2013: Stupidly Fantastic and Fantastically Stupid

Ah, 2013.  My 29th year on this, our fair planet.  It was a strange one, I’ll be honest.  Starting a new year away from Pittsburgh, even after all this time, still feels a bit off to me.  I still tell people I’m new here.  In reality, at this point, I’m not.  Perhaps one of these days I’ll feel at home here.  I can now say officially, however, that such a day did not occur in the year 2013.

What DID occur in 2013, you may ask?  Well, as luck would have it, I have prepared a brief list, just for you.

 

WHAT A MESS:

My job got so awful that I had to straight up quit.  Yes, I gave up.  What of it?

I blew my knee out and couldn’t do kung fu for 10 solid weeks.  Joints after the age of 23, am I right?

Following recovery from said injury, I was so discouraged that I essentially quit for an extended period of time.  Yes, this means I backed out of my black belt test in December.  I didn’t even really work out and, as a result, lost an otherwise perfectly serviceable pair of jeans due to catastrophic thigh friction.

Simon got so sick that we thought we were going to lose him.

Noooooo.

UGGGGH, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE, I’M DYING EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT.

Oh, I still live in Harrisburg.  Yeah, I know we talked about that already.  I’m talking about it again.

 

OH WAIT, THERE WERE SOME OKAY THINGS THAT HAPPENED ALSO:

First, and absolutely of the utmost importance, Simon is finally back to his old self.  After 3 months, trial and error with multiple medications and prescription foods, and a mere $3,000 IN VET BILLS, he’s happy and healthy once more.  I’m just going to pretend it’s another college loan and add it to the list of bills that I’ll be paying on until I die, no big.

I became an aunt.  This is a totally awesome thing because, regardless of what people may say or think, I do like kids.  I just don’t like awful, badly behaved kids, and I don’t want any kids living in my house.  Oh, also I hate how kids are always sticky.  Why is that?  It makes no sense, and it grosses me right out.  Anyway, my niece is awesome and pretty much the cutest baby ever.  Also, she’s only 6 months old and is already wearing 24 month clothing.  AUNTIE’S LITTLE BEAST.

Despite my injury and subsequent martial arts-related despair, I was able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and learn a new style that, surprise, I pretty much love.  My coach decided to teach this particular style because a number of the students in class had injuries that were not conducive to jump kicks and low stances.  Hooray for busted knees?

I found a job that, growing pains notwithstanding, is still infinitely better that the job I quit last April.  I still love my coworkers, I still have super weird HR-related stories, and I now earn a salary that is laughably higher than what I made while I was in Pittsburgh.  And thank goodness for that, because Simon bills.

I’ve made quite a few surprise friends this past year.  I’m not really sure how it happened, and I still miss my Pittsburgh friends so desperately that simply writing this is running me through the emotional gauntlet, but I feel incredibly fortunate to now have Central PA friends as well.  I have gaming buddies, I have kung fu buddies, I have drinking buddies, and I have also stumbled upon a few gaming-kung fu-drinking buddies that I spend far too much (just kidding, never enough) time with.  This presents a problem, because now wherever I happen to be living, I will be missing someone.  CURSE YOU, CRUEL FATE!  WHY MUST I ALWAYS BE SEPARATED FROM THOSE DEAR TO ME!?

I got a car.  Yes, it’s another expense, but damn, is it necessary out here.  Don’t worry, I’ll get into that another time.

Oh, and I got married!  DON’T WORRY, I WILL GET INTO THAT LATER, TOO.

 

So, my dear friends, I would say that overall, 2013 was an overwhelmingly positive experience.  Yes, I am more in debt.  Yes, I am significantly squishier.  And yes, I have developed quite a number of white hairs as a direct result of the Simon’s-insides-don’t-work-anymore fiasco.  But it’s been an adventure.  In the end, what more can you ask?  Maybe for little help in replacing those shredded jeans…

Well, ask and you shall receive, my friends, because yesterday I got a $20 off coupon for my favorite clothing store, which I redeemed for the EXACT SAME PAIR OF PANTS sans wear and tear.  With an additional 25% off as well!

All right, 2014, we’re off to a solid start!  No gross surprises, okay?  PROMISE?

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Dollars and Nonsense

I’m not sure if I’m really awful at being an adult, or if I’m way better at it than everyone I know.

Let me explain.

You remember Simon?  My cat?  I may have mentioned him once or twice.

AUGH, YES, I KNOW!

