So, while Paul went off to get measured for his tux for Katie and Jacob’s wedding, he dropped me off at my parents’ house, I threw some laundry in, and my mom and I headed off to look at cars. It was a pretty successful trip–we found some good used ones that I liked and I’m little more comfortable paying for, but I also found the same type here at home in a more current year at a lower price, so we’ll see where we can get on that. But it’s looking like I’m gonna have a new car within the next few weeks, at most.

Paul’s favorite restaurant in town is Fiesta Azteca and he’s been wanting to go for a long time now and we just haven’t been able to, so we made it after car shopping. We hung out at my parents’ for a bit after that and we were planning to stop by his, unfortunately for me, but they were taking Emily back to school, so I lucked out. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing–I told Paul the bridal shower issue is coming to a head and I’d be firm about it if it came up and that it was just a matter of when that happens rather than if, and then today we found out his mom blames Katie for her depression, saying that it’s because of Katie no longer including her in wedding planning. It’s bullshit, and Paul was furious was he found out.

Today, we headed to the park for a walk, where we discovered they were doing a 5K with dogs, which I totally would’ve done had I known about it. As part of it, they had some vendors set up, so basically, I went to the park to go for a walk and came out with clothes. And then we went to the mall as previously planned so I could stop at Lush and Sephora. And then we went to Half Price Books–we’ve been doing a good job of avoiding it, but there are a few books that have come out lately I wanted, so we went. I didn’t find the books I’d set out to get, but I did find some older releases I’d been looking for, so…kind of a success? And then we had lunch, went to church, and are in for the night.

It’s gonna be a short week–Katie’s bachelorette party in State College is this weekend, so we’ve both requested Friday off so we can get up there early and have a bit of a longer weekend, especially since it sounds like we’ll be spending most of the weekend drinking.

Saturday, we had a one-year-old’s birthday party to attend, so we arrived fashionably late due to Paul’s morning tai chi class, hung out for a bit, then headed out to go transfer titles on both mine and Brandon’s cars–my mom finally booted us off onto our own insurance. We’ve been talking about it for a while, but we finally actually did it, so the cars have been put in our names. Just in time for mine to get inspected and for me to be told that it might not pass inspection next year, leading me to look at buying a new car. I really, really was hoping to put that off another year or so with the wedding, but of course, the universe wants these things to coincide. But I’d rather buy one now when it’s not crucial than to wait it out and end up with a car that won’t pass inspection without a lot of work or a car that starts giving me lots of trouble. So this weekend, my mom and I are probably going to at least take a look.

And from there, we ran off into the wilderness with Terra for the rest of the weekend.

She’s moved back home. See, the thing is, her husband decided he wants a divorce. It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t hash out the details, but I’ll say I’ve been aware of it since he first brought it up to her at the end of May and that I’m really angry at him for his reasons why and the way he’s handled it. He’s been nothing–and I can’t stress this enough–but selfish, and he clearly doesn’t view marriage as any sort of commitment and has really unhealthy attitudes about what it is to the point that he never should’ve married her, and if I had any inkling he would say and do some of the things he has, I would’ve expressed my concerns to her. I’m disappointed in him, and I feel bad for her.

She moved back last Monday, although most of her stuff is still in Virginia, and on Thursday, since she can’t drive for medical reasons, Paul and I drove out, grabbed some dinner, and took her to run errands so she has food for herself and the pets. On Saturday, we picked her up and headed off to camp–her idea. Just the three of us plus dog, too, since she said she didn’t want to hear her mom and her boyfriend spend the weekend talking about how horrible Scott is. I promised to keep my shit-talking at a minimum, in that case, which I mostly honored. I only commented when she brought him up first.

We got up there Saturday evening and had enough daylight to go to Paul’s favorite rock-climbing spot, then pretty much stayed in the rest of the night. We slept in one room with Paul and I on a fold-out and Terra on a couch with beagle Lilly, although we were up late talking about Scott, of course, plus Paul’s mom, which essentially summarizes the whole weekend’s conversation, for the most part. I actually fell asleep and was fading in and out, popping in with the occasional comment and waking myself up with my snoring, even though it was light. I’m self-conscious of it when other people are awake, so I somehow wake myself up with it when I know I don’t want people to hear me snore. Doesn’t happen when I’m actually snoring loud.

Terra and I slept in pretty epically on Sunday–poor Paul wakes up earlier than we do and is stuck trying to entertain himself. It’s kind of the opposite of how we are at home. I’m always up first on weekends and he follows a couple hours later, but something about camp makes me sleep so much more than I normally would. I can’t even blame it on, say, physical activity, especially because I honestly don’t do a hell of a lot more than I do on a typical night. The best I can think of is I’m just really relaxed. Camp is quiet, and I’m always hyperaware of just how quiet it is when we get home and I hear tires screeching or sirens wailing outside, as we live right off of a main road. At camp, it’s just crickets and the wind, and for two days in a row, I slept for nearly 12 hours. Maybe I needed it, but I probably didn’t.

