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.



I feel like I say some variation of this every year, but I also think it’s worth repeating every year.

A new year is an obvious, easy new start. I get why people push for growth no matter the time of year, and I don’t disagree, but if you’re looking for a fresh start, even if it’s more symbolic, New Year’s just presents it to you. A lot of people look at resolutions as though they’re destined to be broken, but I think maybe a lot of people just have the wrong attitude and put too much into them. It’s never a bad thing to set goals.

Every year, I spell mine out, and every year, I like to look back on how I did. I certainly tackled some big ones in 2018.

  • Buy a house Done. We found our house around late February, early March, and closed Easter weekend, right on the last day of March.
  • Get a new job This is one I set every year and never accomplish, mostly through lack of trying. Thing is, job hunting is at the very bottom of my list of priorities–it’s something I want but don’t need, so things like freelance opportunities come first. And I don’t by any means think that’s a bad thing! I’d rather focus on that extra income and work on a writing career than a new job, especially when staying put has major perks, too. Not to mention buying a house and the process of actually moving took up a lot of time. So I only applied to a handful this year and heard nothing back, but we’ll see how 2019 goes.
  • Take on more freelance work I call this half-done–I rediscovered some older opportunities I’d looked into rather than finding new ones, and unfortunately, one of the sites I was writing for decided to reevaluate their needs and took a break from doing the sort of content I and other writers were creating. The hope was that it would start back up, but it’s been a couple months and it’s increasingly unlikely.
  • Publish writing Much like job hunting, this is low on the priority list, again because I prioritize work I know I’ll get paid for. But with little work to do in the final week or so of 2018, I had some time to get stuff out there, and while this does mark the second year in a row that I didn’t get any creative work out into the world, I did technically submit something–I just won’t have an answer until 2019. But I did submit!
  • Subscribe to a newspaper I didn’t do it as early in the year as I would’ve liked, but I did do it. We don’t need physical papers piling up for various reasons, but we do now have a digital subscription to our local paper. And it’s about time, really. We’ve been living in this city for a few years, and we ought to know what’s happening beyond what we catch on social media.
  • Travel somewhere Done. Sure, we mostly traveled for weddings, but still, one of those got us out of state and to the beach. And then a few weeks ago, I took a bus trip to DC with my mom and her best friend. But hey, I just wanted to go somewhere, and I did. 2017 kept us busy wedding planning and we never really went anywhere, so I was just glad we had a few days away from home.
  • Save money We did…until we didn’t. Obviously, we put down a payment for a house, and then we spent a few thousand dollars more redoing the floors. Since then, we haven’t really squirreled much more money away, but I’m optimistic heading into 2019, because…
  • Pay off a credit card, ideally two …I succeeded in this, and I succeeded in the ideal of paying off two cards. We have one small balance–and I mean less than 100 bucks–from when we bought some stuff when we got our cat, but otherwise, any store-specific cards aren’t carrying a balance. But the two biggies were at the end of the month/year. I had a balance transfer with a few hundred bucks left on the account the was set to start charging interest in January, so I paid that off with my mot recent paycheck, and we had an account for our new bedroom furniture also set to start charging interest in January, so I paid that off with Paul’s most recent paycheck, all for a grand total of around 1,500 bucks. Not a ton, but enough. Now all I have left are two cards with bigger balances that will be the focus in 2019.
  • Read 20 books, preferably more Fail. But again, I blame the time suck of house hunting and moving. I hit 13. I think I did better than 2017, at least!
  • Get back into a good, regular gym routine Again, house, but I did get back into a good routine in the last quarter of the year. I went sporadically leading up to that, but these last couple months, I have made it to the gym a couple times a week. And it’s open today, so we may hit it for the first time in 2019.
  • Get organized This another one that I kind of did but kind of didn’t. I wouldn’t say I’m more organized now than I was a year ago, especially because we still haven’t unpacked everything. But moving has forced us to go through things, so I’ve at least purged some stuff I didn’t want or need. Having more space has helped, too, so stuff that kept our apartment cluttered has room to stretch or room to be stored. We’re definitely taking advantage of the fact that almost every room has closets with built-in shelving, as well as our small attic space. We did lose some space in our bedroom, though–strangely, the apartment’s bedroom was bigger, but having the rest of the house makes that a little easier. And I’ve taken advantage of things that create more storage space, like multi-garment hangers in the closet and built-in drawers on the bed. I also jump on any other gadgets that help save space or help keep things organized.
  • Stop being fucking late I feel like most people I know would tell you I’m still late for everything, but honestly, I feel like I’m less late than I used to be. I’m certainly never late for work now that I work from home, with the exception of one morning when my alarm didn’t go off. But even then, at least oversleeping just means that I rushed to get on my computer and clock in, not that I had to rush to get ready and drive somewhere.
  • Keep up with past successful resolutions I think I’m doing pretty good.
  • Take more initiative with friends as far as making plans–hopefully, a house will happen and having the space will make this easier I was right about this. The only big thing we really had was for Memorial Day, but we did get people together for smaller things a couple of times in the fall. I certainly feel like I’ve seen more of some people this year than I have in past years, and I’ve also done some reconnecting. At this point, for the most part, if we’re not seeing people we want to as often as we want to, it’s a matter of not having the time. We’re busy, and we both like to still have downtime at home, so we try to juggle that, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Goals. Here we go.