Just maybe.

Well, he got sick again.  If you recall, the last time he took ill, I went completely bananas and spent all of my money (and more) on vet bills to get him back to his old, snuggly self.  It my eyes, however, it was worth any penny, and I swore I would do it all over if the need were to arise again.

Arise it did, and in a much more sudden and horrifying manner than the previous incident.  Without getting into unnecessarily upsetting detail, I noticed that Simon was not following his typical schedule.  He was still sleeping next to me and leaping onto my lap anytime I sat down, but he was just…off.  Boyfriend tried to reassure me that everything would be fine, but after approximately 48 hours and a disastrous visit to the internet, I tearfully called our vet’s office to ask for advice.  I described Simon’s symptoms to the vet over the phone, attempting to keep calm and expecting him to recommend some home remedies.

“How far are you away from us?” the vet asked after a short pause.

“About 20 minutes?” I responded.

“We’ll see you in 20 minutes.”

I hung up the phone and began sobbing into my incredibly confused cat.  I stuffed him into his carrier and ran, leaving a message with the office assistant at boyfriend’s work while I clambered into the car.  I made it there much more quickly than I had expected, seeing as I was too busy speeding and talking to my irritated cat to observe silly things like traffic signals.  As I parked, I was almost immediately met by boyfriend.  I was shocked to see him at all, let alone see him in such short order.  You see, he had been coming from approximately 15 minutes past our apartment in the other direction.  I guess it explains a lot about why I drive the way I do.  I learned from the best!

We scooped up Simon and were rushed into a waiting room.  The vet greeted us and immediately began his examination as he grilled me with pointed questions.  He seemed skeptical as he looked over the cat, as Simon was irritatingly well behaved and showing no sign of distress.  The vet was unconvinced.

“I guess we can take him back and do a few…oh…” he stammered.

“What?!  What’s wrong?!”  I popped up out of my chair and looked at Simon.

“Eh, he just pissed blood all over me.  Okay, we’ve got a direction now.”  He took the cat back from X-rays, blood work, urinalysis, and other delightful tests.

At the end of the day, my sweet baby Simon was diagnosed with a UTI, a bladder infection, and ONCE AGAIN some severe kitty constipation.  Hooray!  They gave him IV fluids, which settled under the skin and collected over his shoulder, giving him a fashionable asymmetrical look.  Very cutting edge.  He also got a shot of presumably awesome drugs;  he spent the rest of the evening purring wide-eyed and rubbing on everything in our apartment.  He is currently working through 2 weeks of antibiotics and painkillers, as well as laxatives every day.  For the rest of his life.  He may also need a modified diet to incorporate more liquids, but we’ll be crossing that bridge a bit later on so not to stress the poor dear too much.

When we arrived home, I watched Simon drunkenly touch every piece of furniture we own.  I was so high strung that I very seriously considered stealing one of his doses of that magical painkiller.  But it was over, and everything was fine.  Except for my credit card, which was suddenly $900 more annoying than it had been mere hours prior.  Yes, that fateful night, we spent nearly a thousand dollars on an emergency vet visit for our little old man cat.

And here’s where I’m not sure about my maturity.  You see, when the vet said that Simon’s very life could be hanging in the balance, I didn’t hesitate.  Not for a second.  I was fully aware of the potential financial ruin that it could bring.  Our last frightening vet visit cost us $500, and I knew this would require significantly more testing.  Simon is part of our family, though.  It wasn’t until I started sharing the story that I started to feel as though my reaction was out of the ordinary.  Here are some of the responses I got after telling my harrowing tale:

“Yeah, we had a cat that needed like $500 worth of vet stuff.  We had to put her down.”

“Isn’t Simon old?  He’s like 7, right?  That’s pretty old for a cat.”

“Wow, Nance.  Simon’s cool, but I don’t know if he’s $1,000 cool.”

I was absolutely horrified.  Simon is lively and playful, and in terms of the average life expectancy of domestic cats, not quite middle aged.  It is distinctly possible that he’ll bring his special, weird kind of joy to our lives for another decade.  The thought of saying, “Oh, he’s sick?  I guess we’ll just have to call it a day with this one,” absolutely wrecks me.

So that’s about the size of it.  Do I fault people who decide that they can’t afford costly unexpected vet costs for their pets?  I mean, I certainly understand.  It can be a huge expense.  For me, though, that’s the responsibility that you accept when you adopt a pet.  Do the decisions become infinitely more complex the older your pet and the more extensive the treatments become?  Most definitely, and there always comes a point where quality of life becomes part of the equation.

