Like I said, 2019 was a ridiculous year, with my niece’s birth, my dad’s death, and my pregnancy, and just as things would settle down or we’d get into a normal routine again, something would happen. One week, I’d be in the gym almost every evening, the next my dad was in the hospital or my parents needed a dog sitter while they traveled to treatment. We’d have a good week of relatively healthy, home-cooked meals, the next we’re driving to my parents’ house or the hospital and the fastest, easiest option is takeout. We might have the time to do something but not the energy or vice versa, and getting pregnant only added to that–I’d been back in a gym routine for all of a month when I was either too tired or nauseous to go or even read a book or watch a movie. It truly knocked me on my ass for a few months there.

And so that meant goals for the year kind of were neglected, although when I went back and looked at this list I made at the beginning of 2019, I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d accomplished a lot more than I’d thought.

  • Home improvements. What I had in mind was either new paint or new siding as our big project, plus smaller things like replacing some old, worn doors and staining the deck, and looking further ahead like stretch goals on Kickstarter, replacing the water heater, upgrading our thermostat, getting the fireplace in working order, installing an electrical outlet in the main bathroom, new landscaping if the siding was done and the price was right, and new furniture, including a small china cabinet and something for recyclables. I zeroed in on paint and was looking into that when we got a really good offer on siding, so we seized that opportunity instead and since we dumped that much money into it, that meant landscaping and furniture were out of the question. But we did get a new thermostat when the current one ended up breaking in the summer, as well as recycling bins.
  • Keep a cleaner home. Eh, we did and we didn’t. It’s hard to keep your house tidy when you’re running all over the place for half the year then spend the tail end barely functioning as a human. I had a stack of dishes on my desk solely because even just taking them to the sink was too much–why do that when I can go straight to bed and lie down? But we at least did some things to help with organization.
  • Don’t say a fucking word about turning 30. My point here was that it’s insane that we act like 30 is old.  So I tweeted about how I wasn’t bothered by turning 30 and that was it.
  • Be a kick-ass aunt. I’d love to see Eliana more, but I think I’m killin’ it when I’m with her.
  • Have my own kid? My exact words last year: “I don’t feel like I’m ready to have kids, but I know everyone says you never are and I know myself well enough to know that if I ever do feel ready, it’ll be too late. So I’m leaving this up to fate. We’re not actively trying but not actively preventing, either, so whatever happens happens.” Well, it happened! I mean, sure, the child will be born in 2020 rather than 2019, but close enough.
  • Get back in shape. LOL no.
  • Get published. I’m not positive, but I don’t think I sent a single thing out in 2019. This was one of those things that really got put on the backburner.
  • Finish a library book without renewing it the max amount of times. I did it! Sure, it was a short book, but it counts!
  • Read more books than last year. So close. I was up to 18, got pregnant, and spent most of November and December in bed. I’m convinced I would’ve hit 20, maybe more, otherwise.
  • Travel. Another one that didn’t happen.
  • Cut credit-card debt in half. Another LOL no.
  • Entertain more. Kind of, maybe? Not as often as I would’ve like, but we did manage to have a few small get-togethers.
  • Get involved in politics. This was another one that got swept aside as things got busy.
  • Keep up with old resolutions. I said my main one here was to keep up with old friends, and I’d say we did a good job of that considering we’re all adults with plenty going on.
  • Keep prioritizing myself. This is a weird one in a year where there were plenty of situations and reasons where others needed to come first instead, although it’s fair to point out that there’s a difference between considering a dying parent and a new baby in the family versus, like, not putting up with other people’s stupid bullshit. I wouldn’t say that those things mean I, or anyone else, isn’t considering their own wants and needs, it’s just different–it’s the difference between self-care and selfishness. So as far as sticking to doing what’s best for my wellbeing, I’d call it a win.
  • Get a new job. Like publishing, I don’t know that I applied for a single one all year, again because it was not only the bottom of the priority list but also because it wasn’t the time to do it. The perks of my current job became really evident in 2019–I had three weeks’ of vacation time and understanding bosses who didn’t have a problem with taking time off on short notice when my dad was diagnosed, and then when I got pregnant, working from home while getting nauseous and vomiting occasionally was so, so much easier than having to commute and sit in the office and worry about having to book it down the hall to the bathroom. Now, working from home full-time with a new baby isn’t gonna happen without help, but it is a piece that makes this whole thing easier.

