If We Were Taking a Walk through the Strip District . . .

31st Street Bridge Factory Building
31st Street Bridge Factory Building

If we were taking a walk through the Strip District of Pittsburgh, we'd start blocks further away than is necessary just so I could show you my weekly stomping grounds and the specific path I take during lunch breaks. Because, you know, you're interested in that kind of thing. If you weren't from Pittsburgh, I'd refrain from matter-of-factly telling you that right in front of the tavern we just passed, some guy was shot during my first week of work, because I wouldn't want you to get the wrong impression. (Okay, I'd tell you anyway.)

Between admiring the interesting murals and pointing out the cool backdrops Angelica and I use for our outfit pictures, I'd ask you what your plans were for the weekend and how you were celebrating the holidays. I'd want to know about your family traditions and what makes you filled to the brim with joy year after year. I'd share that Thanksgiving will be a lot different this year and that I hope that I can just soak up and rest inside Christmas this time around, instead of rushing through it. Pausing to browse through Zerrer's Antiques for a few minutes, we'd swap our favorite ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas specials and plot our upcoming cookie exchange.

If we were taking a walk through the Strip District, we'd journey down Penn Avenue and you'd shift our conversation into something more reflective. Where were you at this time last year? you'd ask. You wouldn't believe me when I'd tell you how only eight months ago, I could count on one hand the times I had personally driven in the city. I'd tell you it almost feels like last year wasn't even real-- instead it's some messed up, confusing, sad, yet inspiring film that occasionally replays in my mind. We'd talk about how great it feels to be here instead of there, but still--we'd have to admit that we had to go through there to get to here. Just when we begin commiserating on the necessary balance of life, we'd conveniently stumble across Pittsburgh Winery. Obviously, we had to do a tasting because . . . well . . . #ShopLocal.

Suddenly, our loosening tongues would remind us of our empty stomachs and that it'd probably be a good idea to take advantage of the many restaurants in our reach. On our way to Penn Ave Fish Company, I'd share that so many things are changing and I'm not quite sure how to take it all in yet and oh, if I could just have the answers, my direction would be so much clearer. You'd remind me that change is necessary for growth and that I should try as hard as I can to treat it like a blessing. You'd also remind me that I should be listening for God's direction, not my own. Naturally, you'd be right and even though I really don't enjoy admitting my shortcomings, I'd appreciate your insight even more.

If we were taking a walk through the Strip District, we'd geek out over Pentatonix's new Christmas album and debate if it was too early to listen to Christmas music already. Sitting down for lunch, I'd somehow I'd find a way to bring up swing dancing and plead with you to just try it with me. I'd promise you: you'd LOVE it. After a break in the conversation, I'd pluck up the courage and, while twirling the straw in my drink, I'd tell you about Mom. I'd tell you about her diagnosis and I'd tell you how I'm scared, but hopeful. You'd reach out and squeeze my hand and tell me it would be okay and that we'd get through this together. Even though there's never a good response, you'd find a way to make me feel reassured. You'd always been good at that kind of thing.

With stomachs full, we'd walk those last several blocks, snorting at the fact that there's a McDonalds in the midst of a melting pot of cultures and after telling you about the fantastic Kina Grannis concert I recently attended at Altar Bar, we'd agree that more concert-going would definitely be in our futures. Next time we'd meet, we'd have more answers (and likely more questions), but we would pinky promise to embrace it all, no matter what life threw at us. Deal? Deal.