Regardless, when I evaluate my financial situation, there are a few places I could use an extra 900 bucks:  credit cards, student loans, savings, 401k, etcetera on and on forever and ever.  But to me, none of those things matter the way that Simon does.  He’s part of my family, and that’s all there is to it.  At least in my book.

Boyfriend and I have decided that looking into pet insurance will be our next order of business once our little guy is done with his medication and 100% operational again.  We’re hoping it will be a way to make any future emergencies more financially manageable, and it can also cover his annual checkups and vaccinations and other little expenses that may add up.

This experience has forced us to confront a few realities that we haven’t exactly enjoyed, like the mortality of our loved ones, both human and animal.  But I prefer not to dwell on that part.  Universe willing, we’ll have many more years of silly stories and snuggling and blog inspiration yet to come.

Blogging Buddy

Many, many, many years, please.

So, moral of the story?  I’m not sure if we made the grown-up fiscally responsible decision, and frankly, I don’t care one little bit.

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Summer Summary: Part 4

Part 4:  The Fear Conquerer (a.k.a. Give Me My Damn Driver’s License Already)

I had high hopes for my transportation escapades in 2013.  I had intended to get my license early in the year, then get myself a car and triumphantly emerge from my cocoon of shame as a successful and productive adult.

Well, things didn’t unfold exactly as planned.

As you well know, I failed my first bout with the driver’s test in spectacularly stupid fashion (read all about my heartwrenching follies here).  I was practiced and prepared, until a series of shenanigans served to shake my confidence and my nerves.  Yeah, and I ran a stop sign.  It took me a few weeks following that disaster to work up the nerve to schedule another appointment, but I did it!  No pesky traffic signals or evil, evil driving instructors were going to keep me down!

The weekend of Driver’s Test 2:  The Revenge came up fast.  I made the trek to Johnstown once again.  I knew I could parallel park there, and now I knew precisely where each and every stop sign was located on the course.  Man, did I ever.  And this time, I was in my very own, familiar car.  AIN’T NO STOPPIN’ ME NOW, PENNSYLVANIA DMV!

I drove up to the DMV with my brother, who had kindly offered to escort me so that my mother’s constant panic wouldn’t rub off on me.  We walked confidently inside and met our favorite moustachioed government employee, who reassured me and directed me out to the course.  I parked and awaited his arrival.

Ahead of me sat another car, helmed by an anxiously smiling teenage boy.   I looked in my rear view mirror and cringed;  slowly, deliberately, angrily, the source of my stress emerged from the DMV’s double doors.  My heart ached for the the young man.  His driving test would be much more high stakes than he had planned:  he would either triumph against evil and succeed against all odds, or his confidence in his driving and his value as a person would be rocked.  Well, at least that’s how it worked for me, I wasn’t sure how it would affect him specifically.

Once the initial review of the lights, the turn signals, etc. was completed, the instructor climbed into the car.  I traded a nervous glance with my brother, but our fears seemed to be unfounded.  The boy parallel parked with grace and calm, and I nearly bubbled over with joy as they pulled out toward the road.  ME AND MR. MOUSTACHE, ALL DAY LONG.

Approximately 30 seconds later, the boy’s car drove past me going the opposite way.  The instructor was shaking his head as the boy slowly retreated to the parking lot, sobbing and shaking.  Apparently, he had taken too long to turn into traffic and was failed on the spot.  My nemesis exited the broken boy’s car and approached mine.  My brother looked at me and nodded solemnly.  I suddenly felt as though I was awaiting my own execution.  Fun times!

Wanna-be drill instructor squinted at me through the window.  “Weren’t you here not too long ago?  I tested you before.”  I swallowed hard as I felt hot tears of embarrassment burn behind my eyes.

“Yes.  I’ve been practicing.”  He wedged himself into the car and pointed toward the parallel parking space.  I wasn’t concerned about it;  I really had put in a lot of parking practice, and this time I was in my newly re-registered, comfortingly familiar Honda Civic.