And Baby Makes Three

The signs have there over the past few weeks–mentions of being tired, not having had alcohol since November, not feeling well, having news that I wasn’t ready to share…

2019 was a ridiculous year. In order, my husband found out he was losing his job to Mexico (the transition is still in progress over a year later…), my dad was diagnosed with cancer, my niece was born, my dad died, and then, just when things got back to normal, I got pregnant!

A friend of mine was turning 30 and having a party at her house, my period was late, and I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. Bur rather than go to a party and drink, I figured I ought to be super sure. So I peed on a stick, got distracted by Paul calling me while running errands, and let it sit a little too long–I was that confident I’d get a negative. Instead, I saw a very, very faint second line, so faint that I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Erring on the side of caution, I didn’t drink at the party. I took a second test when we got home, and same thing–a line so faint that I wouldn’t have even seen it if I hadn’t looked closely.

It was Veteran’s Day weekend, and the next morning, we were meeting up with my mom, Brandon, Kelly, and baby Eliana to visit my dad’s grave and have lunch for Brandon’s birthday. As a doting auntie, I seize any opportunity to be all over Eliana, so when we were at the restaurant, I went right for her. Brandon has this running joke of saying to me, “Get your own baby!” so this time, when he did, I said, “Well…” and explained. Kelly happened to still have pictures of her positive pregnancy test and showed them to me to compare, and they were nearly identical. I figured I’d wait a week and retest.

And then, within 24 hours, morning sickness hit. Well, not morning sickness, exactly, more like evening sickness, but the typical pregnancy symptoms started appearing. Up to that point, I’d only had two hints that I was pregnant–one, my boobs hurt, which they normally do on my period so I dismissed it, and two, a sort of tight feeling in my stomach every so often. I did test again, mostly as a formality, and sure enough, that one was a very clear positive.

I’d been a little bummed that I hadn’t gotten pregnant up to that point, but man, getting a positive test is still kind of terrifying. My first thought, truly, was “Oh, fuck,” then, “I’m too young,” then, “That makes no damn sense, idiot, you’re 30.” It’s a strange mix of excitement and paralyzing fear that tend to alternate, although lately, excitement dominates, especially as we tell more and more people and everyone gets really excited. And then sometimes I feel like I’m not excited enough, like when I hear other women talk about miscarrying or infertility, like I’m taking it for granted. And then I think that this is probably some fucked-up thing that society does to women and that we do to ourselves–my kid isn’t even born yet and already I’m feeling pressure.

Similarly, I’ve thought a lot about the practice of not making an announcement until after the first trimester, when the chance of miscarriage drops dramatically. I understand the reasons for it. It allows you to control what you share, with whom, and when, which I think is very valuable and powerful. For me, if something had happened–and if something were to happen yet–frankly, I’d probably write about it anyway. And yet, with all that I knew logically, it hard not to think about if something happened that it would be my fault, that it would be something I did wrong, and that I’d be ashamed to acknowledge it, despite having zero of these thoughts when it comes to other women I know who have miscarried. It was so easy to get in my own head about it. Part of me wonders how much holding off on sharing the news might just be contributing to the stigma.

And, as it turned out, someone we know did miscarry and was just a few weeks further along in her pregnancy than I was at the time. I won’t go into details because it’s not mine to share, but someone, knowing this woman had just miscarried, chose to still tell them about my pregnancy. Paul and I didn’t know about it at the time, but I was livid when we did find out. It was about the most insensitive way to go about it, and had I known–and frankly, if she didn’t want us to know at all, that would be fair–I would’ve made it clear we wanted to give her time and space, as she deserved.

