Feb 042024
 

I don’t know what happened in January but I blasted through a shit-ton of books. TWENTY to be exact! To be fair, one was a children’s book, but all the others were normal-length books. I was just on a roll, had some downtime, and the library was really coming through with a bunch of books that I had requested.

Here is the first half!

  1. Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

My third Oyeyemi! I am going to be honest here, her books are a struggle for me to read because they are literary fiction for true academics. I am not an academic. But I appreciate Oyeyemi’s vocabulary, writing style, character creation, and world building. This book takes place almost exclusively on a magical train and centers around two guys on something of a honeymoon. I’m not sure that I fully understand any of her books, but I feel a certain way while reading them and I like it.

There. That’s my review.

2. What Red Was by Rosie Price

I believe I picked this book on a whim at the library, and I obviously liked it enough to rate it a 3.5. It wasn’t boring, it held my attention, it wasn’t poorly written. BUT I was a little confused about how the main character is raped by a relative of her best friend and it felt like we focused less on the main character and more on the family of the best friend.

And then there’s this strange scene where clues related to the rape and the rapist are displayed in a very public way, which at first I was like, “OH FUCK YEAH” but then remembered that the main character had not actually consented to THIS either. So, it just left me thinking about that for a while, how I would feel, etc.

Oh, my other gripe is that I believe we’re supposed to think that the best friend’s family is like, super interesting and well-to-do, Kennedys-esque maybe, but I just felt like they were whatever, nothing special, unremarkable.

3. Oksana, Behave! by Maria Kuznetsova

Oh, I really enjoyed this! Another one that I grabbed straight from the fiction shelf at the library, this one was based on that cutie cover, haha. This book follows the life of Oksana through a series of quirky and often poignant vignettes, starting with her move to Florida from the Ukraine as a young girl (7 I think?) with her parents and grandmother. The grandmother was the best part, IMO. Total spitfire!

4. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Three stars. A failing marriage and magical landline to the 90’s. Sounds better than it was. I could have done without all the “talking to my two small daughters on the phone” moments. It got under my skin in a big way.

5. Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke

Working from home and communicating with coworkers via Jabber all day, the concept of this book was appealing to me. But then the Slack messaging format just got reallllly old. There’s a quirky sci-fi element in that one of the coworkers gets stuck *inside* Slack somehow but no one believes him, and then a very unexpected romance develops.

I think this would have worked better for me if the blocks of messages were broken up but chapters of actual narrative too. Give us SOME non-Slack content. Character backstories. I DON’T KNOW, SOMETHING, ANYTHING!

6. I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb

I thought that I had read something by Wally Lamb before but I guess not. This might not have been the best to start with, but I found the plot interesting – 60-year-old Felix gets visited by a ghost at the movie theater where he holds a movie night for the classics, is visited by the ghost of some silent film-era director and then replays some scenes from his past on the screen.

Through these visits and personalized films, he’s able to understand more of what his sisters went through back in the 50s as girls, and then later, as women. So, it’s interesting. It didn’t make me cry though so do with that what you will.

7. The Last Word by Taylor Adams

Dude. I didn’t like No Exit much at all—it felt like it was Christopher Pike book for junior high kids and not knocking that because I LOVED CHRISTOPHER PIKE BOOKS when I was in elementary school, but you know…I wanted a more mature book at the mo’. So it’s actually kind of nuts that I picked this one up but I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it! Was the main character annoying? No. Did I feel tense? Yes. Do any pets die? NO.

This was a good, solid thriller. 4 stars. I even recommended it to Henry.

8. Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang

OK Ling Ling Huang. Thanks for making me legit gag numerous times with the body horror. Jesus. I really enjoyed this horror-twist on the beauty industry and beauty standards, what people will pay to cheat ageing and genetics, as well as the lengths corporations will go to profit from human vanity. Well-written, the visuals it gave me will haunt me for years.

9. The Skull by Jon Klassen

The aforementioned kid’s book. But to be fair, I used to read Chooch books illustrated by Jon Klassen but this was one was also written by him, it’s his retelling of a traditional Tyrolean folktale. Look at that cover!

10. Idol, Burning by Rin Usami

Just swap out Jpop with Kpop, introduce me to the stanning lifestyle when I’m 16, and I could have been the main character in this book. I think that’s all you need to know about this one, lol. I really enjoyed it.

************************

So, there you have the first round of books I read in January.

Feb 032024
 

Hello from my couch on an actually sunny Saturday afternoon. I’m the only one here right now and it’s the first time all week that I have been alone with no distractions so the thoughts, they do be marching in.

This past week felt like it was a month long. It really did. There has been so much emotion-processing, Stages of Grief maneuvering, ugly cries, quiet cries, shower cries, subconscious cries, gluten free cries. So many kinds of cries. I’m still waiting on the Big Cry though because I can feel it building and I can feel the valve shuddering.

There was a small burial service and luncheon on Thursday for Barb. It was a very heavy day, also cathartic with a side of confusion, and it’s all really hitting me now. I am so grateful to be given the chance to say a final goodbye, and to be there in the company of some of my favorite people (and to also see some ex-law firm friends – DebSev and Kaitlin, that was a lovely surprise and such a comfort.). There were moments that felt straight-up surreal, such as when a photo slideshow played during the luncheon at Houlihan’s: the number of times I had the urge to turn and lovingly make fun of Barb only to remember that she wasn’t there…it was a huge emotional “ouch.” Like when you wake up from a dream where you were free-falling? That’s what it keeps it feeling like.

I did have a nice laugh with Jeannie and Aaron though as we perused the luncheon menu and I saw that there wasn’t anything meat-free I could choose from. “One last ‘eff you’ from Barb,” I said, and we all laughed. (No really, we did laugh! The mood had significantly lightened once it was luncheon time. And anyway, as Barb would always quote from Steel Magnolias: laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.)

When talking to Barb’s son and brother, I couldn’t even get any words out, just felt frozen with grief, so I smiled sadly and nodded a lot and then instantly regretted not saying the things I needed to say. I wore a necklace that she bought me years ago on Etsy and I wanted to point that out and say something that wasn’t just a canned platitude, like, “Barb was so special to me and had a huge impact on my life, and I know there are so many other people who share this sentiment” but – grief had other plans for my vocal chords I guess. I am so much better at putting my feelings onto paper. Or this dumb blog – which, hello, has been super helpful this week while Wendy, Jeannie and I try to remember things like, “When did we go to Olive Garden with Barb?” And I had forgotten that the four of us had met for dinner at Proper, July of 2019, so that may have been the last time I saw her IRL. I had previously thought it was 2018.

Apparently, Barb couldn’t read the drink menu that well because of the low lighting so the server brought her over a cup of “cheaters”. This picture cracks me up.