Two minutes later, I had exhausted my 3 reverses with no luck.  I sat with my hands on the wheel, dumbfounded.  “Pull around to the side,” the instructor said.  He was obviously very tense.  “You know,” he said, raising his voice in a way that made me kind of want to shove him out onto the curb, “Everyone acts like I want to fail people, but I don’t.  I hate it, and I want everyone to pass, but you have to do the work!”  I clenched my teeth and focused my eyes forward;  I did NOT appreciate his assumption that I hadn’t done my part.  He snatched a piece of paper from his pad and started scribbling.  He huffed and thrust the paper at me:  a crudely drawn diagram of a car beside a parking spot with numbered instructions.  I couldn’t really understand what he’d written, but I had a sudden pang of guilt for the weeks I had spent forcing blame on him.  Perhaps I had misunderstood.  Maybe he really did want to be encouraging, but was just remarkably bad at it.  I looked up at him and opened my mouth to thank him.  He interrupted:  “You can go now.”  He got out of the car and slammed the door in my face.

NEVERMIND.

It took me quite some time to recover from my second failure.  I decided, though, that my next shot would be taken in a new location, free from negative connotation and THAT GUY.  I eventually scheduled a test for the Harrisburg DMV, being sure not to tell a soul until I asked boyfriend to drive me there one Saturday.  He was shocked, but delighted that my confidence had apparently recovered.  I walked up to the counter and retrieved my number.  “Where did you park?” the attendant asked me with a raised eyebrow.  I pointed to the side lot.  “GOD,” he said, “THAT IS NOT WHERE TO GO.”  I raised my eyebrows, fearing that I had made a terrible mistake.  He started laughing, “Yeah, just pull through there and someone will be with you.”  I let out a breath of relief and smiled.  IT WAS ALL GOING TO BE OKAY!

I parked as directed and awaited my fate.  A tall, dark-haired gentleman walked up to my window and smiled broadly.  “Hello!” he said in a thick Eastern European accent, “I am Denny and I will serve as your evaluator today.  May I ask if your last name is Croatian?”

I breathed yet another a sigh of relief and explained that my father’s grandparents had, in fact, come to America from Croatia.  Denny nodded excitedly and told me how beautiful the beaches were there.

He settled himself into the car,  smiled and pointed and boyfriend’s pay stub sitting in the cupholder.  “Oh, Starbucks!  I love Starbucks!”  He gave me a thumbs up.  I was so very, very happy.

Then came the dreaded parallel park.  I did my first approach and felt the nerves begin to creep back in.  I stopped the car and took a deep breath.  Denny looked at me sympathetically.  “This is very stressful, yes?  Here, let’s try again.  Pull back out of the space.”  He proceeded to walk me through parking, step by step, with all the patience and understanding in the world.  Then, magically, I was parked.  “There we are,” said Denny.  “Please remember that we have a parallel parking practice space right in our other lot for you to come work on this skill.”  I nodded sadly, believing that my inability to complete the evaluation without assistance had sealed my fate.  Denny smiled broadly.  “On to the next part of the test!  Please pull out onto the road and turn right.”

OH MY GOSH, HE COUNTED MY SEVERELY ASSISTED PARK JOB!  I drove gleefully out onto the highway and chatted with Denny about nothing and everything.  He twice reminded me to watch my speed, but complimented my attention to merging and control of the vehicle.  Within 10 minutes, we were back at the DMV.  I motioned boyfriend over with us as we entered the building once again, and he looked at me strangely.  He shrugged and followed.  Back at the desk, the attendant groaned.  “UGH, did you SERIOUSLY pass her?!” he asked Denny.  He winked at me.

Denny smiled again.  “Yes, she did very well!”  He shook my hand and walked off into the sunset.  Okay, there was no sunset to speak of, but that’s how it looked in my imagination.  It took a great deal of self control to stop myself from dancing in public, but I managed somehow.  I continued on to take a perfectly passable license photo, after which I literally skipped into the parking lot.

Boyfriend laughed.  “So, no offense, but I really thought you failed after that super slow park job.”  I agreed wholeheartedly, but decided it best not to argue with Denny, the glorious antithesis of my first driving evaluator.

So after much trial and tribulation, I have a driver’s license.  I drive to work, I drive to see my mom, and I have even driven to my beloved Pittsburgh!  So, my friends, welcome to my delayed, hard earned happy ending.  On this particular topic, at least.  Don’t worry, I still have lots of absurd issues to work through.

But check one thing off the adult to-do list!

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Summer Summary: Part 3

Part 3:  This Happened A Lot

Yes, I had a very busy summer full of moving, travel, babies, weddings, and other such insanity, which very much hindered my ability to do things like eat healthy, work out consistently, or update my favorite people of all, my blog readers.  However, there is one other thing that happened this summer that ate up an enormous amount of what little free time remained…

Well, this is awkward.

