2015 Year in Review

me-at-abiqua

Photo courtesy of Sam Matthews.

I ended it in a better state than I started it.

January: Told friends and family I was going to move to Portland, likely in the summer if not sooner. Started my intro level roller derby practices in Oak Park.

February: Started my Feminine Comique intro to stand-up comedy class. Took a sexual harasser to court. Hosted a fun Galentines Day brunch with 20+ women I like being around. Adele and I found out our apartment was being sold, so I had to find a new plan of where to live between April and July.

March: Did my stand-up class’s final show. Told my company I was moving and asked to keep my job remotely. Started the Addison Recorded podcast with Gina, a six-week project. Turned 29. Got rid of most of my belongings in preparation for the Portland move. Set a move date for July.

April: Started a video project in which I took two-second video clips of my last 100 days of living in Chicago. Visited Portland during the rainy season to make sure I wanted to live there, AND saw the Rose City Rollers play for the first time. Concluded the podcast. Started a personal email newsletter. Moved in with Christina and John, bookending my time in Chicago in the house where I began those five years.

May: Started an ASL class with Christina, who was interested in learning. Saw my first USARS bout. My brother visited Chicago for a work conference, and then came back with his whole family a couple weeks later. Did a radio interview with WGN about Shine Theory. Saw Jenny Lewis play. Went home to Ohio for Memorial Day.

June: I got to officially announce that my company was letting me keep my job, six weeks before my move date. Did two live lit shows. Threw myself literally five going away parties. Saw Best Coast play. Gave away and sold more of my stuff.

July: Spent most of 4th of July weekend with Stef, who was planning a move to Boston just weeks after my Portland move. Put most of my new remaining belongings on an Amtrak shipment with the help of the Beans. Went to a music festival with Liz. Picked my dad up from O’Hare and drove west for 2,400 miles. Bought a couch.

August: Made new friends at a coworking space. Wrote a bunch of my book. Started writing for The Billfold. Got an essay accepted for a print anthology. Hung out with Brianne in both Oregon and Washington. Saw Jenny Lewis play twice in one weekend. Went hiking a lot with Betsy, Christina, and Kiernan. Drove to Olympia to see Paul.

September: Saw Horse Feathers play with Sam. Went to Wreckers orientation so I could start skating for Portland. Wrote more of my book and had work published more frequently on HelloGiggles. Hosted the first of many girls nights with my new Portland lady friends.

October: Went to Chicago. Went to Salt Lake City. Went to Ohio. Attended three weddings in 10 days. Jeanne came up from San Francisco to stay with me for a week. On a plane between SLC and PDX, wrote an essay about the summer I worked as a hotel housekeeper. Laura came out to celebrate Halloween the Portland way.

November: Went to the Bookmark Ball with Sam. Attended a memoir writing workshop at Wordstock. Wrote a huge chunk of my book. Took a slightly-impromptu trip to Seattle to attend an investigative reporting seminar. Crashed with Evan, Blue Star donuts in hand. Got to interview the Gilmore Guys. Got walking pneumonia but didn’t figure it out for a while. Ran a Turkey Trot, kind of. Had Thanksgiving with Yeng.

December: Went to Chicago. Went to Boston. Went to Ohio. Went back to Boston. Got to interview Ann Friedman. Hung out with Eileen, Margaret, and Liz in New Bedford. Saw Death Cab for Cutie. Bought everyone on my Christmas list a book. Spent New Year’s with Stef.

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The Guest House

TheGuestHouse

Last summer I’d successfully moved from Chicago to Portland, but my dishes were in the next state up. My cousin Paul had them, and had since May. The china belonged to his parents, a gift from their wedding thirty years earlier. A place setting for 12, it consisted of dinner and salad plates, bowls, tea cups, and saucers, all decorated in a delicate blue and yellow flowered pattern. Too formal for regular use, they went mostly unused for three decades. But two years ago, when my Chicago boyfriend and I broke up and he moved out, he took his dishes with him. My aunt gave me hers, and they were precious to me in my time of sudden need.

