I say this every single time I go to such an event, but shit, listening to writers read their work for an audience is always so refreshing. Paul and I were once talking about the places where we feel the most ourselves, and my pick was in a roomful of writers after a reading. I love talking to people, I love hearing their work, and I love that feeling that I get to go out and create. There’s nothing better than that, really, and probably no greater compliment a writer could get.

We went out for Emily’s capstone reading. The capstones have changed in the years since I graduated, and I’m totally jealous–ours was kind of a chapbook with one piece of everyone’s compiled, and now they all get their capstone manuscripts turned into a chapbook that they sell. It’s super cool.

Emily was great–she got emotional, but it was heavy shit. And she did a great job reading it, and I’m looking forward to adding her chapbook to my massive reading stack. All the other student writers, plus more established guests, were great, too. My former professor asked if I’d be back at all during the week, and if my day had panned out a little better (read: if I hadn’t worked late), I probably would’ve gone back out. If I didn’t live an hour away, I definitely would’ve gone back out, and if I didn’t have tickets to see Cher tomorrow night, I’d definitely be back for that.Β I’d be there all the time if I lived closer, honestly.

Paul and I kind of ran out the door to get there on time, so we were hungry when the readings all ended and went out with Emily and a couple of her friends to the one restaurant you can count on late in the evening, Taco Bell, then headed home.

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Friday night, we stopped by my parents’ house, grabbing dinner at Fiesta Azteca on our way in. Mostly, I needed to squeeze in a time to finish up our taxes with my accountant mother, plus pick up doggy stairs she wasn’t using anymore to give to Terra, but we hung around for a bit, played with the dog, and had a chill evening. My dad’s doing well–definitely feeling better than he was last weekend, days post-chemo.

Saturday night, we met up with Katie and Jacob and cousin Chelsea for Emily’s show at school. Typically, they stick to plays–that’s all Paul and I have seen her in since she started college–but once every four years, they do a musical, and this year, sticking with a monster theme of the school year’s previous shows, they did Young Frankenstein.

And it was great. Paul and I have seen the musical before and knew it was a good time, but Katie said it’s probably her favorite musical now. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with Mel Brooks’ humor.

We went to Primanti’s for dinner after and had some drinks and good conversation before, as always, heading our separate ways and vowing to do it again soon.

And Sunday night, it was off to the movies with Terra and Jon to see Pet Sematary. Paul wasn’t crazy about going, not being a horror fan. He was also outnumbered, and if you’d paid attention to all four of us during the movie, you would’ve been able to tell which of us were horror fans. I cracked the occasional joke, Terra laughed, and the two of us plus Jon never really reacted to anything except children getting hit by trucks. Paul, on the other hand, spent much of the second half either closing his eyes or covering his ears or both.

The three of us also being the ones who had bother read the book and seen the first movie, we really liked it. We all found it to be an improvement over the original movie but still not as good as the book, and I’m debating exploring some of this in a separate post. I love that book and there’s so much good stuff in it that was cut out of both movies. I would love to see a faithful adaptation. I guess I would say one of my biggest complaints, though, is unnecessary jump scares early on. There’s not a whole hell of a lot of scary stuff in the beginning, and I get the sense that they threw in a few jump scares just for the sake of it because they felt like they couldn’t do nothing. And I guess that’s the problem with a lot of current horror–there’s an impulse to be constantly getting a reaction out of the audience, even when with source material like Pet Sematary, it’s more of a slow burn, and a really effective one at that. Now I’m rambling.

At that point, Terra and Jon had been gone all day, while Paul and I had only left the house for the first time. So they headed home to tend to the pets while Paul and I went for a late dinner at Bahama Breeze, because I love a gimmicky chain restaurant where I can eat pineapple and coconut on almost anything.

And now it’s back to the work week. Record Store Day is this weekend, so I’m trying to decide whether to go to Pittsburgh or Greensburg. I feel like the Pittsburgh stores are more likely to have the releases I want while the Greensburg stores are less likely to be crowded.