When Terra and I did get up, we set off–including Lilly–to all the little shops scattered across state-park property that we like. I say this every year and it always stays true, but leave it to Terra and I to go into the woods and come back with jewelry. It’s not my fault that one of the shops has really pretty stuff.

When we were done with that, we went down to the river and just kind of hung out and sunbathed for a while and were entertained by people about our age drunkenly hanging out, too. When we headed back to camp, we built a fire, cooked over it, and wrote Scott’s name on firewood and burned it.

Monday, we cleaned and packed up so we weren’t rushed, then worked in a short walk on some park trails before hitting the road back home. And then it was really back to real life, with grocery shopping, laundry, and showering for the first time in two days on the agenda.

Terra didn’t seem happy to be home, and I can’t blame her. But other than that, it was a nice weekend that I think did us all good. We all got away for a few days and bitched and vented to each other and just spent some quality time together. For me, it was a reminder of how grateful I am for the two of them and how happy and at peace I am with life right now, but that comes in stark contrast to where Terra is right now. And that sucks to be watching it happen. Her whole year has been shit, but here’s to hoping she’ll get a fresh start now that she’s back.

So as the third (and final) wedding of the year slowly creeps closer, so do wedding-related events, like Katie’s bridal shower on Sunday.

It was nice, the food was great, I had fun, I came back with your typical prizes like bath products and picture frames, and really, there’s not much else to say about the bridal shower. Well, except maybe that Katie was prepared to kick out Jacob and Paul’s mom if need be, but fortunately, she behaved.

See, wedding planning has just about been the shit show we all expected. So far, with Paul and I planning our own wedding, we’ve only gotten a small taste of it–the focus is on Katie and Jacob, so we’ve been able to slide by largely unnoticed. I said my goal is to get as much done before their wedding as possible while she’s not paying attention, but I know this will just cause a separate issue entirely of her being pissed she was left out rather than trying to control the whole thing. And Katie tipped me off that it might not matter anyway and that she might still try to change things. I’m reminded of a phone conversation I overheard on my break at work once where a bride called her caterer and had to tell them not to accept any changes from her mother-in-law, and I thought, “My God, I’m listening to my future.”

The biggest story I’ve heard has been about the wedding cake. Basically, their mom doesn’t like what Katie wants, which I feel like probably sums up the whole wedding in a nutshell. Their mom said she was “putting her foot down” about it, and like I told Paul, there shouldn’t be any of that. You don’t “put your foot down” about someone else’s wedding. And when I heard the whole story, I said, “Katie’s including her too much.” Our method has been to only discuss wedding planning when asked about it and to only answer her questions, because we know we’re gonna hear all about what she doesn’t like about our plans. So I’m dealing with it by doing my best to not even give her the opportunity. Katie liked the sounds of that, but since then, their mom has complained that she’s not being included. So I’m not sure if Katie shut her out or if she’s just pissed that she’s not getting her way–I also made the comment that what she calls “being included” is what just about any bride on the planet would call “overstepping.”

I’m getting a taste of this, too, when it comes to my own bridal shower. Because I don’t want one, and this is unheard of. She came up to me at the end of Katie’s and said, “Your luncheon is next”–because she’s calling it that instead, thinking I’ll agree to it–and I just flatly said, “No, it isn’t.” I know I’m gonna have to eventually go full bitch on this and “put my foot down” and probably soon, but I don’t know how much good it’ll do me. She mentioned to my mom about throwing me a surprise shower, and I already knew she’d probably try. Julie said she’d do what she can, and because I know their dad thinks she’s going too far, too, I asked Paul to let him know I don’t want anything so he can try to put a stop to it, too.

And the thing is, if my reasons for not wanting a shower were different, I’d get it. But I just don’t want one. I don’t mind going to them, for the most part, but it’s not something I want for myself, especially watching two other brides have them this summer. I don’t sit there and think maybe it would be nice, I think, “Yep, I definitely don’t want to do this.” Having lived on my own for four years and since Paul and I have been living together for one, we don’t actually need it, and I don’t want to get a ton of gifts that I don’t need or have space for anyway. Plus it’s time, effort, and money I’d rather put towards the wedding itself. If she were to plan a shower behind my back, I’d be pissed, and then she’d be pissed that I wasn’t grateful for it. To me, it’s directly disrespecting my wishes, and most of all, I don’t even feel like it would be for me–it would be for her. If a bride tells you she doesn’t want a bridal shower, gives you her reasons why, and her friends and family all know she legit doesn’t want it but you think she should have one and you do it anyway, you’re doing it for you, not for her.

So be on the lookout for my inevitable post about losing my shit on my future mother-in-law for…being herself, I guess.

