We made our annual RenFets trip with Paul’s sister Emily–it’s easy to go a little farther down 70, pick her up at her dorm, and go back, then take her back. Even though we do some backtracking, given that we’re so close by and we like hanging out with her and all college kids to do with getting out and doing something fun, we might as well just do it.

Emily treated us to brunch on campus, which on the one hand isn’t super exciting because it’s campus food but on the other hand, it’s also free food, and I always liked the food there. People used to complain about it a lot, but I have no idea why. Sometimes I think some of the kids there at the same time as me were just fans of being brats, to be honest.

Emily has a campus job and therefore some spending money, but she has to use it wisely, so we pretty much walked the entire festival for her to say, “I’ll come back” and then decide which places to go back to and buy from. I do think she managed to get a bunch of little thing from all the places she liked, and then at one of the places that sold these expensive handmade skirts, Paul went back and secretly bought her one for her birthday next month. And I told him to get me one, too, because of course.

We did end up being there longer than I thought we would be, but we had a good time. And since we were nearby, I got in touch with Stephanie to see if we could swing by and visit with them and the baby–sure, I’ve seen him, but Paul hadn’t, and besides, why not hang out with friends? All we did was sit around and gab, but it was nice to do even that, and of course the baby is adorable.

And of course, because this is how life works, days later, Paul’s brother Josh called him and said he had to tickets to RenFest because his girlfriend works there and asked if we wanted to go. I had to work because I’m on Saturdays this month, but I told Paul to go ahead and that it might be a good way for the two of them to hang out. So off he went.

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Goodbye, Duke

Sadly, the time has come for us to see our beloved beagle, Duke, off to his trip over the rainbow bridge.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected–my dad, Brandon, and Kelly left for the annual Gettysburg trip Friday night, and my mom came home to find Duke had basically peed and puked from one end of the house to the other. Because peeing in the house is really, really rare for him, she suspected an issue with his diabetes. The vet recently lowered his insulin, so my mom thought it was too low, and bumping the dose back up seemed to help a good bit. But he wasn’t eating much, and Duke’s known for wanting food constantly.

Mom and I had concert tickets Sunday night and she was initially afraid to leave him, but he was doing okay and my dad came back from Gettysburg before we had to leave and could sit with him. I spend the night there after the concert and noticed he was shaking on occasion. Monday, he wasn’t eating and was still shaking and just wasn’t quite his normal self. We were getting concerned, and since he’s getting older and has some health problems, we were starting to think maybe he was getting close to the end. My parents scheduled a vet appointment for him Tuesday, yesterday.

My mom and I had concert tickets again that night, and Duke’s appointment was at 2. Honestly, when my dad didn’t text with an update, I thought it was dire, they were putting him down, and my mom was waiting to tell me when she picked me up from work to go to the concert. But it was better than we thought–he was dehydrated, so they gave him an IV and some meds. He ate a little bit of chicken and rice at home, but after the concert, he wasn’t going back to bed in my parents’ bedroom like usual and stayed by himself. My mom took that as a bad sign, and there was still blood work and a follow-up for this morning.

I was hopeful but prepared for the worst. I felt that the vet hadn’t seen anything obvious to say he was really, really bad, but I knew he wasn’t in the clear. And sure enough, my mom sent us a text this morning saying he was in kidney failure and they’d be putting him down. With a little more time, I would’ve gone out to be there, but they were gonna do it soon rather than keep him in pain.

I was holding up okay at first–sad, but okay. I told my mom to give him a kiss for me and Brandon did the same, and when she told us that she hugged and kissed him and told him he was a good dog and he’d see our previous dogs, Mandy and Dandy, that was when I started crying. I kept on goin’ when she said all the vet techs that knew him went in to say goodbye, and I’ve been going off and on pretty much ever since.

Obviously, we’re all gonna miss the shit out of him. I was closer to him than our other dogs, and going to my parents’ house without him running to the door, barking, and then wanting lots of attention from me just isn’t gonna be the same. I remember when we put Mandy down my freshman year of college sitting in an empty, dog-less house was super depressing, and when we had Dandy put down, coming home from college for the weekend and seeing one set of paw print’s in the snow (Duke’s) instead of the usual two was sad. He could be a temperamental asshole who ignored you when he damn well felt like it, but he was super affectionate, fun, and one of the calmest, sweetest dogs I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I at least got to see him within the last few days.

