If you don’t think I would gladly spend a weekend dog-sitting, you don’t know me at all.

My mom’s friend’s daughter got married over the weekend and my parents decided to get a hotel room Saturday night. With new puppy Seger, they wanted him to have a sitter, and I more than gladly took the job. I mean, how could I not want to spend a weekend with a soft, snuggly puppy?

We joke that he’s a Gremlin because his breeder had some requests regarding his diet in particular, but on top of that, he’s a puppy who’s still exploring and in training and does need some supervision, so my mom wanted me over Friday night to see his routine. I went home for a little bit after work, got some dinner, then gathered my things and headed over.

I squeezed in a quick shopping trip Saturday morning since I still buy CDs but don’t have anywhere near me to get them, and then once my parents were ready and gone, it was just Seger and I.

Ever since they got him, I’ve been pretty entertained by my parents’ tales (tails) of trying to keep up with a puppy. My mom says they’re too old, and my dad would say, “Just wait,” anytime I’d tease him about how Seger couldn’t possibly be that bad. So I was completely prepared for karma to bite me in the ass and for Seger to run me down hard, but honestly, it was pretty okay. He needs watched, sure, and that makes a lot of simple tasks take longer, but it wasn’t hard. He got frustrating Saturday night and part of Sunday morning when nothing really kept his interest and he kept trying to wander around the house, but he wasn’t bad and he wasn’t much of a handful. I tried to play with him in intervals where he wasn’t napping to keep him active, and then that way he’s not packed full of energy he needs to burn off. He’s actually a really sweet dog–maybe it was because my parents were gone, but he stuck right with me all weekend. Save for a few minutes here and there, if he was lying down to nap, he was doing it smack against my leg while I was sitting on the couch.

Sure, I chased him around enough that my ass and thighs were sore Sunday, but I think we both had fun.

Sunday morning, my parents brought me breakfast, I squeezed in some final puppy snuggles, and headed home to go back out to Greensburg to see a play Paul’s sister Emily was in, and then we had dinner after and hung out.

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Lately, Paul and I have both been feeling a sort of burn out, I guess you could call it, where even in a week where I took a day off, it still felt long and I was still looking forward to Friday. He’s been talking a lot about needing a break, too. I don’t know what it is. We suspect the time of year–creeping closer to the holidays but not quite there, along with the change of clocks that’s made evenings darker faster. And it’s been cold lately. The weather seemed like it was clinging to summer, not quite done with it, for weeks, then all of a sudden I’m having to get up a few minutes earlier to have that extra time to zip up boots and pull on gloves some mornings, and being a die-hard summer girl, it’s rough.

And yet, the promise of double overtime pay was enough to get me to go in on a Saturday morning for four hours. I know a good opportunity when I see it, and it’s hard to pass up good pay like that. And it’s temporary–like we were this time close to a year ago, we’re really busy, and I like knowing I can put in a little more effort for a weekend or two and have a little more money at the end of it to squirrel away. And the nice thing is on weekends, you can essentially work whatever hours you want, so I went in until 11, which still left me with the whole afternoon for whatever else I wanted. It sucks up some of the weekend, sure, but you still get the majority of it to enjoy.

My dad was out of town for the weekend, so my mom was home with new puppy Seger for four days. She’d joked last weekend that she was dropping heavy hints about coming to relieve her, so Paul took her a few homemade cookies, a six-pack of beer, and we picked up new bones for Seger to chew and headed out to hang out for a couple of hours and do free laundry, play with the puppy, and watch the shows I’ve been having her record since we don’t have cable. We spent most of the afternoon there, then headed home in the evening.

We’d thought Sunday was just gonna be a calm day to ourselves, but it turns out we were invited to Terra’s nephew’s first birthday party–she’d just either forgotten to invite us or something got screwed up along the way. She asked me if we were going that morning and I was like, “Uh, no?” But at least it was something we could easily account for. We hung out in the morning and headed over in the early evening, out to the deli Terra’s brother and sister-in-law recently opened and used as the party space, because why not?

