As always, with me working Saturdays for the month, that leaves Sunday as our only day to really do much together over the weekend. This past weekend, we planned to go to a movie…and then I fell asleep for a few hours and ruined that plan. But by the time I woke up, Paul was in the mood for all-you-can-eat sushi, so that’s how we spent our evening.

On the other hand, I do like having Mondays to myself because it gives me the whole day to run errands, make phone calls, and get stuff done. I made it back to the gym after about a week out due to a combination of being a little sick and spending a lot of time at my parents’ house, and I used some of my free time to check out the new coffee shop in the same plaza as the gym. I did some cooking, too–a pretty simple lasagna roll-up recipe, and I took a couple of them over to my parents’ house the next day. I figured either my parents cook divvy them up or my mom could have them for lunch or dinner one evening.

I was back over there Tuesday while they were seeing doctors again, and the mood is a little more optimistic now–I think my dad was expecting to hear his tumor is inoperable or something, but that’s not the case. They do need to treat him with either chemo or radiation before they do surgery, but the doctor sounded pretty confident and my dad’s in better spirits. I think my mom was, too. She seemed to kind of feel like the last round of appointments was bad news on top of bad news, and this appointment wasn’t like that. He can’t see an oncologist until the 25th, though, so there’s no treatment scheduled or even a definite plan yet and that’s frustrating, but at least we know what we’re dealing with now.

So I hung around the house all day Tuesday, and in the evening, Paul and I met up over at his parents’ house for cake for his brother Jonathan’s 17th birthday. Jonathan was 8 when Paul and I first started dating, so…

It was a nice evening. We hung out for a bit before us working adults–which would be the two of us plus Katie and Jacob–had to hit the road and go home to go to bed to get up for work the next day.

So at least for now, I’m expecting some calm. Maybe we’ll make it to a movie this Sunday, and I’ll probably have a normal week or two at work without having to take time off. I’m gonna enjoy that. We’re all staying optimistic, I think, but I don’t expect this to be an easy year, so any time that feels normal is gonna be good.

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So. It turns out that the stomach trouble my dad has been having is cancer.

A tumor, to be specific, where the esophagus meets the stomach. It’s also spread to his lymph nodes, and we’re still waiting on test results to find out if it spread to any other organs.

So over the past week, I’ve spent like four or five days at my parents’ house. I went out last Tuesday night. He had appointments in the morning to figure out what was going on and with snow coming in, my mom figured it made the most sense for them to get a hotel room in Pittsburgh, so I took Wednesday off, drove over Tuesday night, watch Rent live, and essentially dog-sat for the night.

They found out at that appointment about the tumor. I headed home and requested Friday off, then headed back over Thursday night, again, with snow coming in. That Friday appointment revealed the cancer in his lymph nodes.

My mom almost wanted me to stay over again Friday night, but at this point, I’d been over four days in a row and had slept over there two nights, and I kind of wanted to go home.

And I was back again Monday morning anyway while they were getting more tests done.

So things have been…weird. Personally, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet, but it’s also been a really busy week–it’s easy for something to not feel quite real when you don’t have much time to sit still. I think what I’m thinking about the most is how he must be feeling, especially with the first grandkid on the way.

The whole family dynamic is weird. At home, it’s easy to not forget about it, because it’s certainly on my mind, but it’s not in my face. At my parents’ house, the mood is much more somber. For the most part, aside from the initial evening we first found out, everyone’s been their usual selves, but any time I’ve been over since, I’ve definitely had this feeling of heading into a certain vibe. My mom keeps saying she thinks they’re depressing the dog.

And my dad is, naturally, not quite himself. He kissed me on the head and told me he loved me before they left for his appointment, and I can count on one hand the times either of those things has ever happened. One was when he deployed.

My mom said they’ve both been having their ups and downs. She said they went to his childhood church and Sunday and he broke down in full sobs when he saw one of his friends, and he’s been just generally most sentimental and expressing things in a way he never has.

Like I said, weird.

So there’s still some things we have yet to find out and certainly a long way to go. We’re all hoping for the best.

Saturday evening, we ran some errands–hair trims for both of us, since I can’t get to Emily for another two months thanks to working Saturdays in February, and a trip to the outlets for something my mom was looking for. From there, it was into Pittsburgh.