First, some career-ish updates. At my full-time day job, I’ve been given somewhat of an expanded role–I, as well as a handful of other coworkers, was chosen to be part of a new thing we’re rolling out. They’re calling what we’re doing QC, but it’s essentially copyediting transcripts. I like it. It’s more in line with the kind of work I want to be doing, and right now, the only major downside is bug-laden software that we’re testing. It takes us a long time to do very simple things because of a lag, and it’s not uncommon to spend a whole day on one transcript of a half-hour TV show. We’re getting faster as we learn some of what we can do until we get fixes so things have gradually been going a little smoother, but it’ll be nice when the bugs are worked out.

That is, if I’m still there. I found out I’d be doing this stuff a couple months ago; I actually got started late last week. As a result, I decided to get even pickier with my ongoing job search and only apply for jobs that I really wanted, as opposed to applying for anything that sounded vaguely interesting that I was qualified for. My local paper has advertised openings for a copyeditor fairly frequently, and when another listing went up, I figured I had nothing to lose and went out for it. They’d like to speak with me, and I’m currently waiting to hear back about scheduling an interview.

As far as side projects go, one of the sites I write for, Examiner, is shutting down in a few days, and to be honest, I’m kind of glad to see it go. I was ready to move on for a long, long time for a few reasons, but in order to write for AXS and CBS, I had to keep writing for Examiner. I’m glad that won’t be the case anymore. Not only will I be free of a publication I felt was lacking in quality and organization, but it’ll free up time for focus more on other projects I’m more excited about and/or pay me more. Not to mention wedding planning…

…which is going kind of slow. The only news to report is that our caterer is officially booked and I’m contacted a DJ and photographer but have yet to book them. I’m also really, really glad Paul and I agreed from the start that we’d tell his mother very little–the latest news on his brother’s wedding this fall is that his mom yelled at the bride because she doesn’t like the cake she wants or the fact that she wants it on the cookie table. Tension is getting high.

But at least we had a nice weekend. On Saturday, we took our annual family trip to the zoo as a belated birthday/Father’s Day outing, had a good time, then went to dinner and made a quick trip to the outlets. Sunday was mostly errands–a trip to South Hills so I could go to Lush and look for shoes for Brandon’s wedding next month, which I did find, then church, a walk in the park, and groceries. We spent the morning of the 4th at home, then headed to Paul’s grandparents for that usual chaos.

They’re not known for being loving dog owners. Every time I go over, their Dachshund, Woody, comes running and jumps all over me and basically doesn’t leave me alone–or anyone else who pets him, really. At this point, he’s known for making the rounds between usually me, Emily, and Josh because we shower him with the most affection.

But it’s the older two dogs, Chestnut and Cuddles, that are the really sad reflection of their owners. For starters, the house smells like dog. Every so often when I go to my parents’ house, my mom will ask if that house smells like dog, and I’ve taken to saying that as long as it doesn’t smell like Paul’s grandparents’ house, it’s fine. It’s bad enough that it’s really, really strong when you walk in and not really fun to sit in if it’s not warm enough to sit outside, and if you are outside and sitting near the door, you can still smell it whenever the door opens.

Chestnut’s health has been an issue for a while–she had a large lump right on the front of her neck, and her eyes had a nasty-looking discharge coming from her eyes, but they never took her to a vet or looked into having her put down. Between that and hearing things like they don’t provide the dogs with water regularly because they don’t want to take them to pee and they feed them very little, I’d seriously considered looking into reporting them for animal abuse. That thought came back yesterday when Emily pointed out that Chestnut’s paw was bleeding and their grandma just said, “Oh, yeah, it’s been doing that. She won’t let anyone touch it.” I even asked Paul if he’d be mad if I did contact someone about it, and all he said was, “It’s anonymous, right?”

Well, Chestnut died sometime in the past 24 hours. When Paul told me, I said, “Good.”

So, after a weekend out of town, we packed up and headed home on a Monday morning, then had a typical but short work week before the weekend rolled around again.

Saturday brought my brother’s fiancee’s bridal shower.

My mom texted me that Tuesday saying something like, “Your brother is driving me crazy with this shower,” and when I asked what was going on, she sent me screenshots of texts between the two of them just to make it easier. In short, he was asking her if she’d invited my future mother- and sisters-in-law to the shower, and she hadn’t–she’d only been given a small number of invitations and decided to cut it off at our family. My brother was telling her she could call them and tell them to come, and she was trying to explain that you just can’t call someone and invite them to something a few days before, in part because it looks like they were an afterthought. I told Paul that I had a very strong hunch that Brandon, in an attempt to be nice and include everyone, had gone and told these people they could come after my mom and I had both already told them on separate occasions it was gonna be a small shower and implied they weren’t invited, not realizing that it makes my mom and I look bad and that you can’t just throw people in at the last minute. Then, just after I texted my mom, Paul’s soon-to-be sister-in-law Katie texted, asking about when and where the shower was. So I called my mom and we came up with the plan to just honestly explain the situation to Paul’s sisters, and I made it a point to make it clear that they were welcome to come. Julie was at the beach anyway, and although Emily seemed like she wanted to come, she was at the mercy of her mother, who felt uncomfortable and thought it would be rude to come without a physical, formal, written invitation. I absolutely understand her discomfort because I’d be uncomfortable, too, but I do think it’s a stretch to say it would’ve been rude to go when they were told it was fine.

