Friday night was a very, very typical pre-Halloween Friday night for me–after missing it last year, partly because I think it was in a different town, I made my triumphant return to The Rocky Horror Show live onstage, complete with bold makeup and bright-pink fishnet tights. I laughed, I shouted until I was horse, and I did the Time Warp. A good time was had by all.

On Saturday morning, probably around 11:15, I stopped for gas on my way to get my hair dyed and was scrolling through Twitter when the news broke–a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At the time, the death toll was four but they were pretty clear they know that number was gonna go up. When I was sitting in friend/stylist Emily’s chair an hour or so later, it was eight. When I was driving home an hour or so after that, it was 11, and almost all of my programmed radio stations had stopped playing music altogether and were instead playing news broadcasts and press conferences.

I only lived in Pittsburgh for six months, but I’ve spent my entire life hovering nearby. I grew up about an hour south, went to college at a University of Pittsburgh branch campus, and after those six months on Mt. Washington, I moved to another small city about an hour away. I’m far enough removed that I don’t feel like it was my community itself that was harmed, but I’m close enough that it hurts. I’ve teared up reading the news. I’ve seen my Facebook feed turn into nothing but an endless timeline of shock and grief and my notifications a string of people marking themselves as safe. Seeing the city in the national news is weird, and seeing it the national news for this reason is heartbreaking.

Part of me isn’t surprised–southwestern Pennsylvania isn’t known for its diversity and tolerance, particularly the area where I grew up, so much so that a coworker from that same area messaged me pointing out the last name of the shooter is common there and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn if that’s where he was fro. But part of me is surprised because a violent, anti-Semitic Pittsburgh isn’t the Pittsburgh I’ve ever never known, and because of that, I knew that the city would really come together in the aftermath. The anecdotes are uplifting–people opening their homes to reporters covering the shooting, people cooking for the police, singing at vigils, huge turnouts at blood drives, massive amounts of money raised for the synagogue and victims, though admittedly not all from this area. As I write, the Pens are playing with patches on their uniforms that say “stronger than hate.” People are sharing slogans saying hate can’t bring down a city of steel and images that replace the gold diamond of the Steelers logo with a gold Star of David.

I love Pittsburgh. The only reason I don’t live in the city itself is mostly timing–when my housemates all decided to go our separate ways, I just couldn’t find an apartment in the city that I could afford at the time. But I spend a lot of time there. I go to concerts there (I’ll be there Thursday), I see shows, even go to the movies sometimes. It’s been a difficult few days for everyone, especially the victims and their families above all, and I hate that this happened and that there are people out there who support the shooter or support similar acts. This is a very sad, hateful chapter in our history not just as a city but as our country and I’m eager for it to be over, but I know it will end. It would be nice to say a lot of uplifting things about moving on and putting it behind us, but the unfortunate reality for those who were there is that this is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Still, I want to close with optimism.

So like I said, I love Pittsburgh. I look forward to more fun nights out with friends and family, and I know this does not and will not define the city.

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It seems like it’s been a few years since we’ve made it to the Buckeye Pancake breakfast up at Ohiopyle, an annual tradition for Paul’s family. One year it was because of Katie and Jacob’s wedding, and if I’m right and we didn’t go last year, either, I’m gonna guess it was because of a wedding then, too.

The breakfast was nice, and so was the brief walk we took by the river. The weather here kind of went from the 80s down to the 50s in, like, days, so it was a pretty chilly and kind of dark, rainy morning up there, but still nice to go.

My mom had heard about a talk at a local church about human trafficking and wanted me to go with her that evening, so Paul took a case of beer over to his parents’ house and Mother and I went to the church. Paul and I kept joking that it was gonna be the self-defense class from King of the Hill, but in reality, it was more of an informative session about what to look out for. I actually kind of feel like I learned something.

We were pretty hungry when it was over, so we decided to have dinner at Meloni’s, the best Italian in the area, and then Paul met up with us and we went back to his parents’ house to enjoy a beer with his dad for his birthday.