I keep saying it, but Washington is on its way up. Downtown has been slowly getting more new businesses, and new, interesting ones at that–I noticed at President’s Pub once that there was a coffee shop across the street and made a mental note to check it out. So one Saturday, when Paul had me bring my phone down to show off wedding pictures, we decided to stop in and pretty much loved it. Pour-over coffee, teas, homemade scones, it was great. We went back the next day, too, although we haven’t been back since. We try to limit how often we eat out, and coffee shops count. We know we could easily be in there every day.

For Labor Day, we got up super early and went into the mountains. We haven’t been able to go all summer and finally had a day, but knowing Labor Day is one of those days where the mountains get really crowded, we aimed for going as early as we reasonably could. We ended up getting a decent hike in and left just as the place was starting to get busy.

Brandon and Kelly had gotten a cat the night before and were taking her to a vet near my parents’ to get looked at, so they said they’d stop by with her. So we drove down the mountain to my parents’ place to meet the cat they ultimately named Persia, a super cute little orange tabby. At the time, she had fleas, a little scab from scratching, and a slight respiratory infection, but after some care and getting cleaned up, she looked a lot better and dominated Kelly’s Instagram for a bit.

We ended the day with lunch at Fiesta Azteca and a trip to returning books to the library, after a power-reading session when I ran out of renewals. But I highly recommend everyone read An American Sickness–I think if everyone did, healthcare debates would play out very, very differently in this country. And now my latest library pick is the newest from Salaman Rushdie. Hopefully, I’ll finish it before I run out of renewals.

The day after the wedding was mostly recovery and aftermath. We had the family who stayed in the hotel come over to our room to our presents–when my brother got married last year, we served leftovers at my parents’ house and had his in-laws and a few other people over, but in a hotel room and with both sets of parents living an hour away, that wasn’t really feasible. So we did it all in our room, making sure to open Julie and Michael’s dirty gift they’d warned us about before anyone got there.

I was relieved that we didn’t get a lot of stuff, you know? I know I’ve been saying this for months, but we really, really don’t need anything else, so the less we got that takes up space, the better. We did get some pretty things that are gonna be really nice to put up in a house one day, or even a bigger apartment by next year, but for now, most of it’s getting shipped off to my parents’ basement until that point.

We also got a good bit of money, putting us back to where we were before we made final payments the day of.

Between unused mixers and alcohol and our gifts, there was just enough stuff that it didn’t all fit in our car, so Brandon and Kelly volunteered to help haul it back. Everyone else brunched with Jacob and Katie before they flew home, and of course we were starving by the time we were done. Paul’s tux needed returned, too, so we did that out in the South Hills and had some lunch while we were out there.

I slept like shit on the wedding night, so by Sunday, I’d gotten about eight hours of sleep in two days and was feeling rough. Paul and I both took Monday off to recover, and finally, that was where I recouped my sleep–I didn’t sleep in as late as I wanted to, but I did end up taking a two-hour morning nap. Over the next couple days, we gradually handled whatever post-wedding tasks we had, like returning alcohol and mixers and slowly starting on thank-yous. We’ve changed our benefits at work, opened a joint bank account where all the wedding is or will go when we’re done with thank-yous, since I’m depositing money as I write them out so I can be thorough and not miss anyone.

And then it was back to work. It was kind of funny Sunday how we just threw this wedding a night before and then it was just like…back to life as usual. We went to work on Tuesday, showed some pictures and told the highlights when asked, and came home like usual.