Earlier in the day, there was a nasty, tragic accident on the parkway. Two men were killed after being thrown off of a ramp and down onto a street below, where they were both hit by another car. Authorities think one man had car trouble and the other stopped  to help, and then a third came and either didn’t see them until it was too late or was going too fast. The men were either thrown from the ramp or were standing between their two cars and jumped to get out of the way. Hours had passed by the time we were going through, but there was a police barricade blocking the ramp to that stretch of the parkway, and although it looked like ay traffic had been cleared, we could still see the lights from the police cars along the stretch where it happened. I think everyone becomes kind of immune to reacting to car accidents, but it was tough to drive by the lights and barricades and not feel horrible for the men killed, their families, and the other drivers involved.

We met up with Chelsea and her friends for her roommates’ birthday at the same bar we went with them to for New Year’s. Katie and Jacob came out this time, too, and we had a nice evening of hanging out, drinking, and meeting a good number of new people, and everyone hit it off really well. Paul moved away from me at one point to the other end of the table to talk to one of Chelsea’s friends about meditation and tai chi and chakras, and I looked at Katie and went, “This is the kind of hippie shit people expect from me.” And there was a little talk of politics, with most of us being on the same side of things, and a little talk of sexism and social issues.

The place didn’t serve food, although we brought in pizzas from down the street, and Katie wanted ice cream, so as things were dying down, Paul and I went with her and Jacob to the closest Primanti Bros. because they’re open late. Turns out not all Primantis serve dessert. In retrospect, we should’ve looked for a Mad Mex, as they have ice cream and are open late, or an Eat ‘N’ Park, which, like Primanti’s, is easily found and open late.

Sunday, we thought about heading out to Row House for a screening of Metropolis, but neither of us was super into the idea of going out–Paul said he could be talked into going, and I said I could be talked out of going. So we decided to skip it, as much as that movie is on both of our lists of must-sees. But it also pops up at Row House often enough, so I’m sure we’ll get another chance to see it in the not-too-distant future.

Man, my family had a week.

First, my dad’s been having some health issues that aren’t a huge deal but also aren’t great. The good news is he’s getting it looked at, it’s just that it was one thing in a list of a few.

And then at work, my brother had a client get physical with him. Again, nothing serious, but a trip to the hospital was involved and the guy’s being charged with assault.

And then, on our end of things, not to be outdone, Paul found out he’s losing his job because that particular location’s work is being shipped to Mexico. The good news is he has up to a year before that happens and will be given 60 days’ notice and severance pay. Of course, neither of us really wants to wait around for that to happen, so he’s been sending out resumes and did get a response pretty quick, so he has a phone interview Wednesday evening. If he gets it, the commute will be long and terrible, but the money might make it worth it.

In the meantime, we’re tightening things down financially in case we end up needing to live off of just my income temporarily. We’re curbing most unnecessary spending for now, and between that and the weather, we spent last weekend pretty much lounging at home.

As for this past weekend, Paul decided he wanted to make his mom’s recipe for homemade pizza, but it makes four pizzas and we definitely can’t polish that off on our own, so we invited some nearby siblings and friends over. Turns out only Jacob and Katie could make it, but we had a nice night stuffing ourselves with pizza, having some beers, and playing Catan. As much as we’ve enjoyed hosting bigger gatherings, a small game night was also super fun, and I definitely want to do more of that.

My mom’s Aunt Cecilia, or Aunt Cis, died during the week, and although I didn’t spend a ton of time with her, I did want to stop by the funeral home, so I went to the funeral Saturday morning with my parents. She was one of my grandfather’s sisters, and I ended up thinking about him a lot during the funeral. It had me missing him and Grandma pretty bad, and it’s been a little while since I felt that. I think of them often enough, but this was different. I felt the sadness of it more.

There was a nice, small lunch afterwards for everyone who went, and after that, I spent a lot of time at my parents’ house just kind of dicking around, mostly just not feeling like driving an hour back home quite yet. And since I had the time and (sort of?) the space, I offered to take a look at the stash of shit I still have in their basement and left with some of my old stuffed animals to go through and other little things, like nice towels my mom is getting rid of because they don’t match either bathroom now and some of the afghans my grandma made that my mom had. I still have plenty in my own house to go through and put away, but I’m not opposed to taking stuff out of my parents’ basement a little at a time.

Going into Sunday, the big weather story was a snowstorm, but it was…anticlimactic. We got an inch, maybe not even, although crews took their sweet time treating the roads and apparently, ice was an issue. So we spent the bulk of our day at home, and when we did go out, it was to run some errands, and that was it. And that was after accidentally taking a nap for a few hours.

