I have already mentioned this, but I decided to start writing about music over on Medium, and although current inspiration over there has run dry temporarily, I’m only just now getting around to the last few months, when I kind of dropped off other posting here.

One of those things that overlaps, though, was going to see Rocketman, which was very good, and driving to Ohio for Anberlin’s reunion tour.

I cover much of this in my post on Medium, but it went like this: my brother and I have loved Anberlin since we were teenagers, but they called it quits a few years ago and we never made it to the farewell tour. It never came to Pittsburgh, and neither of us was really in a position to travel for it. But one day, Brandon happened to notice that they’d mysteriously updated their social-media pictures, which these days only means one thing. Sure enough, they eventually announced a reunion tour, but like the farewell tour, there was no Pittsburgh date.

We missed the farewell tour. We weren’t gonna miss the reunion. We narrowed down a few cities within reasonable driving distance but settled on Cleveland, in large part because it was July 3 and we’d both have the next day off of work. It’s also a pretty short, easy drive, considering.

My only concern was that by the time the show rolled around, Brandon would have a baby just over a month old and would have just returned from a nearly month-long military training trip, and although Kelly gave him the go-ahead and only asked that we not get a hotel and stay overnight, I thought maybe she’d change her mind, and honestly, if she had, I wouldn’t have blamed her. She was well, well within her rights to say, “You’ve been gone for almost a month and we have a new baby, you are absolutely not going to a concert with your sister while I stay home.” I even made sure to only do e-tickets in case she did change her mind, that way I’d have a much easier time reselling them. Not that she’s that type, just that, again, new baby. But bless her, it didn’t happen, and Brandon came to my house the afternoon of the show, we grabbed some supplies, and hit the road.

Now, ticketing apps haven’t been great with differentiating between when doors open and when the first band hits the stage. Generally, doors open an hour before, and because I couldn’t find a time listed elsewhere, I assumed that the time listed was the start time and that doors were an hour prior to that. I was wrong. The good news was that our supply run took longer than expected, so we got there later than expected, and rather than arriving after doors opened like I thought, we were actually there a half-hour before. I was pretty happy about this.

The show was amazing. We sang every word, we screamed, we danced, we gaped at each other with every beloved song in the set–including those really early ones that got us into Anberlin to begin with. It was a perfect night, really. We had so much fun, we were back in front of a band that defined our teen years, truly, and that we’ve never stopped loving, and it felt just like we were there again. And that’s not a matter of nostalgia or wishing we were still teenagers, because believe me, I do not wish I was still a teenager, but rather a statement about just how much Anberlin has meant to us over the years and how not only has that not changed, but the band played like they’d never been gone. At best, I was in my early 20s the last time we saw them, maybe even my late teens, depending on the tour, and here we were, both there again, this time with me newly 30, both of us with spouses at home–in my case, in our house–and him with a baby, too.

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It was worth the excitement, the money, and the drive. Worth the wait? Nah, I’d have much rather spent the last few years hitting Anberlin shows once or twice a year like we used to. But whatever. I’m glad they’re back, one way or another.

And look, it was a nice sibling night, too. I mean, outside of the show, we had a couple hours in a car each way and over an hour waiting in line, so plenty of talking was done.

We got in around 2 in the morning, which is honestly not terrible under the circumstances, and Brandon told me the next day he was still too amped up to sleep when he got home. As for me, I passed right out.

Paul and I spent the 4th chilling at home and running errands, mostly, and spent the next few days getting dinner in Washington, hitting brunch in Pittsburgh, shopping, and tending to the garden.

If any bride can handle throwing together a wedding in a few months, make chocolates and cheesecakes for it, and entertain and feed out-of-town guests the morning of the wedding before her hair and makeup get done, it’s Julie. She had a packed house the morning of the wedding on Sunday, and we stopped by for a little bit for some of the breakfast she made and to see if she needed to put us to work. And she did–we got sent to the venue with a car full of food, wine, and anything else we hadn’t taken over the day before that needed to be there. So Paul and I drove over and hauled in a few boxes of things, then sat down and enjoyed more beverages. This time, I went for a raspberry chai.

Emily and Chelle had left the house around the same time we did and had some time to kill, too, so they joined us at the coffee shop for about an hour before we all parted ways again to get ready for the wedding.