After all that, the shower went well and was nice. I feel a little left out among my fellow bridesmaids–they all already know each other and I’m kind of the odd one out, but they all seem like cool girls I could get along with. We were talking concerts for a little bit.

The shower made the wedding seem so much more real, too. It wasn’t until Kelly was opening blankets with their names embroidered on them that I had a moment where I thought, “Shit, my little brother is actually getting married. In barely over a month.” It didn’t really hit me until then, and Katie pointed out that within just over a year, three of us will be married. Said three couples have been together so long that it’s not really surprising and it’s pretty much already like we’re one big family, but the fact that it won’t be long before it’s all official is weird.

Katie and I also swapped wedding-planning stories. It’s nice to have an ally in the mother-in-law-law battle who understands what it’s like. Not to mention how similar Paul and Jacob are–we had so fun comparing some of their quirks. They’re definitely brothers.

I spent some time at my parents’ afterwards, mostly watching some Preacher I had my mom record for me and doing free laundry. We also got sucked into the Pens Stanley Cup highlights she’d recorded for Brandon, since he’s off at his annual two weeks’ training with the military. One of the things about being in Altoona when we won was that the news afterwards actually covered local news, whereas Pittsburgh news after any sports win, really, is pretty much about that win. I kind of missed it, honestly, because it’s part of the celebration. It was fun to watch reporters in screaming crowds on the South Side or quite literally chasing down players on the ice for interviews.

I also got my birthday present a few days early, which quite appropriately was a few Pens Stanley Cup 2016 shirts and some Wizard of Oz things my Aunt Gina had found.

Then it was back home before an Ohiopyle trip for Father’s Day.

When I was kid, some shit went down between my parents and one of my dad’s brothers that soured the whole family relationship for years. I can’t remember the details, but it had to do with the house we were sharing with my grandfather, my uncle’s name being on the deed, the heat going out in the middle of winter, and my uncle insisting that my parents could only have Sears come fix it and if we got anyone else, he’d sue. And my mom snapped back that if we had health issues because of not having heat, she’d send him the medical bills.

As I got older, I thought it was dumb that it was still such a sore spot for my parents, and the funny thing is that as I’ve continued to get older, I’ve swung back around to getting it. I think I was also annoyed that they’d consistently complain about spending any time with them…but now I’m that person.

The thing is, I have my other issues with that side of the family. I still absolutely understand why my parents were so pissed for so long. But other things have added up, too. I’ve talked before about my godfather struggling with financial issues and depression and how my aunt literally laughed it off, bragging about not answering his phone calls. She was also an insufferable Facebook friend. Her own bizarre, annoying posts aside–because it’s her Facebook and she can do what she wants, so whatever–she had an opinion on everything anyone posted, even just pretty basic pictures of life. She got downright rude about politics a couple times and she struck a nerve even harder when she left some snarky comment on a status I posted about my dead grandfather, and when I wasn’t satisfied with limiting what she could see, I deleted her entirely over a year ago. I’m not sure when she figured it out, but she mentioned it to my parents a few weeks ago and said the feeling was probably mutual. Well, fuck you, too!

It doesn’t help that they’re ultra-conservative, my uncle in particular–I mean the type of person who says things when he sees gay or interracial couples loud enough for them to hear. My dad’s described it as outright “yelling” at them, but I’ve never seen it for myself, so I can’t say. But I have a problem with that.

So I don’t like going over there anymore. I’ve essentially come full circle and gotten to the point where my parents were maybe a decade ago, while my dad and uncle are probably closer than they’ve ever been. I’ve joked that only two of the siblings can get alone at a time, and when they do, they gang up on the third. My mom seems to side with me a bit more.

But I sucked it up for my youngest cousin’s graduation party, and I’ll give credit where credit is due–everyone was on their best behavior, and it was nice to see some of the more extended family that we don’t see much.

We couldn’t stay long, though–Paul’s baby cousin Garrett was celebrating his first birthday, so we made a stop over there for more food and cake. And that went well, too. I keep anticipating some kind of wedding-planning showdown and it keeps not happening, so I’ll take it. We actually even outstayed Paul’s parents and siblings and talked to his aunt and uncle for a bit, who I do like talking to when the rare chance comes up. We ended up staying longer than we intended, in fact, then headed over to my parents’ to watch the Pens game.

We lost. Boo.

Sunday was a typical lazy day, with some errands and church. This weekend brings a long weekend trip, which we’re really looking forward to and probably really need, then Kelly’s bridal shower, then my birthday, then maybe finally a free weekend where we’ll probably be shut-ins for two days.

I’m glad to have the day off. After a series of busy weekends and a week full of stuff to go to, it’s nice to have today–and yesterday, really–to just do whatever we want, which has mostly been a few errands with most time spent at home. I’ve been catching up on reading, Netflix, and some looming writing deadlines.