A year and a half later I drove them from Chicago back to her house in Columbus a few weeks before I moved to Portland, thinking she would want them back. She was surprised to see them, but I told her I was too nervous to move them in an Amtrak shipping load with the rest of my things. She offered to send them with her sons on their upcoming road trip and suggested I go get them from my oldest cousin’s house at some point once I was settled in Portland. Olympia was only a two-hour drive, after all.

My three cousins left Columbus, Ohio the weekend after the youngest’s high school graduation and the brothers headed toward Washington. Paul had lived in Olympia since he was 18, having attended Evergreen for school. That was six years ago, and he showed no signs of leaving the Pacific Northwest. I remember feeling surprised that he had chosen to go to college so far away, but it was clear the move had suited him. He moved into a group house full of other college kids after his first year there, and the housemates would often host house shows for local bands and ones traveling through on their way to Seattle or Portland. The Guest House, they called it. It was a little green ranch-style house, which I’d only seen in pictures.

I had never expected to end up in the Pacific Northwest myself but nevertheless, I moved to Portland in July, into a tiny but comfortable studio apartment in the northwest quadrant of the city. In August, I decided to go see Paul in Olympia and retrieve the dishes. I texted him to ask if he was around the weekend of the 21, and he called me in response, taking me by surprise. My dad is the only person I still speak with on the phone — everything with everyone else is communicated via text. We made plans for that weekend, when I would drive up to Olympia after work on a Friday.

“Leave as early as you can,” he advised. “Traffic is so bad.”

He wasn’t kidding. A million other cars competed with mine for space on I-5 toward Seattle. Eventually I made it the 100 miles north to Olympia and parked outside the little green house. He gave me a hug and we walked over to a bar nearby for dinner. We smoked his Marlboros as we waited for our burgers out on the patio in the August sun.

Paul is tall, with curly brown hair and an extremely rueful smile. He has always seemed to me like the type who could start a cult and probably get away with it for a while. His brain likes math and art equally, a combination I’ve never been able to relate to, but one that is common in our family. He is a musician, an artist, and braver than me. In high school he would sneak out of the house and attend literary parties with people much older than he was, and would have probably done so for longer had he not been spotted by friends of his parents.

He loves to play devil’s advocate. I remember him once getting into a debate with one of my girlfriends from college about the ethics of hunting. I can’t remember who was on which side of the argument, but I do remember my friend’s frustration at being so challenged by a 14-year-old.

Since my own mom’s passing, his has become a mother to me, the woman I go to with questions about ovarian cysts or new guys in my life. His father has given me career advice and served as a sounding board for my complaints about bad edits and bad editors.

Now Paul works on websites during the day, from home, and on his art in his spare time. Over dinner, he surprised me and told me he was leaving Olympia. He’d found a large one-bedroom in a town called Hoquiam, more than an hour away, on the coast. He talked about how few people lived there, and that seemed to appeal to him. I wondered what had changed his mind: A house always full of people, or the state of the house itself?

His lease in Hoquiam was for six months, and he was leaving Monday. He said wanted to be alone. He wanted to get a cat and have his own space and make his own messes and clean them up himself. He wanted room to draw, and the time and solitude to create. I understood these feelings and thought about how freeing it had been to live by myself for the first time, in my small Portland studio.

I nodded sympathetically. It felt nice catching up over a beer, both of us finally grown ups, and glad to see each other in a new place.

After we ate, we walked to a corner store for more cigarettes so I wouldn’t be bumming off of him all weekend. Then he took me to Cafe Vita, a coffee shop in Olympia. The walls of the coffee shop were devoted to Paul’s drawings for the entire month of August, and they were for sale. I looked at them for a long time as he sat and read at one of the tables. I picked out a drawing I liked and told him I wanted to buy it. He told me it was funny I’d picked the one I did, because it was one out of only two or three that had been drawn in Portland. While many of his drawings were in black and white, the one I’d picked had a splash of yellow. I liked it.

I told him I had cash, but he told me I would have to wait until the show was over to claim it.

“Oh,” I said, feeling stupid. It hadn’t occurred to me that buying a piece of art on display wasn’t like picking up something you needed on the way home from Target.

We headed back to the Guest House, and the inside of it was a lot like I’d pictured it. A small crowd of early 20-somethings were gathered in the kitchen, the air thick with the smoke from a pan of slightly burnt fried eggs in oil. A girl there was baking a pie and offered me a slice.