  • Buy a house
  • Get a new job
  • Take on more freelance work
  • Publish writing
  • Subscribe to a newspaper
  • Travel somewhere
  • Save money
  • Pay off a credit card, ideally two
  • Read 20 books, preferably more
  • Get back into a good, regular gym routine
  • Get organized
  • Stop being fucking late
  • Keep up with past successful resolutions
  • Take more initiative with friends as far as making plans–hopefully, a house will happen and having the space will make this easier

On the Loss of a Dog and the New Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 5: I Don’t Get It Either

  1. Twitch is an enormously popular livestreaming platform mostly for watching people play video games. It has more than 1.5 million broadcasters and more than one million visitors per month, and Amazon acquired it for nearly a billion dollars in 2014. Which of your computer activities would you livestream if there were a way to make some money doing it? Man, I don’t think anything I do is interesting enough to warrant it. I’d say the closest thing would be writing–it could potentially be useful for writers to see another’s process, but even then, I’m not sure how much interest that would really have. It would inevitably get boring, and I don’t think it would take very long to do so.
  2. EDM (electronic dance music) is usually performed by DJs on stage in front of audiences, playing tracks they’ve mixed, right off their laptops. If you were a push-button DJ playing your tunes in a club, what would be your opening and closing songs, assuming everyone’s there because they’re into whatever sounds you’re into? I’m honestly not sure! I usually love music-related questions, but this is tough–it would have to be something that got people excited, so something fast. Maybe some Erasure. Although these days, even still, I find that “Uptown Funk” gets people up. I mean, if I were to actually do this, I’d spend an absurd amount of time crafting my playlist. For closing, that’s a little easier. I’d do David Bowie’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” I ended my wedding with that, which was a bit of risqué choice, but it’s a fun song and some of our guests were heading off to hotels for the night so I thought it was a nice little joke.
  3. What’s a good Adele song, and why is Adele so popular? I think my favorite Adele song is “Rumor Has It” because I like the beat. I like her, although I haven’t bought any of her music because I’m not sure how much I like her. I think a lot of the appeal is in her voice, and on top of that, I think she taps into something lyrically that a lot of people can relate to. I think she’s a good songwriter, too.
  4. The Walking DeadI think I have a weird perspective on this because since I don’t have cable, I keep up with pretty much no TV as it airs–I catch up on things on Netflix. I have a few reasons for this, but I won’t get into them here. But I’ve watched the show at my job, so I saw maybe half of last season. I like zombie stories, so I like the show. I know some people, and my mom is one of them, who are starting to get a little bored with it because they feel like the seasons are a little formulaic, where each season there’s a new threat to the group and they get rid of it only to have another one pop up. Personally, while I totally believe people when they say this and that’s a valid complaint, since I’ve seen so little on the show, it’s not one that I share. That said, one of the things I like about it is I feel like it’s a pretty realistic depiction of how people would act in the apocalypse. Just going off of two big characters I’m familiar with from last season, Negan is a psycho who takes advantage of the collapse of society to pretty much do what he wants and get people to pretty much take care of him by bashing people’s heads in. Ezekiel was a regular dude who used the apocalypse kind of similarly to Negan in that he managed to get some kind of power for himself, but he does it in a more fantastical, over-the-top way and without killing people. I feel like should everything really go to shit on that level, yeah, people would absolutely act like that.