This week, we had Paul’s sister Emily’s baccalaureate mass, with some socializing and cake after. His mom is still being a little pushy about wanting me to have a bridal shower, which I don’t want, but I gave her a “maybe” to a luncheon that appeased her for now but will probably turn into a no. Can’t we just throw one big party for the wedding and be done with it?

Thursday brought graduation, dinner, and less wedding talk, thankfully. My old high school is still so familiar, yet at this point, I know only a few of the teachers–I think the new faces I don’t recognize outnumber the familiar ones now. But it’s funny how many of them still remember me. I’ve been instructed to pass along a wedding announcement for the alumni newsletter, but I figure I’ll get to that when we’re actually closer to the wedding.

Graduation itself was nice, but there’s not much to say–just your typical high-school graduation. Emily kicks ass, though, graduating with highest honors and basically a free ride to college. She’s following in my footsteps, heading off to my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh’s Greensburg campus, to major in writing like I did. She’s even been assigned to the same building I lived in all four years. I’m excited for her. I know she’s anxious to sort of be out on her own, a lot like I was.

She’s tackling all the graduation stuff early–her party was Saturday, and their other sister, Julie, had the idea of doing a group gift of dorm stuff. I know she loved stuff from Lush I got her before and I’d already had the plan of filling a shower caddy with some of their products, so I just added that to the pile, plus a filtered water bottle she said she wanted. The rest of the gifts included organizational drawers, laundry supplies, cleaning supplies, some basic dishes, picture frames, a closet organizer, and a hamper. She’ll need very little. I think the only things we didn’t get her were things that depended a little more on what building she ended up in, which she didn’t find out until the morning of the party.

The party was fun. We went over early to help out and ended up not doing a whole hell of a lot. Paul made cookies Friday night and we helped fill some balloons and decorate the tables, but that was about it. Instead, I somehow ended up holding their baby cousin, Garrett, who’s almost a year old and big enough that I’m not afraid to hold him, and I actually had him for quite a bit, which I know Paul–and everyone else–loved. It helps that he’s a really calm, chill baby. He’s not very fussy and he’s content to just be held by whoever wants him. He played with my necklace a lot, and later, he almost fell asleep on my brother when my family made it over. I’m sure my parents were loving us with babies, too. I caught my mom taking some pictures.

Paul had made me breakfast earlier in the morning and seemed to kind of be really kissing ass, and when I got suspicious, he kind of jokingly said it was in case things didn’t go well at the party. But they were mostly alright–the only issue was when Paul had a few beers early on and was a little drunk, and his mom got unnecessarily concerned, to the point where she started asking me how much he’d had and how much he drinks at home. It’s frustrating that she jumps to conclusions of alcoholism after a few drinks at a party, and it’s frustrating that she acts like if he had a drinking problem, I wouldn’t have done something about it. There was a point over a year ago, when he was in his own apartment before he lived with me, where I was concerned with how often he was drinking, and I said something.

She also always wants him to spend the night over there, so part of me wonders if she wasn’t almost hoping we couldn’t drive home. But we go into these things with a plan–we choose a set time to leave, usually earlier than we actually want to leave because we know we’ll get hung up saying goodbyes, and we stick to it.

She also was apparently pissed that the extended family was a little drunk, too, because God forbid people drink and have fun at a party.

We made a pit stop on our way home at a local store for some local milk and ice cream, then headed home. We spent most of yesterday at home, but we did head out to a food-truck festival at the casino. I also put 20 bucks in a slot machine and lost, and then we went to church and out for groceries. We tried to take a trip out to the park for a walk, but of course it started raining on the way over, despite sunny skies and no rain expected for another few hours.

Today brings laundry, a brief shopping trip, and maybe a second attempt at the park. And the busy weekends will keep on coming–next week, we have a cousin’s graduation party, baby Garrett’s first birthday party, and I have my heart set on going out to watch the Pens game. It’ll most likely be the only game I can go out for, so I really want to take advantage of the opportunity.

We celebrated Sarah’s graduation from nursing school on Saturday, which was a good time. Of course, she wasn’t at her own party when we got there and we were greeted by her family, but hey. We hung out, we ate, she eventually came, followed eventually by Steph and Garrett and Marissa.

It was nice to hang out, even though it was a shitty day.

And we had some talks. Marissa said she’s always wanted to apologize to me for the way things happened a few years ago–and it’s strange to say that that’s been “a few years ago” now–and I returned the sentiment. One of the reasons I chose to leave that group of friends was because I had turned into the kind of person who sits back and just laughs while her friends are being torn down, and I hated it. I was on a path to becoming someone I hated, and I had to stop it.

I didn’t need to hear that from her, but it was nice regardless.

And I’ll say this, too–I feel vindicated. I’m not gonna broadcast anyone else’s shit and I’m certainly not happy about these things, but there’s something to be said for being right about a person.