I want to always remember this too: at the luncheon, Barb’s brother came over to me at our table and asked, “Are you Erin Kelly? Boy, my sister really loved you. She talked about you all the time. You sound like a very….interesting…..person.” !!!! I started tearing up immediately and then he was too and it was the best peace of mind anyone could have given to me at that moment because these last few years, with her not being responsive to texts and invitations to hang out, talk, whatever, I really started to wonder if I had done something to push her away, if she didn’t like me anymore, if she would have been pissed to know that I was sitting there at a luncheon in her honor. The relief I felt was immeasurable.

I’m so thankful for all the memories I made with Barb over the years, for Barb inviting me into her life outside of work, and for being in the company of so many great friends who are also really going through it right now. Jesus Christ, Barb, if you’re up there milking wifi off some celestial cafe, sipping on an angel-made PSL (holla!) and reading this – look at the impact you had on us! Holes in our hearts.

Jan 312024
 

Ok after I told the story of Idiot Son and his slippery debit card that resides in his buttery wallet, I definitely realized that I’m not one to talk because I am forever misplacing my wallet. To be fair it’s usually in my purse but WHICH purse is the question because I have soooo many and swap them out constantly! In fact, I was almost late go breakfast on Saturday bc I couldn’t find it in ANY of my purses but then Henry found it in one of my also many winter jackets and I yelled “Oh yeah! From when Chooch and I walked to the cafe on Monday” which is sad because now you know that I only left the house once that week lol ugh.  Sometimes I am flat out losing it but, sharing Chooch’s bizarre luck, always finding it when I actually leave it somewhere  LIKE THE PALACE OF GOLD – a Hare Krishna compound in West Virginia- they actually mailed it back to me and didn’t even try to brainwash me into moving there!

(I might have considered.)

Anyway, I recently reread this one blog post from March 2018 because I’m a loser who reads her own blog ok? It was a Friday Five: Work Edition and one of the stories was about my missing wallet! Here let’s read it together.
*****
THE LOST WALLET SAGA

I was having a pretty lowkey Friday morning when suddenly, I was nearly to work and realized that I didn’t have my work badge. So, already that’s a sucky feeling because it means you have to go to the security desk, hope they believe you when you say that you really are an employee and not just a recently-canned disgruntled employee back for revenge. But then you’re like, trapped within your department all day too, while trying to remember when you last saw it and if you should email Facilities now or later to report it lost and then be forced to pay for a new one, UGH.

But there was still hope that it was on my desk. I’ve done that many times, left my dumb badge-thing on my desk. But it wasn’t there!

So I went to the kitchen because I was on late shift the night before and I could vividly remember setting it on the table while I was washing my BIGBANG cup. BUT IT WAS NOT THERE.

Now panic was definitely setting in and here’s why: EVERYTHING IS IN THAT BADGE HOLDER. So much of my life is in there that I refer to it as my wallet but it’s not even meant to be a wallet, it’s a Pusheen ID holder and I shove all of my credit cards, my drivers license, my trolley ConnectCard….all of the shit I need everyday, in other words. And this was literally ONE DAY after I swore that I had to go back to using a real wallet after struggling to get my license out of it.

Well, good job Erin because now you’re going to have to get brand new cards to put in the wallet, I sadly thought to myself.

Todd works early on Friday so he was lucky to be there to watch my panic go from 0 to 60. And then Glenn arrived right when I was on a cleaning person-blaming tangent.

I couldn’t focus on anything. My ears were ringing and my face was flushed. Amber walked by and I blurted out that I lost my wallet.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that sucks!” she said.

“It’s OK,” I sighed, and then before she made it around the corner, I turned and shouted, “IT’S NOT OK!”

Cheryl told me to call Reception and see if anyone had turned it in. I was like “FUCK A PHONE CALL” and emailed instead, which got really fun when I reached the point of my email where I had to describe my wallet.

“It’s purple, soft, and shaped like a cat.”

It took AN HOUR for reception to email me back and say, “NO SORRY NOT YET.”

James the mailroom guy came around for the first mail delivery of the day. Before he even had a chance to say hello, I cut him off. “WHAT, DO YOU HAVE MY WALLET?”

“…..no?” he answered nervously. So then I had to fill him in and Glenn and Todd were behind me, making the same eyes at James that elderly patients probably made at Jack Kevorkian.

“Did you check your desk?” he asked, and I was like “Yes duh” even though I only checked one drawer, twice. I just knew it wasn’t in my desk, OK?

OMG why was this happening two weeks before we leave for Korea? Another thing to stress about!

Lori came over to chat about nothing in particular. I let her finish while nervously squirming in my seat, and then I shouted, “I LOST MY WALLET.”

I heard Glenn sigh behind me, but I still launched back into the same story, verbatim.

“And I thought maybe I left it on the table in the kitchen…”

Then I had a thought!

Henry drove me to work that morning. When we were walking out of the house, I noticed that Chooch left his backpack! Luckily his school is right up the street so I told Henry I’d just jump out and run it in. Except that Henry wouldn’t come to a complete stop and I practically had to drop and roll out of the car, and in doing so, I forgot that my purse was on my lap and it fell into the middle of the street! MAYBE MY WALLET FELL OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF PIONEER?!

THAT WOULD BE MY LUCK!

I started thinking about all of the times I found and returned things lost by others: someone’s debit card at an ATM, a wallet on the sidewalk which was luckily right outside the person’s house so I didn’t have to go far, Ross’s Blackberry (technically that was Henry, so me by extension), Jeannie’s work ID!! Maybe I had collected enough Karma for someone else to return my wallet to me!?

Later that morning, Henry had enough of my crazy lady texts, so he drove home on his break and TEXTED ME A PICTURE OF MY WALLET! It was at home that whole time! I had to immediately send an email to everyone in our department who suffered through my sob story and Glenn mumbled, “When’s the movie coming out?”

Then James came down later and I yelled over to him that I found it and he said he had said a prayer for it! MY WALLET IS SO LOVED. Wendy was walking by during this exchange and looked confused, and I realized that she didn’t know about my lost-not-lost wallet so now I had a reason to tell the story again! Todd and Glenn put their earbuds in.

Lauren was working late shift from home that day so she missed this whole thing. Luckily for her, she ended up having to come into the office that afternoon so I got to fill her in. She was like, “Wow. I’m sorry I missed that.”

Whatever. YOU HAD TO BE THERE.

Jan 302024
 

 

Over the years, I have written numerous tributes to my most favorite Barb to ever Barb. From birthdays to surgery recovery thoughts to work farewells, you can find so many “best of Barb” lists and fun facts and shout outs and, well, barbs.

