2020

There were two things I had my eye on doing this year that will be put on hold with a baby arriving in July: I wanted to redo our landscaping but don’t want to spend that money now, and I wanted to buy a nice, high-quality camera and start getting into proper concert photography, but I probably won’t have the time or motivation.

I expect 2020 to be similar to 2019 in that big changes are happening, albeit on the complete other end of the life spectrum, and therefore time will be limited and things will be thrown into chaos. That said, here’s what I’m looking to do.

  • Small projects around the house. Obviously, we’ll need the baby’s room done, which means ripping out built-in shelving that’s taking up an entire wall in that bedroom and fixing the carpet where Sarge, the new cat, pulled it up. But I’d still like to tackle one other small project since the landscaping is being scrapped, and I’ve got my eye specifically on replacing the hot-water tank. We had to have a part replaced on the furnace last winter, and while the guy was doing that, he pointed out some corrosion near the water tank and said it’ll need replaced soon-ish, and I want to go tankless anyway.
  • Find Paul a new job. I think his current one will still hang on a bit, but if he can get out of there so we’re not worried about what might happen and maybe even get a job good enough that would allow me to quit and stay home with the baby, that would be nice.
  • Get published. I’ve got one piece out in the ether I’m waiting for a response on, and I fully expect this is gonna be a tough one to tackle after the baby’s born–mostly. Like many writers, I have plenty of things written that needs homes, so if nothing else, my hope is to send some of that out when I have time. At least that’s a relatively short process.
  • Explore freelance opportunities. Look, a new job is out of the question. My current situation working from home is too convenient to ditch while pregnant or with a new baby, and frankly, taking on a lot of extra work is a dumb idea, too. But if I can find a few small things to throw in to make a little more money and/or get my name and work in the world more? Awesome.
  • Get physical. I have been knocked on my ass since I found out I was pregnant. The nausea and vomiting are pretty much gone now, but I’m so, so tired. But I would really like to get back to the gym just to hit a treadmill a couple times a week because I know it would be good for me, it’s just really hard to muster the energy.
  • Don’t neglect myself in the postpartum months. Obviously, I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how I’ll feel physically or emotionally or what my kid will be like. I don’t expect to bounce back quickly, but I’d still like to get back into a good workout routine when possible and do what I can to make sure I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I don’t expect it to be easy, but I’ve got a great husband who’s been solid so far and I don’t doubt will be a good parent on his own but will also not let it all fall on me.
  • Be a kick-ass mom. When I think ahead to when the baby’s born, I keep thinking about the fun I think we’ll have. Everyone talks about how much things change and how hard having a new baby is and I believe them, but you know what I’ve also heard? That it’s exciting, fun, and rewarding, and I have plenty of examples around me of parents whose lives haven’t ended the way a lot of people like to make it sound like they will. As on of Paul’s work friends put it, if someone is still heavily into, like, late-night-drinking culture, sure, that’s done, but for those of us who stay in almost all week and venture out on weekends? We’re gonna be fine. So for 2020 and the six-ish months of it I’ll spend as a new mom, I want to take our kid out into the world to enjoy as much of life as a baby can, the way Paul and I have. Plus he or she will have two cousins to meet and get to know, plus grandparents and plenty of aunts and uncles.

And really, that’s it for the year–I say that as though it’s gonna be a simple year. It’s a short list, sure, but because of huge changes coming. They’re already underway, really.

And it’s all too fitting that Paul and I are having a kid in the year that will bring out 10th anniversary as a couple. That’s insane. We’ve already spent a decade of our lives together! Ridiculous.

2019

Like I said, 2019 was a ridiculous year, with my niece’s birth, my dad’s death, and my pregnancy, and just as things would settle down or we’d get into a normal routine again, something would happen. One week, I’d be in the gym almost every evening, the next my dad was in the hospital or my parents needed a dog sitter while they traveled to treatment. We’d have a good week of relatively healthy, home-cooked meals, the next we’re driving to my parents’ house or the hospital and the fastest, easiest option is takeout. We might have the time to do something but not the energy or vice versa, and getting pregnant only added to that–I’d been back in a gym routine for all of a month when I was either too tired or nauseous to go or even read a book or watch a movie. It truly knocked me on my ass for a few months there.

And so that meant goals for the year kind of were neglected, although when I went back and looked at this list I made at the beginning of 2019, I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d accomplished a lot more than I’d thought.

