This past weekend, August: Osage County closed. I was so, so sad (the cast bet I’d be the first to cry), but it was truly a “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” experience. I love this cast so much. We already all liked each other a lot, but dealing with all the stuff that went down during the tech process, we got even closer. Our director left after the first Sunday, and the show got better after he left. We had great audiences every night, and I had friends and family come to see the show on a few different nights.

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Our final Saturday performance, our sound designer decided to change things up. He’d hated the actors as a whole since we unreasonably demanded that he not blast music over our lines whenever he felt like it. So on Saturday, he decided to give us a big middle finger… several times. First, he changed the ringtone of a character’s phone. Then, in the same scene, he turned the music up so loud that only half of the final line could be heard. He also changed some of the transition music. In the green room, we were all fuming. As we found out later, he hadn’t even talked with our stage manager; he was just changing cues on a whim. After the show, he practically ran through the lobby full of actors and audience, out the door. Oh, and did I mention this was the first night that our director came back?

We had a cast party that night, and I just love being with those people. I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile, and it was really hard to say goodbye to the cast the next day. I really hope I’ll be able to work with them again. My parents came to see it that afternoon, and they seemed to enjoy it.

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The day after we closed, I had a day full of theatre. I got up early to go to an Equity call for a big Philadelphia theatre. I had planned to get there super early, but I had a Murphy’s Law morning and ended up getting there on time, which in theatre time means I was about 45 minutes late. I was sooo far down on the list that I didn’t know if I’d get seen before I had to leave for a meeting at 12:30. And I was right- by the time 12:30 rolled around, they were only on #10 and I was 29. But I had to leave, so I did, figuring I might be able to come back.

My meeting was with the head of the Philadelphia Dramatist’s Center. I had submitted to two of their playwriting programs and was rejected from both of them. This was over the summer. So when I saw an email from the head, I thought one of the old ones had somehow found its way to the top of my inbox. But, no, it was new. He said he remembered me and pulled my file when they needed a new Resident Literary Manager and Dramaturg; he respects a few of my professors and my alma mater in general. I also like to think my writing played a part in my selection. He invited me to talk about the position to see if I wanted it.

The  guy is SUPER awesome. I don’t have an easy time making conversation with people I’ve just met, but he had such an easy, friendly air about him that I felt comfortable right away. We talked about August and its playwright, then about the position, which sounds great. Basically, playwrights who are members of the PDC each get a free hour-long session with me. Beforehand, I read their script, prepare feedback, etc. If they want subsequent sessions, I’m allowed to charge. I can meet whenever and wherever I want with them, and the sessions can also be over the phone or email. I’m really excited to give this position a shot, though I’m definitely nervous; I have no official dramaturgy experience beyond what I’ve done for myself.

After that awesome meeting, I went back to the big theatre, hoping I’d run in just in time to make my slot. But apparently, as soon as I left, they called in numbers 11-39, whom they saw in less than half an hour. Welcome to show business. So I signed up again and decided to wait until 4:30, when I’d have to leave to make it to my next audition. I was called in just after four. I actually feel pretty good about how it went. The part is a 21 year-old college student who is making a webseries and is snarky- love it. I will never in my life expect to even be called back by this theatre, but I do feel good about the work I did.

As soon as that audition was over, I hopped on the subway, rode to my car, drove to my house where I changed and grabbed a granola bar for dinner, and drove to a theatre in Delaware. I hadn’t planned to go to this audition until two days beforehand, when I happened to see a casting call for Mr. Marmalade. I studied this play extensively during my second semester at my arts high school, and I loved it, even though I was too naive to really get what it was about. I directed a scene from it for my directing class, but that was as close as I’ve gotten to it since high school. Also, NO ONE DOES IT. EVER. So when I saw this call, I had to go.

The audition was fun. There weren’t many people there, but there had been another set of auditions the night before. I was going for two roles- Lucy, the main character; and Emily, a supporting role. There were four scenes done at auditions, and the director had me read Lucy in all of them. I was feeling really good about the audition, and this morning, I got the call saying I’ve been cast as Emily! I’m so excited to finally be in this play.

And last but not least, I’ve finally decided to get new headshots after hating mine for almost three years.