But I wasn’t, am not, and will never be prepared to write one last tribute. So, we’ll keep this one short because to be honest, it’s hard to see the screen when your eyes are being blurred by hot AF tears.  Just know that this woman was more than just my “work mom,” or my “office bff.” No, our relationship transcended the confines of the office. She WAS my mom in all of the most important senses of the word. She was one of my best friends – not just at work, but in life. She was my role model, my confidante, the person who could make me laugh so hard that I would have to run to the bathroom at work and shut myself into a stall so people wouldn’t see me basically ugly-crying from the laughs.

It’s crazy to think that for the first nearly-two years I worked with her, our shifts only overlapped by 90 minutes, yet we managed to form a solid friendship right off the bat. I’m not exaggerating. I felt so immediately at ease with her that I very quickly put down my walls. She was the first person I shared my blog with at work because our senses of humor were so aligned that I knew it would be OK.

There were days when she would stay past her quitting time because I was going through it and needed someone to talk to. When I say that I wouldn’t have lasted a month at the law firm if not for her, I’m not joking. She was the reason I kept going in every day, took it seriously, and now it’s nearly 14 years later and I am still here, Jabbering people like, “Remember that one time Barb said…” what seems like every day, and teaching all the post-Barb people about her magical, larger-than-life presence.

Even my non-work friends know and love Barb. Henry’s mom asks about her every time I see her. She came to all of Chooch’s birthday parties, all of my birthday parties/dinners (even when they were at the roller rink!!!), Marcy’s memorial dinner, our Christmas parties, game nights, pie parties. All of my friends considered her a friend. Barb was famous in this circle.

I just hope that she knew how loved she is and always be, and that she is at peace. And, selfishly, I hope that one day I can be a Barb Riley to someone.

Bonus picture of Chooch saying, “Ghis wasn’t on my list!” after opening a present from his frenemy Barb, and then getting pissed off when he discovered that she also gave me A present at his birthday party. Man, I loved their fake feud.

Jan 282024
 

Starring: Chooch, his Pikachu wallet, and PNC debit card.

I can’t really knock Chooch too much for this considering I have “lost” my wallet twice in recent years and BOTH TIMES Henry found it in the garbage. But still, in spite of his big math brain, Chooch is the biggest moron when it comes to life stuff. Especially when the life stuff involves him keeping tabs on important items, like house keys and wallets.

He “loses” his wallet A LOT. Most of the time, I will go into his room and find it immediately. (“But I swear I looked there!”) Or he will find it in the pocket of a backpack he forgot he recently used. But then there are times when he genuinely does lose it outside of the house, like the time he texted me from school and was all, “I had it this morning because I used it at the T!” so I walked to the T platform (luckily, this wasn’t pre-pandemic so I was working from home) and found it laying on the platform by the bench he was presumably sitting on. A good hour had gone by since he realized he lost it so that was some Big Luck.

OK, that’s just one example of Chooch’s butterfingers when it comes to his wallet. Now on to the latest series of wallet events starting in December. It was right before Chingumas. Henry and I had picked him up from work and right when we were nearly home, he was like, “I can’t find my wallet.” They dropped me off and drove back to Chipotle, but alas, no wallet. He apparently even checked the sidewalk where he gets off the bus and I just laughed without mirth because he works in the Strip District and I can’t imagine anyone down there finding a wallet and doing the right thing.

Henry kept telling him to call the bus people (I don’t know what it is called) to see if anyone turned it into lost and found, but Chooch was being an idiot and never did, so he had to cancel his debit card and get a new one. Luckily, he didn’t have any money in his wallet and everything was stuff that was about to expire anyway (park memberships). But he had to get a new school ID, and he realized that the only thing in there that had sentimental value and was irreplaceable was the boating license he got at the end of this cute boat ride at Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden. That detail made me kind of queasy too, to be honest, because I am such a memento hoarder. He had at least still had a picture of it that he took after getting it:

Meanwhile, about a week later, Henry called the bus people for shits and giggles, just to see if the wallet had been turned in. IT HAD BEEN! Shout out to whoever was on that bus after Chooch dropped it and did the right thing! So they drove out to wherever the lost and found is and Chooch was reunited with his wallet for, I dunno, the 87th time in his life, probably.

Ironically, I had been saying that I wanted to get him an airtag for the stupid thing for Christmas, RIGHT BEFORE HE LOST IT. Suffice to say, he now has an airtag inside the wallet.

But wait – there’s more.

After getting a new debit card that ended up not even being needed since his wallet was turned in, he clicked on a link that was texted to him from “FedEx” saying that his “package was undeliverable” and upon clicking the link, it asked him to re-enter his credit card number, which he did!?!? HE FUCKING FELL FOR THAT SHIT??

At least he had enough common sense in the reserves to immediately realize the error of his ways, so again: debit card got canceled, new one obtained from the bank. This was two weeks ago.

BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE.

Last Thursday, he was like, “I’m going to the gas station, BRB.” The gas station is a block away and he often rides his bike there to get a drink or snacks. Goes to gas station. Comes home from gas station. Goes to his room. Five minutes later, comes stampeding down the steps in a panic.

“Have you seen my debit card?” he asked, voice tight with panic, eyes slightly bulged.

“Nope,” I say, barely looking away from the computer because this was during the workday and I do not have time to care about the constant lost state of his personal effects.

“I don’t think I left it at the gas station. I remember slipping it back into my wallet,” he said, raking his hand maniacally through his hair.

“You need to connect that card to your phone!” Henry huffed, hitting the Father Knows Best cue with impeccable timing.

“THAT’S WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO WHEN I REALIZED I DIDN’T HAVE THE CARD!!!” Chooch screamed.

“Are you sure you put it in your wallet?” Henry questioned, the missing debit card version of “did you try turning it off and back on again?”

“You JUST got that card too,” I said, doing the motherly thing by pointing out the obvious. It had been less than a week, lol.

At this point, Chooch looked like he was about to jettison through the roof, and we were in dire need a live studio audience.

Chooch booked it down the sidewalk to the gas station. I have actually never seen him run so fast, if we’re being honest.

Apparently, he had dropped the card in the parking lot of the gas station (probably because he just slipped it into his wallet without actually putting it into one of the card slots) and someone ACTUALLY PICKED IT UP AND TURNED IT INTO THE CASHIER. I cannot believe this idiot’s luck with this stupid wallet and debit card.

Anyway, his card is now back to being connected to Apple Pay, and hopefully he won’t fall for any more scams. Maybe I should make him take the security training we’re required to do at work once a year. Jesus.

AUTHOR’S NOTE, THREE WEEKS LATER: So, I just saw Chooch’s wallet lying on his bed yesterday and um…I need to clarify that it is a KIRBY wallet, not PIKACHU. Deepest apologies for my error

 

Jan 272024
 

I didn’t realize it was 127 Day until just a few minutes ago thanks to Instagram but coincidentally I wore one of my NCT127 shirts to breakfast with Wendy and Jeannie this morning!

