My Hannukah Trip to Pittsburgh

So much to cover! I went back to Pittsburgh for Hannukah and had a great vacation.  Julie was very nervous because she has complicated relationships with various friends and family members of mine.   My mother is somewhat off-put by Julie's eccentricities.  She also has been hurt by the blunt opinions Julie has shared on her blog in the past.  Julie has had a hard time forgiving my mother for past inhospitality.  It doesn't help that my mother has a strange unwillingness to every utter the word "sorry".  I know this is a cliche that I believe originated with The Fonz on Happy Days.  Her reasoning is based on some principle that has never made sense to me.

The fourth night of Hannukah, before we left for Pittsburgh

On the Sunday after we arrived, Julie and I went on a nature walk through Schenley Park with Mom and Harry.

Taking off her sweatshirt before playing in the creek

A falcon!

More majestic birds

On Monday we went to Phipps Conservatory with Rachael.  It was a great time.  I love Phipps and I love how it's been expanded.  It was also fantastic to see Rachael.  Initially we were planning to meet for coffee because she was busy, so I was appreciative that she cleared some time to show us Phipps.  Afterwards, she led us to a bar where Jason Endress works.  We hoped to catch him, but he was off.

Rachael showing us around the Phipps expansion

Cat #1

Cat #2

Matt, Rachael, and Julie hunting for Jason

We visited Ed as well, where Julie picked up her third cat of the day.

El gatto tres

On Tuesday Julie and I drove to State College.  We took Julie's little sister Kait out to lunch for her 21st birthday.  Julie met her through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program seven years ago, and they kept in touch even after Julie moved away.  Julie gave Kait a gift bag almost as nice as the one Kait gave her.

Kait and Julie exchanging gifts

We met two other friends for dinner at Herwig's Austrian Bistro.  My friend Lara and Julie's friend Lily.  It was great catching up, especially considering how short on time we were during this little vacation-within-a-vacation.  At 6:25 we had to run off to meet two last friends in Harrisburg: Kevin and Tom.

Visiting old friends in Harrisburg

It can be hard to visit friends who live as far from Los Angeles as Kevin and Tom do, but they're worth it.

Julie picked up her forth and final cat of the trip before we left.

Cat four, at Kevin's house

Wednesday was our last full day.  I spent a while sorting through old boxes to separate valuable mementos from junk.  In the evening, Julie and I presented Mom and Harry with a gift basket for Hannukah and as thanks for the way Mom made Julie feel welcome.  Afterwards we met Sarah and Jedd at Eden for dinner.  It was wonderful to catch up with Sarah and to meet her new husband Jedd for the first time.  Unfortunately, Julie felt overwhelmed by the time dinner ended, so she excused herself and asked me to drop her off at home before I met Sarah and Jedd again at their home.  We worked on a 3D jigsaw puzzle of a globe and caught up.  It's nice to see friends after a long time and be reminded why you love them.  I also finally saw Jason in the 11th hour of my trip, if only for a few minutes.

Harry and Mom unwrapping gifts

Overall, it was a great trip.  I really love Julie and we're looking to get married in 2016.  In the past, Julie has had a hard time connecting with my friends because of anxiety and my family because of past mistrust.  It was important to lay some of that to rest before the end of 2015, and it went as well as could be hoped.  I credit new anxiety medication and a great deal of trust and communication between us.  I was touched that Julie got to meet old friends such as Sarah for the first time and to find new ways to bond with ones she'd met but never been close with like Rachael.  The end of 2015 is boding very well for 2016 to be my best year yet.  Stay tuned for more blog posts about Christmas and other wonderful things.

The view heading out of Pittsburgh