Normally, I’d want Sunday to just hang out at home, but Row House was in the middle of a witch-themed week of movies with a solid like three or four I was interested in seeing. We settled on Suspiria, partly because of the remake, and it was the only one I hadn’t already seen. We both really like it. It’s a very colorful, visually stunning movie, and while I didn’t find it to be super scary or, like, an outstanding movie, we still enjoyed it.

The area has a bunch of interesting restaurants and we’ve only ever eaten there once, so we picked a random place for dinner. We went with a Middle Eastern place, and I’m glad that at this point, there’s not much we haven’t tried, so we were familiar with a lot on the menu. Paul tried a couple appetizers and a dessert he’d never had before, and I went for a simple wrap, but all of it was really good and we were glad we tried the place.

This weekend, we celebrate Emily’s 21st birthday a couple weeks late with a casual night of drinking and playing with the cat at our house.

On Carrie Fisher

Like most of the rest of the world who is sick of 2016’s shit, when I heard Carrie Fisher had a heart attack, I went into Panic Mode but hoped for the best. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and now she has left us, too. I put together some words on Facebook, and I think they’re worth reposting here, much like I did when David Bowie died at the start of the year.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to “strong female characters”–women who kicked ass literally and metaphorically, who were independent, who did their own thing and made no apologies for it. When I’ve looked back as an adult on the movies and things that have influenced me, in particular that love of badass women, I’ve traced it back to two characters–Dana Scully and, of course, Princess Leia. My dad’s a nerd (he’ll deny it, but he is), so I saw “Star Wars” at a young age, and naturally, the character I loved was Leia, kicking ass and taking no shit. As I got older and the Internet and Twitter became a thing and I was able to watch/listen to Carrie Fisher’s interviews and follow her on Twitter, which was always full of gems, I saw that Carrie herself was just as much of a badass as Leia. I’ve loved hearing her sassy, outspoken, and brutally honest opinions of the world, and I’ve always hoped that one day, I’d get on her level and be able to be just as badass.

So basically, of all the losses we’ve had in 2016 that have made me sad–which was plenty–this is high up there. May the force be with you, Carrie.

I just so happened to accidentally take a day off the day after the election, forgetting about the election entirely. I’d arranged to switch a Saturday shift with a coworker to get the day off for Jacob and Katie’s wedding last month, leaving me with a six-day work week when it came time to cover her day. On top of that, I’ve been taking advantage of as much of the double-pay overtime they’ve been offering as I can, so without that day off, I would’ve gone into work something like 13 straight days without a full day off. The fact that it happened to be the day after the election worked out pretty great, too. It allowed me the full evening to go vote and watch the results.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I find the results disappointing, to say the very least, and I have a lot of thoughts on just how we came to this point and why. Frankly, I don’t really feel like rehashing them more than I already have elsewhere, but suffice it to say they’re not good. I think a lot of people let a lot of despicable behavior and statements slide. I think a lot of people chose to take Donald Trump at his word without doing any other independent research–and in 2016, when most of the people voting do have access to reputable information, ignorance is a choice.

Like a lot of other people who wanted a different outcome, I’m thinking a lot about where we go from here, particularly how I can use my time (and sometimes money) in a helpful, constructive way. Getting involved locally isn’t much of an option as I have too many things, like a wedding and freelance writing, that need my attention. I kind of hate the thought of social media and writing being the best I can do right now, but without letting other things slide or missing deadlines, that’s the best I can do right now. But I’m also looking at where I can donate money or even where I can spend it–one of my favorite quotes, paraphrased, is about how people essentially vote with their money for the kind of world they want to live in.

