

5) Steve Miller is the pride of Milwaukee, WI. What else is Milwaukee famous for? I have no idea.

6) Steve Miller considers himself a serious blues guitarist. When did you last feel like singing the blues? I don’t know. It’s been a while.

7) In 1973, when this song was popular, you could buy a portable 8-track tape player for $44.50. On what device do you listen to music most often? Either in the car or on my computer. Computer probably wins, though, because I have musing playing on it almost constantly.

8) A Curious George book packaged with a Curious George plush toy was a big seller at Christmas 1973. Tell us about a toy — either given or received — that brightened a holiday or birthday for you. I can’t really think of a specific one, but I got a lot of Barbies in my time.
9) M*A*S*H was one of TV’s top-rated shows in 1973. Who is your favorite M*A*S*H character? I don’t have one. Haven’t really watched it.