  • Home improvements. What I had in mind was either new paint or new siding as our big project, plus smaller things like replacing some old, worn doors and staining the deck, and looking further ahead like stretch goals on Kickstarter, replacing the water heater, upgrading our thermostat, getting the fireplace in working order, installing an electrical outlet in the main bathroom, new landscaping if the siding was done and the price was right, and new furniture, including a small china cabinet and something for recyclables. I zeroed in on paint and was looking into that when we got a really good offer on siding, so we seized that opportunity instead and since we dumped that much money into it, that meant landscaping and furniture were out of the question. But we did get a new thermostat when the current one ended up breaking in the summer, as well as recycling bins.
  • Keep a cleaner home. Eh, we did and we didn’t. It’s hard to keep your house tidy when you’re running all over the place for half the year then spend the tail end barely functioning as a human. I had a stack of dishes on my desk solely because even just taking them to the sink was too much–why do that when I can go straight to bed and lie down? But we at least did some things to help with organization.
  • Don’t say a fucking word about turning 30. My point here was that it’s insane that we act like 30 is old.  So I tweeted about how I wasn’t bothered by turning 30 and that was it.
  • Be a kick-ass aunt. I’d love to see Eliana more, but I think I’m killin’ it when I’m with her.
  • Have my own kid? My exact words last year: “I don’t feel like I’m ready to have kids, but I know everyone says you never are and I know myself well enough to know that if I ever do feel ready, it’ll be too late. So I’m leaving this up to fate. We’re not actively trying but not actively preventing, either, so whatever happens happens.” Well, it happened! I mean, sure, the child will be born in 2020 rather than 2019, but close enough.
  • Get back in shape. LOL no.
  • Get published. I’m not positive, but I don’t think I sent a single thing out in 2019. This was one of those things that really got put on the backburner.
  • Finish a library book without renewing it the max amount of times. I did it! Sure, it was a short book, but it counts!
  • Read more books than last year. So close. I was up to 18, got pregnant, and spent most of November and December in bed. I’m convinced I would’ve hit 20, maybe more, otherwise.
  • Travel. Another one that didn’t happen.
  • Cut credit-card debt in half. Another LOL no.
  • Entertain more. Kind of, maybe? Not as often as I would’ve like, but we did manage to have a few small get-togethers.
  • Get involved in politics. This was another one that got swept aside as things got busy.
  • Keep up with old resolutions. I said my main one here was to keep up with old friends, and I’d say we did a good job of that considering we’re all adults with plenty going on.
  • Keep prioritizing myself. This is a weird one in a year where there were plenty of situations and reasons where others needed to come first instead, although it’s fair to point out that there’s a difference between considering a dying parent and a new baby in the family versus, like, not putting up with other people’s stupid bullshit. I wouldn’t say that those things mean I, or anyone else, isn’t considering their own wants and needs, it’s just different–it’s the difference between self-care and selfishness. So as far as sticking to doing what’s best for my wellbeing, I’d call it a win.
  • Get a new job. Like publishing, I don’t know that I applied for a single one all year, again because it was not only the bottom of the priority list but also because it wasn’t the time to do it. The perks of my current job became really evident in 2019–I had three weeks’ of vacation time and understanding bosses who didn’t have a problem with taking time off on short notice when my dad was diagnosed, and then when I got pregnant, working from home while getting nauseous and vomiting occasionally was so, so much easier than having to commute and sit in the office and worry about having to book it down the hall to the bathroom. Now, working from home full-time with a new baby isn’t gonna happen without help, but it is a piece that makes this whole thing easier.

And Baby Makes Three

The signs have there over the past few weeks–mentions of being tired, not having had alcohol since November, not feeling well, having news that I wasn’t ready to share…

2019 was a ridiculous year. In order, my husband found out he was losing his job to Mexico (the transition is still in progress over a year later…), my dad was diagnosed with cancer, my niece was born, my dad died, and then, just when things got back to normal, I got pregnant!

A friend of mine was turning 30 and having a party at her house, my period was late, and I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. Bur rather than go to a party and drink, I figured I ought to be super sure. So I peed on a stick, got distracted by Paul calling me while running errands, and let it sit a little too long–I was that confident I’d get a negative. Instead, I saw a very, very faint second line, so faint that I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Erring on the side of caution, I didn’t drink at the party. I took a second test when we got home, and same thing–a line so faint that I wouldn’t have even seen it if I hadn’t looked closely.