When we all saw each other next, we were all prettied up, and we tackled the last-minute prep in the final hour before the wedding–Katie and I were steaming things again, this time tablecloths, and final decorations were put up. Some of us, and by that I mean me, even took the last 15 minutes to paint our nails.

And pretty much right on time, Michael and his groomsmen lined up while my father-in-law went up to a little loft area and escorted Julie down.

Katie and I were excited to watch and kind of felt more emotional than we did at our own weddings, maybe even each other. I can’t speak for her, of course, but for me, marrying Paul was just kind of the next logical step. We’d been together for several years at that point–and in fact, this summer marks nine years together, despite only two of marriage–and it was more a matter of making it official. Even watching Jacob and Katie get married, it was exciting, but they’ve been together just a smidge longer than we have, to the point that the four of us have basically been around as couples the same amount of time and there’s no real clear point marking, like, before we were dating and after. Katie was there the night I met Paul, and I’ve pretty much been around ever since. And Paul and Jacob are the two oldest, and we met at Jacob’s high-school graduation with my brother, when Julie was still in high school. Katie and I may have shown up around the same time, but we’ve pretty much watched Julie and Michael’s relationship go from the early days of dating to moving up to Erie a few years ago to now.

And, of course, there’s a difference between seeing the boys in their tuxes and seeing Julie come down the stairs in a beautiful wedding dress with her dad on her arm. I have so many mixed feelings about the wedding industry and the whole concept of marriage, but man, you can’t beat that image.

The ceremony was short and sweet, with Jacob officiating–Julie asked him to do it earlier this year and he got ordained online. We’ve been joking for months about him wearing a slutty nun Halloween costume. But him officiating was another really sweet part of it, and it didn’t hit me until he was actually having them recite vows. We’d been asked (by Jacob on behalf of the couple) to put our cellphones away, but Katie slyly filmed the whole time and I can’t blame her.

And then they were married!

Since it was a pretty small wedding with immediate family and close friends in a small coffee shop, there wasn’t really any dancing, just food and wine, but that was fine. There was a pretty simple seating arrangement and us two already married couples were together next to Julie and Michael’s table, and Katie and I took the opportunity to chant “One of us!” at Michael. He hated it, and he said so.

We had great food and homemade wine, and I think I tried a little bit of each kind they had. Michael also had a bottle of tequila he’d brought back from a recent trip to Mexico, and fearing it would be strong, the four of us did a tiny, tiny tequila toast to Michael and found that it was actually quite smooth. And we may or may not have given a tiny bit to the family’s youngest sibling, who may or may not have hated it. That’s how you can tell the seasoned drinkers–we all went, “Ooh!” after we finished it and talked about how smooth it went down and had just a slight kick to it.

Everything wrapped up pretty early, so we decided to head back to Emily and Chelle’s Airbnb a few minutes away but, like our hotel, over the New York border. Paul and I waited around awhile while everyone else was with Jacob and Emily, who had to sign the marriage certificate as witnesses, and then I guess it was somehow hard to figure out where to sign and also totally different than Katie and Jacob’s marriage certificate, so after a while, I guess they gave up.

Mostly, we hung around bullshitting all night. You still can’t get us together without some degree of swapping stories and complaints, but things have been really calm and really good for a while, which we were sure to tell Chelle so as not to scare her off. Emily had also bought a cigar from a store across from the coffee shop, so she wanted to smoke with Jacob, who almost always has cigars on-hand at special events. Paul joined, and that’s how all of us significant others ended up sitting on a dark porch in an unusually cold night while the three siblings all smoked.

Katie and I were also pretty wound up and had each other, but perhaps most of all ourselves, in tears laughing. We started calling ourselves plus Michael The In-Law Club, which somehow escalated to a very formal, British-esque organization with code names, and we thought everything we came up with was hilarious. Even Paul the next day was like, “Well, you two certainly had a good time.”

As with all late nights with good company, it was hard to pull ourselves away, and we ultimately left around 1 a.m. I kind of enjoyed all the driving through the back roads of the two states, too. It’s not like I was homesick, but it felt like home all the same, and there’s something about summer nights driving through the countryside that just feels good. I’d say nostalgic, but it’s not quite that.