  5. Every generation seems to arrive at a “They don’t write ’em like that anymore” attitude. Why does it seem like most middle-aged people lose interest in new music? Okay, so here’s my theory, at the ripe old age of 28, with all of my life experience and wisdom–I’m already bored with most of the music I hear. I’ve found that I very, very rarely get excited about new artists. I get excited about new music from artists I’ve already discovered, sure, but it’s not often that I hear something on the radio and love it. I think this is because as a music lover, and I mean as someone who spends a significant amount of money on concert tickets, still buys CDs, plays music just about every waking moment that I can, and also writes about music, I’ve listened to a lot. Like, when I go on Spotify, I look at what’s happening in my friend activity and listen to things they’re listening to that I’ve heard of and haven’t given a chance, and then I do the same with the new releases, and then if I haven’t run out of things to listen to there before bedtime, I go to stuff I’ve liked and saved. But I think the fact that I listen to so much means I’m on the same page, in some ways, as that “music’s not as good anymore” crowd, in the sense that I think that statement’s coming from a place of boredom. It’s not that all new music is bad, it’s just that if you’ve heard a lot of it, particularly as the popularity of certain genres fluctuates, you’re not hearing much you haven’t heard already. The best example I can give is Lady Gaga. I’ve been pretty outspoken about being unimpressed with her on the whole, and that’s because she’s not really that original. It’s pop music. When “Just Dance” came out, I could admit it was a catchy song, but it’s a song about a 20-something girl getting drunk and dancing in the club, and that’s a song we’ve all heard before in one form or another. I’m not as critical of Gaga as I used to be, but I still feel like she’s a pop star rehashing decades of music and even over-the-top wardrobe that came before her. I’m not saying she’s ripping people off or even that I dislike it because I’ve added a good few Gaga songs to my collection, but I’m saying it isn’t new or original. And look, in another 10 or 20 years, there’s probably gonna be some other pop star doing something similar, and all the kids of that era are gonna love it and the rest of us are gonna be like, “I’ve seen this before.” I think that’s the crux of that attitude, I just don’t think that people put much thought into what it is they don’t like about “today’s music” or why. Having said all that, though, there’s always something good and exciting out there. I’ve said this before, but “today’s music sucks” doesn’t mean there’s not a single good song that’s been released in 10 years, it means you’re looking in the wrong places. I can promise you, we’ve all got songs we’d absolutely love that just haven’t come to us. There’s a lot out there. It’s just a matter of listening to it.

As always, from Friday 5.

When Priests Are Also Assholes

So, obviously, the wedding day was hectic. At rehearsal, I’d expected to pay the choir, organist, etc. because at some point, that is what I’d been told, but none of them were actually there. So while I was sitting all done up waiting for my cue to go down the aisle, I was writing out checks to whoever I needed.

I forgot a check.

I remembered just a tad too late–after we’d left after the ceremony–that we still owed the church $150. “Whatever,” we thought, “we’ll take it to the office next week.” And we kind of forgot about it plus had other things going on, and on top of that, getting to the church office before it closes is tough. It closes at 4, and typically, Paul works until 3:30 and that’s when I’m just getting home, but lately, I’ve been working until 4, 5 the past two nights specifically. Paul can be home within 15 minutes, but then you have to truck it up to church fast. So it just wasn’t working out, and we had the post-wedding chaos of returning alcohol and mixers and taking care of anything else we needed to. The church check, honestly, slipped our minds, but the business manager did remind us. I asked him the best way to get it to him, he took a couple days to reply, and by then, it was the weekend. Paul even asked me in the pew this past Sunday if we could put it in the collection basket, and I said no, it has to go to the office. That or we could mail it, but why waste a stamp when we can just walk it up?

