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.

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Saturday evening, we ran some errands–hair trims for both of us, since I can’t get to Emily for another two months thanks to working Saturdays in February, and a trip to the outlets for something my mom was looking for. From there, it was into Pittsburgh.

Earlier in the day, there was a nasty, tragic accident on the parkway. Two men were killed after being thrown off of a ramp and down onto a street below, where they were both hit by another car. Authorities think one man had car trouble and the other stopped  to help, and then a third came and either didn’t see them until it was too late or was going too fast. The men were either thrown from the ramp or were standing between their two cars and jumped to get out of the way. Hours had passed by the time we were going through, but there was a police barricade blocking the ramp to that stretch of the parkway, and although it looked like ay traffic had been cleared, we could still see the lights from the police cars along the stretch where it happened. I think everyone becomes kind of immune to reacting to car accidents, but it was tough to drive by the lights and barricades and not feel horrible for the men killed, their families, and the other drivers involved.

We met up with Chelsea and her friends for her roommates’ birthday at the same bar we went with them to for New Year’s. Katie and Jacob came out this time, too, and we had a nice evening of hanging out, drinking, and meeting a good number of new people, and everyone hit it off really well. Paul moved away from me at one point to the other end of the table to talk to one of Chelsea’s friends about meditation and tai chi and chakras, and I looked at Katie and went, “This is the kind of hippie shit people expect from me.” And there was a little talk of politics, with most of us being on the same side of things, and a little talk of sexism and social issues.

The place didn’t serve food, although we brought in pizzas from down the street, and Katie wanted ice cream, so as things were dying down, Paul and I went with her and Jacob to the closest Primanti Bros. because they’re open late. Turns out not all Primantis serve dessert. In retrospect, we should’ve looked for a Mad Mex, as they have ice cream and are open late, or an Eat ‘N’ Park, which, like Primanti’s, is easily found and open late.

Sunday, we thought about heading out to Row House for a screening of Metropolis, but neither of us was super into the idea of going out–Paul said he could be talked into going, and I said I could be talked out of going. So we decided to skip it, as much as that movie is on both of our lists of must-sees. But it also pops up at Row House often enough, so I’m sure we’ll get another chance to see it in the not-too-distant future.

I was toying with the idea of hosting a small party for New Year’s, but Terra beat me to it before I made up my mind. I think one day, I’d still like to do it, but for now, it can be tough for her to get out here and I wasn’t super committed to it, anyway.

And then Paul’s cousin Chelsea invited us to join her and her friends for some drinks, and we figured what the hell, we can do both–we pass through Pittsburgh on our way to Terra’s house anyway. so we can pop in, have some beers, then continue on our way for the rest of the New Year.

It ended up taking us forever to find parking, mostly because we were in a part of the city we don’t usually visit and one of the garages was closed. Because it took so long, we decided to hang out longer than we planned to, and I felt kind of bad because most of Terra’s other guests bailed and she was basically waiting on us. But we had fun hanging out and having some drinks before we hung out at Terra’s.

Now, she doesn’t have cable, and neither do we–so really, no matter what, we weren’t watching a ball drop unless we got on a computer and streamed it. But we opted to not bother and just wait and guess when the New Year started based on the influx of texts. It sounds really anti-climactic, but I found it pretty entertaining. I do enjoy New Year’s, but not to the point that it all hinges on watching TV.

We hung around for a couple hours, headed home, and crashed pretty hard, considering we were out until like 2 a.m., and enjoyed a lazy New Year’s Day.

In the week or so leading up to Christmas, we crammed in as much of our usual Christmas stuff as possible–The Nutcracker, B.C. Taylor, an evening trip to Phipps to see their annual Christmas flower show, and plenty of get-togethers.

At this point, we’ll cram a ton of stuff into a day if it means seeing people we don’t get to see often. And that’s exactly how the day before Christmas Eve was. We started at my mom’s Aunt Elaine’s annual Christmas party and had a nice time eating and hanging out with everyone for a couple hours.