Well, this is awkward.

Yes, that’s right:  my favorite bizarre, tubby, stump-legged cat emerged from his digestive issue-induced solitude to force himself onto my lap and demand all of my love and attention.  After the months of concern regarding his antisocial behavior and the subsequent deluge of vet bills, I must say that I’m not inclined to give him the boot.  Not just yet.

I know I spoil my cat.  I spoil him like it is both my job and my hobby.  I know way too many people who think that cats are aloof and spiteful creatures, which we all know is an urban legend perpetrated by individuals who fail to understand that cats and dogs are different animals.  (IMPORTANT NOTE:  I also have a desperate love for dogs.  And rabbits.  And SQUIRRELS.  And basically all other animals, except ostriches because they are terrible, stupid nightmare creatures.)  Cats are totally different animals than dogs with a completely different style of social interaction, and must be treated as such.  When you DO make an effort to understand and work with them, they can be magical fuzzy angels from Heaven.  Though, to be fair, there are some cats (and dogs, and rabbits, and squirrels…) that are just awful dickheads.  They’re just like people in that way!

I have a kung fu friend who is of the anti-cat persuasion.  He’s been to our place for board game nights, moving days, and plenty of other occasions.  Last week, we invited he and his lovely wife over, and I said, “Well, sorry, I know you guys aren’t crazy about cats, but Simon has been super social and lovey lately.  He may want to snuggle you.”  My friend looked at me, slightly taken aback.  “Simon’s not a CAT, he’s a SIMON!  I love him!”  Can’t argue with that, I guess.  My Simon is a perfect little ambassador to the cat-opposed!

He has, in recent days, been more accepting of sharing my lap with my laptop.  So how about it, Simon:  can you spare a little time each week to let me share my life with the world through the magic of blogging?

...

He’ll think about it.

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Summer Summary: Part 2

Part 2:  What’s Love Got to Do With it?

I’m not exactly a romantic.

But I HAVE been to a lot of weddings in my time.  Some of them have been lovely.  Beautiful couples, beautiful moments.  I even cried like an idiot at the nuptials of my best friend from college.  Oh, everyone laughed that day at the puffy cheeks of big, tough Nancy.  But it was a wonderful, unexpected moment.

On the flip side, I have been witness to some questionable weddings as well.  I’ve seen people settle.  I’ve seen people end up together out of convenience, out of (bad) habit, and out of a distinct lack of foresight.  Here are some things that people have said to me regarding their wedding plans.  I repeat:  people have actually said these things to me with no trace of sarcasm or, apparently, self awareness.

“Yeah, well, it makes sense to get married.  I really need health insurance.”

“We’re back together, and he’s done with the cheating.  Third time’s a charm!”

“I’ve got a five year plan, and this is who I’m with.  We’re just gonna do it.”

“We’ve been together a really long time.”

“I’m comfortable for now, and let’s be honest, I’m not getting any younger.”

“I guess it’s gotta happen.”

“He’s okay, but if we have kids, I hope to God they don’t look like him.”

I MUST POINT OUT YET AGAIN, THESE ARE THINGS THAT PEOPLE LEGITIMATELY SAID TO ME WITH THEIR MOUTHS AND THEN WENT ON TO MARRY THESE PEOPLE AND, YES, IN THE LAST CASE, HAVE A KID WITH THE GUY.  So I’m a little jaded.  On one hand, it makes me incredibly thankful for my own relationship and for our understanding of and commitment to what it takes to make a solid partnership work.  (Fun fact:  it is not desperation and denial.)  On the other hand, it makes me want to punch people in the face forever when they suggest that gay marriage will destroy the “sanctity of marriage.”  Oh, you mean the sanctity of overprivileged douchebags shacking up for tax credit and then cheating on each other?  Listen, if awful straight people can do it, then by the power vested in me (i.e. none), awful gay people should be able to do it, too!  END RANT.

Anyway, staunch bitterness aside, I was in a wedding this summer.  It wasn’t a wedding of convenience or a wedding of desperation.  It was a wedding of mutual respect.  You know, less of a big fancy party, and more of a celebration of the beginning of a loving marriage.  A novel concept, no?