NCT127 is currently doing various Asian concerts so they haven’t been putting out new content (honestly they should probably take a break! Maybe go on a real vacation where there is no camera crew or managers, Jesus let these boys rest), so I miss them in a way that only Kpop stans could understand lol.

Anyway, I love these guys and as usual they are brightening an otherwise gloomy and depressing day.

Jan 262024
 

In my NOSTLAGIA BOX rummaging (I used RIFLING in my last post, so gotta mix it up because once upon a time I was a kinda-writer, remember), I unearthed this old picture of me from 1986 (love that my mom had a camera that lasered the dates on the photos – I bet that was super high-tech back then) doing my favorite thing ever: reading a book. This was taken when we lived in our old house on Sylvania Drive in South Park, and here are some facts about that house:

  • This is the house my mom was living in with my birth dad back when I was born. Then my dad died, my mom started dating who I consider my actual dad, things got serious so we moved into his house in Castle Shannon. I actually hated that time in my life, every memory is bad (it’s where the neighbor kids abandoned me in their tree house and I was too scared to come down on my own and I just sat up there and cried until my mom realized I was missing, to name ONE of the bad memories). Anyway, after those two married, we moved back to the house on Sylvania Drive! I should probably ask my mom about this because I have no idea if she put the house up for sale originally and no one bought it so we moved back? Or if we moved out with the intention of eventually moving back? Was anyone living there while we were gone!? I feel like we were gone for at least a year.
  • I met my childhood BFF Christy on this street – she and her family on the cul-de-sac. We were BFFs up until the end of high school when I became a huge disappointment by dropping out of school and not going to college, opting to slum it with Psycho Mike instead. Christy was probably the only one who cared enough about me to actually try to stop this and get really fucking pissed and then we eventually grew apart. I was salty about it for years but being so far removed from that and actually in a good place in my life now, I can’t blame her one bit. I was so stupid. Everything happens for a reason, etc, but I can’t help but wonder if I still would have eventually ended up with Henry even if I had opted to NOT throw away those formative years of my life. For years I said I didn’t regret those idiotic decisions, but hoo boy, ask me again now. Anyway, Christy and I are still friends and she’s also Chooch’s godmother. We just don’t really hang out that much which is sad.
  • Little did I know then that a girl I would meet almost – omg this kills me – forty years later was probably not yet born BUT her family was also living on this same street!
  • After my brother Ryan was born, my parents started building a house on a plot of land on the street my Pappap lived on – it was actually my Pappap’s plot of land and I was so fucking sad to leave Sylvania Drive when I was in 2nd grade, but the house that was being built on Gillcrest is still to this day the house that I consider my childhood home. My mom still lives there but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was inside it. Probably not since Chooch was like, in preschool??
  • There was a huge ass maple tree in the front yard and I have no idea the origin of this game, but Christy and me, and sometimes this other girl Michelle who was kind of an auxiliary member of our friend group would sit in my yard and wait for cars to drive past. Then we would glare at them and point the leaves at them, funneling all of our wicked petulance through the stems and then – what? – killing them? I can’t remember what we thought the outcome would be but I will say that I drove past this house not too long ago with Chooch and the tree was still  there! I told him the story and he was like, “That’s a stupid game.” WELL, WE HAD TO USE OUR IMAGINATIONS BACK IN THE 80s OK!?

Oh well, I was also going to drop the names of 5 books I loved as a kid but then I got sidetracked and now I’m bored with that idea and also today was terrible. Bye.

Jan 242024
 

I was rifling (do you say rifling or riffling?!) through a photo box and these pictures were in the mix. I must stumble over them once every couple of years and it never gets old because I can remember this moment like it was yesterday and not the summer of 1998. I posted the second one on IG today with a side note acknowledging that I probably repost these like every year but after scrolling thorough this graveyard of words, I apparently only posted the backstory once during Blogathon in 2010!

So here is the story again because I’m back to having nothing to say since winter life is so stale. Boo hoo. Time to find a new K-drama to binge.

****

All I was doing was putting gas in my car at a gas station. It was night time, near my apartment, and I was eighteen. A lot of things happened to me when I was eighteen.

“Is that an EAGLE TALON?” some ginger guy shouted with thick Pittsburgh intonations. It turned out he also had an Eagle Talon at one point in his life, so we started talking about that. Then I thought it would be a GREAT IDEA to invite him back to my apartment for a get together! Because that’s what you do when you meet strange men at the gas station late at night!

I wasn’t home alone though. My friends Heather and Brian were there as well. Brian gave me his typical “What did you DO?” eye brow raise when my new friend Kevin arrived with his friend. We ordered pizza and for the most part, Kevin and his friend sat at the dining room table, drinking large cans of Miller. Every one in awhile, Kevin would blurt, “MAN DO I LOVE THIS PLACE CAN I MOVE IN WITH YOU” and I would giggle sweetly. Because that’s how I do.

Kevin’s friend excused himself to use the bathroom. Getting to the bathroom required one to cut through my bedroom. A minute or so later, I went up to my room to get something.

The bathroom door was open.

In the reflection of the mirror, there quite clearly hung a large penis.

I screamed, because I was a VIRGIN! Sike, naw. But I did scream, because I was very immature about things like this. I would NEVER screamed right now if I saw some random penis! Not in a million years would I!

I ran back downstairs and crumbled to the floor in laughter.

This was a much better story at the time. Now it’s just DUMB AND I’M SORRY I CAN’T ENTERTAIN YOU, MY GOD.

I look so psychotic in that picture. I NEVER look like that! Not in a million years do I!

****

Present day Erin here. For some reason I left out the part that I was dating this guy Erik at the time and he was LESS THAN THRILLED that I brought these gas station randos home with me. Kevin was soooo wasted and kept telling Erik that he thought I was pretty and at one point he asked Erik, “do you mind if I steal her from you?” Or something up that effect.

AND ERIK SAID “BE MY GUEST.”

The worst part is that I’m pretty sure this was caught on video because we were always filming our random hangouts back then like a low low low way down low budget reality show. I still think about this from time to time.

Be my guest.

Erik and I didn’t last very long obviously. I think it was less than a full summer!

Jan 232024
 

This past weekend was weird. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I just felt like I was, out-of-body. Just uncomfy and disoriented a little? Probably a lot of it was the gray, cold skies; winter in general. Broken record a-go-go but I really hate winter.

Random squishy pumpkin toy on the floor up there but an otherwise clean-ish house because guess why, guess you guys?!

CHOOCH INVITED THE MYSTERY GIRL OVER.