This weekend, we’re heading out again with Paul’s cousin living in Pittsburgh, and with any luck, he’ll have a new job to get ready for.

We always say we’re wanting to go to brunch when Tina’s serving up at Black Forge, but it seems the brunch schedule and our schedules never mesh. But at last, last Saturday, we had a free morning, so we went up for some coffee and a delicious sampling of quiches. And then we stopped at the mall on the way home because, I mean, might as well if it’s right there.

Paul’s co-workers are big fans of doing escape rooms and one of the nearby libraries set one up for free, so in the evening, we went to do that and ended up being the fastest team, escaping with 10 minutes left on a 30-minute time limit. As a result, we got put in for a drawing for prizes, and Paul’s name was drawn for a Starbucks gift card. Nice to go do something and get money for it instead of having to pay for it, plus that library was pretty nice. I know my brother visits that one a good bit and our library is connected to it and others in the county, I’ve just never stopped in.

And afterwards, a few of us went out to Mad Mex, because Paul and I can’t be within 15 minutes of the place and not go. It’s just so good.

Our favorite movie theater, Row House, was doing a sci-fi, memory-focused theme for the week, and they were showing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Blade Runner. As much as I would love to see Eternal Sunshine in a theater, I’ve already shown it to Paul–but he’d never seen Blade Runner. And if we’re gonna go, I’d rather go see something at least one of us hasn’t seen before. It’s part of what I love about Row House. It makes movies you have seen a little more fun, but because it exclusively shows older releases surrounding a different theme every week, you get a chance to see something that’s long left theaters on a big screen in surround sound.

Of the two movies, I think I enjoy Eternal Sunshine more, but as far as seeing something in a theater, Blade Runner was the right choice. I’d forgotten how beautiful its cinematography is, and when the movie started with those awesome, ridiculous noir-esque shots of what they thought of as a futuristic LA, I was really happy Paul’s first exposure to the film wasn’t on one of our laptops in our bed. Hilariously, the movie is set in 2019, and when that title flashed on screen, I laughed out loud. But also…Sean Young. That is all.

Wait, one final thing–approximately everyone out-acts Harrison Ford in that movie.

We seem to only do this when we go to Lawrenceville, maybe because it’s super easy to do it, but we make it a point to never eat at the same restaurant twice. We just kind of had the idea and stuck to it, I think because the first time we decided to eat in the area, we decided to just walk until we found something interesting, and in the process, we just saw how many neat restaurants there are. So we try something new every time, and usually, we choose just based on walking until we hit something we’ve never been to. It was a Sunday evening, so a few places were closing up, which made taco place Condado the winner.

Condado is essentially build-your-own tacos. They have a menu of suggestions to choose from, sure, but you can also just fill out what you want–basically the same concept as Burgatory, just with tacos. We opted for some of the suggestions, and I took it easy because both vegetarian options sounded spicy, and I went for the one that sounded less likely to destroy my tastebuds. I ended up being wrong, but that aside, it was a great taco. It also introduced me to jackfruit, which is apparently a pretty good meat substitute due to its texture and the fact that it takes on other flavors similar to the way tofu does.

So basically, despite eating a taco that was a little too much for me, I loved the place. Paul did, too, and it may put a wrench in our plans to just wander Lawrenceville for food.

I was toying with the idea of hosting a small party for New Year’s, but Terra beat me to it before I made up my mind. I think one day, I’d still like to do it, but for now, it can be tough for her to get out here and I wasn’t super committed to it, anyway.

And then Paul’s cousin Chelsea invited us to join her and her friends for some drinks, and we figured what the hell, we can do both–we pass through Pittsburgh on our way to Terra’s house anyway. so we can pop in, have some beers, then continue on our way for the rest of the New Year.

It ended up taking us forever to find parking, mostly because we were in a part of the city we don’t usually visit and one of the garages was closed. Because it took so long, we decided to hang out longer than we planned to, and I felt kind of bad because most of Terra’s other guests bailed and she was basically waiting on us. But we had fun hanging out and having some drinks before we hung out at Terra’s.

Now, she doesn’t have cable, and neither do we–so really, no matter what, we weren’t watching a ball drop unless we got on a computer and streamed it. But we opted to not bother and just wait and guess when the New Year started based on the influx of texts. It sounds really anti-climactic, but I found it pretty entertaining. I do enjoy New Year’s, but not to the point that it all hinges on watching TV.

We hung around for a couple hours, headed home, and crashed pretty hard, considering we were out until like 2 a.m., and enjoyed a lazy New Year’s Day.