I’m not thrilled about the fact that we weren’t prompt with it. It’s one of our shared faults. I won’t deny we dropped the ball on that one, or that I should’ve replied to the business manager to let him know we’d be taking it to the office. However, the way it got handled after that is…unfortunate.

The main priest at the church e-mailed me this morning–not the one who actually performed the ceremony as he was transferred in July and came back for the wedding, but the main priest in charge at the parish now. When my phone pinged, I thought, “Oh, fuck, he’s probably not happy, better shoot a text to Paul to tell him to take a check up.” And honestly, all either of us needed was just a little prod. If you want to argue we shouldn’t need that, fine, whatever, but people forget things, shit happens, and that was honestly all it took to jog my brain right to, “Tell Paul to take a check.” So I’m expecting displeasure but otherwise civility, and what I got was pretty rude.

In retrospect, it’s not that bad, but it’s…not great. It’s a bit much under circumstances, especially between a priest and parishioner. The basic gist of it is the business manager forwarded our correspondence to the priest, who said, “I am disappointed that you continue to delay this process. Your casual manner in dealing with the payment due to the Church is ill-mannered,” and as a sort of PS, “This is the first time in 45 years I have had to send a ‘Second Notice’ regarding a Wedding.”

I won’t touch his questionable use of capital letters.

For starters, I take issue with the business manager going to the priest at all. To me, that’s something that should be a last resort, something you do when we’re not responding at all or we keep saying, “Yep, we’ll bring it tomorrow,” and failing to do so. I feel like the business manager couldn’t handle it himself and went whining to the priest, when all this whole thing needed was a simple, “Hey, you still owe us.” That’s a whole bitchy e-mail chain avoided right there.

As for what the priest actually said, I take issue with that, starting with the implication that I’m intentionally not paying them or dragging this thing out for, what my health? Entertainment? What, like all I do is sit around at home thinking, “Huh, how long can I drag this out?” I feel like I was being spoken to like a child, like I was being reprimanded, and on top of that, like the priority is money. We owed them. I get that. They have expenses to cover, and the diocese is evaluating which churches to close over the next year or so. But it comes off a certain way when your e-mail reads like a Catholic version of, “Bitch better have my money.” Frankly, with his word choice, it felt like he was attacking my character and had zero compassion or understand regarding, you know, life.

So I sat and stewed over it at work–it came in about quarter ’till 11, I was stuck there until 5, got home at 5:30, and that whole time, I was fucking pissed. I felt like he took a tone with me because he’s a priest and he thinks he can. Terra thinks he didn’t think I’d respond. My sister-in-law Emily thinks if he’d been communicating with Paul, he wouldn’t have used that tone at all.

So with the help of my mom, I crafted a reply. I mostly used her as a proofreader and Bitch Editor–you know, someone to look at it and say, “This sounds good, this is too much, use this word and not that one.” And the basic gist of that was just about what I said here, just more concisely and worded very directly and concisely. I apologized for the delay but said I hoped he understood that it’s a busy time and we lost track of some things–he clearly didn’t, or else he wouldn’t have sent that e-mail, but hey, I figure he deserves his own smidge of passive-aggressive condescension. I went on to say that despite this, the tone of his e-mail was disrespectful, condescending, unacceptable and uncalled for, that it was particularly disappointing coming from a priest and going to a parishioner, that it made it seem like all he cared about was the money, that I didn’t appreciate his unwarranted criticism based on how he interpreted the situation, that the business manager should have communicated with me directly rather than involve him, that I felt it was blown out of proportion over a relatively small amount of money.