One of their friends had been visiting all week from the Midwest but was leaving that night. Paul offered to drive her to the airport and I went with them, sitting alone in the backseat of his 1982 Mercedes Benz. With her leaving and him moving, I realized I’d stumbled upon a week of goodbyes among friends. He and I talked the whole drive back, about books and music.

I slept in Paul’s room and he took the couch in the common area. I woke up the next morning when I felt a slight thump on the bed. I rolled over to face the window and saw that a small cat had leapt deftly from the window sill onto the bed where I slept. She walked up to me gingerly, sniffed my chin, and hopped down toward the partially open door. She slipped out, and I wondered blearily if I was actually awake.

I crept outside the door a few minutes after the cat, but the house was quiet. I saw Paul curled up on the couch under a blanket, and saw his phone on the coffee table next to him. I texted him to let him know I was leaving to get coffee in case he woke up, and I went back on my own this time to Cafe Vita. A Chicago man I liked sent me a picture of his coffee mug without comment, and I texted him back a photo of my Cafe Vita cup to go.

As an afterthought, I took a picture of the Portland drawing and left.

I brought back coffee for Paul and one of his housemates, and we stepped outside to drink it and smoke. The backyard of the Guest House was populated by found objects and assorted chairs. We sat for a moment, and then Paul asked me if I was dating anyone. I surprised myself by being honest with him instead of shrugging off the question. I told him about the Chicago man and mentioned hopefully that he was planning a visit to come see me in Portland. If Paul thought this was ill-advised or an unlikely event, he didn’t say so, and nodded without judgement.

“If you’re moving an hour away, I’m guessing you’re not seeing anyone,” I ventured, hoping he wouldn’t be annoyed with me for prying. He wasn’t.

“No,” he admitted.

Paul went back inside and started messing with the record player in the living room. He put on the White Album and played “Blackbird,” which made me laugh. He always remembered that song as played by our dads’ friend, Buzz. I don’t remember Buzz playing that one on regular rotation the way Paul did, but whenever I hear it, I end up thinking of Paul thinking of Buzz.

The house was slowly waking up, so I took him to breakfast at a restaurant where one of his housemates was working. I dropped him back off at the Guest House before going to meet a couple of friends of mine downtown. 

When I walked back into Paul’s room a couple hours later, I saw it was half in boxes. He’d been packing while I was out, and working quickly. I tried to help, but felt unsure of what went where. Instead, he let me help him unstick some of his photos from his walls. There were dozens of them. He explained that a wall full of them had been from his most recent birthday in March, a party at which he’d given everyone a disposable camera and asked his guests to fill them up that night. He developed them later and hung them up with tape. I watched him pull them down one by one and gather them in a box. I wondered if he was sad to leave or excited for change.

Not asking which, I quietly left the rest of the pack of cigarettes I’d bought on his desk chair.

A while later, we walked out to the porch with my things and he gave me a hug.

“I’m glad we’re family,” he said.

I blinked back sudden tears, moved. I said the same to him, and walked back toward my car.

I opened the driver’s side door and suddenly realized I was about to drive away without even asking about the dishes for which I’d ostensibly drove there. I laughed at myself and walked back. I sheepishly re-entered the house, and Paul looked surprised.

“The dishes,” I said simply, feeling ridiculous.

“Oh!” he said with a laugh. He led me to his car, parked near mine, and we transferred them from his trunk to mine. I drove off with a little wave.

I left feeling glad that he was there, or at least that he would be nearby in Hoquiam. We talked about going camping in the Cascades before it got too cold but we never did. I could wait until spring to visit, I suppose, but I like the idea of a rainy winter drive to a town of almost no one but my cousin, to an apartment by the ocean.

On Writing More, Blogging Less

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Thanks to Owen for making my sweet new banner art!

It’s crazy to me that I’ve lived in Portland for more than a month now. A lot has happened, and while the first couple weeks were a little slow, I’ve got a ton of stuff coming my way soon. Roller derby tryouts for the Rose City Wreckers are September 5, and I joined a writers group. I’ve made a handful of awesome lady friends who have been so great to include me in what they’re up to on weekends. I’ve traveled and seen so much of Washington and a little bit of Oregon — more to come, for sure.