It was an amazing experience, being a bridesmaid for this particular friend.  We’ve known each other for about 8 years, and she’s been like a sister to me.  We became friends one day when she came to my fitness class at Pitt.  I walked up to her, planted myself on the bench beside her and declared, “WE’RE GOING TO BE FRIENDS NOW.”  She answered with a resounding, “OKAY!” and the rest was history.  We’ve laughed (a lot), we’ve eaten Indian food (A LOT), we’ve fought, we’ve ignored each other, and we’ve made up like it never happened and went out to eat more Indian food.  She and her boyfriend OMG NOW HUSBAND took me in when I was homeless and let me sleep on their couch and get pooped on by their cat.

I squealed like a jackass when they got engaged.  I teared up when she asked me to be her maid of honor.  I sighed wistfully when I saw their absolutely gorgeous venue.  I made two wonderful new friends when she introduced me to her matron of honor and bridesmaid.  My heart broke for her when her venue almost fell through, but skipped a beat when the stars aligned and it worked out in the end.

The big day really snuck up on me.  First off, can I just say that I drove the WHOLE WAY THERE ALL BY MYSELF?  I did.  I drove across the state like a real person!  It was fantastic and I didn’t crash at all, not even once.  I’m basically amazing.  Anyway, myself and the other bridesmaids took it upon ourselves to keep the bride calm and relaxed throughout the day, and to be sure that she let everyone else take care of the details for her.

HAHA, JUST KIDDING, do you really think I would be great friends with someone who ISN’T frantic and DOESN’T have some control issues?!  We did our best to comfort her and do what we could while staying out of her way.  You know what helped?  Wine!  Drinks in hand, we took one last tour of the venue to be sure that everything was in place.  The wedding was held at a picturesque farm in Greensburg with a huge farmhouse, an amazing covered bridge, and a finished barn.  We stepped inside the barn, where the reception would be held, and I was overcome.  The rustic beams, the incredible flowers, the soft light from the lanterns…  This marked TEARY MOMENT #1.

The dear bride was more than a bit stressed at this point.  She had an edge about her, and we had a bridesmaid mind-meld;  we made it our immediate mission to carry her away from the planning and get down to business.  I must say, though, when it came down to it and we had her curled up, made up, and zipped up, she absolutely took my breath away.  She had transformed into an ethereal, glamorous version of herself.  This point I declared TEARY MOMENT #2.

As we made our way toward the ceremony, I smiled at my friend.  She looked at me with glittering eyes, and I watched as the stress of planning and coordinating and other wedding shenanigans melted away.  I was overjoyed, seeing her relax and begin to let excitement take the place of nerves.  So much had lead up to that moment, and she so very much deserved all of the happiness that came rushing in.  We all took a nervous breath and walked out of the farmhouse toward the ceremony site, which was OF COURSE underneath a weeping willow tree tied with ribbons, nestled alongside a winding stream.  WHATEVER.  

The bridal party started down first.  The sun was shining (enough that it had rudely defied my sunscreen by the end of the day), and I was smiling so hard that my face hurt within moments.  I spotted the groom, smiling, sweating, and anxiously looking for his bride.  Here, my friends, began TEARY MOMENT #3.  Everyone stood as we heard the bagpipe start.  I watched as my friend began her walk down the aisle and glanced back to the groom.  His eyes started watering and his face turned red as he saw her.  He choked out a sort of laughing sob, then went back to beaming.  He sighed as he watched her, and they finally got close enough to make sparkling eye contact, queuing TEARY MOMENT #4.  At this point, the mother of the groom caught my eye. She glared at me and gave me the universal sign for I AM WATCHING YOU, DON’T YOU DARE CRY AND RUIN MY SON’S WEDDING.  I did my best to respect her wishes.  They read their vows, we all laughed and cried, and the bride’s brother sang, which absolutely demolished anyone who hadn’t yet broken the tear seal.

And it was done.  They kissed, we rejoiced, and we adjourned for pictures, booze, food, and SO VERY MUCH DANCING.  I even did the Macarena, guys.  Apparently, if you do it 3 times in middle school, you will magically remember it 17 years later with booze on the brain.

Looking at these two crazy love birds , I see more than just a bride and groom.  I see a strong couple with two active, willing partners.  I see a real relationship, not something dramatic but ultimately fleeting.  I see a bright future with ups, downs, and (hopefully, in the distant future) a lot of cute babies for me to fuss over.  As a couple, they’re an inspiration to me.  I love them both separately as individuals, but together, they become something more.  In short, they make me feel all warm and fuzzy, and they never fail to remind me that love can be a really beautiful thing.