Otherwise, things have been going pretty smooth. I had a lot of nausea and some vomiting a couple times a week, and I’ve slept plenty, but over the past two weeks, I’ve felt more like myself. I was really knocked on my ass for a while, to the point that I wasn’t even keeping up with Netflix shows or reading. You’d think that those would be prime activities to enjoy in bed, but many times, I either just wanted to sleep or lie down and not focus on anything at all. Sometimes this was because of rough headaches, sometimes it wasn’t.

Looking ahead, I schedule my first ultrasound in two weeks. We do intend to find out the gender but will not do a gender reveal–we’ll probably just casually tell people. My mom is sure it’s a girl, as how I’ve felt so far is on track with how she felt when she was pregnant with me, and her pregnancy with me brother was different. Paul has been very, very picky about names, which I knew would happen. I’ve been joking from the start we’ll need the whole nine months to agree on a name. Of the dozens I’ve mentioned, he has liked two, both girl names, and singled out one as the frontrunner, but we still don’t have a boy name. We’re keeping the name semi-secret, mostly because I don’t want talked out of it. Not because we’re leaning towards the super weird and unconventional or a normal name with an absurd spelling, but just because I don’t want some people, like, say, certain in-laws, for example, talking us out of it if they dislike it.

All in all, being pregnant is scary and weird and cool and mind-blowing all at the same time.

Saturday 9: Go Where Baby Lives

Unfamiliar with this week’s song. Hear it here.

1) The lyrics tell us that the girl of his dreams lives up on a hill. Is there a hill near your home? Or is the terrain pretty flat where you are? I kind of live on a hill. I just forget about it because it’s small and I don’t go down it much.

2) Another clue to her whereabouts is that she’s about a mile from town. Will you be staying close to home this weekend, or will you be traveling a mile or more? We’re heading into Pittsburgh for brunch this afternoon.

3) Sam admits she’s crazy about the sax solo. Is there a particular musical instrument that you love to listen to? Guitar, violin, and piano.

4) This is the only record The Strollers made for States, a company based out of Chicago. States was only in existence for five years (1952-57) and this was the 63rd or 64 records released before they went out of business. Tell us about a business in your neighborhood that recently closed their doors. It wasn’t super recent–within the last several months–but my favorite Italian restaurant in town. It was kind of a dive but everyone knew they had the best food, and they shut down. The story I heard was they couldn’t keep it staffed.

5) More than 60 years after its initial release, this song enjoyed new popularity when Xfinity used it in commercials for their wifi. What company is your internet service provider? Are you happy with it? I have Xfinity. I know hating Comcast is popular, but other than the prices, I have no complaints.

6) In researching this week’s song, Sam googled “strollers” and was surprised to discover how many different types of baby buggies are available today. When did you most recently push a child in a stroller? Strangely, despite having a baby niece, I haven’t in a long while. Last time I was out and about with her, she was in a carrier, and normally everyone just wants to hold her and fights for her.

7) In 1957, the year this song was released, President Eisenhower celebrated his second inaugural with a parade featuring more than 50 marching bands. The mercury never quite reached 45º that day. How’s the weather outside your front door? Well, we woke up to a nice dusting of snow.

8) One of the best-selling books of 1957 was Peyton Place. This steamy saga of small town life launched two films, two television series, and several made-for-tv movies. Is there a book that you enjoyed that was successfully turned to a movie? I’m reading a couple of those now, actually, now that I think about it. I’m reading The Girl Who Played with Fire, which didn’t get an American movie but did get a Swedish one, although I haven’t seen it yet; The Vampire Lestat, the plot of which was shoehorned into the movie Queen of the Damned and wasn’t necessarily what I’d call a success; and Good Omens, which got what sounds to be a very faithful and beloved miniseries adaptation on Amazon Prime.

9) A Peyton Place-inspired question: Can a man be physically unfaithful to a woman, but still love her? I think so because I think sometimes these things are more complicated than we think they are or want them to be–in some ways, it’s easier to think someone cheated because they don’t love you. But I do think if someone’s cheating, there are bigger problems that need to be addressed.