Within a few months, my extended family will have three new babies. Two of my cousins are expecting, as are my brother and his wife. The first is due in February, and the last in May, and with everyone home for the holidays, the one in the middle, my cousin Casey, had her baby shower the Saturday right after Christmas.

I shit on bridal showers all the time, but I actually kind of like baby showers, mostly because having a get-together to help prepare for a new baby makes a hell of a lot more sense than a bridal shower, at least for some of us. Like, I may not have needed dishes and an iron, but when my time comes, I’m sure as shit gonna need basically everything for a baby. But I digress. It was a nice lunch in town, and afterwards, Kimmie and Aunt Barbara came over to my parents’ house to exchange Christmas gifts. Everything Kimmie gave me was cat-related, so it was perfect.

I hung around for a little bit longer, then in the evening met up with Marissa and Marion for dinner, which was nice. I’ve seen them both semi-frequently the last two months, between the holidays and weddings and things at our house, and especially now that Marissa’s living close-ish to us, I’d like to try to get together with her more. I texted her about hitting a movie this past weekend, in fact, but she had plans with her cousin.

All week long, Paul had been wanting to go see the new Spider-Man movie, Into the Spider-Verse–his job shuts down from Christmas until after New Year’s, so although he did hang out with friends and family while I worked that whole week, he was also looking for stuff to do and asked me a couple days in a row if we could go see it, but the scheduling between when I finished work, when the movie started, and when he had tai chi or other plans wasn’t working out. On weekends where one of us is off on their own for a day, I try to find us something to do together the other day, even if it’s just a movie, so that Sunday, we finally made it to his Spider-Man movie.

I’ve never been much of a Spider-Man fan–my superhero leanings go Batman and X-Men. But Paul had heard good things and seemed pretty interested, so that’s what we ended up seeing. And it was actually really good and we really enjoyed it. Frankly, the series from several years ago just isn’t that memorable to me, so I think Into the Spider-Verse is probably my favorite of the movies.

Ah, siblings. You can always count on them to be a pain in your ass.

Paul opted out of the annual Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert this year–in fact, he hasn’t gone since bass player David Z died tragically. So that left me to meet up with Brandon and Kelly in the South Hills to take the T, plus I wanted to hit Lush’s annual after-Christmas sale, where all seasonal items are BOGO. And that’s in addition to what I snagged online the minute the sale started. Like, I got myself two gift boxes worth $100 for the price of one, plus a few other small things.

For starters, Brandon and Kelly both had the day off and I did not, so while I wanted to join them to shop for the new baby, I really couldn’t. I told my brother I had to work and would get showered and head out as soon as I was done, and while I admittedly didn’t tell him what time I thought I’d get there, I figured it wouldn’t be until close to 5.

And the thing is, while friends have joked they’d become the ultimate lazy slobs if they worked from home and they’re not off-base there, when I do go out, I actually kind of enjoy the process of getting ready. Like, since I’m only putting on actual clothes and make-up on weekends, for the most part, I look forward to doing my make-up. So I’m not exactly taking my time with it. I don’t know what my brother expected, but that means I need a little over an hour to get ready, depending on things like whether or not I’m shampooing my hair. Or shaving.

I think Kelly was more realistic about how long I’d be. But alas, every so often, I could count on a text from Brandon asking what’s up or what I was doing or where I was or when I thought I was gonna get there.

Now, admittedly, we when we’re together, we probably get to be annoying just because we act like typical dumbass siblings, and on this night, we were being particularly childish–I intentionally pushed my chair out and smacked into him when he was walking behind me, he made fun of me, that kind of thing. And he managed to get cookies-and-cream ice cream on my white jacket. Just like old times!

But probably the biggest thing, and the one my mother finds hilarious, is that ever since they announced the pregnancy, he’s been asking me about our plans to have kids. I think he’s just anxious for us to have kids, too, which I get, but now when we hang out, I get lots of questions about if we’re actively trying to get pregnant or if I’ve taken a pregnancy test lately. I told my mom, and she laughed and laughed.

But otherwise, it was a fun night out–great concert, unusually warm weather, and we didn’t fuck up and miss the T this time.

We had a nice Christmas.

Paul had to work a short day Christmas Eve and I had to work a full one, but when we finished up, we got our stuff together and headed over to my parents’ for my mom’s family’s annual Christmas dinner. We all went over a little early to help out, which basically just means we all wanted to play with the dog.