However, regular readers may have noticed I haven’t been posting much on this site. I have good news and bad news on that front — the good news is, I am working on a book, getting more paid writing work, and curating a growing newsletter! The bad news is, that’s where I’ve been focusing my time and energy.

First, that damn book: I haven’t been writing about roller derby here because that’s what my book is about. (Let me know if you’re interested in being a test audience!) Second, those essays: It’s basically been my dream to get paid to write about myself because I am a narcissist, and now that dream is a (small) reality. Third, my newsletter: If you like what I post on this blog, you should by all means sign up for The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter. It’s where a lot of my thoughts and observations are going these days.

I’ll still be posting here — just less so. For example, I am working on a post about going to visit my cousin Paul, and I’m excited to share it here just like I normally would. It’s just that the articles I am getting paid to write had to take priority, and if I’m lucky, they’ll continue to in the future. I won’t go so far as to say blogging is dead, as others have been crying for a while, but I do feel my posts are going to become less frequent.

I started this blog almost eight years ago, and I’m not ready to stop writing for it. I’m so glad so many of you found me and my writing and kept with me through break ups and moves, break ups and moves. Thank you for reading and supporting me, always!

Ohio, in Four Parts

A couple days before I left for Ohio, I worried about where I’d sleep the night I hit town. I knew I wouldn’t see Columbus until 11 or later, since I was leaving right after work from the suburbs, and I didn’t want to make my aunt and uncle wait up for me especially if I ran late due to traffic. Tuesday night I realized I could call in a favor with my high school friend Randy, who lives near OSU’s campus and who’d stayed in Chicago with me a couple weekends ago with our friend Shawn on their way across the country.  He said by all means, come stay, so I crashed on his couch Thursday night.

The next morning we went to get breakfast at Tim Horton’s (!) before we separately drove down to southeastern Ohio – me to Pleasant City to see Owen and Jamie, and him to Caldwell to stay at his dad’s house for the long weekend. It felt silly for us to make the same ~90-minute drive in our own cars, but I needed mine all weekend and couldn’t leave it in Columbus.

Pleasant City

I missed my nieces so much – I was supposed to see them over Memorial Day weekend, but I got sick a couple days before my trip and had to stay in Chicago. I ran up to their front door and my older niece gave me the biggest hug.

tea_partyMy dad and stepmom had brought a giant picnic lunch for us all, and I was happy to see my mom’s brother Alan had made the drive down from Cleveland to see us all. We played badminton and corn hole (because, southeastern Ohio, of course) and watched my two nieces run around in matching July Fourth-themed outfits.

My older niece insisted we have a tea party, so Jamie set out cookies and milk while my niece carefully served us. She beamed at me the entire time, and I couldn’t help but beam back.

My nieces are already so clearly different, even though they are so little. My older almost seems to speak for the younger, who seems content playing on her own quietly while staying out of trouble. They are both so smart and interesting, and I loved getting to be around them. I stayed with them that night, after giving out a summer’s worth of birthday gifts, since Owen’s was July 1 and my older niece’s was June 17. We went for a walk on a paved trail near a neighboring town and my brother talked about his plans to start running again. Everyone at the picnic was incredulous, but seemingly impressed, that I’d managed to run an 8K two weeks prior.

After the girls went to bed the three adults in the house watched the Lego movie, which I unabashedly enjoyed. I crashed on their couch and Jamie made us all breakfast Saturday morning.

Dover

grandpa-meI spent day two of my Ohio vacation splitting time between family and friends, leaving Owen and Jamie’s for our grandfather’s house in Dover. Grandpa had hoped to drive down on the Fourth of July to join our picnic, but he hadn’t slept well the night before and had to cancel. Talking to him in person works best, as the phone can be hard for him to hear me (I talk too fast and my laughter interrupts him). I decided to go see him Saturday for lunch.

We drove to a place he likes in the neighboring town, New Philadelphia, but it was closed. We settled on Dover’s Bob Evans and ordered right away. While we waited for our food, we talked about traveling. I love listening to him talk about all the places he’s been, in the U.S. and abroad, and I try so hard to remember the small details of the things he liked best in case I get to go see them for myself someday, so I can tell him about it.