From there, we went to Paul’s parents’ house. Julie and Michael were in town but weren’t gonna stick around through the holiday, so we did our family gift exchange then. In the fall, we used the Internet to do a Secret Santa between the siblings and spouses/significant others–I got Josh and totally nailed it with a video game he wanted, but also a bonus of a chocolate game controller. Julie had me, and she got me a bunch of candles, vegan lip balms, and soap from a craft show up in Erie, which was pretty much perfect. Paul gave Katie a Cards Against Humanity expansion pack and fuzzy socks, and from Jacob, he got a dinosaur wine-bottle holder. On top of that, we got one of our late wedding presents, a signed, framed print from Paul’s favorite childhood book, Dinotopia. We knew it was coming, but there were issues with the original frame and it took them this long to get it fixed. Now we just need to figure out where to display it. But the big moment of the night was presenting Paul’s parents with their gift, a summer trip to Canada. Well all pitched in for it, and Julie was hilariously excited for them to open everything and figure out we were sending them on vacation.

After a couple hours there, we went to our last stop, my friend Leah’s annual Christmas party. She took a break from hosting it for a couple years but brought it back this year, and it’s one of those events that we love going to because of who we get to see there–she gets together a lot of our classmates who have moved away but come home for the holidays. Since we both had to work the next morning and had an hour’s drive home, we’d said we were gonna leave at 10:30. It would give us time to enjoy ourselves and would get us home late, but not so late that we’d be worn out the ext day. And besides, the next day was Christmas Eve, and at least there’s the promise of the following day off. If you’re gonna go into work tired from a night out, one day before a day off isn’t a bad way to do it. But then we got caught up playing games, and we ended up not getting in until after 1 a.m. Oops.

But I regret nothing. It was a busy day, we drove all over one county and back home to another, and we were exhausted, but we got to see a lot of people over the course of the day and we had fun. I don’t think we’d have it any other way.

Thanksgiving split over two days is so much better and so much easier.

Brandon had to work Thanksgiving day, so my family opted to eat dinner Wednesday night instead. The two of us and our spouses headed over after work–late because of weird traffic on the interstate–and had a nice, calm dinner. Rather than drive home only to come back out Thursday, Paul and I just stayed overnight and spent the day catching up on shows I’d asked my mom to record for us, like American Gods, which is taking forever for us to finish. The good news, for us, anyway, is it’s also taking them forever to do the next season.

We did it all again Thursday afternoon at Paul’s parents’ house, and honestly, this is probably the ideal way to do Thanksgiving. It’s kind of how we do Christmas, and it’s less hectic and you’re not cramming in two meals. And we got sent home with a ton of leftovers.

I had to work Black Friday, as usual, but Paul was off, so he spent the day at home while I was holed up in my office and then headed out with a friend.

We’d decided to have people over Saturday night, and first of all, never doing Facebook invites again. Too many people ignore them now, and I absolutely don’t blame anyone for that, but what should be a super easy way to invite everyone you want over is just kind of a waste of time. Direct texts to everyone next time it is.

It was pretty small, a lot like Emily’s birthday party, only this time, Marissa came over. I knew she was back in the area, and for some reason, something in my brain just kinda went, “Text Marissa,” and so…I did. And I’m so, so glad I did, so much so that the next day, I said that out loud a couple of times and Paul was like, “Yep, I get it.” She didn’t stay super long–really, we’re all so used to going to bed by like 10 that everyone decides to go home pretty early–but we talked pretty much the whole time and I think it was really good for both of us.

And now we enter the hectic holiday season. We’re pretty much booked from here on out, with something going on every weekend in December. I’m debating hosting for New Year’s, but I can’t decide. Normally, we hang out at Terra’s, which might be good to stick with since her migraines mean driving to our place can be dicey, and I’d hate for her to be missing out if that were to happen. But I’ve always wanted to do something for New Year’s, and yet I also know if we’re gonna be busy for much of the month, I might not feel like putting the effort in, and so on and so on…

But the start of the fun is this weekend. We’re going to see Craig Ferguson Friday night, and then on Saturday, my brother and I are going to a local radio station’s Christmas concert featuring The Struts. My mom wants to make my grandma’s pheasant soup and asked us to pick a day to go over, so I suggested Sunday. And if that works for Brandon, there’s my whole weekend.

The only thing we really did over the weekend was go to Emily’s play at school this semester. A restaurant we like in town had a LivingSocial deal, so we got dinner plus some beers, ended up not spending enough money to cover the deal, and watched Emily do her best creepy vampire in Dracula.

I had the day off Friday and Paul called in sick, and the only thing we really did was some much-needed sleeping in. We ran errands on Sunday, and that was that.