The conversation that seems to be dominating today, at least in my circles, is the rise of fake news sites. While I don’t think that’s the only thing that went wrong here and we should’ve been paying attention to this much, much sooner, I’m glad something is coming out of it. I’ve seen too many posts–from both sides–in the week since the election sharing news from less than reputable sources. I’ve even seen people defending the way they voted with misinformation, and that’s something sad and scary that should stop us all for a second. There are a few pages lurking around my Facebook feed I’ve been meaning to purge from it, and now is as good a time as any to actually do it. I recommend everyone else do the same. The best way to end this problem is to stop feeding into it and to fight back with reputable sources when we see it. Granted, you’ll always have people who ignore this and choose to believe whichever sources back up their opinions, but I’d rather challenge those when they happen than ignore the whole thing altogether.

It’s been difficult and scary sometimes watching how the new administration has been handling things. I have some very real, serious concerns about a Trump presidency, the same ones I’ve had since he announced his run in the very beginning, and I go back and forth depending on the day and the biggest news story of that day with whether this is going to be a disaster or whether we’ll be mostly okay–not great, but not terrible.

The concerns so many people in the country have right now are very real and should be listened to and taken seriously, but at the same time, even in the aftermath of the election, there was such a sudden burst of good news in the personal lives of enough people I know that the spiritual side of me couldn’t write it off as coincidence. The very next day, I chose my wedding dress and Terra’s brother and sister-in-law had their second child together, a boy they named after Terra and Dom’s father. A cousin announced an engagement, on top of the other three weddings, including my own, we’ll have in the next two years. Two totally unrelated couples who have been struggling to get pregnant both announced pregnancies on the same day. People started new jobs and new relationships, and all of this in the span of a week–most of it within a few days. This certainly isn’t to sugarcoat the state of things and suggest that everything is gonna be great just because my Facebook didn’t completely suck for a few days, and to do so would be totally unfair to the numerous groups who may face some serious challenges in a Trump presidency, and that’s understating it.

But it does have me feeling a little more optimistic.

On Cecil and “More Important Issues”

Honestly, no matter how I may feel about Cecil or trophy hunting, I absolutely agree that there are bigger things happening in the world that deserve our attention. And no matter what the hot topic of any given day is, there will almost always be something bigger or more important.

But that doesn’t mean we should ignore Cecil or whatever other issue may pop up. If something is in the news and getting widespread attention across the internet and social media, it’s probably because people care about it. And what better time to discuss something than when it’s in the news? Because if not now, when? An event like this is an opportunity to discuss and learn, and though the debate may get heated and downright rude on both sides, we shouldn’t ignore that opportunity. It doesn’t make sense to let something pass us by in favor of a topic we deem more worthy of our attention, or to invalidate what’s being said or felt.

Besides, some of your Facebook friends posting articles or their own opinions about Cecil doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only thing they care about or are talking about. Talking about Cecil isn’t the same as ignoring all other issues. What people post on social media is only a fraction of what they’re thinking and feeling at any given point–and sometimes, thanks to Facebook’s shitty algorithms and greed, you only see a fraction of your friends’ posts, but that’s a discussion for another day. And while there might be more important things to discuss than Facebook’s really shitty pay-to-boost-posts business model, it’s a discussion worth having, because people running pages and trying to promote content shouldn’t have to pay Facebook to ensure the content they’re posting reaches all the people that have already liked their page.

And just because something is getting attention now doesn’t mean people haven’t discussed it before. Some people keep asking why people suddenly care about Cecil or about the Confederate flag, but in reality, they haven’t suddenly starting caring at all–they’ve been caring and talking for a long time, but something happened to draw more attention to the issue. I’ve seen plenty of criticisms of trophy hunting before, and unfortunately, I know I’ll see them again.

And of course, no hot topic would be complete without someone jumping in and saying, “But what about the troops?!”