So on top of my dad starting his cancer treatments and staying in Philadelphia longer, leaving my brother and I to handle dog-sitting, my brother and his wife were having a baby shower the next day, and my mom had volunteered to take on the Pinterest-inspired baby carriage made out of a watermelon. With them getting in late Friday night, she had limited time to do it and asked that if we could, grab fruit. I intended to, but it became clear pretty quickly that I didn’t have time to both buy fruit and take it to the house before we went to the musical, so it made more sense to just go right to the house and let the dog out for a bit.

My parents got home, bought what they needed, and my mom was texting me while we were at Eat ‘N’ Park saying that she might need me to come over earlier in the morning to help her. But then when she was like, “I feel like I’m gonna have a breakdown,” I was like ah fuck it, I’ll just go over in the morning. Now, if we’d had this conversation a few hours prior, I would’ve just packed a bag and stayed overnight, but instead, Paul and I went home. Of course, of all nights, this was when I had trouble sleeping, and then we had to get up early and go. My plan was shower, get dressed, put some makeup on, and pack the rest with me to finish up later, and that plan, at least, pretty much worked.

We had to make a quick stop for a gift bag and some other things for the shower, and of course, my mom asked for fruit dip just after we’d already left and hit the road. I know of a pretty easy recipe for one, so we stopped at a Giant Eagle near my parents’ house, grabbed the ingredients, and by this time, it was starting to get late, so it was all hands on deck in the kitchen–Paul joked that he’s already used to being conscripted by his family for various things, so he had no problem being asked to do this and that and this. I threw my dip together, we mixed a fruit salad, my mom finished up the baby carriage, and we all got our faces put on and got in the car and were running quite late but not technically late to the shower…and yet some of the guests beat us there. Yoi.

The watermelon baby carriage turned out really cute, too. My mom seemed like she wasn’t so sure about it, but everyone loved it. My favorite part about it, though, is you make a little baby out of a grapefruit to put in it, with little blueberries for eyes and a pacifier, and since the baby is a girl, little bows on its head. So my mom assembled it, put the little blueberry eyes on and…one fell off onto the floor, where it was promptly eaten by the dog. She texted me while I was driving and Paul read it to me, and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

The shower was really nice and fun. I made a playlist I was quite proud of, even if only Brandon really gave a shit–I’m particularly proud of the fact that one of the first songs on it was Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams,” which they played when they left the church at their wedding. I mean…is there a more appropriate kick-off to a baby shower playlist than the parents’ wedding song?

And of course, those of us waiting to be aunties (and grandparents) went overboard. I may say that gender roles are bullshit and mean it, but damn it if I didn’t go all-in on cute girlie clothes. We all did. It’s a good thing our gifts were pretty much the last ones opened, because they took forever. And then the other day, I bought even more shit, and I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on.

After the shower, we took a drive out to finally see Katie and Jacob’s new house, although it’s still a work in progress, albeit pretty minor. But it’s a nice house, and it’s exciting that we’re all at these points in our lives. At the shower, Katie mentioned how weird it was that my brother is having a kid, and then I pointed out that it was just about a year to the day of when we closed on our house. And Julie’s getting married next month and got her dress at my aunt’s shop, so on top of baby excitement, there’s excitement for yet another wedding just around the corner. And maybe the weirdest of all, I spent most of the shower sitting with all the siblings-in-law, the youngest of whom is now a teenager and was 8 when Paul and I started dating. And I kept thinking about how we were at his high-school musical. We’re, like, grownups. Weird.

When we got home, we crashed. I’d been running nonstop since Wednesday–out to get Seger, then back home Thursday, then back out Friday night, then back home for basically a few hours before spending a morning running errands and getting ready for the shower.