It’s funny that slowly, our lives are transitioning into more adult things and looking more like, say, our parents’ lives. I mean, we found ourselves surrounded by excited kids with treat bags and party hats, while the adults hung around catching up or, in our case, getting congratulated by acquaintances who saw on social media that we got married. And lots of, “How’s married life?” People love asking newlyweds that, but honestly, it’s exactly the same as it was before. We just wear rings now.

Terra has a new boyfriend, which is a pretty recent development–she only started talking to him within the past week or so, but they clicked really well, so we got to meet him. I keep joking I was too easy on the last boyfriend and the soon-to-be-ex-husband. But if I’m being honest, I have a much better feeling about this one than the others. It seems like a much better match, and although he was quiet, in part because he was surrounded by psychos like me, they have a lot in common. Paul got along great with him and gave his approval, but Terra’s childhood friend Gemma and I say the boys get no say in this.

We ended up hanging out for a little bit after the party broke up, what with it being an actual business and all, and bought some food from them before heading out and running some errands before we had to go to bed, get up for work, and lament not being ready for another work week again. Paul actually decided to call off and give himself a day, but I’m not quite there. I can push through the work week a little easier than he can, and besides, Thanksgiving is–incredibly–next week, so I’ll get a bit of a break then. I mean, it obviously won’t be enough, but it’ll be something.

My 2017 concert run is coming to a close–the only one left is the annual Trans-Siberian Orchestra show, so that aside, I guess the last one of the year was Regina Spektor over the weekend.

I’ve been lucky to see a ton of musicians live, and at this point, there are very few I haven’t seen at least once. But Regina Spektor was one of those few. After several years and undoubtedly thousands of dollars spent on tickets, the thought of experiencing a musician live for the first time was exciting, especially one I’ve been a fan of for years.

And she started a little late, but she delivered. She played a lot of new songs but threw in some old ones, too, and I was really happy to hear songs like “Us,” “Apres Mois,” “On the Radio,” and “Samson.” She’s a beautiful singer, and live, her voice has a power that’s surprising. And for someone who goes to a lot of energetic rock shows, seeing a woman at a piano for almost two hours was absolutely a change of pace, but impressive nonetheless, especially watching her actually play piano–plus the other things she did, like get on a guitar for a few songs and do a few a cappella. It was a great show, a really nice night out, and Paul and I bother left quite happy.

And with that, I say bring it on, 2018. I may be looking at buying a house, but a wedding didn’t stop me from a steady stream of concerts in 2017, so why stop now?

On the Loss of a Dog and the New Dog

We’ve had three dogs from the time I was 10 to about now. The first was a yellow lab named Mandy we got from my mom’s coworker who bred them, and a few months after she was put down due to aggressive intestinal cancer, my mom was looking online at a local animal shelter and found Duke and Dandy, two dogs who went in together after their previous owner had to give them up. Dandy was older but Duke was still pretty young, and my mom didn’t want to split them up. We knew Dandy might not be around too long, but older dogs in shelters is heartbreaking to me. My mom and I are both animal lovers, and we’d rather go through the loss than leave him in the shelter, especially without the dog he went in with.

Of all three of them, I felt the closest to Duke.

I was afraid of dogs when my mom decided to get Mandy, and although I came around fast and hard, I wasn’t into the idea at first. And Mandy and I were always in a sort of competition–we were told that in her dog mind, she and I were competing for the second top female spot in the house, the first being my mom. She was never mean or aggressive, but we could tell I was lower in the rankings for her. But I still loved her. We still snuggled and played, and once when my dad was playfully but annoyingly shaking my bed to wake me up and I started screaming, Mandy came to my rescue, jumping on the bed and straddling me and barking at my dad until he stopped. She was super protective. You could tell how close someone was to the house by how vicious her bark got, and although having a not-very-social dog can be difficult, it was also good to know she’d probably have slaughtered anyone who might’ve broken in. I was early in my freshman year college when she died, and I came home that weekend she was going to be put down, hugged her, bawled my eyes out, and sat around moping with my family the rest of the day. It’s jarring the way the loss of a person is, which sounds so stupid to people who have never had a pet, but it’s true. You’re sitting around a quiet, empty house that’s still full of toys and dog beds and food dishes, and your clothes are still covered in her fur and her leash is still hanging by the door. It’s depressing.