Funeral Day and Related Experiences

This past Friday, my Uncle Joe lost his battle with cancer. While his death was expected, it was still jarring and sad to get the call from my mom that morning saying that he would probably pass away that day, which he did in the afternoon. My mom and grandparents were there, with my aunt (the one who just got married) on the way.

At the beginning of the month, knowing that this was probably going to happen soon, I e-mailed both of my bosses and let them know that when it did, I wanted to be with my family. My boss at Big Famous University answered with, “Oh, absolutely, no problem, just let me know.” My boss at the tours, though, wrote, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a cover for you. This is kind of inconvenient.”

Um… I apologize if my life and, more importantly, my uncle’s death, is getting in the way of my job, which, as it happens, does not really impact society. Even when I found out the date of the funeral, my boss whined about helping me get a cover. I asked if someone was on call, since those people are there to cover in emergencies. “Well yeah,” my boss said. “But I don’t want to use him.” In the end, a different coworker cancelled her plans to cover both of my shifts. Then, as if that weren’t enough, I was asked to do a practice tour at 3:45 this afternoon. I said no.

Because most of my family were coming in from several hours a day, including my parents and sister, I told my mom that if anyone needed a place to stay, they could stay the night with me. My cousin Laura ended up taking me up on that offer. She and my uncle Merritt booked a flight from North Carolina which was scheduled to get in around 12:05. Late, but not obscene, and I offered to pick them up from the airport. But then it became so when the flight was delayed and their plane was scheduled to get in at 1:30. Now, generally, I am a night owl, but lately, I’ve been zonked out by 11, so around 10:30 last night, I took a nap so I’d be alert while driving.

I met Laura and Merritt in the airport and we hopped in my car and went to leave the parking lot… and didn’t for twenty minutes. For some reason, the gates where you paid for your parking were causing huge problems. Besides two planes from Chicago getting in at the same time, only three stations were open, making the lines really long, and the computer system must have been down or something, because two supervisors were running back and forth between stations, hitting buttons on the computer. The lines that were moving (not ours) took about five minutes per car, taking a million pictures of their license plates and seemingly interrogating them about their departure. The person in front of us was having some issues. We didn’t know what was going on except that we weren’t moving. We decided to back out and try the credit card lane, but as soon as the decision was made, a jerk decided to block us in, making moving impossible. We tried to motion for him to let us out, but he pretended to be confused. Meanwhile, the person in front of us was being handed back his credit card as he gesticulated angrily. At last, the car behind us moved when it benefited him and I pulled into the credit card lane. Merritt took my card and the pay stub and fed both into the machine. Once it was accepted and the gate went up, we gunned it out of there. It had taken twenty minutes.

Because the plane got in so much later, Laura and I had decided to book a hotel room at the same place where her mom and Merritt were staying. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gotten to my place until 3:30 am at the earliest and would’ve had to wake up earlier to get to the funeral home. So we arrived at the hotel around three, my aunt Debbie met us in the lobby to give us our key, and I was asleep about twenty minutes later.

I got up at 8:15 to find Laura already getting ready. By the time Aunt Debbie arrived to take her to go get our grandmother, I was ready to go get breakfast. I had expected to go to the dining room, gather food from the buffet, and chill in my room until I had to leave. So I went over to the breakfast room with only my meal voucher and my room key to discover that it was basically a restaurant. Like, a sit-down, give-a-tip restaurant; good thing I hadn’t shown up in my puppy dog pajamas. I didn’t know what to do. Besides the fact that I didn’t have my wallet, my wallet had no money in it. Finally, after a long internal debate, I snuck away after eating my breakfast, grabbed my wallet, visited an ATM, had the girl at the desk break my twenty, and slipped back into the dining room to put the tip on the table.

I left immediately after that, checking out of the hotel and heading to the funeral home. I was very, very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect from anyone, and it was scary. But it wasn’t too bad. It was hard to see my mom, aunt, and grandmother getting upset, but the service was nice and short and I met some relatives who had last seen me when I was knee-high. It was great to see how many people came to remember my uncle- not only family, but his friends from high school, his co-workers, the three bosses from his workplace, my grandparents’ friends, and even some of my relatives from my dad’s side. There was a lot of love in that room.