And you know what?  I don’t have one single picture from that day.  Zero.  Nilch.  Nada.  And I’m totally okay with it.  The bride and groom requested no photography at the ceremony to allow the photographer to get all of their requested pictures, and it just felt…perfect.  It’s been a long time since I experienced a special day without thinking about whether or not I got all the important shots and photo ops.

Sometimes, it’s really magical to just be present in a moment.

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Summer Summary: Part 1

The summer of 2013 has certainly been one for the books.  So much so, my friends, that I will essentially need to write you a book in order to properly describe the past few eventful, exhausting weeks in this, my strange life.

Part 1:  Who is that tiny person and why won’t she stop screaming?

As I have mentioned, my sister went and got herself knocked up late last year.  These things happen, especially to newlyweds who are eager to stop sleeping for a while and get rid of all that pesky money they’ve been hanging onto.

So, after approximately 9 months of gestation, my sister had a quick, peaceful labor and delivery.

Oh, wait, just kidding.  She was in labor for 34 hours.

Now, let’s go ahead and think about that for a minute.  That is a long time.  A person could, in current traffic, drive non-stop from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles.  One could, if one were so inclined, listen to R. Kelly’s hip hop opera “Trapped in the Closet” a whopping 22.5 times in such a span.  A strong swimmer could make his or her way across the English Channel, grab dinner, and swim right on back.  In said time, a devoted fantasy fan could watch all 30 episodes of Game of Thrones, then the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring (including credits!).  All of these activities would be physically and emotionally grueling;  however, I would totally choose any of them over 34 hours of labor.

At the end of her harrowing journey, however, my sister had something pretty neat to take home with her.

Meet my niece, Astrid.

OMG BABY.

HEY, GUYS, I’M HERE FOR THE PARTY.

Pretty cute, right?

Right now, little Astrid is pretty basic, as babies go.  She yells and drools and cries and fills her diaper with astounding regularity.  She hates both sleeping and being awake, but she loves food, beards, and cats.  She always wants her binky…  God help you if you cannot find that binky.  She is significantly cuter than all other newborns, but creates terrifying sounds at an astoundingly advanced volume.

And yet, I absolutely love her anyway.

As the weeks go by, she has already started to change.  At about a month and a half old, she’s grown exponentially cuter and chunkier.  She’s even starting to develop her own little personality.  I’m 100% crazy about her, and I’m more excited for her future with each passing day.

On that note, I’d like to share a few of my hopes and dreams for little Astrid.

Astrid, I hope you will be intelligent.  I hope that you will follow your heart, but guide your actions with your mind.  A sharp mind and a hopeful heart can work together to make magic.

Brainy baby.

Intelligent? Check.

Astrid, I hope that you will question everything.  The world is an amazing place, and I hope that you will ask questions and seek out answers.  Never stop learning;  discover how the world works, and find out what you can do to make a positive difference in it.  Question everything…especially your parents, they will totally love it.

Skeptical baby.

Is that…really? I don’t know about that.

Astrid, I hope that you will be strong.  Strong in mind.  Strong in body.  Strong in your convictions.  Ain’t nothing in this world like a strong woman, and I want you to be one to be reckoned with.  Believe in yourself.  Be confident in yourself and your abilities.  You’ve got kickass in your genes, girl, so don’t let me down.

RAHR.

Them’s fightin’ words, Auntie.

Astrid, I hope that you will always be true to yourself.  No matter what anyone says, be you.  Because you are amazing, just the way you are.

Yes, even then.

Even if you’re a Trekkie.

Astrid, I hope you stay this cute.  Because, hot damn, you are seriously cute.

Makin' other babies look like craaaap.

NOT FAIR, NOT FAIR, NOT FAIR.

And, honestly, I did have one special request from my my sister:  that she provide me with a a ginger niece.  It was a selfish request, and I made it jokingly.  But, wouldn’t you know it, she went ahead and made me one.  And bonus:  my brother’s girlfriend has the most gorgeous red hair in the whole wide world.  Perhaps one day I’ll have a matching set!

So, in conclusion, my niece is really cute.  Sorry ’bout it.

Whatevs.

#sorrynotsorry

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Life in Central PA: Take 2

Ah, the joys of moving.

The anger, the sorrow, the sore muscles and back pain.

The dusting, the scrubbing, the hours upon hours of vacuuming.