Friday 5: Free at Least

  1. What’s the most recent pleasant item you received for free? I have a sort of subscription box coming soon that I only had to pay to ship. Not entirely free, but it’s supposed to have a lot of good stuff in it worth a good bit of money, so only paying to ship it’s not a bad deal.
  2. What do you wish to be free of? Feeling crappy physically.
  3. What do you wish to be freed from? Having to work a full-time job, but I’ve got good reasons for this right now!
  4. What’s a song you like with the word (or some form of the word) “free” in it? The two obvious choices are “Freedom! ’90” by George Michael and “I Want to Break Free” by Queen (and its amazing music video), but lurking in my iTunes library are the gems “Free Coffee” by Ben Folds and “Olly Olly Oxen Free” by Amanda Palmer. 
  5. What’s something you could do so you’d have more free time? I honestly don’t know. I could dump my side hustles, I guess, but I enjoy them and they make me money. I feel like I use my free time, for the most part, in ways that are serving me well. Even with side hustles, I never feel like I’m doing too much work or that I’m neglecting hobbies or downtime–today, for example, I’ll likely be home all day and in between some transcription work, I’ll be writing, reading, watching Netflix, all that kind of stuff. I have no complaints on that front.

From Friday 5.

Saturday 9: Miss Independent

Unfamiliar with this week’s song. Hear it here.

1) The song begins with Kelly describing a woman who is “independent” and “self-sufficient.” Are you feeling especially independent and self-sufficient this morning? Or is there a particular task on your to-do list that you wish you had help with? Lately, I’ve been more self-sufficient, but a few weeks prior, I was needing some help.

2) Kelly especially enjoys that this song was a hit, because she had to argue with the record company to even include it on her album. Tell us about a time you’re glad fought to get your way. Most times I do it, probably!

3) The video depicts a very lively party that spills from the house to the pool area. What’s the last party you attended? Was it held indoors, outdoors, or did the revelers enjoy themselves both inside and outside? A family Christmas party, and since this is Pennsylvania and not one of those weird 60-degree days we did have recently, it was indoors only.

4)The partiers are playing with “silly string.” Have you ever indulged in a “silly string” battle? I think I have. They might not have been true battles so much as one or two people getting totally doused with the stuff–some of my friends were into that for a bit.

5) Kelly Clarkson has a new daytime talk show. Who hosted the last entertainment talk show (as opposed to news) that you watched? Dr. Phil, which I watched at my job.

6) Kelly Clarkson told a foodie website that one of her favorite foods is sushi (especially California rolls). She said she’s surprised how fond she is of it, since as a kid, sushi is a food she wouldn’t even try. Tell us about something you had to be convinced to try, or do, that you were surprised to find you enjoyed. Sushi was certainly one of them! I got half talked into repelling once, and I say half talked into because I felt comfortable with the group that was going but it was still intimidating. I loved it.

7) In 2003, when “Miss Independent” was released, Microsoft and Sony were furiously competing for gamers’ attention. Do you own Playstation or Xbox, neither or both? Both, but only the Playstation works–the Xbox is pretty old, probably from high school, and I’m 30 now. It crapped out on us maybe a year ago, and it’s still sitting there until we figure out what the hell one does with a broken Xbox. I hate to put it in the garbage when there are parts that can probably be recycled somehow.

8) Also in 2003, the best-selling cookbook was The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. It features foolproof recipes for old favorites like waffles, pancakes, flat breads and crackers. When you look for a new recipe, are you searching for an easier/better way to make something familiar, or are you more likely looking to try something new? I’m definitely looking for something new, but I welcome it if I stumble upon an improvement for something familiar. I’m not super into cooking, so I’m happy to take any tips and tricks I can.

9) Random question: Which has gotten you in more trouble — love or money? Money, easily.