Duke and Dandy came a few months later, at the end of that freshman year. I think I felt closer to them in part because I was home with them all day, every day for the first month that we had them, and when I went back to school in the fall, Duke in particular would climb into my lap when I first got home and just sit there for a while. He did that a lot in the first couple years we had him, no matter where you were or how long you were gone–when you came home, you sat on the couch and Duke jumped in your lap and just sat there until he was ready to move.

We joked that Duke could be a jerk, though. He had selective hearing, where he’d obviously ignore us, and sometimes if you walked up to him to sit near him on the floor or pet him, he’d get up and move. But when he was in the mood for it, he was super sweet, especially as my brother and I went through college and moving out. Duke would greet us at the door whenever we came home, barking and running to us when we came in, and he seemed to be able to tell when we were leaving, because he’d come over for some pets and kisses until we did it all again the next time. And even though I spent probably about half his life living away from my parents’ house, I still considered him “my” dog. I only called him “my parents’ dog” if I needed to clarify. And of the three dogs we had, he was the one I wanted to be with when it was time to put him down. With Mandy, it was too difficult and I couldn’t and I didn’t feel as close to Dandy–plus I was at school–but when I got word it was time for Duke, I was prepared to get in the car and go. The only reason I didn’t was because they were having it done quickly and I might not have had time to get there.

Of the three dogs, losing Duke hit me the hardest. I cried a lot that day, and thank God it just so happened to be a day I’d taken off work anyway. The sadness lasted longer. Even though I was at my parents’ house more than once after that, the quiet and lack of Duke running to the door, looking behind him and barking like he wanted my parents to know we were there, it was sad every time. It wasn’t the same. And even for days and weeks later, the cards people sent that my mom showed us made me cry. I came across a couple web comics about putting down a pet that really got to me, and I’m tearing up still even now. I loved all our pets, but there was just something about Duke that made this different.

We had this joke that Mandy sent Duke and Dandy to us. Duke caught my mom’s attention because he had this goofy look on his face like he was smiling, and Mandy did that a lot. And now it’s like Duke sent us my parents’ new dog, Seger. He’s another beagle, a purebred meant for shows who didn’t quite meet his breeder’s standards. He’s too long and has a crooked tooth, so the breeder just wanted him to go to a good home. Six months old, crate trained, from a good line with no health issues, and registered with papers. My mom kept saying, “if we get him,” but we all knew it was a when, especially when she said he was too good an opportunity to pass up.

And this time, it is different. I lived with Duke and Dandy for a little while, but Seger is very much my parents’ dog. And yet Brandon and I were excited like little kids when they got him. Brandon has a cat, at least, but my apartment doesn’t allow pets–I mean, I hear a cat meowing and at least one or two people in another building have dogs, so I’m not really sure if I missed a memo that said, “Just kidding, we allow pets now.” But I am all about them having another dog. I still miss Duke, though. I think maybe I always will.

In some ways, Seger’s a lot like him. He likes car rides, he’s very calm, and he’s really well-behaved, saved those puppy things like chewing and boundless energy that has my dad sending texts like, “HE FINALLY SAT DOWN!!!!” in the middle of the day. But he’s different, too. He gets along really well with other dogs, which we’re all excited about. He’s quiet, too. Duke wasn’t exactly loud, but you could count on getting a couple barks in a day. When we visited Seger, he never made a sound, and although he greeted us at the door, we’re new to him. Duke would run and seem excited; Seger seemed more curious. We’re going to see him again this weekend–my dad’s heading out of town, so my mom will be with him for the weekend and feels she’s gonna need some relief from having to constantly watch him so he doesn’t chew furniture or pee somewhere. It’s been hilarious to me to watch, because Duke and Dandy were a little older and although they had a few early accidents when they were adjusting to their new home, they didn’t need trained. Seger’s still little and learning, and we haven’t had a puppy since Mandy, so watching them do this from almost the beginning is so entertaining to me. Paul and I are dog-sitting in a couple weeks while my parents are at a wedding and Paul keeps saying I’m gonna eat my words when I have to chase Seger down, which I don’t really doubt, but I’ll never admit it to my dad. Teasing him about not being able to handle a puppy is too fun.