I sat in the second row with Allie, Laura, Merritt, and my dad. In front of us were my mom, my aunt, and my grandparents. There was one extra seat in their row and I kept thinking that it represented the person who was no longer able to take that seat in their family. The service, as I mentioned, was short, and Allie, Laura, and I stumbled through it, since it was a Catholic service and none of us are Catholic. Once the service was over, we hung around a little as people trickled over to the hotel where the luncheon was being held.

There were fewer people at the luncheon and it was a nice time. It felt like people had left their outward grieving at the funeral home, and as far as I experienced, normal conversation was had. My mom and aunt had made up a scrapbook of pictures of Joe and we asked people to write good memories on slips of paper to be alternated with photos.

Laura, Debbie, and I accompanied my grandparents back to their house and stayed for a little bit, but we were all exhausted. I’m very grateful to be able to sleep in tomorrow, because I was ready to go to bed around one in the afternoon. I can’t even imagine how tired my mom and aunt were, since they’d been driving back and forth for weeks, for hours on end.

My uncle’s death made us all really sad, but it’s also good that he’s not suffering anymore, as I heard my grandmother say at the funeral. Now it’s time for those who were close to him to struggle back to normal life, knowing that at least his pain has ended.

Wedding Bells!

Last week, my parents and I headed down to North Carolina for my aunt Debbie’s wedding. My sister Allie met us down there and we all embraced the warm weather, since Pennsylvania couldn’t figure out how to produce warmth at the time (it has since done so.) This wedding story comes to you in    parts:

PART 1: The Runaway Caterers

Sadly, the world is not full of honest people, and my aunt and new uncle discovered that the caterer they hired was one of the dishonest ones. He ran away with their money (though I’ve just gotten the news that they got it back), so they basically had to make do with what was left of the company. They also improvised by having us help to prepare some hors d’ouvres. My aunt was very apologetic, but we didn’t mind at all:

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Part 2: Cake

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Since the catering situation was a little improvised (and there was an emergency at another site being served by the same company), my cousin Laura and I ended up serving the cake. The guests at the wedding were like vultures: even when we told them that the cake would be brought to them, they would not leave the cake’s side, as if we were going to gyp certain people some cake. In the end, the cake remains looked like the aftermath of a massacre.

There were some people who stayed in their seats, though, and while Laura cut the cake, I used my server skills to stack plates up my arm and walk around to the tables, offering one of the three flavors. One man took a plate from me and then said, “Fork?” I did not have forks. “Yeah,” he said with a bit of attitude. “Didn’t think of that, did ya?” And this is why I didn’t enjoy being a server; what is with the mistreatment of the people who handle your food?!

Part 3: Rain

We all knew it was slated to rain (and rain and rain and rain) the entire wedding weekend. But as my mom and my aunt kept saying, we can only control certain things, and the weather is not one of them. Even so, when a wedding is outside, everyone wants it to be nice. So when the rain clouds rolled in on the morning of the wedding and it started to pour a few hours before the ceremony, it was hard to put on a happy face.

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But all of the worrying was for naught; just as the people started to arrive, the rain let up. It stayed away through the wedding and the reception, and it only began to drizzle around eight o’clock, when the festivities were scheduled to end.

Part 4: The Ceremony

The ceremony was held in my aunt and uncle’s backyard, which houses their large garden. About 60 people came to the wedding and it was very nice. The ceremony itself was short and sweet, which was fitting for the setting, and I’m really glad I was there to see it! I have watched my aunt get married before, but I was about four years old, and so I don’t remember much of that time at all.

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Part 5: Cousins!

It has been YEARS (probably around 5 or so) that my cousins and I have been in the same place at the same time. After all, we all live in different states- Laura in North Carolina, Allie in Buffalo, Craig in Illinois, and I in Pennsylvania- and at least one of us has been unable to get away for a big family gathering. So we were finally all together, and we took the opportunity to recreate a picture from 1994:

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LEFT: Me (age 23), Laura (middle, age 26), Craig (age 35), and Allie (age 21)
RIGHT: Me (age 4), Laura (age 8), Craig (age 16), and Allie (age 2.)