By Saturday, most of the in-laws had arrived–or rather, all of us kids.

And Erie, whose weather forecast before we left had indicated the temperature wouldn’t get above the 60s all weekend, decided fuck that, 80s on Saturday it is. Paul and I decided to start the day with another walk on Presque Isle in the same manner–walk for a bit down one side, then cross and walk back along the beach. We parked the car a little farther down this time to see a little bit more of the peninsula than we had on Friday, and we ended up taking a bit longer than we thought. But on the upside, we spent more time on the beach than we had the day before, and although the water was still really cold, it was hot enough outside that I decided to walk for a bit along the water so that the lake’s tiny waves could at least hit my fit without actually, you know, walking through freezing water.

We also started joking that you could tell we were the oldest siblings on the trip because at 7 a.m. we were awake and ready to go, texting everyone else about going for a morning walk on Presque Isle only to be met with either crickets or “Nah, we’ll see you for lunch.”

Julie and Michael were making lunch for everyone while finishing up some wedding prep, so we had a nice little cookout at their place and then we all trucked over to the wedding venue, a coffee shop Julie and Michael frequent, to decorate. For the most part, we were done quick, and the part that took the longest was steaming curtains Julie was hanging in the front windows. Strangely, Katie and I found that we kind of enjoyed it.

I’m sure the place made decent money off of all of us, too, because almost all of us got drinks. I sprung for a mango bubble tea, and we discovered that only four of us like bubble tea at all–Paul and I, of course, Michael, and Katie, who had it for the first time. Everyone else not only dislikes it but actually thinks it’s weird and gross. Opinions were very strong and very divided.

When we were done, we decided to temporarily go our separate ways. Paul and I joined Katie and Jacob briefly on a nearby beach, then left to go run some errands–I needed dye-friendly shampoo, and Paul managed to get a sunburn the day before, so I figured might as well find something for that, and then I decided to get disposable razors and a small thing of shaving cream to shave my legs for the wedding the next day. And then I forgot to do it. Oops.

We have a rule of no chain restaurants when we travel, but that proved to be a strangely difficult thing to pull off Saturday night at Erie’s mall. On top of that, by the time I grabbed everything I wanted in Ulta, we were both really hungry and not in the mood to either find something different or risk something not being good. And that’s how we ended up at a Primanti Bros. in Erie. Not only did we break our no-chain rule, but we sprung for the most typical Pittsburgh food ever as though we couldn’t just get it whenever the hell we want back home. The only thing that would’ve been dumber? Going to the Eat ‘N’ Park. Hell, we probably could’ve even rationalized the Mad Mex, but nope, we can’t resist those sandwiches.

We had planned to go to Katie and Jacob’s hotel for a bonfire, but by the time we were done shopping and eating and by the time we’d get there, there’d be less than an hour left of bonfire and drink specials to enjoy. And we were tired, so we decided to call it a night and go back to our hotel.

And so all that was left was Sunday, wedding day.

Not too long ago, Paul’s sister Julie decided she didn’t really want to wait long to get married and didn’t want to plan a big, huge wedding, so rather than getting married next fall as planned, she pushed the whole shebang up to Memorial Day weekend. And so just like two weeks after her bridal shower, we took an extra day off of work for an even longer weekend, packed up Thursday night, and made the 2 1/2-hour drive up to Erie.

Not surprisingly, lodging that weekend is expensive and in demand, so we compromised and stayed 20 minutes away from the wedding venue to save some money, which ended up being just over the state border in New York. It was kind of funny to be crossing the state lines pretty much constantly all weekend. Jacob and Katie and Emily and her girlfriend, Chelle, all ended up staying in New York, too, and Jacob and Katie lucked out hard when their resort overbooked and didn’t have a room for them and upgraded them to a condo, complete with champagne.

We got in a little late and just missed the delivery cutoff for a restaurant near our hotel, so we drove a few minutes to the closest and most reliable option–McDonald’s, back over the Pennsylvania border and kind of close to where Julie and Michael live. I had a salad and a milkshake because that’s about all McDonald’s has to offer vegetarians, and then we went to bed.