The weeks of feeling as though you have no real home, knowing that the old place is no longer yours and the new one is currently an endless vortex of boxes, bags, and miscellaneous crap.

Have I mentioned that I’m not a fan?

About a week ago, we finally migrated from our apartment in Hershey to a shiny (not really) new (not even close) place in Harrisburg.  It’s a bit smaller, and the kitchen and bathroom haven’t been updated since the Cold War, but I really do like the layout.  Oh, and the significantly cheaper rent.  And the new 7 minute commute to work.  AND THE PORCH WHERE BOYFRIEND AND I CAN SIT AND DRINK BEER AND WATCH SQUIRRELS.

Packing my apartment seems to become more difficult each and every time I do it.  “Well, Nancy, you’re older and thus you have more stuff!” you might say.  You would be wrong, though, because I am constantly aware of my stuff level and do whatever it takes…whatever it takes…to keep said level down.  Boyfriend, on the other hand…

A prime example:  a few weeks back, I decided that it was time to do my annual closet clean-up.  I go through all of my clothes  and remove anything that I haven’t worn in the past year, save any exceptionally weather-specific clothing that may not have had the opportunity to strut it’s stuff that particular season.  This year, I also hit the shoe and purse section of my closet.  It was difficult because I WANT to wear all of those pretty high heels, but I don’t because, after 45 seconds, I hate them, I hate myself, and I hate everyone around me.  All in all, I was able to donate 3 oversized garbage bags full of miscellaenous stuff to charity.  Hooray!

I then asked that boyfriend do the same; his purge didn’t have to be quite so dramatic, but anything helps.  He went through his wardrobe and donated 3 or 4 shirts and a pair of shoes.  I narrowed my eyes at the small pile of clothing.  I knew he had more he could get rid of.  He just didn’t know that yet.

Now, this past week, boyfriend has been out of the country.  You know, going to Guatemala to teach orphans martial arts and build an addition to the orphanage.  Pretty standard stuff.  Anyway, after he left, I invited his best friend over for beer and a wardrobe intervention.  We were able to divide his clothing into three sections: “good/acceptable” (which remained in his closet or dresser after I organized and folded things), “let’s talk about this” (which consisted of questionable choices and clothing a size too big), and “ABSOLUTELY NO” (denim shirts, short-sleeved silk button-downs, and clothing AT LEAST 2 sizes too large).  It is my sincere hope that 1) he doesn’t hate me for thinning out the herd, and 2) he just lets the latter two groups go without a fight.

Yes, that’s right:  boyfriend is out saving the world, and I’m at home judging his clothes.  I am officially the worst person of all time.

Anyway, I think I can officially say that I’m settled in, save the distinct lack of boyfriend at the moment.  He’s triumphantly returning tomorrow evening at 9:00, so we’ll see how the place handles both of us together.

It’s been strange, adjusting to a new place without him.  He essentially carted things over from the old place, dropped them off, and high-tailed it out of the country.  My fiercely independent streak has been a huge fan of taking complete control over the unpacking and organization process.  It has also been a huge fan of the whole “week with a new place all to myself” situation as well.  Living alone, despite the objections of many, is a pretty sweet deal.  What you want, when you want, with no one else’s mess to get in the way.  You know, I must REALLY like boyfriend to give up my sweet bachelorette lifestyle of laying on the couch watching Eddie Izzard stand-up on repeat interspersed with feverish spurts of cleaning and baking.  But who am I kidding?  He encourages that sort of thing, and that’s why we get along so very well.

On a most exciting note, however, our sweet baby Simon is apparently thrilled about the move.  During the seemingly unending packing process, he became incredibly curious.  I was cautiously delighted as his depression seemed to melt away.  My guess is that the presence of an inordinate amount of boxes revived his playful spirit and kitty curiosity.

"What's all this, please?"

“What’s all this, please?”

After a mercifully quick car ride (and only a few tragic Simon whimpers), he emerged from his carrier at the new apartment and wandered around a bit.  We decided to isolate him in the den for a while, but it wasn’t long before he was yelling at the door to be released into the world.

It was like a switch had been flipped.

He was magically back to to his old ways:  following me around, emitting a constant stream of quiet chirps, and demanding attention.  And that first night, that first wonderful night, Simon climbed into bed with me and boyfriend and purred himself to sleep.  Suddenly, the tacky cabinets and the lack of storage space didn’t matter.  Being with boyfriend and having a happy cat once again was all that mattered.

Well, that and the $200 per month reduction in rent.

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