I declared Sunday would be a day of rest, but we did venture out briefly–with Julie and Michael in town, it made sense to hang out as much as possible before they went home to Erie, so we met up for coffee in town. It helps that we’re conveniently on the way back, situated right off the interstate. They’ll be back for Julie’s bridal shower in May. I’d love to squeeze in a trip up before that, but that’s probably unlikely. But hey, if we can swing one over the summer and enjoy Erie’s beaches and wine, great.

And just like that, we’re almost at the end of another work week. Paul got the cold I had last week, I’m mostly in a good gym routine, I caught up on laundry, finally, and we’re heading out with siblings and cousins at Emily’s show this weekend. At least it’s a little slower this week–my parents were traveling again, but nothing unexpected popped up and they’re already home. I’m sure Seger is grateful, although he does make for adorable doggy daycare Facebook posts.

Last week was chaos.

My parents went back out to Philadelphia to talk to more doctors about my dad’s cancer, and not wanting my brother and I to use up all of our vacation days dog-sitting, they sent him to a nearby doggie daycare.

(The place posts the doggies in their care to social media, so Seger had a couple of pretty adorable Facebook posts about him–some of him playing, a funny one about how displeased he looks post-bath. But my dad comments on just about every single one, and I think it’s the cutest thing.)

I can’t remember the details now, but they ended up extending their stay–it was to see a certain doctor, but at this point, they’ve seen so many people that I can’t remember exactly who or why. And they figured they might as well tackle his first chemo treatment while they were at it, which meant they had to stay even longer. So they checked to see if we could work out dog-sitting for Thursday and Friday. The plan we came up with was I’d take off Thursday and Brandon would come over that evening and dog-sit Friday, and I’d go over in the evening if needed. While squeezing in a trip to Paul’s youngest brother’s high-school musical that night, too, with Brandon and Kelly’s baby shower the next morning.

So I picked Seger up Wednesday night, and he was adorably excited to see me, jumping all over me even though he’s not supposed to. And then within about a minute of being in my car, he peed. Maybe he was mad. Maybe he just really had to pee. Maybe he decided my car smelled nothing like him and he had to do something about it.

But the evening was otherwise good–he’s a snuggly dog anyway, so he was right at my side the entire time I was over. We lounged Thursday, took a nice walk, and threw together a dinner and stuck around a little bit after Brandon showed up.

So…his instructions from me were that if he needed me to go back out Friday evening to get Seger to let me know. We were able to work our schedules out so that neither of us called off work, but Seger would be in his crate, and although he can handle a few hours, he’s not used to being in there during the day. But of course, they needed to set up for the baby shower, and I didn’t find this out until later, in the afternoon when I was in the middle of getting ready for the musical, thinking all was well. If he’d said something, I probably would’ve thrown some shit in a bag, played with Seger for a bit, then gotten ready for the musical and had Paul come out in a separate car–or even just told his sister Emily we had to bail, although I really didn’t want to do that. So as soon as Paul got in from work, we drove straight to my parents’ house, and when I took Seger out, I could tell by how little he peed that he’d probably peed in his crate, and we probably only just got there a tiny bit too late.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so I fed him–although he wasn’t super interested in that and hadn’t been since I’d picked him up the day before–and played with him, knowing he was gonna have to go back in his crate for just a little longer, maybe an hour or so. I hoped he’d get some fun in and the last little stretch wouldn’t be so bad, and it sounds like he did do okay. Brandon and Kelly popped back in sometime while we were at the musical, so he got the honor of cleaning up the crate pad proper since all I had time to do was pull it out and throw a clean one in, and then my parents were back.

As for the musical, they did Mamma Mia, which was an odd choice for a Catholic school, given the plot, but I had myself a good time. Paul was cringing at teenagers delivering some of the adult jokes, but I figured it wasn’t much different from what they probably say to each other every day, so I let myself enjoy it. I was also having a sweet one-woman dance party and lip sync. It’s a good thing no one was behind us.