There was a time when I never would’ve sent that e-mail and would’ve let it go–deleted it, sent the check, felt shitty, and moved on, but man, fuck that. I’m not gonna let a priest be an asshole to me about 150 bucks. Sure, I’m dreading getting a reply and I freak out a little every time my Gmail pings and I’m having worst-case-scenario imaginings of him making his sermon about me, but shit, I’d rather make it clear that I won’t be spoken to like that than just take it. I mean…really? Of all the ways you could’ve said we owed you money, that was what you chose?

I need to call my shrink, but that could be weird because he goes to that church. Whatever.

Well, my weekend got off to a nice, shitty start when I got a message from a former coworker about, uh…let’s just say something that attracted his attention while he was with the company. He framed it as the inspiration for a screenplay and was asking my opinion on the matter, but frankly, it seemed to me that it was a hell of a lot more likely that he just wanted to make sure I was aware that he was, say, looking at me in a certain way and for specific reasons. I’ve written a post about it, but for now, I’m sitting on it since it deals with work–I don’t want to risk it becoming bigger than it needs to be at the moment, but rest assured that when I feel I can, I’ll post it. And you can be even more sure that if I hear so much as a rumble of this screenplay actually coming into fruition, I will put this motherfucker on blast and shout from the rooftops of Pittsburgh about how creepy and gross he apparently is.

I will say, though, that now that I’ve had a couple days to think about it and calm down–because when I first read the message, I was so angry that I was shaking and I eventually woke Paul up because I didn’t know what to do and needed to talk to someone–I’ve come to a couple conclusions, mostly about his possible intentions. First and foremost, I honestly think this guy thought I’d take it as a compliment, but that’s exactly part of what makes it so inappropriate. I also think that because there’s at least a few years’ age difference between us–though I don’t know for sure–there may be an element here of an older man counting on a younger woman to be easily flattered and naive, almost like a sort of power thing. I think it’s pretty clear that he didn’t expect me to respond negatively, and respond negatively I did. Granted, I also blocked him from Twitter and I don’t know what impact, if any, that might have on whether or not he got my reply, but I made it very clear that he was disrespectful and disgusting and that he’d crossed a line. I thought about saying, “Guess you didn’t notice my engagement ring,” but it’s also pretty clear that he was, uh, looking elsewhere.

The silver lining? Just about every single person I told was shocked and said something like, “What the hell/fuck?” But the sad part is that when Paul told his tai chi class, the women started swapping stories about similar experiences, with some even sharing stories of being followed. It’s a sad reflection of what women have to deal with. As my mom said, you never know who’s gonna say or do something like this. This former coworker was someone I never really socialized with while he was still there, and we’d only exchanged a few Twitter messages after he left. In fact, I’m even wondering if he wasn’t intending on saying this to me back then when he first contacted me.

Unfortunately, it marred what should’ve been an exciting day–not that it wasn’t, because it’s not like it ruined my whole day, but it was definitely not how I thought I’d be starting it.

I had my first fitting for my wedding dress, which was pretty great. I had some anxiety about fitting into the thing since I really thought my efforts to lose weight would’ve seen faster, more noticeable results, and while it is a little snug, I can get into it, and I’m gonna keep working. It doesn’t need a lot of alteration, and the alterations it does need were pretty predictable for me–it’s too big in the chest and too long. But it was prettier than I remembered, and I think I love it even more than when I first tried it on.

My mom came out for the fitting, so Paul met us for lunch, and in the afternoon, after a change in plans, we went to the South Hills to get his tux rental taken care of. We’re gonna look good.

Sunday brought the church music meeting, where we had to pick out all the music we want played for the ceremony and choose cantors. We decided to spring for the choir–we have a lot more money in our bank accounts right now than I thought we would and we’re coming in under budget on most of what we’ve already done, plus I was afraid we’d regret it. Every time we hear the choir sing in church, we’re impressed, and I’ve said more than once now I’d pay for them to sing at the wedding without realizing I actually could. I figured that the first mass we went to with the choir after the wedding, we’d immediately regret not having them, and as we’re now three months and a few days away from the wedding and everything is coming together, there’s not a whole hell of a lot I’m looking at and wanting to change. That’s good, obviously, but I don’t want the music to be an exception. So we’re going for it. We’ll slip into church next month, when the choir performs at two weddings, both for fellow choir members, to listen to how it sounds since it could impact our song selections, but I can’t imagine we’ll come out of it saying, “Nah, let’s not do that.”