Of course, the holidays are about to start, so that’s the last weekend we’ll have like that for a while. My family is doing Thanksgiving Wednesday night because Brandon has to work Thursday, so we’ll probably spend a good 24 hours back in our home county before I have to be home for work on Friday. I didn’t get tomorrow off, too, which I knew was a longshot anyway.

I started my week with a fuckton of overtime. I worked a 12-hour day on Monday alone, so by then, I was already totally done with the week. Throw in a Fleetwood Mac concert Thursday night and waiting the whole week to find out if I’d be able to get Friday off, and the whole damn thing was a drag.

Fleetwood Mac was fucking fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to see them three times now–and of course a different lineup each time–and they’ve solidified themselves as one  of my favorite bands. I went from being a casual fan of my mom’s favorite songs to falling in love with the songs my mom never played. I anxiously await the day they worked things out with Lindsey Buckingham, because unless this lawsuit really fucks things up, which it very well might, we all know this is just how the band works.

But I did not get Friday off. I functioned just fine, but man, I was really hoping to sleep in and chill out. On the plus side, if I’d gotten the day off, I wouldn’t have actually gotten overtime pay if I’d had the day off, and I believe that for the rest of the year, I’m only working two full weeks. I have two floating holidays left to use, too, so if I plan it right, I can probably get that down to short weeks for the rest of the year. Sure, we still haven’t taken a real vacation, but short weeks for two months isn’t a bad tradeoff.

On Friday, we ended up out on a quest for a card for Nolan and Brett’s wedding because I didn’t like any of the cards here in Washington, and as much as I really didn’t feel like driving into the South Hills, I’m glad we did because I’m pretty happy with what we found. And when my mother found out we were out, I had to look for a Snoopy Christmas blanket and pillow set for her, and throw in a few other stops I wanted to make plus dinner, it ended up being a whole trip out. We’d intended to go to the gym and had the time to make it, but that’s a terrible idea right after eating at Mad Mex.

The goal was to hit the gym Friday night then again Saturday morning before we left for the wedding because I wasn’t feeling great with how my dress I wanted to wear was fitting, and even though two gym sessions is definitely not going to make a noticeable difference, it at least made me feel like I was doing something. Sometimes that’s all that counts. Honestly, I probably should’ve scrapped the Saturday trip because we slept really, really late and the timing wasn’t great, but I thought I could squeeze it in. I ended up getting back home super close to when I wanted to leave, but us being us, we hadn’t actually packed yet, so by the time we did that, we were an hour behind with a pit stop or two we needed to make. But we made it just in time for me to get ready.

The wedding was nice and we had a good time, particularly with super drunk friends and some time hanging out in Meri and Erio’s room. The time change was a nice perk, too, since we didn’t wander back to the room we shared with my parents until 2 a.m. And true to form, I slept like trash. You’d think being up so late would’ve worn me out enough, but it didn’t. And I never sleep well when I travel on top of that, so although I felt fine in the morning–or rather, like five hours later–I’m exhausted now. But almost all of us made it to breakfast, and from there, Paul and I headed back to my parents’ house to kill a few hours before going out to dinner with his family for his mom’s birthday. I’d originally wanted to try and host some friends since people were home for the wedding, but clearly, we had no time for that.

Dinner was a nice end to a fun, busy weekend, but we’re definitely glad to be back home. The cat’s glad to have us back, too, and has been very dramatic and restless since we got in. I expect to spend my workday tomorrow having my feet bitten and toys dropped under my chair.

So what’s next? Nothin’. This marks the end of a string of busy weekends. Emily has a play at school in two weeks and we’re thinking of hosting a small shindig Thanksgiving weekend, but next weekend, we’re free to take it easy. We probably owe the cat a weekend of playtime and scritches.

Paul ended up with a bit a of a cold last week, and I might be getting it, too, just in time for a destination wedding of a cousin of his. So far, I just have minor congestion, so I’m hoping it’s more of a seasonal/environmental thing or that my body’s fighting it off.

But he still wasn’t feeling great over the weekend, so we really didn’t do much. We stayed home all day Saturday, and all we did Sunday was a coffee run and walk in the park.