We were the only ones who went up that early. Lately, traveling just isn’t a great idea for us. We’re trying to be careful with money with the way Paul’s job is up in the air, and between a new baby in the family and my dad’s cancer, it’s also not the best time to be going far. So we’re kind of taking advantage of excuses to take a day off here and there and make a longer weekend out of something–it’s exactly what we did when we went to Virginia Beach in the fall for another wedding. And since it was just us there that Friday, we spent the morning walking Presque Isle, a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie.

What I love about Erie is that if a trip to a proper beach isn’t doable, it’s a good close second, especially if you live in Pennsylvania. It’s a pretty big lake, it has sand, and it even has waves, even if they’re really little. If you need a beach fix, it works. It wasn’t a super hot day and in fact wasn’t supposed to get above the 60s, although it did feel hotter, strangely, even at our hotel in New York. And the water was freezing. I insisted on at least getting my toes in the water and sitting in the sand for a little bit before we turned around and went back to the car from the other side.

We consulted Julie for a lunch recommendation and eded up in a restaurant in a hotel lobby situated right on the bay, so Paul had a walleye sandwich. I, by some miracle, ate pretty healthy and opted for just a salad, but if you tell me it has goat cheese, strawberries, and champagne dressing, I’m gonna want it. We did have drinks and split dessert, though.

And then we headed back to the hotel, ended up both falling asleep for a couple hours, then got up, showered, and went to Julie and Michael’s for dinner, where Michael was feeling pretty good and being very entertaining after a couple glasses of wine. They make their own, and we sprung for a pretty great bottle of homemade tropical wine before cracking open peach wine I’d given Julie for her birthday a few weeks ago.

We hung around a little bit after a nice homemade pasta dinner, then went back to our hotel and passed right out for the rest of the night.

 

I kind of forgot to talk about the rest of our DC weekend trip.

Saturday was kind of the big touristy day. We stopped at the White House visitor center, then walked over to see the national Christmas tree and from there got a good view of the White House itself.

Personally, my favorite memory of visiting the White House was when we went once when I was a kid and my grandfather said, “Look, I see Bill Clinton in his gutchies!”

From there, we took a drive down Embassy Row and past the national cathedral, then stopped in front of the Capitol and had a little bit of time to check out the botanic gardens.

That evening was probably my favorite part of the whole trip–we had a nice dinner at Mount Vernon, then got a neat Christmas-themed candlelit tour of the grounds and building, where everything focused on what the Washingtons and others at the time did for Christmas.

But it was about then that I was starting to feel like some of our fellow travels were…uppity?

When we were first on the bus getting ready to leave Friday morning, my mom was texting one of her co-workers, who was joking about creepers being on the trip, and I believe it was she who made the comment that bus trips can be weird because of who goes. I was by far the youngest, and my mom and Lisa probably fell somewhere in the middle, with the bulk of the other travelers being older. I started overhearing snippets of complaints, and while I’ll grant that I kind of thought we’d get more of certain places like the cathedral and capitol, I also get that logistically, this might not be doable with a big bus group and when people are still, you know, working or otherwise going about their typical business in these buildings. I think when you travel anywhere, it’s easy to forget that people actually live there and while you’re on a leisure trip, everyone there is trying to go to work or school or run errands.

People also seemed to think that the trip organizers had a lot more control over things than they really did. They can plan all of this, sure, but dinner being served is the responsibility of the staff, or the time of a tour is determined by the staff. I heard one woman sound absolutely mortified that we’d been waiting 10 minutes after dinner for our Mount Vernon tour, but like…it wasn’t hard to figure out that the place was packed with other tourists and that the individual groups people were going in was running really behind.

But hey, I had a good time.

Our hotel was pretty close to a casino and we kicked around the idea of going, but we were kind of worn out at the end of both Friday and Saturday. I was hoping to squeeze in a massage at the spa, but their hours and our weekend itinerary didn’t mesh.

After breakfast Sunday, we had one last stop at the Museum of the Bible, which was the one part of the trip I was really not into–and not just because they were found recently to have fake artifacts. I’ve had a rocky relationship with organized religion since my teens, and I kind of figured this was not gonna be a museum I was gonna like. I think I expected, like, a sort of creationist, revisionist look at things.