When my boss asked me how married life was a week or so later, I was like, “It’s pretty much the same,” and she told me how once she read this article about when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married, someone asked her how married life was, and she commented on how difficult and what a big change it was. My boss–and even myself when she told me–was like, “What? Why?” I mean, you’re together for years, have kids together, and marriage is still that huge? I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, it’s just that I find it strange that couples who have been together for a long time and were already living together find marriage to be a big adjustment, and the only reason I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s the sense of permanent commitment. One of my own issues with marriage as an institution is that I don’t need a big ceremony to commit to someone, and I’ve always loved the stories of how Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell never married. But commitment itself has never bothered me, and the thought of getting married and even now of being married isn’t at all scary. Like I said, nothing’s changed. People talk a lot about how hard the first year of marriage is and I can see that if that’s the first time the couple lives together, but so far, I’m not seeing how. It was more of a challenge when he first moved in and we were learning how to live together, but the marriage itself? Easy. I mean, so far, the hardest thing has been figuring out how to deposit checks made out to his last name when I’m not changing it.

I had a small to-do list for before the wedding, the main ones being buy myself a case of Angry Orchard or Redd’s, clean my engagement ring, and do my nails. But the day got away from me, and none of those things happened.

I did manage to throw together a slideshow for rehearsal, though, and Mac’s slideshow feature is pretty cool and super easy to use. We were able to export it as a video file, throw it on a flash drive, and just let it play for the whole time we were there.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this at the time, but rehearsal dinner was on track to become an issue with his mom before we squashed it. At some point, she started talking about wanting to have dinner in Uniontown, an hour away from actual rehearsal, so that was when we fast-tracked choosing a place and settled on President’s Pub–they charge you to use the private room, but combined with the price per late compared to other local restaurants, the price ended up being about the same and for better quality, and they did a really good job. We tried to avoid food that was too similar to what we were serving at the wedding, so we got a pasta, lemon chicken, salad, and a veggie risotto, plus a selection of pies they put out for dessert. And we could take our time and hang out, plus it’s probably the place we got to the most often in Washington, so by then, we’d seen and talked to the events coordinator a few times. And she’s awesome.

In the early days of planning, we weren’t sure how to approach gifts for our parents–and since Katie and Jacob didn’t get any, we were off the hook for it if need be. My biggest concern was not finding things for my dad or his mom, as sappy, sentimental gifts would be awkward and insincere, so I figured if we found something, great, and if we didn’t, it didn’t matter. And this is where Etsy is kind of amazing, because I found beautiful hankies for both mothers, big wooden beer steins from the fucking Ukraine for Paul’s dad, plus Paul and Jacob, too. My dad doesn’t drink, so instead, I found him a “father of the bride” coffee mug and gave him two bags of Harry & David coffee to go with it. It was funny to watch everyone carting around their mugs all night, so they seemed to really enjoy them.

Mother-of-the-bride gifts are way easier to find, so my mom ended up with a little extra that I gave her privately after rehearsal–a mug to match the one I got my dad and a figurine of a mother and bride, which she loved. And with that one, I even asked if they had one for the mother of the groom, and they don’t even make one, which I have to admit is bullshit. She would’ve loved one, and honestly, I would’ve happily bought it. But nope, all about the brides.

After we ate, we girls snuck out to gab in the parking lot, mostly to get to scoop on what his mom had been complaining about behind our backs–the biggest stories were she was saying I’d regret having a shower and that she wasn’t included, and I can’t deny that one. In fact, it was straight-up intentional, but we did what we had to do to have the wedding we wanted without fighting over ever little thing the whole time. Later, when I asked my mom what the two of them had talked about while they were sitting together, she said Paul’s mom started going on about how Jacob and Katie didn’t include her in their wedding planning, which is bullshit, and how hurt she was by that, and my mom was trying to gauge what she wanted out of the conversation, whether it was a warning or to see if my mom had been included more. She tried to play it like she wasn’t, saying she didn’t know what kind of flowers we were having, for example, but she knew a lot more than Paul’s mom did.

We went in when we realized we’d been gone a long time, but turns out while we were gone, all the boys went down to the bar for beers. The next time we saw Paul’s mom after the wedding, she thanked Paul for including his brother Josh and taking him down to pick one out, since Josh isn’t the most social. The verdict is still out as to whether Josh cared as much as she did, but I say we take what victories we get.

One of the things I forgot to do earlier in the day, or more like couldn’t finish, was pack an overnight bag to stay with my parents…and then I ended up having to go back into my apartment twice because I realized I forgot something. Then I finally went to my parents’ house, hung out with Duke a bit, and slept for about four hours because I started to get too nervous.