But all in all, we had a good time, and as always, it was nice to see everyone. We went to my parents’ for a bit and did some laundry for free and hung out and Duke harassed me to pet him and scratch his chest, then we headed back out to the afterparty at Sarah’s house. I’d considered spending the night, but there was a possibility of a shopping trip Sunday with Julie and Katie, so I figured home was best.

The shopping trip didn’t actually happen, but Julie and Michael did get bored and want to come hang out. Paul and I skipped church to do it to, ha. We did make a trip out to South Hills to get some Lush stuff for Emily as a graduation gift, then went to dinner and talked for a good while. A lot like we did the last time they decided to come out spur of the moment.

We did some apartment cleaning while they were on the road hoping to get enough done to make it presentable for other humans, and while we didn’t succeed to a point that I feel comfortable inviting them in, we made progress. If we focus and prioritize a little more, we’ll get there, and we’ll have people over all the time! Probably not.

It’s gonna be a busy few weeks–a wedding and some graduation parties. But at least it’s all good things.

We’ll probably handle it by spending our first free weekend inside for two days.

The Steel City Con Debacle

My mom and I have a lot in common–one of the traits we share is our love of a good, old-fashioned boycott. We dislike your business practices or you screw us over, we’ll drop you without a second thought and never come back. I mean, my mom hasn’t shopped at Sears for well over a decade over something that has to do with our furnace breaking in the middle of winter and something about space heaters. I was a kid at the time and I can never remember the details of it, but the point is Sears wasn’t very good to my mom in the process and she’s looked upon the company with disdain ever since. As for me, I do my best to avoid companies whose moral compass doesn’t align with my own, and most recently, I blogged about what pushed me to stop buying from an Etsy shop I loved. I decided not to name them at the time, but fuck it, it’s Nerds with Vaginas.

Anyone who’s read this blog or has seen my various social-media posts in April, August, or December knows I always spend a weekend at Steel City Con in Monroeville. I’ve been going with my dad and brother since they first found out about it a few years ago, and in those years, my brother and I have taken friends and fiancees.

I bought a three-day pass this time around, mostly out of convenience rather than an actual desire to go all three days. The online sale on the passes was really good, which was great, considering prices have regularly been increasing and I was starting to think it was getting to be too much money for what the event offered. A three-day pass was $30–the same price as full-price Saturday passes–and because we’ve had issues in the past with traffic or wanting to see something one evening and ending up not having time to walk around, I figured it was worth it. That way, if something came up, we weren’t stuck with passes only good for one day that we couldn’t take full advantage of.

I had to work Saturday and figured I’d just go Sunday. My dad and brother went Saturday, and my dad happened to text me and mention that the show was sold out and that people were having to wait until someone else left before they could get in. It sounded chaotic but not horrible, as the Saturday shows usually are, although I’d never heard of one selling out before. I made a note to my fiancé that we ought to make it a point to get up early so we could get there and get in and not worry about lines. And as three-day passholders, we were able to get in a half-hour early. Bam. Done.

So I was perusing Twitter on Saturday night, like I do, and I saw this tweet from Sci-Fi Valley Con mentioning a Pittsburgh convention. And I thought, “Oh, shit, I hope it’s not Steel City Con,” and it was.

You can read the whole story for yourself here and here, and I recommend you do, especially if you have attended or plan to attend Steel City Con. But in short, the convention sold out and didn’t post anything about it on their social media–and people were checking, lest they drive all the way out and end up not being able to get it. People in line were told the venue was at capacity, but people who preordered their tickets were able to get in no problem. No explanation was offered by convention staff, and it got to the point that people starting asking other people who were leaving to buy their wristbands off of them so they could get in, which was apparently done in front of staff and security, who let it happen. Now, I realize it’s not the greatest, but honestly, if it were me in either position, I’d probably do the same thing, especially if people made it a point to check for a sell-out and saw nothing. People posting to the convention’s Facebook page about tickets selling out started seeing their posts deleted and found that they’d been banned from interaction with the page, and I saw this happen myself when I visited the page and saw a woman had posted about another interaction, only to find it gone a few minutes later. That interaction was a woman posting about having been banned from the page, followed by the page commenting on her post calling her a liar and a thief for buying someone else’s wristband, which is extremely unprofessional.

I actually thought initially that some of the issues were miscommunication–I was hearing somewhat conflicting stories, and it sounded like maybe organizers didn’t communicate something well to staff or staff didn’t communicate something well to patrons. Some people said if you waited long enough, you could get in, others said the line didn’t move and resorted to less-than-honest means of getting in. Now, though, it looks more like organizers were actively deceiving people wanting to get in.

I was really put off by the whole thing, and honestly, even now, if the convention were to un-ban everyone and issue an apology, I’d feel better. I even told Paul Saturday night that had we not bought tickets in advance, I’d consider not even going because I hate it when my money benefits assholes.

And then I started to think about it a little more, and I felt bad that there’d be vendors I really like and support regularly whose business would be hurt, albeit by a fraction, if I didn’t go. And to be honest, when we went Sunday, we had a great time, and I bought some awesome stuff. Ironically, it’s probably the most amount of money I’ve spent on a single trip there ever. The guest list for the next convention is pretty good, too, so I left Sunday with a bit of a change of heart and decided, somewhat begrudgingly, to keep going but maybe more sporadically, like only when a celebrity I want to see is going as opposed to every single show.