I mean, I thought it was CURIOUS that he was suddenly re-designing his room with less than a year to go before he moves out for college (even if he goes to a Pittsburgh college, he wants to live on campus which is fine by me, cool bye), and then on Friday I heard him VACCUUMING up there? Like, how did he even know where the vaccuum was or how to use it is beyond me.

I was actually sooo giddy and also a nervous wreck waiting for her to arrive. I know that Chooch was big regretting inviting her over and I swear I wasn’t as bad as I could have been. Was I waiting by the door? Fully. Did I make them sit down for a grueling Q&A sesh? No, but I wanted to. Basically, we introduced ourselves to each other and then Chooch IMMEDIATELY made it super uncomfortable so I was like, “OMG fine you can go” and then that’s all I’ll say about that because I guess I should be mindful of his privacy even though this is the first time he actually was interested enough in someone to bring them over?!

(SHE IS REALLY CUTE AND NICE FYI.)

Henry cleaned the Fiji Mermaid’s “tank” for me, literally the first time since I’ve had this thing which was….back when I did the creepy carnival Halloween desk at work right?! I think that must have been 2012?!

The next day, I was supposed to have brunch with Lauren, Sandy, Amber and Nate at The Nook. I would like to go on record here to say that I was not the one who chose this place, but I was the first one to arrive so I was the one who had to go in and put my name in (they’re one of those fucking annoying trendy places that don’t take reservations). The guy said it would be about 45 minutes and I was like “hnng” but I went ahead and put my name down anyway because I didn’t know?!

There’s nowhere to wait inside so the five us huddled out front on the sidewalk -a block  I mean it wasn’t super cold that day but it also wasn’t super great either. So then we were all getting bitchy and complainy and I kept feeing like I was now responsible for this choice of locale and let me just tell you that if it were ever up to me, I would never choose somewhere in Lawrenceville and would probably also make sure that there was an actual parking lot. I just can’t handle street parking!! Which is why Henry dropped me off.

Then, everyone voted for me to go in and yell at them and I was like, “I CAN’T DO THAT, I’M NOT EVEN THE ONE WHO WANTED TO EAT HERE?!” but I did go in after the waiting app thing told me that we had surpassed the alleged 45 minute wait we were given, and now the guy was backpeddling and saying that it was just an estimate and probably 10 more minutes or so it would be ready!?

I didn’t buy it, so I came out and said, “I think we should leave” and everyone was like “yes, lead the way” but I struggled to do so because I was wearing Vans with peds (super responsible winter gear) so now that I had to walk after standing still in the cold for 45+ minutes, I was having a hard time getting my feet to cooperate.

Anyway, a block away, Sandy saw the Tryp hotel which has a restaurant and she was like, “Let’s just go there” and we followed her like little ducklings because at this point, I think “being inside” mattered more to us than “brunch.” The restaurant, of course, was closed BUT!! There was a coffee counter and a lady was behind it so Sandy yelled from the doorway, “Are you open and can you feed us?” She said a double yes, so we had brunch (lunch at this point) in the empty basement of some random hotel. Literally, aside from the barista and her baby and baby daddy, we were the only people there the whole time and it ended up being perfect.

“Look, it’s Lauren from the Old Country!” Nate exclaimed, and then to me, he commanded in a quieter voice, “Take a picture!” So I took a picture of Lauren from the Old Country.

I know it’s corny, but it really isn’t about the food or the restaurant. If you are with your friends, that’s everything and the only thing! Was my Impossible Burger memorable? Not really. But was the convo fantastico? Hell yes. And also, shout out to the barista who had the biggest, most genuine smile on her face the entire time. That was just the cherry on top.

The rest of the weekend was literally me trying to force Henry to learn at least one Seventeen member and making our list of things to do in Korea because oh yeah, we booked our flight :)

Jan 212024
 

In my house, there are three types of people:

  1. One that takes their wristband off IMMEDIATELY upon exiting a park, sometimes before even walking through the exit;
  2. One that leaves their wristband on until it either falls off or merges with their flesh to form a new synthetic & extremely unsanitary dermal layer;
  3. One that gently and careful removes their wristband and puts it somewhere safe with the intention of one day turning them into some sort of memory shrine.

I know you never would have guessed but I am #3 (also sometimes #2 when I’m feeling competitive with Chooch).

Chooch lost one of his wristbands from our Coaster Crew vacation but I made sure to take each one off as gently as possible and kept them safely tucked inside my vacation journal. I had several ideas for how I wanted to display them but I was married to any of those ideas.

Then at Ikea last weekend, I saw a shadowbox frame and you know what? I bought it because it was time to get these things out of the journal and on the wall. Fuck the fanciness, you know?

We had paint left over from the clown buffet so I snapped my fingers at Henry and told him to paint the frame. Then I handled the rest because I can’t trust him to aesthetically place the memorabilia.

Anyway, I like how it turned out and also like that it serves as a ledge for me to place miscellaneous things like the tube of fish paste (I think?!) that we were all given at breakfast one morning.

This is all I have the motivation to say for now. This weather. Ugh. I did leave the house yesterday and today which was a small miracle. But we can talk about that some other day. Now I’m going to read a book and go to bed because I accidentally woke up way too early this morning and it is HITTING ME HARD.

Jan 192024
 

Every so often, I remember that I like the Kpop group Seventeen (I always associate them with the Kpop aerobics I did back when I was like “I don’t know what these songs are but they’re fun”) and then I fall down the rabbit hole, watching live stages etc., and saying, “I gotta spend some time learning about the members.” Over the years, there are only really 3 or 4 (out of 13!) that I have become familiar with, but then one of the sub-units did an amazing performance of one of my current fave cardio dance routine songs on one of the award shows, and I remembered that at one point, I had chosen one of those guys as a bias, so then I started re-crushing on him and next thing I knew, my YouTube feed is all Seventeen and I know ALMOST all of them now, after 4 days of studying.

I’m getting there.

Anyway, today for Friday Five I will share five of my faves. They debuted in 2015 so there is quite a lot to choose from!

(My bias is Seungkwan, btw, and my cat Drew’s is The8.)

  1. Ready to Love

You guys,  this is my top #1 SVT song and the one that pulls me back in every time I hear it. It’s perfection.

 

2. Don’t Wanna Cry

The first Seventeen MV that REALLY caught my attention back in the day. That choreo!!

3. FIGHTING

This song from Seventeen’s subunit BSS (BooSeukSoon) is the anthem we all need to get through another work day. (Fun fact from your friendly Korea liaison: “fighting” is a way to say “you got this!” or “you can do it!” in Korea, it doesn’t literally mean anything aggressive!)

4. _WORLD

Just a total feel-good jam, Bruno Mars-vibes, lil bit.