There’s this guy I deleted from my Facebook months ago because of how disrespectful he got. He started by calling me stupid for basically calling out Fox News on a flat-out lie, and because he didn’t like that, he proceeded to make assumptions about my personal beliefs and went tagging me in comments on statuses of people I don’t even know, seemingly to drag me into a debate so he and his equally disrespectful friends could then just trash me. It culminated in him commenting on a post, saying he thanked my dad for his service because unlike “spineless liberals,” he actually valued the military. And I went off. Hard. There’s a post about it somewhere, but it was the kind of comment that didn’t serve to genuinely thank anyone for their service–he made it just so he could make himself look good and put down others at the same time. Because if he really wanted to thank my dad for his service, he would’ve done it and left it at that. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his tone changed drastically after I called him on it.

I deleted him for my health. I mean, he also went to a party a few years ago in blackface, so good riddance. But my best friend kept him on her list and often tells me of their debates, in which he frequently insults her. And he’s commented on Cecil I believe twice now, mostly in context of the military–except it’s never really about the military. It’s more like it makes him look good to talk about how much he cares about the troops, and I say this because of his tone and word choice.

Except he only cares about the troops when he’s putting them in the context of other things he doesn’t like. I’ve said this on Twitter multiple times, and not just in the past few days–some people only care about the military when they’re complaining, which is really sad. He’s even used my friend’s Navy husband against her more than once, almost always to imply she’s not supportive enough. This time, he asked her how her husband would feel knowing that he’s fighting for her freedom but she’s upset over a “dumb lion.” Because, you know, she obviously loves that lion more than he husband and she obviously can’t be upset over a lion and over more pressing issues at the same time.

On Cecil, Vegetarianism/Veganism, and Acceptance

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about Cecil. I mean, I’m a vegetarian, so my opinions here should be pretty obvious–I think it was horrible and cruel, and I think trophy hunting like that is nothing more than, like, rich people trying to show off and make themselves feel superior for taking down a gorgeous wild animal that could kill them. I don’t think it has any real point or merit, and while I don’t agree with the way internet lynch mobs sort of pop up and threaten people who do this, I absolutely think it’s fair for people to take their business elsewhere. I avoid dentists because I hate going, but if he were my dentist, yeah, I would switch, unless I didn’t have much other choice. I don’t like spending money at certain businesses if I know that business is gonna use it toward something I don’t support.

Strangely, I have more to say about these sort of side arguments that have popped up involving Cecil.

I’ve been trying for probably about a year now to spend less time on my Facebook feed because I basically got really sick of people’s shit. This absolutely has to do with the people I’m Facebook friends with–and I have deleted most of the culprits–but the amount of bigotry, hatred, and disrespect I was seeing was sickening. Since then, though, I became a backer of Amanda Palmer’s Patreon, and a Facebook group for her patrons and just generally other interested parties popped up, and I noticed pretty fast that it was one of the most positive and safe spaces on the internet. People use it a lot for advice and ranting, and people are generally really nice and supportive. Even when they disagree, it tends to be in a calm, respectful manner instead of the way Facebook conversations usually devolve into personal attacks. I mean, I great recent example of Facebook bullshit is that when I recently expressed support for Pennsylvania privatizing its liquor industry, I was told to “sober up” and accused of standing to profit it from it because my last name happens to be the same as a large gas station in the state that’s been pretty vocal about its support for privatization.

But things got interesting surrounding the subject of Cecil. I wouldn’t go so far to say i devolved into typical Facebook bullshit, but the tone got a little strange compared to the way the group normally runs.

Someone posted looking for some advice/comfort after she saw that one of her partners had commented on a celebrity’s Facebook status calling her opinions on Cecil (and I think vegetarianism) foolish and idiotic. The woman posting this was hurt because she happened to share those views, and she didn’t appreciate seeing someone she was in a relationship with insulting viewpoints he knew she held, too, and when she confronted him, he only half-heartedly apologized and insisted that it wasn’t the same as insulting her directly.