When Priests Are Also Assholes

So, obviously, the wedding day was hectic. At rehearsal, I’d expected to pay the choir, organist, etc. because at some point, that is what I’d been told, but none of them were actually there. So while I was sitting all done up waiting for my cue to go down the aisle, I was writing out checks to whoever I needed.

I forgot a check.

I remembered just a tad too late–after we’d left after the ceremony–that we still owed the church $150. “Whatever,” we thought, “we’ll take it to the office next week.” And we kind of forgot about it plus had other things going on, and on top of that, getting to the church office before it closes is tough. It closes at 4, and typically, Paul works until 3:30 and that’s when I’m just getting home, but lately, I’ve been working until 4, 5 the past two nights specifically. Paul can be home within 15 minutes, but then you have to truck it up to church fast. So it just wasn’t working out, and we had the post-wedding chaos of returning alcohol and mixers and taking care of anything else we needed to. The church check, honestly, slipped our minds, but the business manager did remind us. I asked him the best way to get it to him, he took a couple days to reply, and by then, it was the weekend. Paul even asked me in the pew this past Sunday if we could put it in the collection basket, and I said no, it has to go to the office. That or we could mail it, but why waste a stamp when we can just walk it up?

I’m not thrilled about the fact that we weren’t prompt with it. It’s one of our shared faults. I won’t deny we dropped the ball on that one, or that I should’ve replied to the business manager to let him know we’d be taking it to the office. However, the way it got handled after that is…unfortunate.

The main priest at the church e-mailed me this morning–not the one who actually performed the ceremony as he was transferred in July and came back for the wedding, but the main priest in charge at the parish now. When my phone pinged, I thought, “Oh, fuck, he’s probably not happy, better shoot a text to Paul to tell him to take a check up.” And honestly, all either of us needed was just a little prod. If you want to argue we shouldn’t need that, fine, whatever, but people forget things, shit happens, and that was honestly all it took to jog my brain right to, “Tell Paul to take a check.” So I’m expecting displeasure but otherwise civility, and what I got was pretty rude.

In retrospect, it’s not that bad, but it’s…not great. It’s a bit much under circumstances, especially between a priest and parishioner. The basic gist of it is the business manager forwarded our correspondence to the priest, who said, “I am disappointed that you continue to delay this process. Your casual manner in dealing with the payment due to the Church is ill-mannered,” and as a sort of PS, “This is the first time in 45 years I have had to send a ‘Second Notice’ regarding a Wedding.”

I won’t touch his questionable use of capital letters.

For starters, I take issue with the business manager going to the priest at all. To me, that’s something that should be a last resort, something you do when we’re not responding at all or we keep saying, “Yep, we’ll bring it tomorrow,” and failing to do so. I feel like the business manager couldn’t handle it himself and went whining to the priest, when all this whole thing needed was a simple, “Hey, you still owe us.” That’s a whole bitchy e-mail chain avoided right there.

As for what the priest actually said, I take issue with that, starting with the implication that I’m intentionally not paying them or dragging this thing out for, what my health? Entertainment? What, like all I do is sit around at home thinking, “Huh, how long can I drag this out?” I feel like I was being spoken to like a child, like I was being reprimanded, and on top of that, like the priority is money. We owed them. I get that. They have expenses to cover, and the diocese is evaluating which churches to close over the next year or so. But it comes off a certain way when your e-mail reads like a Catholic version of, “Bitch better have my money.” Frankly, with his word choice, it felt like he was attacking my character and had zero compassion or understand regarding, you know, life.

So I sat and stewed over it at work–it came in about quarter ’till 11, I was stuck there until 5, got home at 5:30, and that whole time, I was fucking pissed. I felt like he took a tone with me because he’s a priest and he thinks he can. Terra thinks he didn’t think I’d respond. My sister-in-law Emily thinks if he’d been communicating with Paul, he wouldn’t have used that tone at all.