Afterwards, we all went out for a late dinner at Eat ‘N’ Park–my in-laws included–and Paul and I got home in time to get a few hours of sleep before we got to face the chaos of prepping for a baby shower.

We had a nice weekend two-ish weeks ago full of adulting–first, a dinner date, mostly because I got my days mixed up and thought Tina was doing brunch and only realized it after I’d already showered and put make-up on. True romance. But then the next day, we did actually go to brunch.

Also, I always thought I didn’t like French toast, and it turns out I just didn’t like my dad’s French toast. Twice now I’e gone to a brunch and ordered French toast and loved it.

After brunch, we hit the home show in Pittsburgh. Even with Paul’s job situation up in the air, I would like to get something done on the house this year. The garden is a definite–that’s easy. But I’d like to do some sort of other improvement. Ideally, it would be siding, but that expense seems like a terrible idea to take on. So I’m settling for painting, hopefully. We got a bunch of information from different vendors, so once we have some time, I’d like to go through, get estimates, and hopefully get it done. If we can squeeze it, I’d also like to replace our hot-water heater with a tankless one, but that can wait if it has to. I’d rather paint first. I’m not a fan of the house’s color, and even if I were, it’s getting to the point where it clearly needs done anyway.

Then it was back to dog sitting for my parents. Brandon and I worked in shifts–he was able to stay over Sunday into Monday, so I went over Monday night, took Tuesday and Wednesday off, and stayed through Wednesday night. It was almost like a stay-cation, really. Two days of just lounging around and taking care of the dog. I left for a little bit on Tuesday to go to the gym and get takeout for dinner and took Seger for a nice, long walk around the neighborhood on Wednesday, but otherwise, that was it.

As far as my dad’s health goes, they went out to Philadephia to get a second opinion. Doctors there were a little more optimistic and they’re going to get a third opinion yet, then decide on where to actually have him treated. I’m sure we’re still in for a long, difficult year, but I think a second opinion combined with the time to accept it all has everyone feeling a little less grim and a little more…task-oriented? It’s shifted a bit, at least for me, to being very, “Well, this is just what’s happening and we’ll deal with it.”

February went by fast–it feels like I’d only just barely started my weekend rotation at work for the month, and now it’s over.

After that last Saturday, we did some shopping for my mom’s birthday–plus some for my soon-to-be niece–and had dinner at our favorite Italian place. Sunday, we went to our favorite coffee shop for the first time in a few weeks, and then with snow rolling in again, I packed a bag and spent another night at my parents’ house dogsitting while they were in Pittsburgh at an appointment for my dad.

This time, it was getting a port put in for chemo. It’s slowly becoming more real. The time between the diagnosis and now, at least for me, hasn’t been much different than usual, but we’re about to enter into actual treatment.

So I spent my Monday off with Seger. We watched Crazy Rich Asians, which I liked, and a few episodes of Preacher, and I got a little work done on my side hustles. When Seger got restless, as he does, I sat on the couch with him, and then we fell asleep until my parents got home.

Saturday afternoon when I finished working, I put on plenty of glittery makeup and headed out to the annual Dancing Queen fundraiser Terra and her mom volunteer for and had a nice couple hours out with the usual crew for that–my mom, Aunt Elaine, and her friend Diane–dancing the night away. And then I came home and crashed for like 10 hours.

One of the things we’ve been meaning to do for the few years we’ve been living in this area now is check out our local symphony–or at least, check them out proper, as we do see them playing at the Whiskey Rebellion festival every summer. I happened to be scrolling through my phone and saw an ad for a performance on Sunday and sent it to Paul, who declared they were gonna be playing some of his favorite pieces, so we decided to go.

We had a really nice time. The symphony sounded fantastic, and we finished the evening up with Primanti’s. Because nothing goes together better than classical music and sandwiches with fries and coleslaw.

I slept in majorly again yesterday, too, which I needed, heading out only to go to the gym and run errands. I call that a successful day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, weird.

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

Man, my family had a week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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