But I get how she feels. I’ve been in similar yet different situations–and I think we all have–where someone you know insults a viewpoint or a group you belong to, and you take it personally. I’ve been hurt by things people have posted about writers or vegetarians or even women. One of the things that came up in my falling out with the Craigs was the fact that I had taken certain statements on social media as personal attacks against me when they weren’t intended that way, and while I understand that, I don’t think the argument of, “Oh, I wasn’t talking about you,” is acceptable or fair. You don’t get to hurl insults and then arbitrarily declare that someone you know who that insult happens to apply to is somehow exempt. That doesn’t make any sense, and words don’t work like that.

For the most part, people empathized and agreed on that point, but there was one outlier who seemed to miss the point. First, she said they ought to just agree to disagree, which would be fine if the issue was mere different of opinion, but it wasn’t. They weren’t disagreeing over Cecil–the original poster was hurt by comments her partner had made about her viewpoint. One other person was in line with this, too, saying she doesn’t take offense to things that aren’t directed at her personally. And power to people who have that kind of strength, but that’s an attitude I just can’t get behind. But when I pointed out that the issue was being disrespected and not simple disagreement, I was told they both had the right to their opinions and both had the right to be hurt by the other. This points to kind of a separate problem I’ve noticed on the internet where people make big assumptions based on one statement–it was like because I was arguing that the original poster had every right to be hurt, this person though that meant I was also saying that he didn’t have the right to any opposing opinion at all.

And then the issue of meat-eaters being hurt by vegetarians and vegans came up. And don’t get me wrong, I know how nasty vegetarians and vegans can be when it comes to dietary choices. Strangely, even as a vegetarian, I’ve experienced it firsthand where I’ve had vegans (passive-aggressively in Tumblr posts) say that my vegetarianism wasn’t good enough and that if I truly cared about animals, I’d be vegan, but that’s another post for another day. And I have no doubt that some vegetarians and vegans now are being nasty in the context of Cecil. But this wasn’t the topic of discussion, and strangely, there were a few people who jumped in and said, “But meat-eaters are being hurt by people’s words, too!” almost invalidating the original post. This isn’t a contest for which group is being hurled the worst insults, and I don’t see what that contributed to the discussion at hand. And going back to this one commenter I’ve been referring to, she not only brought up being hurt as a meat-eater, but she assumed that the original poster’s partner was going on the defensive after having been personally hurt by a celebrity, but there was no indication in the original post that that’s what happened. In fact, it sounded more like a celebrity was just commenting on how sad the situation was and the woman’s partner decided to insult her, and that’s not okay.

And finally, the commenter said that the original poster’s partner was “obviously” accepting of her vegetarianism if he was in a relationship with her, to which I say…oh, honey, you’ve got a lot to learn about humans, acceptance, relationships, and how they all come together.

First of all, I don’t think it’s obvious at all that this guy was accepting of his partner’s vegetarianism. I mean, he could be, but frankly, if he is, I’d hardly call it “obvious.” It’s not at all obvious to me, because as far as I’m concerned, someone who has truly accepted their partner’s choices isn’t running around insulting them behind that person’s back–and remember, there’s a difference between disagreeing with someone and insulting them. I’m a vegetarian and my boyfriend isn’t. It’s obviously not a lifestyle choice he wants to make for himself, and I accept that. I don’t judge him or put him down for eating meat or try to get him to go vegetarian, although I did say last night that it would be hilarious if he told his mom he decided to just to see what she’d say. My guess is she’d flip out and insist I was having too much influence over him, but that’s an entirely separate issue. Similarly, he doesn’t try to get me to eat meat or insult me, not even behind my back, as far as I’m aware–and if he did, I’d be just as surprised and hurt as the original poster.