Part 6: Twins

My sister and I look a lot alike, though I look more like our mom and Allie looks more like our dad. When we were little, people always used to think we were twins, especially because, being the tiny child I was, Allie was always as tall as (if not taller than) me. As we’ve gotten older, though, we get asked if we’re twins less and less. But at the wedding, we were asked not once, but twice, if we were twins.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I love seeing my family, and to have a lot of them around for such a great reason was fantastic ❤

That Time I Knew Something About a Car

This is how the last week and a half has gone:

(Natalie breaks down that one Saturday.)
ME: Something’s wrong with the car.
DAD: (fixes it)
ME: Yay, thanks!
(Drives short distances for a day. Smoke no longer comes from under hood. Happy, appropriate-for-summer music)
NATALIE: I’m not feeling so good…
ME: Something’s wrong with the car.
DAD: No, it’s just bad gas.
ME: I don’t think so…
DAD: No, really. Driving is the only way to fix it.
ME: …Okay…
(Drives. Natalie gets sicker.)
ME: Something’s wrong with the car.
DAD: No. Drive it. Nothing’s wrong.
(Drives to places very far away, like auditions and book signings in other states. Natalie gets premium gas and feels a little better. Then I get home from New Jersey)
NATALIE: (hears swan song, cries tears of oil)
ME: There’s something wrong with the car.
DAD: No. It’s bad gas part two.
(Today, I drive to the gym. On the way home:)
NATALIE: (goes to meet maker in the middle of a busy, busy main road.)
ME: There was something wrong with the car.

So, needless to say, it wasn’t bad gas. Also needless to say, I was not happy that Natalie broke down in the middle of the road. But I was kind of happy that she broke down in general (and that it didn’t happen in Jersey) because my dad never would have believed me that something was wrong until it was proven by something as big as that (the fact that my car wouldn’t go more than 40 mph when I was flooring it wasn’t enough.) I also got lucky; not ten seconds after my car stopped moving, a policeman came along. This was good because when my dad fixed the car, he purposely disabled the window mechanism for the driver’s side, so I couldn’t power down my window and wave on cars behind me; I kept having to drape myself across the car and flap my hand outside of the passenger’s side window. He looked at all of my documents while I was on the phone with AAA and my father. Another officer showed up, and with one driving in front of me and one pushing my powerless car from behind, they got me onto the shoulder of the road.

It was both lucky and frustrating that my car broke down pretty much right outside my apartment complex. I could have been at my front door in five minutes. But I couldn’t leave my car, and AAA wasn’t going to be there for at least half an hour. So I sat in the car and read, waiting.

When I was on the phone with AAA, I had told them that the tow truck driver only had to take my car the .2 miles to the parking lot of my complex. But then my dad called and told me to have the car taken to the garage recommended by my uncle, who lives in the area. So when the tow truck driver showed up, I gave him the address… and he flipped out.

“Where’s this?!” he demanded. “Uh… Lansdale,” I said, thinking that was obvious from the address I had scribbled on the back of an old audition sheet (you know you’re an actor when…) “Yeah, but WHERE? How many miles is it from here?” “I don’t know. I’ve never been there.” “You’ve never been there?” he repeated, almost mockingly. “No,” I said. “I’m not from here. I usually take my car to my hometown to be serviced.” “Well, how am I supposed to find it? How am I supposed to know the milage? I thought I was only taking you there.” He pointed angrily toward the apartment complex. I explained that yes, that had been the original plan, but this would be better than a useless car sitting in a parking lot. He practically rolled his eyes at me. ‘Well, you’re gonna have to pay,” he said finally. “Um… how?” “Cash or cheque. It’s $4 a mile.”

I had $15 in my wallet, and my chequebook was in my apartment. But even if I had had it… $4 a mile, on my non-budget budget, could be disasterous. He insisted that we go to my apartment building so I could run upstairs, get my chequebook, and pay him. As I climbed into the truck, I thought back to the car breakdown last summer, and how dangerous it is for girls on their own to have no choice but to get in cars with these strange men. I had taken the gate sensor from my car so I could let us into the complex. His truck was much bigger than my car, and the gate wasn’t picking up the sensor. He impatiently inched his truck up. “Why isn’t it working? Why isn’t it working?!” He was acting like I was doing all of this as a funny joke.