So aside from some other downtime, it was all wedding all weekend, and I’m expecting that to happen more and more over the summer. Except this coming weekend. We’re heading off to Erie to visit Paul’s sisters.

When I was in college, finals time was filled with events for us to attend, typically as ways to de-stress. The one that stands out most was moonlight breakfast because it was my favorite–a free late-night breakfast served in the cafeteria–but I know there were plenty of other things. And this is a pretty common thing across college campuses. Paul’s sister Emily, who’s actually going to my alma mater, spent some time the other day playing with dogs they brought to campus. I’m jealous. I would’ve been all over that in college. Hell, I’d be all over that now.

Because 2016 isn’t done destroying everything yet, we had a funeral to attend today for Paul’s uncle’s dad. Afterwards, a member of the family hosted everyone for lunch, as is pretty typical, and we ended up at a table with some people from his side of the family we didn’t know. Paul’s dad happened to mention something to me about talking to Emily and hearing about the dogs, and the woman’s reaction was kind of…strange.

She started off by saying that kids who attend things like that weren’t “raised right.” When I explained they’re just little events throughout the week to help the kids de-stress, she said that they need to learn how to handle stress on their own. I was starting to get kind of irritated with her attitude about the whole thing at this point and made the point that it’s not the sort of thing where the events aren’t some sort of crutch, they’re just events and tools, really.

The conversation shifted after that, and had it not, I don’t think it would’ve gone so well. But I was surprised by how strongly she felt about it, and I’m confused as to how de-stress events that are usually pretty simple got conflated into essentially coddling–she didn’t use that word, but it was implied. It was as though in her mind, the school holding any sort of event at all to help with stress was going too far, especially given her comment about students needing to learn to manage stress themselves, but it’s not like these events stop them from being able to do that. Really, they’re nothing more than opportunities for them to de-stress on their own, especially for kids who might be stuck on campus without a car and little to no money to go out and do something otherwise. The school isn’t holding their hand and guiding them through how to handle the stress, it’s merely providing an opportunity for them to actually do it. I’m sure the kids who went knew damn well they’d enjoy it and didn’t need a university to tell them that, and I don’t see it as being much different than being an adult coming home to a pet after a long day.

Even if it were a matter of providing some guidance on how to alleviate stress, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, particularly if you’re taking young adults who aren’t quite out in the world yet and are teaching them healthy ways of doing it. I understand the importance of people learning how to cope on their own, but some people turn to terrible, unhealthy ways of doing that, and there’s nothing wrong with giving these kids a little nudge in the right direction. It’s not coddling, it’s not babying, it’s not “PC culture,” it’s not that kids these days are wimps who can’t handle anything–it’s a good, helpful thing to do, especially if you end up with kids abusing drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism who might carry that into adulthood. Guidance isn’t a bad thing.

I went to some of those events in college myself, and I appreciated the opportunity to go to them because it got me out of my dorm and at least out doing something else. And here I am, a functional adult who does, in fact, know how to handle stress despite my school holding those events. I rarely get stressed these days as it is, and when I do, I know what helps with it. I even know that if I get too overwhelmed or I just need a little push, I can schedule with my therapist, but I’m gonna guess that people who have a problem with puppies on a college campus probably have a problem with people seeking professional help, too.

The whole thing was blown completely out of proportion, really. I think part of the issue may have been that Paul’s dad specifically said “service dogs,” so I think maybe she misinterpreted their role on the campus and the purpose of the event and thought that it was a little more serious than it actually was.

I also find it kind of funny that someone got as worked up about de-stress events as she did. Maybe she could benefit from them herself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it does have me feeling a little more optimistic.