So all in all, the new dog is bittersweet. I’m glad they have one–the house is too empty otherwise. My mom got sick right after Duke died, but when she got back into her normal  routine, that’s when she said it got really depressing, not coming home to an excited dog anymore. I think sometimes, people look at it as “replacing” one animal with another, but  I don’t. I think you fill that quiet, empty house, but Duke and Dandy weren’t the same as Mandy and Seger’s not the same as Duke and Dandy.  They were each unique and they each brought something different to our lives. Seger is fun and exciting and I love having a dog around there again, but I think I’m always gonna miss Duke.

I decided to splurge on season tickets to the ballet this year. And they weren’t too expensive, really, all things considered–200 bucks for two tickets to three ballets. It’s something I’ve wanted for a few years, and this season was perfect to do it. You pick the ballets you want tickets for and I went with Dracula, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake, so this was kind of the perfect year to do it. We went on a Saturday night, grabbed dinner, and took our usual T into the city to save time, money, and frustration. Seriously, traffic is a roll of the dice for us, and we’ve been burned too many times. If we have to be somewhere by a certain time, public transportation it is.

I’m pretty sure it’s the same Dracula ballet my Aunt Gina took Meri and I to see when we were young ballerinas ourselves, but I remember very little of that–mostly just the cool effects at the end, when Dracula is exposed to sunlight and defeated. I remember liking it, just not the details, so this was fun to go to now as an adult. I’m sure they’ve changed some things, but still. I think Dracula’s brides were my favorite, with these very flowy costumes that had a great look to them when the girls moved.

The Nutcracker is my new Christmas tradition and Swan Lake was way more intense than a ballet should be, so I’m looking forward to them both.

And of course, we got on the wrong T train home because Paul wasn’t paying attention and I was unsure but made the rookie mistake of following him anyway. I mean, it wasn’t a huge deal, just a pain in the ass–you just get off and get back on, and the time wasn’t even a concern because the right train was only a few minutes behind anyway. But still, it led to a tired, cold, and hungry me, annoyed with her husband for going on the wrong one and annoyed with herself for knowing better.

We got wedding pictures back from the photographer a few weeks ago, and they came on this cute little wooden flash drive with a picture of us on it. They turned out beautiful. I’m really happy with them, not just because she got some great shots of the whole day but also because she got great shots of guests and the bridal dance. My goal is to print them all out and distribute them–I would have loved to put them in with thank-you notes, but I started those before we got the pictures back, plus the thank-yous are smaller than the smallest print option that’s not wallet-sized. And I don’t think wallet-sized pictures would be as fun.

We went out to both sets of parents’ house to show them off.

And then we saw Ben Folds towards the end of the month. It was something like my fifth time seeing him, but it was Paul’s first–he doesn’t always share me enthusiasm for concerts, so I started to just assume he didn’t want to go to certain things with me. Turns out he actually had an interest in seeing Ben Folds, which I learned the last time after I bought tickets for me and Terra. So this time, it was supposed to be the three of us, and she ended up having to work the overnight shift that night. And of course, with our luck, of all the people we know who like Ben Folds, not a single one could go, and multiple Facebook posts from both of us reaching out to see if maybe there was a fan lurking we didn’t know about proved fruitless. So I turned to the Facebook event page, and that got me some success. We sold it to a woman there and just met her out front before the show.

And of course we had dinner at PF Chang’s first.

It was a really good show, too, maybe one of the best I’ve seen from him–not counting his symphony shows. First he played a typical set, then he came back for a second, where we launched paper airplanes onto the stage with requests written on them. And the fun ensued. Of course, before he even got started, someone yelled, “Rock This Bitch,” which has become a live tradition where when it’s yelled, he improvises a song. Twice now he’s used it to tell a story about climbing Mt. Washington in the city, and the last time he referred to it as “Mt. Motherfucker,” so that came back around this time. It wasn’t the only improv we got, either. He’s good at it and did it a few times when paper airplanes had some notes on them as opposed to songs, but that got one lucky couple moved from their balcony seat, where their view of him was obstructed by a speaker, down to the stage, and then another guy asked if he could go get his cello from his car and play it onstage with Ben Folds for a song. And he did. The whole thing was pretty great.