At some point while we waited he brought up politics, which made me cringe, because it’s the one thing we can’t make the other see eye-to-eye on, and I know arguing with him will only upset him. My dad and his two brothers deal with this dissonance in a variety of ways, and mine is to smile, nod my most non-committal nod, and delicately try to change the subject.

I was just about to excuse myself for the bathroom when he changed the subject himself:

“Let me ask you,” he said. “Have you been out to see your mother’s grave lately?”

For a second, I almost wished he’d gone on more about Obama.

“No,” I said, hesitating. “I haven’t gone in a few years. I don’t get much comfort from it.”

“We’ll go after lunch,” he said. Decision made.

I hoped he’d forget and end up driving us straight home, but when we passed his street I knew there was no getting out of it.

mom-graveI’d been to see my mother’s grave twice since her inurnment service in March of 2008, when family and friends, including Brittany and Adam, came to Dover that spring when the ground thawed. That was when, on what would have been her 55th birthday, her urn could be buried in the place that had marked her life and her death for the last six months.

Later that year, a Columbus friend made the long drive with me there, and after I sat at her graveside and felt nothing, we turned around and went home. Three years later, in the fall of 2011, I took Kevin there so he could see it, and I hadn’t been there since.

Grandpa pulled up the car in front of his wife’s grave, my grandmother’s, which sits five or so away from my mom’s. He stayed in the car and I could tell he was trying to give me some privacy. I stepped out of his car’s passenger side and walked to my mom’s headstone, which also bears my dad’s name – with no date of death, of course, but jarring to see all the same.

I stood there awkwardly for a moment, feeling my grandfather’s eyes on my back, and eventually sat down in the grass a few feet in front of it.

“I know you’re not here,” I said flatly. I paused, then added quietly, “I miss you.”

I  didn’t know what else to do, so I took a photo of the headstone, even though it felt oddly invasive. I stood up and walked away, before stopping at my grandmother’s grave. Grandpa still sat in his car, window down.

“I always liked her epitaph,” I said to him from his own grave.

grandma-epitaphHer stone, which also has my grandfather’s name, says over hers: “My journey’s trinkets will be words.” It was a line from a poem she wrote a year or two after being diagnosed with cancer, but eight or nine years before she actually died. It was called “Epitaph Me.” She was a reporter and writer as well. I never knew her, as she died in June of 1991. It always sounded like she and I would have had a lot to talk about, the way my Uncle Brian and I always do when we see each other.

“Is it strange to see your own name on a gravestone?” I asked my grandpa as we drove away.

“A little,” he admitted. “But I’ve already got my epitaph picked out: ‘Pull my finger.’”

I told my grandfather I loved him before I left, and he didn’t say it back, but he said it to me the next day over the phone without prompting, which was possibly a first. Our family has never been big on “I love you” but I wanted him to hear it that day, even if it felt a little strange.

Caldwell

I left my grandfather’s house and headed to Caldwell, my hometown but no longer my home base, since my dad sold the house I grew up in last fall and moved to the town where my stepmom owns a home. Most of it looked more or less than same as it did at Christmas, as it did last year, as it did when I was in college and in high school.

It’s comforting.

That said, parts of it really have changed, especially during the workweek. The oil and gas industry took off two or three years ago in that area. A third hotel is in talks for the small, formerly one-motel town, and a brand-new Days Inn opened just this past spring, on State Route 821 by the old, now-shuttered DANA plant.

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The Noble County Courthouse

I’m told parking on the town square, which centers around the Noble County Courthouse, is much harder to come by these days, with developers and oil and gas reps staking out property claims in county records each day. Growing up, the biggest employers in the county were the plant and the prison, the latter of which was built in the 90s and brought state jobs to a rural area. When the prison came, so did a handful of chain fast food places, including the Arby’s, where I got my first job in high school, and where Brittany worked while putting herself through her first college degree.

Now everyone is trying to get in on the oil and gas boom, before it busts. The third hotel in question is a point of outrage for locals, as it will sit within feet of one of Noble County’s two elementary schools. Brittany and Adam’s daughter will start kindergarten there in the fall.