In the meantime, I’d been popping on Facebook here and there to keep an eye on how that how mess was progressing. Earlier in the morning, I’d done the same thing and screencapped some negative posts, thinking it might be a good idea in the midst of this mass ban-and-delete fest. I’d even commented on a few, explaining to some people who seemed confused just what had happened and that I found the con’s behavior to be really unprofessional–anyone with the tiniest bit of PR knowledge knows that you don’t respond to complaints by calling people liars. You say something like, “We’re so sorry you had this negative experience, and we’ll do our best to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” and maybe you offer free or discounted stuff. And people are usually okay with that. I mean, like I said, I’m pretty forgiving, and you issue a standard apology and I’m mostly willing to let it go.

But when I went to see how things were progressing, I found that I, too, had been banned. Couldn’t access the visitor posts I’d wanted to see, couldn’t comment on posts, couldn’t like posts, couldn’t do anything but share–and all I’d done was basically say, “They’ve been deleting posts and banning people, and it’s extremely unprofessional.” It was like anything remotely negative had to be silenced, like they had to keep up appearances and make it look like it was a much better, much smoother convention than it really had been. And really, keeping up appearances is all it is, because a lot of people are really unhappy and I saw more than one post (which have been deleted since) saying that the poster didn’t intend to return to the convention after all this, and now, I find myself in that same position. I was a longtime attendee and three-day passholder who was willing to give them a second chance, but I don’t appreciate the utter refusal to take any criticism and the censorship of anyone who speaks out.

My only complaints in the past have been crowding and high prices, as well as some sketchiness with middle-aged men taking pictures of underage girls without their knowledge or consent–some time after a con, my dad mentioned having seen this to my brother and I and asked if he should’ve reported it, to which we said yes, and I sent a respectful e-mail explaining what my dad saw and just expressing that it might be something they want to keep an eye on. I never received a response back, but as it never seemed to be an issue again, I let it go. But as it turns out, the convention has been building a bad reputation, mostly among vendors. I’d noticed some of the vendors I loved the most only attended once or twice, never to be seen again, and now I can’t help but wonder if this is why. Then there are posts like this, detailing some of the issues vendors have had.

So after reading the posts and my own negative experience, Paul and I have decided this past Steel City Con was our last, unless ownership changes hands or apologies are issued or something. Instead, we’ll be looking for alternatives. We’re considering the new, upcoming 3 Rivers Comicon, but as we have a wedding to go to that weekend, we might not make it. But we’re also looking at November’s Wizard World, as well as Altoona convention Sci-Fi Valley Con, whose initial tweet caught my eye. If Paul and I can get the time off work, we’ll be taking a long weekend to visit that then head over to State College. If we do, I intend to eat my way across Happy Valley.

So good riddance, Steel City Con. We had a good run. I hope you learn from your mistakes.

Now, I still feel like all of this is unfair to the vendors, and there are some great ones. So with the hope of driving some more business over to them, I’ve decided to list below as many of my favorite go-tos as I can remember. It’s definitely not comprehensive, as I’ve lost some business cards over the years, but they’re great and they deserve your business.

If holidays with future in-laws I already don’t like weren’t bad enough, throwing wedding planning into the mix has made everything worse. And I’ll be dealing with that for the next year, not to mention whatever other bullshit pops up in our married life. We can only avoid his family so much. The really sad thing is it’s not even a matter of me disliking them–in bed Saturday night, Paul commented that he didn’t even want to go himself for Easter. I reminded him that he’s not obligated to, but of course, sucking it up and doing it is easier than saying, “You guys are toxic, if not downright abusive, and I’m not coming over anymore.”

We started Easter with church here at home, made a quick grocery trip, and enjoyed a few hours at home before we went for visits. Normally, we’d start at my parents’, but we decided to do that later in the day this time. So we got at Paul’s grandparents’ house right on time–which we’ve been doing a lot of lately, thank God–and were actually the first ones there. A cousin pulled in right behind us, and other relatives gradually followed.

Overall, it went well. It was the first time his extended family’s seen me since we got engaged, so there was a lot of showing off of the ring happening. But for the most part, we hung out with the siblings and the cousins.

It took a turn, albeit only a minor one, when his mom started asking about wedding plans.

Here’s where wedding planning stands now–we have a venue and a date, and as of today, the contract has been signed by all parties necessary and we owe them half their money, which I’m hoping to mail to them either tonight or tomorrow. It’s August 26, 2017 at the Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens. We’re undecided on whether or not we want a Catholic wedding. I’m leaning towards no, he’s leaning towards yes, but we included it in the contract should we want it but have started going back to church so we’re in good standing and can actually join and get married.