5. ROCK WITH YOU

Every time I hear this, I want to get up and start doing the Give Me Five Thailand dance workout for it. I kicked the coffee table really hard one time doing it though, I just got too stoked!

***

OK, it’s been a weird week of snow days and Chooch maybe having a girlfriend and starting a countdown and uncomfortable TV shows (American Nightmare was so frustrating and upsetting!!!). I’m freaking tired, man. But I can’t go to bed until Henry chooses a Seventeen bias lol. (“I don’t know any of them!” he cried. Yeah, he said that once upon a time about NCT too and now look at him, Father NCTzen over here.)

Jan 182024
 

In addition to Saturday’s Blue Flame trip down a grilled cheese-greased memory lane, here are some other small happenings.

Chooch, leaving for college in less than a year, has suddenly decided that his bedroom needs a makeover so he made us take him to Ikea because he wanted a small bedside cabinet thing. He saw this giant bear and bought it with his own money – Baby Chooch is still in there somewhere after all!

(Actually, I’m pretty sure the impetus for his cleaning spree is A GIRL NAMED KYLIE, aka from whom the bracelet on his wrist came.)

On the way home, I got a news alert that BILL HAYES died, so I screamed.

“Who?” Henry and Chooch asked in unison, Henry sounding moderately concerned but Chooch? Not so much as expected.

“Doug Williams? HOPE’S FATHER??” I cried in agony.

No response. Blank stares.

“OMG OK, wow. Well, he’s from something near and dear to me, something that I reference almost every day,” I coaxed.

“I don’t know, your blog? Days of Our Lives?” Chooch mumbled.

Yes, Days of Our Lives, good job!

Doug and Julie - Days of Our Lives Photo (15062275) - Fanpop

A few nights later, I subjected Henry to approximately an hour of Doug and Julie DOOL clips on YouTube while screaming about how “JOE COCKER’S LOVE LIFT US UP WHERE WE BELONG WAS THEIR SONG!” but GUESS WHAT?? My ironclad DOOL memory bank failed me because that was actually covered by MARILYN MCCOO at MARLENA AND JOHN BLACK’S wedding?! How did I mix that up?! Why do I have such a vivid memory of this song playing in a Doug & Julie scene??

It’s really hard for me to get out of the DOOL loop once I start spinning. I never thought I’d be participating in this, but it occurred to me the other night that my Roman Empire has GOT to be when Hope was supposed to marry Larry but when Larry lifted the veil, it was actually HOWIE because Hope, previously Holding Out For a Hero, was riding off into the horizon on the back of Bo’s hog.

So then, lounging in bed with this clod-stomping through my mind, I pictured Howie with a fat cigar in his mouth which made me then hearken back to the time in my life, senior year of high school specifically, when I decided that I wanted to be a cigar aficionado – I was about to say inexplicably but now that I’m slipping back into 1997 during daylight hours I think it must have been because my dad was a pipe and cigar smoker and I just thought it smelled good and imagined – now near me out because this makes no sense and it’s also hypocritical to my newly formed vegetarian lifestyle back then – that it would taste meaty?! Like a thicc Bob Evans sausage link!?

I was about to question my thought process with this next part, but then remembered that I was an idiot teenager, but in any case I thought it would be a great idea to steal some of my dad’s cigars and then wait to attempt to smoke one while riding around in Psycho Mike’s silver Omni from the 80s (named Elliott because one day after he got the car, he asked what he should name it and we were on Elliott Drive, so…). First of all, I’m fucking certain I didn’t light it properly – I mean, aren’t you supposed to clip off the end first? I cannot picture myself doing that. Man, I took a big manly drag and then PROMPTLY screamed EW OMG while accidentally inhaling the plumes of decidedly NOT breakfast meaty smoke, and, as a reflex, I chucked the flaming cigar not out MY window, but ACROSS THE CAR and out of Psycho Mike’s window WHILE HE WAS DRIVING and OH BTW his window WAS NOT DOWN.

Now Psycho Mike’s screams had joined my own in hysterical unison as the STILL LIT cigar ricocheted off the closed window and into his lap, which was now smoldering. He had to veer off onto the shoulder of the road (we were on Waterman, which was super windy and made for a great setting for CIGAR-IN-THE-CAR ESCAPADES) and let’s just say this is one of the many moments I look back on and wonder how I walked away from that relationship alive.

Henry just came home from work and I had to sadly admit to him by DOOL gaff, and instead of just leaving it as “I was wrong about that Joe Cocker song,” I instead opted to reenact the clip I watched with Marilyn McCoo mccooi’ing her cover of it at whatever Doug’s lounge was called  (maybe that’s why I associate it with him and Julie??) while John Blake creepily whispered “I love you” to Marlene with a wink, and over at another table, Patch was intensely glaring at Kayla  (to be fair, he always looked like he was ready for a murder party) while Kayla breathed heavily in response.

What is my fucking life.

Sunday was pretty chill. Drew got pissed off at birds. I fed the squirrels.

Sent Henry out to Allegro for their BBQ oyster mushroom “chicken” sandwich and it was absolutely so divine. I gave myself a big stomachache though because I ate it like it was the only food I was given all weekend.

Oh!! Also, I finished watching This Is Us. Look, listen Brenda. I was an OG-viewer of that series. I watched it in REAL TIME most weeks, even! But when we cut cable, I was having to watch it on On Demand. Then something got screwed up midway through the final season and the next episode I needed was gone from On Demand and I didn’t want to keep watching it without that one. Henry and people of his ilk can do these things, but not me. I need order.

So then I just gave up. Meanwhile, my mom had JUST DISCOVERED it right after that and was like “OMG have you heard of this show” and I’m all “yeah I was watching it for 6 years of my life and now everything is ruined” and she watched the entire series in like a month somehow and I had to beg her to not talk to me about it.

Anyway, hail to Netflix, I finally got to pick it back up (it took a while to figure out where I left off!) but then once I did, I tried to drag it out so I could savor it but I ended up finishing the season and the series in less than a week and needless to say, I am wrecked. That show was pretty close to perfect, honestly. (I know it was the point, but I really fucking hated Toby there for a minute, I forgot how dreadful and unbearable his character had become! Glad he was tolerable at the end at least.)

Chooch and I both had the day off for MLK Jr Day so we walked to 802 for some local coffee. I had a mediocre banana chai (it was fine but I really like Crazy Mocha / Yinz Coffee’s chai lattes the best – everything else just tastes so watered down to me) and then I accidentally chose the wrong kind of donut (again – fine but also underwhelming) BUT!!! Chooch actually acknowledged me the entire time and that is the whole point so who cares about the rest! There was a large Mexico coffee table book in the nook where we were sat (LOL I wanted to know what it would feel like to word it that way; like the coffee and donut, it felt fine) and Chooch was actually flipping through it and showing me places he had been when he studied there in 2022! I was trying to play it cool but it truly felt being noticed in a positive way by one of the mean girls, you know?