Friday 5: Master of Your Domain

  1. What are the areas of your expertise? Literature, the English language in general.
  2. What are you territorial about? Huh, I don’t know.
  3. What’s a bit of specific wisdom from your field that could apply to life in general? That there’s always an exception to a rule and sometimes there’s no clear right or wrong, just a judgment call.
  4. How big or small is your personal space bubble? It’s small but not tiny, but people I know can get really close before I’m bothered. It’s more for strangers–like, I’m definitely the type who can’t stand people who like to get a little too close standing in a line.
  5. What are your current emotional and mental states? Mostly calm with occasional moments of freaking out about the future.

From Friday 5.

Saturday 9: Sultans of Swing

Unfamiliar with this week’s song. Hear it here.

1) The song begins by mentioning how it feels to shiver on a rainy night. As you answer these questions, is it chilly … or rainy … or dark? Dark.

2) The lyrics describe a bar at closing time, when the owner announces, “Goodnight, now, it’s time to go home.” Can you recall a time when you lingered until you closed the joint? Not in particular, but it’s definitely happened.

3) This song was written years before it was recorded, back in the days before Dire Straits was a success. Composer/lead singer/lead guitarist Mark Knopfler recalls that, when he was working on “Sultans of Swing,” he was worried about paying his gas bill. Is anything troubling you this Saturday? This pain-in-the-ass cold I have.

4) When this song was popular, Sam often played it on the jukebox because, well, who doesn’t like Dire Straits? 40 years later, both that  jukebox and the bar it was in are gone. Have you recently been in a restaurant or bar that has a jukebox? Those newer digital ones, yeah.

5) In 1978, the year “Sultans of Swing” topped the charts, Garfield first appeared in newspapers all around the United States. Over the years, it was revealed that the cartoon cat loved lasagna and hated raisins. What’s a food you love? What’s one that you hate? I, too, love lasagna and pasta in general. I don’t know that there’s I food I really, truly hate.

6) One of People magazine’s top-selling issues of 1978 featured Carrie Fisher and Darth Vader on the cover. The article celebrated the theatrical re-release of Star Wars and announced that the cast was on board for a sequel. How many Star Wars movies have you seen? Seven–the original three, the prequels, and The Force Awakens. We’re very behind on the new ones.

7) The most popular movie of 1978 was Grease. What’s your favorite song from the Grease soundtrack? Man…none? I don’t like Grease. It’s about changing for someone. No thanks.

8) In 1978, Yves St. Laurent made fashion news by putting his female runway models in menswear-inspired suits, complete with neckties and pocket squares. Do you know how to tie a windsor knot? Can you fold a handkerchief into a pocket square? Nope.

9) Random question: You’re visiting a friend. He graciously offers you the use of his super-expensive, brand-new luxury sedan for the duration of your stay. Do you take him up on it? Or do you rent a car instead? I probably avoid it as much as possible but take him up on it if necessary. And drive much more slowly and carefully than normal.

Saturday 9: Keep Me Warm

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

Here’s our first Saturday 9 of 2020!

1) Are you feeling warm and cozy as you answer these questions? Yep!

2) This time of year is important to college football fans. Are you watching/have you watched any of the Bowl games this year? Nope. I don’t like football.

3) Crazy Sam’s been cold/flu free so far this winter and credits the Echinacea she takes every morning. Her brother insists she’s wasting her money. Do you take any herbal supplements? I’m taking vitamins at the moment. They’re Flintstones vitamins. There’s a story behind this–in short, I was advised by a doctor to do so, and I find it hilarious.

4) In the video for this song, Erin Bowman is singing in front of lights and ornaments. Are you sorry to see the decorations slowly disappear? Or do you think they should all come down right away? I like letting them linger. No reason to tear it all down ASAP–it lets the Christmas spirit hang on until Hallmark is back at it in July.

5) She sings about socks, a scarf and a sweater. Tell us about your favorite sweater. I don’t know if I have a favorite!

6) Erin credits her 8th grade choir teacher for believing in her and giving her a solo. That helped give her the confidence to go into performing professionally. When you were in 8th grade, did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? I think I kind of did, I just hadn’t considered it as a serious option.