Monday night, Paul’s sister Emily was reading on her campus again, this time as part of the annual alumni reading. We initially weren’t going to go because we’ve seen said alumni many times, and although we love them, we didn’t think driving an hour when they’re usually reading in the city was worth it. Emily had mentioned the reading twice but only mentioned her part in it once, so we kind of forgot about it–and then the professor in charge mentioned it on Facebook and I texted Paul essentially saying it was up to him. I think we both thought we ought to go, so we did. We went to Greensburg for like the third time in two weeks, four if you count me picking Emily up after my hair appointment when we saw Rollins.

We grabbed a quick dinner at Wingharts, and I kind of wish we’d eaten there on our previous Greensburg trip. Paul thinks they’re a little pricey, but I think we got better and more filling food than we had at Headkeepers the week before. Part of that is that Headkeepers is tapas, but we also both kind of felt like although the food was good, we have places we like more. Wingharts is one of them, and since we’d decided to go late, we were pretty pressed for time. Luckily, Mondays aren’t hoppin’ bar nights and we were out of there in less than 40 minutes. It was kind of perfect.

Emily was surprised to see us, since, you know, we’d said we weren’t going, and she read two short creative-nonfiction pieces we got a kick out of. Her fellow students were great, too, as were the alumni. My goal is to get invited one year, but being that I haven’t had anything creative published in going on two years now, I need to actually have work out in the world to present. I’ve got some stuff in progress and some publications in mind, I just need to get around to it.

I’m really glad we went. We ended up chatting for a while with everyone, and I think Paul and I both get a nice bit of motivation anytime we’re listening or talking to writers. They tend to make me want to get to work, but it’s also great to talk to people who kind of “get” you, as kind of dumb as that sounds. I get a satisfaction out of those kinds of conversations that I don’t get anywhere else–when people talk about “finding their tribe,” that’s how it feels.

If you want some great stuff to add to your bookshelf the (published) alumni writers were Adam Matcho and Dave Newman. And my lovely, amazing professor is Lori Jakiela.

Saturday, after a couple hours sitting in Friend Emily’s stylist chair, I came out with a pretty great shade of violet hair and a new subtle undercut in the back, then went over to Sister-in-Law Emily’s dorm to bring her back our way to see none other than Henry Rollins.

We didn’t have enough time to eat nearby–with traffic, parking, and events, especially when I believe there were both Pirates and Pens games that same day, I like a nice two-hour chunk of time to eat, and we didn’t have it. But we did have time to eat elsewhere, so we introduced Emily to the wonders of Mad Mex. It’s a shame she didn’t have the proper appetite to truly enjoy it because it’s the best.

And so is Henry Rollins. He’s one of those guys who’s come through tow a few times in the last several years and I’ve managed to miss him every time, so I jumped on this chance–25 bucks to see him in a small lecture hall in Oakland. Not bad at all. This tour is focused on his travel stories, and he has a lot of great things to say not just about what he’s learned and experienced abroad, but how some of that can apply to us here, with a nice dose of why everyone ought to travel. All three of us loved him.

We came back to the house and slept in pretty late–Paul and I have been experimenting with letting the cat roam the house now that she’s settled in, and the weekend was the first time trying it. I was worried about her getting into trouble so the slightest noise kept waking me up, and on top of that, she has a thing for attacking you under the sheets. We think the issue is that, being a cat, she doesn’t get what they’re for, so when they move, she absolutely must investigate…with her claws. I’ve noticed that for the most part, she only does this right before bed and when she’s awake and ready to take on the day in the morning, so it might also be a play/attention-getting thing, but it hurts and is not conducive to sleep. Which is how I ended up sleeping late into the morning and also why she sometimes gets kicked out with the door shut behind her, as much as I’d love to sleep with a kitty.

We took Emily to our usual coffee run, then took her back to Greensburg. We made a pit stop at the mall for a bit, and after we dropped her off, we headed over into Uniontown to see Million Dollar Quartet.

And turns out half our family was there. I knew my godmother and her husband were going, but my mom’s Aunt Elaine and Uncle Del were there, too, and we were all coincidentally in the same row, just different sections.

Million Dollar Quartet made the Broadway rounds a few years ago, but it’s a great, short musical if you like early rock ‘n’ roll. Brandon and I first saw it when the tour came through Pittsburgh a few years ago and loved it, so hearing it was gonna be in little Uniontown was a pleasant surprise. It has a runtime of just under two hours and is structured almost more like a concert than a musical, so it’s great for the non-musical-theater types, too. And funnily enough, Brandon and I enjoyed it more this time around than the first.