Randy drove me out to see the Days Inn, all shiny and new. He told me he’d heard several TVs had been walked right out of the place before it opened, to my surprise. It stands out, next to the ages-old armory and the old plant.

I stopped by the local grocery store to get something for a picnic out at Wolf Run. I went in to get berries, but saw a meat and cheese tray that had a $3.99 sign above it. I laughed to myself because the same Hormel tray would be at least $9.99 at a Jewel in Chicago, so I grabbed it instead. At the check out I was surprised to learn it was actually $13.99, a large mark-up instead of a discount. I felt foolish for thinking that everything was cheaper in southeastern Ohio and paid it anyway, writing it off as an idiot tax.

Randy offered to drive me to the picnic since he was going too, and I separated the cheeses, ham, and pepperoni from their plastic bags and lined them up in sections next to the Ritz crackers out of their plastic sleeves. I forgot I’d done so later in the car and tilted the whole thing sideways, mixing it all together anyway.

“I hope this doesn’t offend the many vegetarians who I’m sure will be there,” I joked to Randy.

Randy, my one-time high school boyfriend, drives a new car he just got, and I laughed when I realized it was a standard car and not an automatic. He’d driven a standard all through high school and I kind of loved that a decade later that small detail hadn’t changed. He offered to let me drive, which I waved off.

“You tried to teach me in high school, remember?” I said. “We fish-tailed all over a gravel back road.”

We went to the wrong spot at first for the picnic, so I let him talk me into driving the less-than-a-mile journey to the right place. I stalled his car seven times and swore the entire time, as he laughed and somehow remained calm in the passenger seat, just as he had ten years earlier.

We didn’t stay more than a couple of hours because I needed to get to Brittany and Adam’s, so I rushed us back to town. From the passenger seat I realized I’d left the meat and cheese tray, which had barely been touched in favor of homemade burgers and potato salad.

“We can go back,” Randy offered, but I declined.

“Brittany wouldn’t eat it anyway, since she actually is a vegetarian,” I said.

Brittany decided to become a vegetarian at age 19 after PETA visited her Intro to Ethics class. All through high school I’d joked that she was a vegetarian in denial, since she never ate meat and swore she didn’t like it, so her decision years later was one that made sense to me.

I spent that night with Brittany and Adam and our friend Cindy, talking until 1 a.m. before realizing we were old and tired. We got breakfast in Cambridge in the morning and I headed back to Columbus from there.

Columbus

I can never spend as much time as I want in every place I want to in Ohio whenever I go home, so one aspect of my Ohio life always ends up getting neglected. This time, it was Columbus. I got to town around 2:30 Sunday afternoon and went to see my aunt and uncle’s new home for the first time. They’d sold their Clintonville house, the one I’d always known as their house, the first day it was on the market, for above-asking price. They scooped up a smaller, but big enough, house in a neighborhood closer to where I’d first lived when I moved to Columbus.

I visited with my uncle for a while, and then my aunt, and then drove to the ‘burbs to get dinner with a couple I know from college who’d graciously agreed to meet up with me on short notice. I felt tired after, as if the last three days of running around had suddenly caught up with me, so I went back to my family’s house. I got in a short video chat session with Sarah and Stef, as we’ve tried to do on Sunday nights since Sarah moved, and listened my middle cousin Brett talk about music with his 20-something friends. After they left, Brett played “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” in its entirety for my aunt and uncle, who’d just purchased tickets for all three of my cousins to go see Neutral Milk Hotel in Columbus later this month.

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Spinelli’s Deli in Italian Village, Columbus.

I left Monday morning for home. I stopped at the deli that is by the old apartment I shared with Doug and Chandra, for the first four months that I lived in Columbus. I got the same breakfast sandwich I would treat myself to back when I was a broke reporter, one who was just feeling the thrill of living in a city for the first time, and the simple pleasure of even having a neighborhood deli to walk to in the morning. It was my Columbus version of Beans and Bagels, I guess, the coffee shop in my current neighborhood, where I still sometimes go on weekend mornings to get a variation of that same breakfast sandwich.