It was Veteran’s Day weekend, and the next morning, we were meeting up with my mom, Brandon, Kelly, and baby Eliana to visit my dad’s grave and have lunch for Brandon’s birthday. As a doting auntie, I seize any opportunity to be all over Eliana, so when we were at the restaurant, I went right for her. Brandon has this running joke of saying to me, “Get your own baby!” so this time, when he did, I said, “Well…” and explained. Kelly happened to still have pictures of her positive pregnancy test and showed them to me to compare, and they were nearly identical. I figured I’d wait a week and retest.

And then, within 24 hours, morning sickness hit. Well, not morning sickness, exactly, more like evening sickness, but the typical pregnancy symptoms started appearing. Up to that point, I’d only had two hints that I was pregnant–one, my boobs hurt, which they normally do on my period so I dismissed it, and two, a sort of tight feeling in my stomach every so often. I did test again, mostly as a formality, and sure enough, that one was a very clear positive.

I’d been a little bummed that I hadn’t gotten pregnant up to that point, but man, getting a positive test is still kind of terrifying. My first thought, truly, was “Oh, fuck,” then, “I’m too young,” then, “That makes no damn sense, idiot, you’re 30.” It’s a strange mix of excitement and paralyzing fear that tend to alternate, although lately, excitement dominates, especially as we tell more and more people and everyone gets really excited. And then sometimes I feel like I’m not excited enough, like when I hear other women talk about miscarrying or infertility, like I’m taking it for granted. And then I think that this is probably some fucked-up thing that society does to women and that we do to ourselves–my kid isn’t even born yet and already I’m feeling pressure.

Similarly, I’ve thought a lot about the practice of not making an announcement until after the first trimester, when the chance of miscarriage drops dramatically. I understand the reasons for it. It allows you to control what you share, with whom, and when, which I think is very valuable and powerful. For me, if something had happened–and if something were to happen yet–frankly, I’d probably write about it anyway. And yet, with all that I knew logically, it hard not to think about if something happened that it would be my fault, that it would be something I did wrong, and that I’d be ashamed to acknowledge it, despite having zero of these thoughts when it comes to other women I know who have miscarried. It was so easy to get in my own head about it. Part of me wonders how much holding off on sharing the news might just be contributing to the stigma.

And, as it turned out, someone we know did miscarry and was just a few weeks further along in her pregnancy than I was at the time. I won’t go into details because it’s not mine to share, but someone, knowing this woman had just miscarried, chose to still tell them about my pregnancy. Paul and I didn’t know about it at the time, but I was livid when we did find out. It was about the most insensitive way to go about it, and had I known–and frankly, if she didn’t want us to know at all, that would be fair–I would’ve made it clear we wanted to give her time and space, as she deserved.

Otherwise, things have been going pretty smooth. I had a lot of nausea and some vomiting a couple times a week, and I’ve slept plenty, but over the past two weeks, I’ve felt more like myself. I was really knocked on my ass for a while, to the point that I wasn’t even keeping up with Netflix shows or reading. You’d think that those would be prime activities to enjoy in bed, but many times, I either just wanted to sleep or lie down and not focus on anything at all. Sometimes this was because of rough headaches, sometimes it wasn’t.

Looking ahead, I schedule my first ultrasound in two weeks. We do intend to find out the gender but will not do a gender reveal–we’ll probably just casually tell people. My mom is sure it’s a girl, as how I’ve felt so far is on track with how she felt when she was pregnant with me, and her pregnancy with me brother was different. Paul has been very, very picky about names, which I knew would happen. I’ve been joking from the start we’ll need the whole nine months to agree on a name. Of the dozens I’ve mentioned, he has liked two, both girl names, and singled out one as the frontrunner, but we still don’t have a boy name. We’re keeping the name semi-secret, mostly because I don’t want talked out of it. Not because we’re leaning towards the super weird and unconventional or a normal name with an absurd spelling, but just because I don’t want some people, like, say, certain in-laws, for example, talking us out of it if they dislike it.

All in all, being pregnant is scary and weird and cool and mind-blowing all at the same time.