And it wouldn’t be a holiday without my mom coming back while I’m getting dressed to say, “Your dad’s driving me nuts.” Ah, the true Christmas spirit.

It was a nice evening, and it included the gender reveal for Brandon and Kelly’s baby, as their appointment was that morning–they’re having a girl, and her name is real cute and pretty but is not to be announced until she arrives.

The original plan for the reveal, by the way, was my hair–I was gonna dye it accordingly. My hair appointment was a few days before they found out and our original plan was to lighten it and lift out the purple, but then I remembered that, you know, having to work Christmas Eve meant I wasn’t really gonna have time to do that, dye my hair, and get ready for the rest of the holiday. But my mom’s probably relieved it didn’t work out. She’d still be rolling her eyes at us if it had worked out.

All four of us–both kids and our spouses–spent the night, which my mom was adorably excited about. I kind of thought she’d think it was a pain in the ass having all of us over, but she was happy and I think we all had fun. Brandon and I kept saying we were gonna wait up for Santa, but naturally, everyone went to bed at a pretty reasonable hour.

In the past several years, maybe from my teens on, two things have always happened on Christmas–everyone gets up before me and has to bug me to get up and I insist on opening presents Christmas Day. We also usually start by watching the dog open his presents first.

My mom’s been adamant for the last few years that we don’t need more “stuff,” which is true, so she’s been sticking to a few small things to open and money–a lot of money, to be honest, and she’s very seriously thinking of not renewing her contract at work this summer and keeps saying she wants to do that kind of thing while she knows she still can. We appreciate it. Ours went to help pay off furniture before we got hit with interest on it this month. But I also got some makeup I’d asked for and Paul got a Henry Rollins book I knew he’d had his eye on.

Brandon and Kelly didn’t stick around too long in the morning before they headed to her family’s festivities, but Paul and I had a few hours to kill and hung out for a little bit. Then we made our way to his parents’ house for dinner, which was a smaller, more relaxed deal since we’d done all the gifts and such on Sunday while Julie and Michael were in.

We came home sometime in the evening to a cat who was not pleased with us for leaving her alone. It’s kind of sweet, honestly.

In the week or so leading up to Christmas, we crammed in as much of our usual Christmas stuff as possible–The Nutcracker, B.C. Taylor, an evening trip to Phipps to see their annual Christmas flower show, and plenty of get-togethers.

At this point, we’ll cram a ton of stuff into a day if it means seeing people we don’t get to see often. And that’s exactly how the day before Christmas Eve was. We started at my mom’s Aunt Elaine’s annual Christmas party and had a nice time eating and hanging out with everyone for a couple hours.

From there, we went to Paul’s parents’ house. Julie and Michael were in town but weren’t gonna stick around through the holiday, so we did our family gift exchange then. In the fall, we used the Internet to do a Secret Santa between the siblings and spouses/significant others–I got Josh and totally nailed it with a video game he wanted, but also a bonus of a chocolate game controller. Julie had me, and she got me a bunch of candles, vegan lip balms, and soap from a craft show up in Erie, which was pretty much perfect. Paul gave Katie a Cards Against Humanity expansion pack and fuzzy socks, and from Jacob, he got a dinosaur wine-bottle holder. On top of that, we got one of our late wedding presents, a signed, framed print from Paul’s favorite childhood book, Dinotopia. We knew it was coming, but there were issues with the original frame and it took them this long to get it fixed. Now we just need to figure out where to display it. But the big moment of the night was presenting Paul’s parents with their gift, a summer trip to Canada. Well all pitched in for it, and Julie was hilariously excited for them to open everything and figure out we were sending them on vacation.

After a couple hours there, we went to our last stop, my friend Leah’s annual Christmas party. She took a break from hosting it for a couple years but brought it back this year, and it’s one of those events that we love going to because of who we get to see there–she gets together a lot of our classmates who have moved away but come home for the holidays. Since we both had to work the next morning and had an hour’s drive home, we’d said we were gonna leave at 10:30. It would give us time to enjoy ourselves and would get us home late, but not so late that we’d be worn out the ext day. And besides, the next day was Christmas Eve, and at least there’s the promise of the following day off. If you’re gonna go into work tired from a night out, one day before a day off isn’t a bad way to do it. But then we got caught up playing games, and we ended up not getting in until after 1 a.m. Oops.

But I regret nothing. It was a busy day, we drove all over one county and back home to another, and we were exhausted, but we got to see a lot of people over the course of the day and we had fun. I don’t think we’d have it any other way.