Well, I think that’s all. It was a long weekend, and also a LONG WEEKEND if you know what I mean. I’m over winter. Ready for March. Let’s go.

P.S. Back to Doug & Julie, I had NO IDEA ABOUT THIS but they started secretly dating in the 70s and then proceeded to also secretly get married, and when people found out they demanded that their characters, who weren’t love interests at that point, get together on the show and that is how Doug & Julie became a soap opera power couple and ALSO, in my Internet travels today I learned that they were the only soap couple to be featured on the cover of Time! Sit down, Luke and Laura. Pfft.

The passing of Bill Hayes has donkey-kicked so much information into my brain. It’s crazy.

Jan 172024
 

Why does it seem like December was so long ago already? I legit can’t even remember the books I read now, without consulting Goodreads. December did a number on me. No five stars but some solid 4s. (You know what’s hilar is that I think somewhere along the line, I stopped putting my star ratings for each book, oh well, lol.)

  1. The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner

4 stars. Not my FAVE Weiner (hahahaha) but I enjoyed this and the alternating POVs. Her books aren’t necessarily literary masterpieces, but they do entertain me and have just the right amount of drama and conflict without being too heavy-handed. I don’t want to say these are light and fluffy – this one has a teen pregnancy storyline – but I would still put these in the “beach read” category. Plus, a Jennifer Weiner book was one of the first ones I took out of the library in January 2020 when I pledged to read more, so there’s some FOND ASSOCIATION there.

What I enjoyed the most about this was that most of it takes place on the road as a group of bikers ride from NYC to Buffalo. Still being nostalgic and sentimental from our coaster trip, it had some relatable feels for me, being in a group and befriending people simply because you’re together, doing the same thing. Love that. Leave me alone.

2. Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh by Rachael Lippincott

4 stars. This was a cute time travel, sapphic twist on Pride & Prejudice. I wish there had been more Pgh parts but most of the book takes place in the past, in England. A quick, cute read.

3. To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne

4 stars – maybe more like 3.5. Predictable romance but I genuinely liked the couple and that made it fun. Another cute, quick read.

4. His Black Tongue by Mitchell Lüthi

3 stars for the audiobook production. *shrugs* Nothing about this scared me. I’m glad I opted for the audiobook though because the production was excellent and included some creepy Gregorian (or similar?) chants. Very atmospheric. But the stories themselves didn’t really enthrall me. (Disclaimer: I was also listening to this the day before Chingumas and I was extremely stressed out so factor that in.)

5. Becoming the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar

4 stars. Creepy, engaging, entertaining. Shout out to Megan for clueing me into this series. Chasing the Boogeyman was better, but this was a solid follow-up IMO.

6. The Block Party by Jamie Day

3 stars. Basically a season of Desperate Housewives with less compelling characters.

7. The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran

4.5 stars. YES. Yes yes yes. A book dealer goes on a whirlwind, worldwide quest to procure this ancient witchy sex book for a mystery buyer. Loved it. Interesting, exciting, engaging, memorable. Kind of…OK hear me out…Dan Brown vibes but so much better and smarter.

8. Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney

3 stars. Alice Feeney is so hit-or-miss. This one had too many women to follow and none of them were interesting. The twist was mid. The whole time, I kept thinking, “How is this the same author who wrote Daisy Darker?” One upside to this is that all of the chapters were relatively short and I do love me a book with short chapters.

9. Margarettown by Gabrielle Zevin

4 stars. I almost DNFd this after the first chapter or two and I’m really glad I stuck it out. I was weeping by the end. This line of the synopsis speaks volumes: “What he doesn’t know is that loving Maggie means loving many women at once.” This book read like a beautiful love letter to women. I felt seen. Maybe Henry should read this.

10. The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey

3 stars. A retelling-ish of Pinnochio from Geppetto’s POV. Not for me but I can see where this would appeal to others. Most of the book takes place inside the whale and it just felt a bit, you know, well, claustrophobic. I wish there had been more “outside of the stomach” flashbacks.

11. Nestlings by Nat Cassidy

4.5 stars. OK NAT CASSIDY CALM DOWN. You are already my new favorite horror writer, stop showing off.  I didn’t love this quite as much as Mary, but this was damn near flawless in my eyes. A modern take on Rosemary’s Baby and done beautifully. Ana is a fucking bad-ass main character and I rooted for her the whole way through. One thing to note with Cassidy’s books – ya gotta read the foreword and author’s notes. Ya just gotta. I am such a fan girl. I love him lots. His writing is chef’s kiss, his characters are so vivid, and his scene-setting is glorious.

I always say that when/if we ever buy a house and actually have room for a book shelf, I want to go back and buy physical copies of my faves and both of Nat Cassidy’s book will be on those supposed shelves, you can bet.

12. The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

4 stars. I needed this. A little magical realism, a little romance, a funeral home in a small town as a setting….this was precious. I cried, BUT I ALSO LAUGHED.

13. Nineteen Claws and a Black Bird by Agustina Bazterrica

3 stars. Short stories. Some are better than others. None were particularly scary/creepy/thrilling.  There was one I loved about a woman who wants her body to be a circle, though. Most of them made me extremely uncomfortable and that’s what I want horror to do, so this wasn’t a total bust.

14. Look Closer by David Ellis

3 stars. Long for no reason. The main character Simon was so milquetoast and whiny, I couldn’t stand him. What’s a synonym for “mid”?

*************

OK, that wraps up my December reads. Read ’em and weep (I dunno why I said that, please don’t cry).

Jan 152024
 

While Chooch was at his Pitt game creation class on Saturday, Henry and I had our Blue Flame re-do. I don’t think I have been here since 2021 when Corey and I closed the place down with our incessant talking. This was when we first discovered that they were advertising HERSHEY ICE CREAM all over the outside of the restaurant, but we never really bothered to investigate.

I rarely come here anymore because it seems like every time I get the urge, they’re not open. Their hours have been fucked, and I feel like that was even before the pandemic and now it’s even worse. They’re not open for dinner AT ALL and even though the website says they’re open until 2PM, it can be a crapshoot. For instance, we made sure to leave the house around noon just in case on Saturday and it’s a good thing we did because once we got here, Henry overheard one of the servers saying they were closing early.

Well, I can now report that it’s a legit ice cream counter and I am simultaneously impressed and also disgusted by this. Let me explain. Before it was this ice cream thing, it was the location of the breakfast buffet – another thing that I did not care for because THAT replaced the best section of Blue Flame. There used to be a semi-enclosed area here with two large wrap-around booths. With the exception of an doorway, it was surrounded by a wooden wall and if my memory serves, I want to say there were also stained glass windows in the official colors of the 70s – orange/yellow/browns.