I drove home. When I stopped for gas somewhere in Indiana, I saw my brother had posted a copy of “Epitaph Me,” my grandmother’s poem, to my Facebook wall.

epitaph-me-poem

Even though I made good use of my time in Ohio, I didn’t see everyone I wanted to, or even get to let everyone I should have know that I’d be there. Sorry for that. I do hope to see you next time.

Musical Mystery Tour

I got to my aunt’s mom’s house safely earlier today. I lucked out in a big way; I have the upstairs of her home to myself, my own bathroom and cable in the room. As my aunt said, it’s probably the best living accommodations I’ve had all year. But it still means I am essentially a hobo. I am feeling pretty blessed and, for the moment, too comfortable to be scared to death by what I’ve done. I’m now at a Caribou in the neighborhood, emailing to confirm a time to see a Roscoe Village apartment tomorrow and looking at the latest job listings.

On my drive up I listened to seven of my nearly a dozen CDs, all of which were different from the next and equally amazing. Each one really took me by surprise in its own way, and I loved them all. A few people commented when they gave me their contribution that making me a mix had been harder than they thought it would be; some told me they spent a really long time on their choices and I think their efforts really showed. The mixes are thoughtful, poignant, emotional, humorous, diverse.

In the order I listened to them:

My best friend’s mother, Lorie, has known me since I was six and joked that she was just going to make me a mix of Rod Stewart songs since we used to tease her about her high school obsession with “The Bod”. While she did include some of his, she also picked a wide variety of 80s power ballads and a couple songs I could tell reminded her of me when she heard them. For example, her inclusion of “Imagine” leads me to believe she recalls MY high school obsession with John Lennon.

Dennis and I are on a pretty similar musical wave length and he always has some band I have heard a little of but not enough, and he’s willing to share. He unintentionally put a couple really sad songs back to back and told me if I wasn’t sobbing by the end of the second I had no heart, ha. He was right, they were extremely sad.

My friend Rebekah’s was a complete shock because I had no idea what kind of music she liked, which turns out to be everything; she certainly wins the prize for most eclectic, including a country song, the Indigo Girls, “Float On” by Modest Mouse, that theme song from “Dirty Dancing” and much more. Hers also had a gem I instantly fell in love with: “The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind,” by Griffin House. Find it! Listen to it. Love it.

Christina’s was a surprise in the emotion it evoked; when I read the track list I remember thinking it would be a fun, girl-oriented mix, ranging from childhood revered Disney songs to favorite selections from Glee. However, a song from Wicked had me in tears as I thought about our friendship as if we were the ones singing “Defying Gravity”. Granted, this scenario made me the Wicked Witch of the West, but it was endearing all the same. Crying at the end, I had to laugh out loud when it was followed immediately by the Spice Girls.

My brother Owen’s was a collection of songs about travel, being on the road and on your own (“like a rolling stone”), and mostly classic rock. He mixed it up with a couple voice tracks, including his intro choice: “Some Words From the Bride,” the famous monologue from “Kill Bill”. Listening to it, I knew he wishes me the best and he hopes I find what I am looking for in Chicago. It was really nice. Owen also designed a piece of art for me, a poster for “The Royal Tenenbaums,” one of my favorite movies he introduced me to. I had to leave it in Columbus because I was afraid it would get damaged, but I can’t wait to display it.

Stacey’s mix was a collection of songs I knew, but didn’t know I knew, which is awesome. She also put a few techno songs on there that I ended up liking. She and I both like Regina Spektor a bunch so she included a couple of hers and some by similar artists.

The last one I listened to was a CD by a band called Ratatat that my friend Brad gave me while I was home in Caldwell. They are pretty awesome and I would definitely say they are a band I never would have heard of otherwise. Additionally, he gave me a CD by an artist name Jay May, who also kind of fits in the Regina Spektor type category, but stands out on her own with her lyrics and a common theme throughout the CD. I love me a good concept album now and then.

Listening to these mixes made the trip absolutely fly by and I am so happy so many people contributed to this. I made the request on a whim and the results were better than I would have ever expected. My friends have pretty awesome taste in music and I appreciate them giving me new stuff I hadn’t heard before. I’ll always think of them when I hear it again, and that’s one of the most incredible things about music: its ability to take us back, or to invoke some kind of memory, whether it’s a specific moment or a vague feeling. There’s nothing like it and I welcome it.