I took Monday off to sleep in, which I really needed, and then we were out yet again Tuesday night. And who did we run into yet again–an hour away from home in Greensburg–but Aunt Lainie and Uncle Del?

We all chose the same place, The Headkeeper, for evening food and beer. We were in the area to see Emily again, this time doing a reading on campus, and they were heading into downtown for a concert.

Emily was one of a few students on the bill opening for a pretty cool, well-known poet, Guante. I’ve never read any of her poetry before, and I was honestly impressed. And she read with the perfect amount of attitude and sass and looked awesome in this jumpsuit she got while we were shopping Sunday. All of the kids were great–and Paul kept saying, “They’re not kids!” We had a really good time, and the only bummer was that my former professor wasn’t there.

And so a solid three days of good times–four if sleeping in counts as a good time–came to and end, and the nice thing is it’s already the middle of the week. Keeping busy can be fun. This weekend, I don’t think we have any plans, but Paul mentioned maybe inviting his parents over. Failing that, my vote’s for a movie. We don’t see enough movies.

Well, the downside to this being my last Saturday having to work is that the way the scheduling works means I didn’t get a three-day holiday weekend–but the perk is that normally, I’d only have Sunday off and would use a vacation day for Monday. So at least I got what would be a normal weekend without having to use a vacation day.

So Sunday, we mostly ran errands. We went for our usual coffee and pastries, but Paul wanted to try this donut place he somehow only just noticed next to Planet Fitness. Turns out it’s more of a hardcore but amazing dessert place, where you can get things like a donut ice-cream sandwich, which is as delicious and terrible for you as it sounds. We got a carrier for our new cat and stopped at the outlets for a bit, got a good gym session in, and then got frozen custard, and that’s how we ate nothing but ice-cream like products for a whole day.

We’ve had a lot of rain lately and Paul and I have a few weekends this month already booked, so the goal is already to cram in what we can when we can. So this weekend, that meant the annual trip to the Renaissance festival. We had the usual plan of getting Emily from her dorm while we were nearby anyway, and with this being the first summer that Jacob and Katie are back from California, Emily had the idea to invite them. Now, I’d thought about the two youngest siblings in the crew, but them joining would mean someone would have to pick them up and take them home, which means a solid two hours of driving out of our way, as opposed to, like, the 20 minutes it takes for Emily. But Jacob suggested we invite them, so we did the whole we’ll-take-them-home-if-you-pick-them-up deal that’s all too familiar to those of us who were constantly asking for rides as teenagers. And suddenly, I felt like my parents. I’d have had a better attitude about it if it were just teenagers without licenses, but one of them is a 20-something who just…has no motivation to drive, and that’s where I start to get annoyed with it. I have no problem driving siblings to hang out when they’re so much younger than Paul, but it’s different when you’re dealing with an adult.

Being out with them all is also kind of hilarious. There were five of them, with Julie living in Erie, and Katie and I were the only significant others in tow. And with five siblings out on a really hot day all trying to manage what to do and where to go, naturally, they got on each others’ nerves, and I feel like almost every single sibling complained about another one at some point over the course of the day. But all in all, everyone had a good time. I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’m very big on doing my best to make sure everyone in a group gets to do what they want to do–I’ve had too many times in the past where I’ve felt ignored at best and pushed out at worst, so I’ve swung hard the other direction when the roles are reversed. The catch is that based off my experience with Paul, I’m pretty sure not everyone’s gonna say, “Well, I’d like to go to this vendor or that show,” but I do what I can and hope for the best.

And we did have a nice visit with the in-laws when we dropped the boys off. They made me watch Spaceballs at last, and I realize for those who know me that the fact that I never saw it before is a major shock. Honestly, though? I enjoyed it, it was funny, but I’ve heard so many of the jokes so many times before out of context that they weren’t as funny. I think The Producers holds strong as my favorite Mel Brooks movie.

And tomorrow, we pick up our new cat! We might have the parents come hang out and see her this weekend, and maybe other than a movie or something, we’ll probably stay in–as much as I want to cram in Shakespeare in the Park this month, I also don’t want to leave a kitten alone the first weekend we have her, especially if we’re only picking her up on a Wednesday. I’d like to have an idea of what sorts of shenanigans she gets into, if any, before we head out into the city for a day.