7) This song has been used in commercials for McDonald’s and Turner Classic Movies. What commercial have you seen recently? Was it on TV or online? My mom sent me one this morning for cat food, where it’s implied a mom is more attentive to her cat than her kid. I swear it was funnier than it sounds.

8) In 2014, when this song was first released, we lost both Joan Rivers and Robin Williams. What comedian always makes you laugh? There are a few, but my husband’s been on a John Mulaney kick lately.

9) Random question — There are two performers in the trapeze act: the one who flies through the air and the one who catches the flier. Which would you rather be? As risky as it is, the flier! I don’t need the pressure of catching someone. I can barely catch a ball.

Friday 5: Ho! Haha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Spin! Ha! Thrust!

  1. What’s your strategy for eluding danger? Paying attention to what’s happening around me.
  2. What have you recently escaped? Feeling shitty, physically speaking.
  3. When did you last dodge a question? Not recently, I don’t think. I expected to have to do it over the holidays, but I was wrong, fortunately.
  4. Whose slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are you grateful aren’t yours? Lately, my best friend. She has two concussions from two car accidents.
  5. What’s something (or who is someone) you’ve rescued? Baby birds! I had to work from the office in September and came home one day to find two baby birds had fallen from their nest in the tree in our front yard–it looked like rain or wind had pretty much split the thing in half. One was already dead and did look younger and more fragile than the other, but the other was still alive. My mom had done something similar once, so I called her and asked her what to do. Combined with her experience and a website for a local wildlife rehab, I made a makeshift nest out of a plastic box that had kiwi in it originally, and my husband picked up the bird and put him in it. We checked on him for the next couple of days, and Mama did come for him and used our little next. But not too longer after, it looked like they moved on, perhaps to a sturdier tree.

From Friday 5.

Saturday 9: Cold as Ice

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

1) Look back on 2019 and share a happy moment. When my niece was born! And one forthcoming announcement. And that’s about it. 2019 was a shitshow. My mom has said that the two things mentioned here were the only good things to come out of the year for her.

2) As 2019 ends, are you making any New Year’s resolutions for 2020? I usually do make some sort of list of goals for the year, at least, and I’ll be getting to posting those soon. But I don’t have any true resolutions, no.

3) Tell us about an obstacle or challenge you faced in 2019. Oof. My dad was diagnosed with cancer around February and died in August. And while my mom handled the brunt of things like his care, obviously, watching your parent waste away and die is rough. My mom said she felt like she was having an out-of-body experience, and that’s probably the best way to describe sitting at your parents’ dining-room table with your uncle, mom, and a hospice nurse going over what’s happening.

4) Is it “cold as ice” outside where you are today? It is not. It’s cold, but it’s in the 40s. Yesterday was a 70-degree heatwave, though!

5) Foreigner is this week’s featured artist. The band formed in New York City. If you were to travel to New York City, what would you be sure to see? I’ve been twice and tackled a few of the big touristy things, but I didn’t see a Broadway show or the Statue of Liberty, so those would be on my list. I’d definitely eat my way across Chinatown and Little Italy again, though. That was great.

6) The band went by the name Trigger. They changed it because their prospective record label was already auditioning a different group named Trigger. They settled on Foreigner because half the members were foreign — from England. If you received a free, round-trip airline ticket to any foreign country, where would you go? I’d visit truly every country in the world if it made financial sense and was safe. But if we’re talking a free one-time thing, probably Australia. As much as this is probably an awful time to visit, I’d also spend my time doing what I can to help with the devastation of the fires.

7) In 1977, when this song was popular, Star Wars was breaking all box office records. The Spy Who Loved Me, a James Bond movie, was also a 1977 hit. Which film series do you prefer: Star Wars or James Bond? Star Wars. James Bond films are so hit and miss, and it’s easy for them to be predictable or silly.

8) In 1977, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak incorporated Apple. Are you answering these 9 questions on an Apple product (PC, laptop, pad or phone)? A laptop, yep.

9) Random question: What was the last thing you thought of as you dozed off last night? I was a little hungry but didn’t want to get up, so I was hoping I’d fall asleep anyway. Success.