I had texted my mom that the guy wanted a cheque from me and she texted back, “NO!” She called and demanded to talk to him. He got on the phone with AAA. At one point, I was on his phone and my phone at the same time, one to each ear like a comedy sketch, except in real life it was not funny. Eventually, it was worked out that I could pay by credit card to AAA, and he got directions to the garage, which was only fourteen miles away. His reaction to having to drive those miles was akin to someone having their arm sawn off. Isn’t that his job?

It has been pre-diagnosed that it’s the transmission, and it might be the end of Natalie. Thankfully, I don’t require a car this week except one time when it would be helpful. But the general fact that the car might be dead is not so good.

The Positive Effect of Therapy

It hit me yesterday how much therapy is positively impacting my life since I began it almost exactly two months ago. I haven’t felt miserable in at least a month, probably more. Don’t get me wrong, I have had plenty of bad days and more than plenty bad moments since December, but as for the dangerous levels of misery I reached in November? I haven’t even come close. Even looking back to this time last month, when I was on the edge of a panic attack at work due to anxiety over something that hadn’t even happened yet (and ended up  not happening at all), I can’t believe how far I’ve come.

At first, I thought that maybe this happier life has nothing to do with therapy; maybe I just wasn’t going through the same things I went through in November. But that’s not true. In November, though I saw my friends and texted them and Facebooked with them, I felt friendless and incredibly alone. To be honest, I felt entirely unloved by everyone. I was stressed out about work. I felt talentless because I didn’t have a show. I was completely freaking out about my personal life.

Now, I’d say I talk and see my friends about the same amount, but I don’t feel unloved. I voluntarily text them and tell them I want to get together and then I ACTUALLY DO IT. While texting my friends with a request to get together has always stressed me out and still does (and probably always will), I just do it (though not nearly as much as I want to or should) because I want to see them, instead of laying in my bed crying about how I’m not seeing my friends. I’m still stressed out about work. Actually, I’ve been MORE stressed out about work, considering that I just quit a job that hasn’t paid me in months. I did get cast in a show, and while that always brings its own set of  stress and insecurities, I had a great time doing the show and my confidence level ended up being boosted. Regarding my personal life, I’m still freaking out about it almost as much, but the point is that, in all of this, there’s a marked difference in that I’m actually HANDLING it. There are still days that I’ve been so stressed out that I’ve cried and times when I’ve just wanted to throw in the towel on certain things, and I’ve made some bad decisions in these last two months. But in November, I was self-destructive. I really didn’t care what happened to me. My unhappiness was at dangerous levels. Now, it’s being managed.

It’s unbelievable to me that this change can come about by sitting on a couch belonging to someone who is basically a stranger, crying and laughing and whatevering for fifty minutes a week. It’s still hard, but it was harder in the beginning, when I had to constantly remind myself that refusing to talk or clamming up when things got emotional was not going to help me. I still find myself at points in conversations with my therapist where I want to say, “I’m done for the day,” but instead of not talking, I try to push through it.

I still have a ways to go: Recently, I’ve developed the inability to sleep through the night, only falling asleep “for good” around four or five in the morning; this is not good for a myriad of reasons. And, being the incredibly emotional person that I am, I still take very tiny things very hard and harp on them for days. I still have social anxieties. But I do feel like, now that I’ve seen positive things come of this therapy, I believe in it, and I don’t feel ashamed of myself for going.

And besides being happy that that’s the case, I also realize how lucky I am. While it was ultimately my decision to go to therapy, I let myself get to ’empty’ before making that decision. I had to be scared into going by my own mind, which seemed to be out of my control, and I was also told- not suggested or wheedled with- to go by several caring friends, and my parents, too, have been incredibly supportive. I’m getting teary right now thinking of how lucky I am to have gotten as far as I have. If you’re one of the people who helped me, thank you. I’ll need you down the road, so stick around. I’ll do the same.

Merry Grown-Up Christmas

This year, Christmas was a little different. Then again, my life has been a little different since I entered the “real world,” so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised :p

The first difference was something that has happened a few times before: my mom had to work. She works at a hospital, where, just as in other healthcare professions, the patients need to be taken care of whether it’s a holiday or not. When I was little, her co-workers would make sure she had off so she could be with my dad, my sister, and me for Christmas morning, and now, she does the same for her coworkers with young kids. Since Allie and I are grown up (theoretically), Mom does work more holidays. This year, she worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Luckily, my aunt Terri, who hosts many of that side of the family’s gatherings, was willing to host our usual Christmas Eve gathering a night earlier, especially after she heard at Thanksgiving that I might have to work, too. Even though I didn’t, Aunt Terri hosted us on the 23rd instead of the usual 24th. It was the usual super-fun family gathering and afterwards, I drove back to my parents’ house.