Paul had been saying he needed a day off an I always take a day off to sleep in after concerts, so we both took the day, which happened to be a Monday. He had his heart set on the Eat N Park breakfast buffet, so we did that, and then I finally remembered to take my wedding dress to the dry cleaner’s. And then we spent the rest of the day at home.

So I figured since I churned out a few batches of cookies for my own wedding and they turned out pretty good, I might as well offer up my services to the cousins, especially ones having small weddings where my dad’s doing almost the entire cookie table. She was hesitant to ask, since we’d just gotten done with our own wedding, and I was like, “Nah, it’s all over. Nothing left to do.” So when I had some free time, I’d throw a batch in the oven until we ended up with a few dozen of a few different types of cookies.

So, my attitude towards baking is sort of indifference. I’ll admit now that I’ve done it a couple times, I’m more confident and enjoying it a little more, but I am still definitely not the type to bake just, like, for fun. I love the finished product, though, and even though I did it for my own wedding, that felt more like another part of the planning–I wanted people to like them, sure, but it was low on my list of concerns that day. This time, though, I’d walk past the cookie table and see how things were going. And part of that was friendly(ish) competition with my dad. Since all of the cookies were made by just the two of us, with the exception of some from Eat N Park, we were each insisting we made the better cookies.

And competition part aside, the wedding did have an element of being a bride versus being a guest. It wasn’t even a matter of, say, comparing the two weddings–it was, “Ah, it’s nice to show up, eat, drink, & have a good time rather than put the whole shebang together.” And don’t get me wrong, my wedding was fun and I wasn’t particularly stressed, but it’s still a lot to do and being a guest was a nice change. And for me, at least, there’s a difference between being a wedding guest before you getting married and being a wedding guest after. Maybe by the next one, it won’t matter, but after I got engaged, I was thinking about things differently, wondering what I’d do for my own, and after, you’re well familiar with the cost and logistics.

It was a nice wedding. My cousin was technically already married, having done it last December because he’s in the military, so this was more the big party. I’ve said this before–I have kind of a strange attitude about marriage, particularly for a newlywed, but one of the better things about it is feeling loved by a 150 people, not just one, and really celebrating. Maybe “it’s a fun party” isn’t the best pro-marriage argument. Then again, maybe it is.

So this was a church ceremony, a gap while they took pictures, and then dinner and dancing. This is where the non-Catholic weddings always get me, because no matter how aware I am that we’re one of the only ones who have a whole big, long ceremony, I’m always surprised to go to a wedding that’s like 20 minutes late. But I appreciate a ceremony that gets to the point, and again, I say this as a bride who not only had a full Catholic mass but also paid for the choir to sing. Like I said, strange attitude.

We spent the downtime at my parents’ house, and by then, it was a Duke-less house, which was strange and sad and just not the same. I’ll talk about him more another time, but of the three dogs we had, Duke was the one I was closest to and the one whose loss stung the longest and hardest.

The rest of the evening was partying, and we stayed until the DJ stopped playing and had ourselves a good time. Paul and I dusted off our dance moves, and we’ve resolved to go back to dance classes–eventually. They were expensive, but I’ve found another nearby studio where we can pay like 10 bucks for individual lessons and I want to at least get us in there by the spring so we can look smooth for the next wedding. We ate a lot, we drank a lot, we had a good time and spent the night at my parents’ house. Brandon’s old room is now a guest room, and it’s where I spent the night before our wedding. Granted, I didn’t sleep much, but it’s a nice, cozy room, and Marriage Advantage is being able to sleep in the same bed at our parents’ houses now. I never pushed that, even though we’ve been living together for a few years. Marriage has a way of legitimizing things, for better or worse.

We’d wanted to spend the next morning in the mountains, but the weather wasn’t great for it and we kind of slept in late. So we stopped at the mall and then ate hibachi instead.