And there’s a difference between being truly accepting of something and just keeping your mouth shut in certain company. Just because this guy doesn’t insult his partner to her face doesn’t mean he’s not sitting there thinking she’s an idiot for being a vegetarian.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, being in a relationship with someone does not mean that you have by default accepted everything about them, and I think it’s unhealthy to make that assumption. People can and often are in relationships with people who aren’t accepting of certain qualities, whether they be flaws or differences–vegetarian and meat-eater or anything else, really. People go into relationships all the time aiming to change someone or thinking that they can or thinking that they should, and to think that a relationship equals acceptance is naive and a possible setup for a bad, unhealthy relationship. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to just let comments like this guy’s slide because of an assumption like that. If your partner’s saying things that hurt you–even if they’re not directed at you–that needs to be addressed. And if your partner’s not taking it seriously and hearing you out, that’s a problem.

I was gonna go on about the new attitude that we have bigger things to worry about than a lion, but this is damn long enough. Separate post later it is.

I’ve had a busy week.

From Friday through Wednesday, I was making about an hour-long drive every day, first from my place to Paul’s, then from there to my parents’ on Saturday, back to Paul’s Sunday, then back home Monday.

I never updated my address when I moved out of my parents’ house and my mom pretty much told me not to bother until I move into a permanent home–because I can assure this apartment sure as hell isn’t permanent–which means I have to drive back over to vote in elections. I almost sat this one out and even though only one of my candidates won, I’m glad I didn’t. People in the state are obviously pretty displeased with Corbett–that’s why he got beat by Wolf and became the first governor in decades to lost reelection–and I didn’t think he stood a chance of getting reelected, but I didn’t want to count on that and skip voting. Which seems like a decent number of people don’t bother doing in this country, which is sad. I understand being cynical about the candidates and the process, but you’ve got the ability to at least try to make something happen. Use it.

At the same time, I was thinking about it, and my parents set a good example. I always remember them making it a point to vote on election day whenever they had the time, and I remember them talking about it pretty openly, though I don’t remember much discussion of the candidates. And I have to give my dad credit because as much as he’s a total, stereotypical Fox News-loving bigoted Republican goon, he’s told my brother and I since we were 18 that he didn’t care who we voted for, but we would vote.

So I did, and I’m optimistic for the future of Pennsylvania with Wolf at the helm. Maybe our priorities will be in the right place and the people will all benefit.

I went back into the area yet again Wednesday for Paul’s youngest brother’s confirmation n the Catholic church, and I only went because Paul asked me to. I guess a confirmation is technically a big deal because it’s when you sort of officially join the church and affirm your beliefs, but when I was a kid, they did ours at the same time as our First Communion. And the whole point is that you’re supposed to be old enough to understand what you’re getting into and make the decision for yourself, but we all know these kids are raised Catholic and generally don’t have much of a choice–it’s expected of them, and breaking out from under your Catholic parents when you don’t believe in the church anymore even as an adult can be rough.

The bishop was there, and I have to give him credit for starting off sounding like he really knew how to talk to the kids on their level without being condescending or too childish. And then he ruined it with what was easily a half-hour-long homily. I should’ve timed it. The service itself ran close to an hour and a half, if I recall correctly, and it wasn’t even a full mass. A full mass would normally run about an hour. So the bishop managed to take a shorter mass with fewer parts and make it longer than a full mass. On top of that, he played the “Catholics are persecuted” card, albeit more lightly for the younger audience, but that’s a really popular topic in local churches these days. They seem to think people disagreeing with them is oppression, and it’s irritating and misleading. Especially to kids like, say, Paul’s brother (and the rest of the siblings, though not so much now that they’re getting older), who have a very opinionated but ignorant mother who’s gonna reinforce that message. I’m just lucky I haven’t yet had to explain to her that I stopped going to church in college and lost interest long before that. Pope Francis, though, is changing things. I don’t know that he’s gonna get me back in church, but I have to give him credit for trying to set a good example and recognizing that the church needs to make some changes.

Finally, Thursday I got to sit my ass home, and it’s been my usual, uninteresting routine plus work for the rest of the week. I’m working Saturdays all month, so Paul’s currently over and on my couch with a headache, and we plan to see a movie tomorrow.