To be honest, I was wrong. The museum was more interesting and informative than I thought it would be, but it’s not perfect, and even my mom, who was more interested than I, had some complaints. The focus was a little odd–I said it was like they managed to have too much and not enough at the same time. Some exhibits feature old Bible after old Bible, and while it was cool, admittedly, to see these super old, intricate, and beautifully designed Bibles, they were a lot of them, and it got to the point where we were kind of tired of looking at…Bibles. And then there were total missed opportunities–or we didn’t see them somehow–to explain things like how these old Bibles were made.

But I did get my in-laws a Christmas-tree ornament in the gift shop, and their café had great lattes and super cute, delicious cupcakes.

The more religious people in the group seemed to have enjoyed it far more than I, which is fair. I’m kind of glad I didn’t hate it, honestly, because no one really wants to have a few hours in a museum they’re dying to get out of.

And from there, we went home.

I didn’t realize this until I really thought about it, but other than Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., might the place I’ve visited the most. We took a few trips as kids–and I recently learned this was solely to give my mom an empty house for the weekend while she was studying for the CPA exam–I went a few times in my teens, went again once or twice in college, and then went yet again over the weekend with my mom and her best friend, Lisa. It’s funny that that interesting trio also took a weekend trip to New York once.

Honestly, the main reason we went was because my mom heard about Snoopy ice sculptures at a resort in Maryland, and it just so happens that AAA was taking a bus trip to that very resort for a weekend. Paul kind of teases her about this but also sees it as a “Oh, that’s why my wife is the way she is,” moment, because she showed up to our annual zoo trip and lunch afterwards with printed itineraries of this trip so we could all decide if we were interested. In the end, clearly, I was the only one who went for it.

I’m scrambling to use the last few of my vacation days–and it’s looking like I’m gonna lose two because we’re so busy at work–so just for the sake of it, I took off the day before the trip. I spent that day running errands and doing stuff around the house before I left, and then since I was gonna be gone all weekend, Paul and I went to our favorite Italian place in town for dinner before I took off to spend the night at my parents’.

We got up early Friday morning, Lisa came over, and we piled in the car for my dad to drive us to the Bob Evans where the bus was stopping. We got there early to have breakfast, then boarded the bus for the four-hour-ish drive down to the resort. The drive went surprisingly quick and I slept a little, but in retrospect, I really should’ve caught up on my podcasts and I’m so annoyed with myself for forgetting all about them.

The resort, the Gaylord, was impressive. We didn’t have time to take advantage of everything it had to offer–and by that, I mean I didn’t get to squeeze in a massage at the spa–but it was a big, beautiful waterfront resort with plenty to do, with a lot included in our package for the weekend, like most meals and…the Snoopy ice sculptures. We made that our first stop after our luggage made it to our room and we got ourselves organized.

To keep the ice sculptures frozen, the entire exhibit is kept at a delightful 9 degrees. They give you these blue parkas to wear through it, and frankly, I’d love to have brought mine home. And the sculptures are pretty big, so the whole thing is pretty impressive. And of course, my mother loved it. I mean, we all enjoyed it, but it was very much her thing. And she and Lisa went down this big slide made of ice, which I enjoyed watching. And my mom left the gift shop with a healthy armful of stuff, and that was with controlling herself. My plan was to try to go down before we left and pick up the things she’d put back down, but I ever had the time or opportunity.

We didn’t have much time left before dinner, which was a buffet in the hotel’s main restaurant, and we grabbed a few drinks, ate plenty, and debated going to the nearby casino until we decided we were too tired.

Virginia Is for Lovers

This was one of those weekends that feels like a long way off for months and months and next thing you know, you’re like, “Oh, shit, I’m going out of town and haven’t packed.”

One of Paul’s cousins decided to do a destination wedding at Virginia Beach. We were on the fence about going for a good while, having just bought a house and all, but I figured we could swing it. Plus, being a destination wedding, most of the family couldn’t go, so it kind of feels like if you can go and be there for them, you should.

It’s also the off-season, so that made things considerably cheaper and easier. And honestly? If I were to plan another beach vacation, I’d do it in the off-season. The only issue we had was traffic on the interstates driving down, and I blame that on slow driving more than anything else.