Some Post-Funeral Thoughts, in No Particular Order

  • I’ve been pretty up front about the fact that my dad and I never had a great relationship. A lot of people talk about how in the face of terminal illness and death itself, they make amends or regret the past. I don’t, at least not right now–I concede that I may one day. But he could be difficult and frustrating, and we got along better when we weren’t under the same roof. That’s just how it is, and I don’t see any sense in devoting emotional energy to dwelling on other possibilities. We did exchange “I love yous” once in the midst of all this, and I did give him a hug when I left the house the last time I saw him awake a few days before he died (I’d been there the day he died, as I said, but he wasn’t awake at all). And I think for whatever our relationship may or may not have been, saying that and expressing that kind of affection did what such things are supposed to.
  • I did lose my foodie buddy.
  • I appreciate my family’s attitude towards death. Years ago, when my mom’s coworker’s son was killed in a car accident as a teenager, conversations inevitably came up in our family about things like life support, and I think those conversations then paved the way for blunt and necessary conversations now. No one avoided them and no one shut down when they happened–they were matter-of-fact, and I’m glad.
  • I was getting really aware of the reality of it lately, even in the little things. Our new siding was going up on the house while he was declining in the hospital, and I remember thinking, “He’s never going to see it.”
  • The little things do matter. Kind of. I’ve known this since my grandfather died. Those little shared moments are the things you remember and miss most. One of my favorite quotes from The Crow is, “Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of…trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial.”
  • It still doesn’t feel real, and my best friend, who lost her dad a few years ago, said sometimes for her it still doesn’t feel real. I know enough to know that grief is weird and there’s no “right” way to do it, but sometimes I just sit and think, “My dad is dead,” like I can’t really grasp what that means just yet or I’m trying to see how I react and if that reaction is changing. And yes, I’ll be calling my therapist. It was just luck and good timing that I met with him a week before all this, too.
  •  It’s weird to say that a death in the family and a funeral make you feel loved and supported, but…it’s hard to ignore when people show up for him but also for your family. Our friends and family kept us fed, people reached out directly to express their sympathy and ask what they could do even when the answer was, “Nothing,” or, “Take me out for drinks when this is all over,” there was a line out the door of the room where he was viewed of people coming in and talking to mostly my mom but my brother and, I too, people donated hundreds of dollars to the organization that flew him to his treatments for free, people did a round of shots with us, people stayed at the house and got food ready between viewings and made sure that everything was taken care of and tackled what they could so we didn’t have to.
  • I’ll be blunt, we thought some of my dad’s opinions of the afterlife were dumb. We used to tease him about it. He believed that when the second coming of Christ happens, the dead would need to be intact. So we respected it. He’ll have his glasses and even his cufflinks when the time comes. We also figured if his suit wasn’t arranged exactly the way he would’ve worn it in life, we’d all be haunted.
  • I couldn’t help but think about the fact that when he deployed, we were a trio at home faced with the very real possibility that it would stay that way, and if not for a few seconds and him reacting fast enough to throw a grenade out of a tank, it absolutely would have. And we’re a trio now.
  • Speaking of throwing that grenade out of the tank, the passing of time and return to, you know, our everyday lives in the 15-ish years since made it easy to forget how big a deal that actually was. Guys who were in the tank with him came to the funeral–guys who would be dead if not for him–and one of my uncles really wanted to meet them. His awards were on display in the casket and news clippings were among the pictures of him we put out. It really hit me at the burial, though. Of course, he always bragged about how he was eligible for a full military burial, but actually seeing it was another thing. His casket was draped in a flag that was presented to my mother, he got a gun salute, they played “Taps,” the whole thing, and I had a moment of, “Oh, shit, this is kind of a big deal.”
  • My mom always used to say she was gonna outlive him because she had so much stress as work she figured there was no possible way she wouldn’t go first.
  • When I looked at all the flowers around the casket and who showed up and, in some cases, how they were taking it, I thought about how my mom told me once that he used to think her side of the family didn’t really like him on account of the fact that I was, um…a surprise, as my mom likes to say. And I know he did send her siblings and their spouses a lengthy, heartfelt text after he was diagnosed. I wrote this essay once in middle school about him, which naturally turned into a whole to do because, you know, no one saw that coming, but it fit the assignment. It was about how he didn’t really care what people thought of him, for the most part, and kind of just did what he wanted to do–and yet it bothered him to think that maybe he was disliked in the family when it probably wasn’t true. And I realized probably for the first time that that’s me to a T. That’s where I get it, although I’m sure there are other factors. But I do the same thing. I present myself in a very give-no-fucks-way, and for the most part, it’s genuine. I can’t be bothered to consider outside opinions about how I dress or what I enjoy. I love that about myself, and I respected about my dad–obviously, or I wouldn’t have written about it as a pre-teen. But if I feel like someone doesn’t like me? If I think they’re an asshole or I don’t like them, by all means, I do not care, but if I do like and respect them? It bugs me. Funny how it’s probably our biggest personality similarity and I only just now figured it out.

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.

2018

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.

2018

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.