When Paul initially told his mom the location, she made the comment that people were gonna have to travel to get there, and that’s technically true–while it’s a half-hour away from us, most of our families will have about an hour’s drive. But after considering other venues, we liked this one the best, and though Paul originally didn’t want to consider Pittsburgh venues, I asked him to reconsider. I don’t feel like it’s fair to us to plan our wedding around other people, plus we do plan on getting a hotel block nearby so people can stay.

She asked the expected questions over Easter about how the planning was going and where things were. I mentioned that as soon as we got the contract back from the venue, it’d be set. She must’ve missed this, because not long after, she said we’d better not sign anything until we knew we could get the church that day, which does make some sense. The thing is we can’t exactly sit around and wait on this venue. We already lost time to unreliable venues we ultimately dropped from the running, and we grabbed the only August date left. Not that we were set on August, but the rest of the summer was pretty much full at that point, so we took what we could when we could. Not to mention the whole bit about not being sure what we want, but that’s a whole side of it she frankly doesn’t even need to know about unless we decide no church wedding.

I started to say something like, “Well, we already signed it because we know we want it,” but I only got out the “well” before she interrupted it. I honestly don’t even remember what she said, but while she was talking, I thought, “Don’t even tell her. Just don’t even go there.”

Somehow, though, it came around to if the church out here isn’t available, maybe we could have it back in Uniontown, and that’s when I started to get downright annoyed. Part of the point of exploring venue options out here was because the others we’d looked at were an hour away. So I told her I didn’t want to be driving an hour, and she goes, “Oh, no, no, that’s not what I mean,” and Paul was probably screaming inside because he knows my patience with her has worn really, really thin over the last year, and I’d warned him that if she pissed me off, it wasn’t gonna be pretty. But I’m not really sure what she did mean, then. I think maybe she thought I was referring to an hour’s drive between the church and reception, and I kind of was, knowing we’d already signed, but I was also considering the fact that it would mean either an hour’s drive for us to get to our wedding ceremony or that we’d have to stay somewhere in Uniontown the night before. And all of this isn’t even considering the fact that we already decided Uniontown isn’t even what we want. We considered venues like Seven Springs that would’ve been an hour-long commute for us, albeit with overnight accommodations onsite. I mentioned that factor as a downside. Being able to swing by right after work if we need to is really, really appealing, and the venue is us. Part of the reason Paul vetoed Seven Springs was it was a little too fancy for him. The Botanic Gardens is the kind of place I think represents us better.

Somehow, the conversation shifted and did eventually turn to the fact that I don’t want a bridal shower. For one, the women in my family hate them. I don’t know what it is, but we just don’t enjoy them. But more than that, we live in a cramped, cluttered apartment as it is and will presumably be getting wedding gifts in a year. I really don’t want to add more gifts on top of that, and the registry’s sparse enough as it is for that reason. Plus it’s another thing that’ll cost money, and one of the things I’ve discovered about myself as a bride-to-be is I went from having grand ideas pre-engagement to looking at 90% of my wedding Pinterest board and saying, “I’m not paying for that,” which I expect will save me a fuckton of money. But in Paul’s family, especially with his mom, you just have to do certain things, and I knew the shower was gonna be a point of contention–I just didn’t expect it to become one before the ink was dry on the contract that she doesn’t know was even signed. She asked me over and over if I was sure. I said no every time. If it comes up again, I plan to say as calmly as possible, “I’ve told you no before, and I’d appreciate it if you’d respect that and stop pushing the issue.”

As I thought about it all later and I considered her previous comment about having to travel, I started wondering if maybe the conversation about having the wedding in Uniontown was her sly way of trying to talk us into moving the wedding to a location she prefers or is more convenient for her. Yeah, I’m overthinking it a bit, but knowing she’d say that previously, I couldn’t help but wonder. It started to feel like so many things with her do–that her concern was what she wants, not that it’s our wedding, and she’s trying to influence our decisions. I’ve been thinking of ways to politely tell her, should it happen again, that I feel like that’s what she’s doing and that we’d prefer she keep her opinions to herself unless we ask her.

The other side of that is there’s almost no way I come out of this without looking like a bridezilla, and I swear I’m not. As usual, she’s the only person I’m having any issue with–everyone else has commented on how beautiful that venue will be or has offered actual suggestions that don’t sound like they’re selfishly motivated. It’s just bad timing. I’ve been frustrated with her for a long, long time, and it just so happens that now is the time she starts saying things that rub me the wrong way.

Fortunately, though, the visit with my parents was a lot better. Meri’s in from El Paso and I fortunately caught a text from my mom right on time, so we left a little earlier than planned–well, sort of. We had to look through pictures first. But we did get to briefly visit with Meri (and Aunt Gina), then had a nice dinner featuring a healthy dose of my grandma’s recipes and candy my mom gave all of us. We hung out, Brandon and I played some Nintendo, the four of us played Cards Against Humanity and drank a little, and things ended on a positive note. I mean, until Paul and I bitched to each other the whole way home, but hey. I guess that’s part of the reason we’re getting married.