I wish there were photos of this in the mad stacks I inherited when we were cleaning out my grandparents house. It was where my Pappap always sat with me when we went there on weekdays for lunch. I would have been LITTLE, pre-school age, and he would always be meeting up with his buddies. I loved those days so much that my nose is starting to burn right now as my impending tears announce their arrival. I’d have my prized stuffed dog, Purple, with me. My Pappap would be drinking coffee, bullshitting with his other business-owner buddies, whacking on his water glass with a knife with purposeful obnoxiousness in order to get the attention of one of the waitresses who LOVED to dish it right back to him — my favorite was Monica and I can picture her like it was yesterday and she was telling me not to let those guys bother me as she slid my grilled cheese* onto the table.

*(Except that back then, I called it “girl cheese” because I seriously thought that was what they were called and that they were only for girls.)

And now, it’s just a stupid counter slinging basic-ass Hershey’s ice cream. Cool cool cool.

Change is for the fucking birds.

The grilled cheese was way more satisfying than the limp one I got last week at Deer Creek Diner but the fries were not good, another thing that’s changed because Blue Flame was the origin of my obsession with the “good ones,” those elusive perfectly crisp fries that Henry still doesn’t understand to pick them out of a line up.

Now they’re just…dry and ordinary.

And there are only young high school girls who work there now it seems, no Monica. (There was another OG who I can picture vividly but I can’t remember her name, although I think she was still there up until my adult years because I swear I had the “You probably don’t remember me…” conversation with her and she flipped out when I name-dropped my Pappap. Goddamn, it’s been a while since I cried about him, yet here we are, lol ugh.)

The bathroom has looked like this for as long as I can remember, and Blue Flame in general has a very distinct smell that has persevered throughout. Not a bad smell, but an old, nostalgic stench of, I dunno, grease, potpourri, and whatever cleaner they use.

And then after you leave, you have to walk to the edge of the parking lot and look at the creek. It’s, as my friend Alyson would say, part of the process. Henry of course went straight to the car because he’s not a member of the Blue Flame Club so these things aren’t important to him. Henry also has exactly zero amounts of sentimentality.

So yeah, that was my decent-but-sad lunch at Blue Flame on Saturday. I should go there more often because if they ever close, you know I will be the first to bitch about it while having done nothing to contribute to their business over the last decade. So, anyone want to hit up Blue Flame some weekend for breakfast, you just let me know. The earlier we get there, the less chance we have of them closing early on us.

:(

P.S. While we were there, I had a flashback to junior year when I took my whole entire friend group there for dinner and there were so many of us that we had to go to the backroom and pull several tables together. I have video of this somewhere which I would share but I need to digitize my entire home video collection and this makes me tired thinking about it so I keep telling Henry to handle it and he’s procrastinating as always. But damn, I’d really love to see that. There were so many of us that night and, as I told Henry through a mouthful of masticated grilled cheese on Saturday, it was one of the best nights of my life. *tear*

Jan 132024
 

Our department had a belated holiday get together last night at Dave & Busters. Would you believe it was the first time I’ve ever gone there?? Just never had the desire, I guess. (BECAUSE I’M NO FUN, OK? I’M A FUCKING DUD. GAMES? EW!)  But I RSVPd because even though it’s always a drag for me to leave the house right after work, it always ends up being worth it once I get there.

And I’m glad I went because our newest department member, Lara, came and it was really wonderful getting to meet her IRL rather than just awkwardly introducing myself on a video call, and you know how I hate those video calls!!

I think there were around 15 of us. Sue gave us 2 drink tickets each to start and there was some food as well. Henry begged (I MEAN, BEGGED) Margie at Chingumas to let him come because he is desperate to be a part of our department. It was actually embarrassing. He drove me there last night and then sat at one of the bars, crying into his wings, until Sue was like, “OMG tell Henry to come join us” WHICH IS JUST WHAT HE WANTED, UGH. So then I had to go and find the little golden boy and tell him that he was allowed to crash our party. He giddily sat down next to Sue, what a suck up.

There were extra drink tickets and I was like, “OOH I SHOULD HAVE ANOTHER DRINK” to which Henry quickly intervened because after two glasses of what I’m sure was super high quality pinot grigio because Dave & Busters, I was half-hammered. Maybe fully hammered. I’m actually embarrassed thinking about it because I know I was being annoying (I can’t hold my liquor) and also every single picture from last night makes me look like a fucking glassy-eyed wino.

Forced Todd into my selfie-web, and he was stoked – can you tell?

Margie and me! Shout out to Margie for helping Sue arrange everything!

WHAT WAS RACHEL CALCULATING?? Also, she is currently going through the college application drama with her TWINS so I can’t even imagine her stress levels knowing how stressed I am doing this with just one kid. We spent a good portion of the night commiserating over that and I gotta say, it was good to have someone to vent with.

Nate and Eric (who also joined us as an honorary department member for the night!) looking super intense.

Nate and #UghLou

5 hours late with this BeReal but I’m glad I remembered to do it while I was actually out of the house and with a table full of good people!

Megan has a selfie ring light for her phone that some of us were coveting, so today she sent the link for it in our group text and an hour later, Henry goes, “‘Your package is arriving on Monday’ – what package?” LOL.

We were totally in everyone’s way. People were there to play games and I’m like, “No it’s selfie time, guys.”

Ugh, you know I’m drunk when I do the huge open-mouth pose in every picture. Is it better or worse that I at least know I’m annoying?

I’m pretty sure Todd was like, “OK I’m leaving” after this because he signed up for food, drinks, and games, not posing for selfies like he’s out with so bunch of sorority girls.

I do love this one so much though!

My favorite part of the night was near the end when the last ones standing (me, Nate, Amber, Lori, Maggie, Lou and Henry) were LOAFING over by the prize room thing, being jealous and also appalled that not one but TWO people had earned enough points to snag the Ramen pillow AND the giant pickle plush.

“Where do people even PUT things like this in their house?” Amber mused.

“You’re asking the wrong person!” I said, and Lori and Maggie started cackling.

“Yeah, you’d redesign an entire room for something in there!” Maggie exclaimed.

Totally could see myself demanding Henry build an altar for a giant plush Dave & Busters pickle. It would match my new clown buffet!!!

Anyway, what a great night with great people. I’m really glad that some of us make an effort to get together and keep the work relationships alive now that we’re all remote. It’s so important, especially since now we have so many people who were hired virtually during the pandemic. For instance, our newer Support person, Wendi is someone that started during that time but she has come into the office for various casual lunches and other after-work social events and she has quickly become one of my favorite people there.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I have been so sentimental about work stuff lately. Sigh.