We decided to make a long weekend of it and booked the hotel Friday night through Sunday night, and being fans of sleeping, we also decided not to do the usual thing where you get up and leave super early. Instead, we let ourselves sleep in, then loaded up and left. We didn’t get on the road until almost noon, but we didn’t think it would be so bad–we were due to get in in the evening, so we figured we’d have time for dinner and maybe a quick beach visit. Wrong. Said traffic killed us, putting us two hours behind. Ultimately, we got in after 9. Jacob and Katie drove down Thursday and we were originally gonna go to dinner together, but once we figured out we weren’t gonna make it in time for dinner, we told them to go on without us. Instead, we met up in their hotel bar for a drink, then moved up to their room for wine. And we walked there and back. I opted for a cheaper hotel than they did, so we were on opposite ends of the boardwalk, but the plus is we got a lot of exercise. And we still had a beachfront room, so, I mean…

We slept in Saturday and got up for breakfast down the road–our hotel was pretty affordable, but it didn’t include free breakfast. Then we needed to run some errands, and by the time we were done with that, it was time to get ready for the wedding. Fortunately, the rain held off for the nice, short beach ceremony, and the reception was essentially just a party in a beach house. The four of us hung out a lot with each other, plus one of Paul’s cousins. Normally, I’d spend the evening dancing, but we all kind of seemed to enjoy just hanging out, especially on the beach. How can you not walk down there around sunset and just kind of…stay there until it’s so dark you’re being harassed by small crabs?

It was an early wedding, too, so we’re at this beach house for hours, thinking that it must be like 1 a.m., and turns out when we were all getting sleepy by the pool, it was like 9 p.m. The music did have to be shut off around then, so we decided to get going and enjoy the hot tub in our hotel room, the other selling point of the place.

I learned pretty fast that if we wanted to do anything down there, I was gonna have to wake Paul up, so I started doing it a little earlier each day. So Sunday, we went out for breakfast again, and with pretty limited time for the rest of our stay, we settled on visiting the Virginia Aquarium a few miles away, which we enjoyed. It wasn’t a huge place, but they had pretty cool exhibits and we had a good time. And then we hit the beach proper–getting splashed in a dress at a wedding doesn’t really count for me. I mean, yeah, sure, I went in the water, but feet barely count. You need to go play in the waves, so we got ourselves beach ready then walked from our room down to the beach and had ourselves a great time. Then we hit a dinner buffet, because it’s the beach and you have to and Paul gets our money’s worth. Hard to argue with six plates of basically everything on the thing.

The one downside to the off-season is a lot of places close early, so when I wanted ice cream at 10 p.m. on a Sunday, it took a few blocks to find it. But Ben & Jerry’s came through for me. And then I had another round in the hot tub.

I really wish we could’ve gotten in one last round of proper ocean fun, but we just didn’t have the time for it. I thought I got us up early enough Monday morning to have a little bit of time, and really, we probably could’ve done it and left later, but after the hassle we had getting down there, I wanted to leave earlier than we had on Friday. By the time we were showered and packed, it was about time to go, but I walked down for one last quick dip in the ocean before we left.

The good news is we didn’t lose to hours to traffic, but the bad news is we still probably lost one hour and did stop more, so there went another hour. We got home around 8 after leaving at 11, much to the chagrin of the cat, who had Brandon and my parents checking on her over the weekend. I don’t think she was very pleased with us, but she got over it pretty quick.

It was a really nice, fun weekend, but it went by way too fast–even just one more day of sun and sand would’ve been nice, but our vacation days for the year are dwindling. It was the first real trip we’ve taken on our own, not counting weekends in State College, and we definitely needed the downtime, but it wasn’t enough. Hopefully, now that wedding planning and moving are over and done, we’ll have more time and money next year and can take another trip to a beach, or anywhere, really.

I feel like time is getting away from me, like last week was an endless succession of intending to tackle certain parts of the to-do list and never getting to any of it. Things just kept coming up or taking up more time or attention than I expected or wanted.

But Saturday, we got to enjoy a wedding. Paul’s work friend Andrew and his now wife have been together about as long as we have–about eight years for us–but also like us, waited a while to get married. We started hanging out with them after our wedding but during the course of their planning, and it was enough to get us and a couple other familiar faces from their work group on the guest list. It was a tiny wedding down in West Virginia, and we had a good time, as we always do at weddings. And I was smart enough to realize a week or so prior that we were not gonna feel like driving back home, even though it’s less than an hour, so I decided the smart thing to do would be get a hotel room. It turned out that the wedding did not last as long as we expected, and therefore we were not as drunk and tired as we expected, but still, a night in a nice, big king-sized bed away from home was nice. I feel like most people need a long, far-off vacation to recharge; I just need an overnight stay in a place that’s not mine.