So with the help of my mom, I crafted a reply. I mostly used her as a proofreader and Bitch Editor–you know, someone to look at it and say, “This sounds good, this is too much, use this word and not that one.” And the basic gist of that was just about what I said here, just more concisely and worded very directly and concisely. I apologized for the delay but said I hoped he understood that it’s a busy time and we lost track of some things–he clearly didn’t, or else he wouldn’t have sent that e-mail, but hey, I figure he deserves his own smidge of passive-aggressive condescension. I went on to say that despite this, the tone of his e-mail was disrespectful, condescending, unacceptable and uncalled for, that it was particularly disappointing coming from a priest and going to a parishioner, that it made it seem like all he cared about was the money, that I didn’t appreciate his unwarranted criticism based on how he interpreted the situation, that the business manager should have communicated with me directly rather than involve him, that I felt it was blown out of proportion over a relatively small amount of money.

There was a time when I never would’ve sent that e-mail and would’ve let it go–deleted it, sent the check, felt shitty, and moved on, but man, fuck that. I’m not gonna let a priest be an asshole to me about 150 bucks. Sure, I’m dreading getting a reply and I freak out a little every time my Gmail pings and I’m having worst-case-scenario imaginings of him making his sermon about me, but shit, I’d rather make it clear that I won’t be spoken to like that than just take it. I mean…really? Of all the ways you could’ve said we owed you money, that was what you chose?

I need to call my shrink, but that could be weird because he goes to that church. Whatever.

Going back to the week before the wedding, it started off fine, then got increasingly hectic.

I went to work that Monday and Tuesday and threw in what errands I could in the evening, like picking up our marriage license. And with my days off, I did a lot of the same, plus some baking to add to the cookie table. I took off from Wednesday on and Paul started his long weekend on Thursday, so we used that day to take recycling into Pittsburgh and have a nice, calm lunch at the Cheesecake Factory before we got too busy for the rest of the week, and that didn’t take long–buying alcohol and mixers took up a large chunk of our evening, on top of having to return phone calls to the church wedding planner and get final details to the photographer and florists and all that fun, last-minute stuff.

Our apartment was a disaster. I mean, it kind of is normally, but we’re already limited on space as it is and didn’t want to leave hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol and mixers in the car overnight, so we hauled everything up and let it sit in the living and dining rooms just to be hauled back down again the next morning to take it to the reception venue. In the end, we carried shit up and down every day except Saturday for something like four days in a row, between buying it, taking it it home, taking it to the venue, bringing back the leftovers, and returning those unopened leftovers.

After everything was ready to go in the venue, I got suckered into buying a guest book. I’d been looking at some of the neat alternatives online but ultimately decided not to get one at all, because I figure it’s just gonna sit in a box for the rest of our lives and we’ll never look at it again. At some point, I got pretty practical with wedding planning and did my best to avoid getting anything we’d be stuck with afterwards, and a guest book fell into that category for me. People bring gifts and cards, and to me, some other record of who was there is pretty much useless. Paul told his mom this one night when she asked, and initially, she thought when he said I didn’t want to spend the money that we meant we were pinching pennies and offered to buy one, so he explained that no, it’s gonna sit in a box for the rest of lives–which, by the way, every time I told another married couple this, they all said, “Yeah, I’ve never look at our guest book.” So there ya go.

Paul’s dad had cookies to take to the botanic gardens on his way to/from picking up Jacob and Katie from the airport, which actually worked out perfectly since it’s nearby, so with them and Josh in tow, we all met up to drop things off. When we were done, he encouraged us to get a guest book, saying their mom was really pushing for it, and I did learn later from one of Paul’s sisters that she was pretty aghast that we didn’t want one. The logic was mostly that the older relatives would be looking for one and therefore we must have it, but I was (and still am) of the opinion that just because people expected it didn’t mean it needed to be there. And I really, really stood my ground, saying no to all the arguments, but in the end, Paul won, and his own argument was admittedly hard to argue–even though he was on my side in terms of it being unnecessary, it would shut her up and keep her happy, and it was a pretty easy, small, and simple compromise to make. The fact that we were on the tail end of wedding season helped, as Hobby Lobby’s wedding stuff was all 50% off.

From there, it was rehearsal.