But there was someone missing from the celebrations on the 23rd: Allie. Because she also works in healthcare, just with animals, and she, too, had to work. And since her work is six hours away, she wasn’t able to come home. This made me very sad. Since forever, Allie and I have slept in the same room on Christmas Eve and I’ve jumped on her bed to wake her up before the sun the next morning. Since our parents didn’t get up that early, we’d hang out in the living room, sometimes watching a random Christmas movie, sometimes falling back to sleep on the couch, or shaking our presents under the tree, which was always the only light.

So it probably goes without saying that I missed that this year, the first year it hasn’t happened. While I did sleep in her room, as mine is bedless, she wasn’t there and instead of getting up at dawn, I got up at nine, after my parents. I had a dream right before I woke up that she came home at the last minute. Yes, I’m incredibly sentimental. But even though she wasn’t there, my parents and I had a really great Christmas morning.

I think I need to get used to this kind of stuff. It’s like as the years passed in college and fewer and fewer friends came home for breaks. I’m growing up and people have their own lives, just like I do. The time has already come where I can’t go certain places or do certain things because of whatever I’m doing in my life, so I need to be able to deal with that on the other side.

Being a grown-up is hard.

Thanksgiving!

Though I am no longer in school and therefore do not get an official Thanksgiving break, I was determined to spend some time with my family and friends this holiday. At it happens, I was feeling very loved with the amount of people who were asking me a few times a week for most of November what my Thanksgiving week plans were.

Due to getting my work schedule but seven days ahead of time, though, I had to wait. Two days before the holiday, I drove home and that night, met up with my high school buddies Megan and Lindsay. Lindsay and I, along with our lovely high school French teacher, were helping Megan with her project for grad school. The project-helping itself was really fun and included fancy microphones, pictures of our voices, and finding out that I am a really impressive aspirator. The recordings didn’t take long, so for a few hours, we just hung out, which was great. Afterward, Megan, Lindsay, and I went to this bar/restaurant in town, where I taught the bartender about the Bechdel test (and how the three of us were at that moment failing it), had my first martini (the least gross alcoholic beverage I’ve had, but still barely drinkable), and we only saw one person from our high school who didn’t recognize us anyway.

I knew I would be working Thanksgiving day (everyone who didn’t have a really, REALLY good excuse had to), but I got lucky by getting the late lunch shift. I was hoping to get a lot of tips, since the last time I worked a holiday, customers were shoving money into my hand and thanking me for working on their vacation day. Sadly, I didn’t make a single dime. Though I wish I could have gotten to the family dinner earlier, I made it to my aunt’s house by seven on the dot to find that my family had waited to eat until I arrived. I was so incredibly happy that I got to eat dinner with everyone, especially because it proved to be the good time that is normal for my crazy, uber-Irish family.

The funniest part of the evening was sitting next to one of my cousins who was talking about the awesome concert he saw at the Beacon Theatre in NYC on October 25th. “Wait,” I said. “Regina Spektor?” He confirmed that it was that concert. “You were there?! I was there!” Turns out, he works for her manager and was backstage. It was just a fun, fun night, and afterward I went back to my parents’ house to meet up with my friends the next day.

The meet-up was really fun, but also added to the stress over being romantically alone that I’ve been feeling for awhile. I went out to dinner with Stuart and his girlfriend Courtney, and while we were there, we saw three couples from high school, one of whom is recently married and one that is recently engaged. Of course, it wasn’t just seeing the couples in general- it was the fact that my sister had also brought her boyfriend home for the holiday and in my apartment, two of out my three roommates are constantly having sex. It makes a girl feel pretty alone.

But anyway. The dinner was fun even though none of us really had an appetite. We returned to Stuart’s house where we played a board game until I had to leave to work the next day. While the holiday was sporadic and involved a lot of driving, I’m really happy I was able to spend not only the holiday, but some extra time with my family as well as seeing some of my friends 🙂

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