Last weekend, we ran off to Erie.

It’s nice that the drive is only about 2 1/2 hours–quick enough to go easily with little planning but long enough to get away from home. And getting away from home is exactly what we needed, although I don’t think either of us realized that until the end of the weekend.

All we did was go up and hang out with Paul’s sister Julie and her boyfriend, Michael. We watched movies, she made us dinner, we checked out a brewery nearby, and that was about it. It was too cold to go to the beach, but that was fine–we’d been talking about going up to visit them for a few months now and finally had a good weekend for it, so we were okay with kind of a low-key, casual hangout kind of weekend. We’ll head back up in the spring, and since Julie’s working on a candy business, we might head up to help man some events in the summer. I’ve volunteered to do her social media.

All things considered, it was kind of an uneventful visit, but that’s fine–and it was enough to feel a little refreshed. It wasn’t a proper vacation, but it was enough to feel like we went and did something.

We got a walk in on the trail when we got home, and we’ve been able to hit it a couple other days this week thanks to decent weather and enough evening sunlight to make it. We’re not out of winter yet, especially with calls for light snow tonight, but we’re getting there.

Once again, like we do every summer, we ran off to the woods for Terra’s birthday.

The past few weeks, it’s been getting difficult to really do much other than wedding stuff. All our plans are squeezed in around things like dress fittings and meetings with vendors. I needed more dress fittings than I thought, mostly because it’s small in the boobs and too long, and I ended up needing to schedule one for the weekend of camp. Originally, I thought this was gonna mean missing camp altogether, but it worked out–Terra and her boyfriend went up Friday night and had a night alone, which was probably good for them, and I had my dress fitting Saturday. Paul and I made it up by the afternoon.

There are places up there that Terra used to visit as a kid but we’ve never gone to, and Farmers Inn is one of them. We pass it on the way in since it’s right down the road from their property, we just never go. But Terra had a great time with their goats before we got there, so she insisted we go. And that’s how we spent a lot of time feeding goats. The great thing about my apartment laundry no longer requiring quarters is I got to spend them all on handfuls of corn for the goats, and we went so far as to save some quarters so we could come back and do it again the next day.

We also got in a visit to Beartown Rocks for a bit, then went back, had a light dinner and alcohol around a campfire, and went to bed.

Normally, we all sleep in the trailer, but that thing is turning into a mess. It smelled really musty, which means it was probably not the best place to be sleeping, so we slept in tents outside. I wasn’t expecting that or I would’ve brought more blankets–the ground underneath was pretty uncomfortable, plus it got pretty cold at night, although it wouldn’t have been much warmer in the trailer. Somehow, most years we’ve gone up, we’ve ended up with cool weather and not a nice, hot summer night that would make for ideal outdoor sleeping. Plus it’s been too cold to go down to the river. I think we did it once last year, but that’s probably it.

With wedding stuff still needing done and my unwillingness to put any writing on hold for the last few weeks–when I 100% probably should have–I wanted to get back with at least a few hours left in my evening, so we aimed to leave by noon Sunday. The running joke is that Terra and I essentially manage to go shopping in the woods, which is totally true. There’s a string of gift shops we like to hit every year, and we come back with jewelry and blankets. This year, I even found homemade bath bombs. Camp shopping is awesome.

It was a nice getaway, but I think because we didn’t spend the whole weekend up there like we normally do, we didn’t get the full impact and mental reset we normally do. We really enjoyed it, of course, we just didn’t come back feeling as refreshed as we normally do. And maybe that’s the wedding–it’s not as though we’re not looking forward to it, but from about the one-month mark on, it’s felt more like the day is looming like a deadline than anything. It’s like we have all these little things that need done and we’re running out of time, and I think it was hard to totally relax when we were both thinking of the to-do list we had to tackle when we got home.

When we did get home, we at least treated ourselves to dinner out before we focused on what needed done.