Thanks to everyone who gave me a CD and if you didn’t, don’t feel bad. I still have plenty to listen to that I didn’t have time to get to today.

I will have moved at least five times by the end of 2010

I’ve been knocking out some to-do items from a long list of crap I need to take care of before I move. Get eye exam and fresh supply of contacts? Check. Get new brakes? Check. Lady doctor annual exam? Check. Slowly save thousands of dollars in preparation for being unemployed? Check. I even got a flu shot yesterday morning. I haven’t had one since college but I figured since I will be likely be without health insurance all winter in one of the coldest cities in the country, any inoculation I can get my hands on while still insured is probably a good idea.

This past week I moved out of Owen and Jamie’s and back into my aunt and uncle’s. I’ll be there for the next three weeks, after which I’ll haul everything I own from Owen’s and my aunt’s to my poor Dad’s house. For a week and a half, after my last day of work, I’ll go through the few worldly possessions I still own, after having moved four times in 2010 and subsequently pared down a bit, and pack my car with the bare necessities. That is, whatever I’ll need for two weeks of job searching and apartment hunting in Chicago while I stay with my aunt’s mom. After I get a place, I’ll head back to Ohio, where my dad and I will pack up everything I’ll need/can fit in my future apartment.

For those of you unfamiliar with the past eight months of my living situation, or those who have become far too confused to keep track, here’s a helpful time line:

  • Feb. 2010: Broke up with live-in boyfriend, moved into benevolent aunt and uncle’s house in Clintonville.
  • April 2010: Boyfriend moved out, I moved back in to the campus area apartment.
  • July 2010: Lease at apartment officially ended, moved in with unsuspecting brother and sister-in-law east of the city.
  • This week: Moved back to Clintonville to my aunt and uncle’s.
  • Three weeks from now: Moving stuff back to Caldwell before packing some of it up again for Chicago.
  • Oct. 25, 2010: Leaving Ohio for Chicago with two duffle bags of clothes and a pillow.

Blehhh. Dear Lord, please let me find a job so I can live in an apartment for the next year and not have to move again for a very long time. This, of course, is a relative term. But c’mon. This is getting ridiculous.

I found this helpful guide to moving out of state recently and am trying my best to follow its advice. Who knew moving to another state could be so complicated? Also, why are there no Tim Horton’s (my prime source of sustenance) in the Chicago area? Let’s hope for a smooth transition over to Dunkin Donuts, which populate most city blocks there instead.

Coming out on the other side of grief

I think I just graduated from grief counseling.

Or at least, I will not be going anymore, after going nearly every two weeks for the last six months. My counselor, Karen, and I agreed that I have come a long way in that time and that I don’t need come back. Which I guess means that I’m all better now? Not necessarily. It just means I’ve come out on the other side of grief, in one piece. Some things can never be fully restored, just like things will never go back to how they were before my mom got sick in February of 2007. But I’ve learned I can survive it.

You don’t get over a loss, you get through it. And you can either embrace the grief and let it take you over, or you can avoid it for two and a half years and shut down when it threatens to be brought up again and interrupt your life. I don’t recommend the latter strategy, personally. Six months ago I would scarcely allow myself to think of my mom. The rare blog posts I wrote about her were exhausting and draining and painful and ugly and torturous to write. Tears usually streaming down my face, I wrote instead of spoke; And I’d always feel a little better after I wrote them. I could talk about what happened to her but I couldn’t let myself get emotional, because once that door opened it was out of my control.

I can talk about her now. I can tell you I miss her but I can also tell you a funny story about her and laugh about it. I can admit she was a lousy cook without feeling like I’m besmirching her memory.

I decided to go to counseling after Brandon and I broke up. I was already a hot mess, and Brandon’s parting words were his suggestion I go. Instead of being offended, I promised I would. He and I had talked about couples counseling but by then I already knew we were beyond that and simply not right for one another. He was worried about my unwillingness to talk about my mom, preferring instead to break down and self destruct alone, in the middle of the night, while he slept. But on the other hand, he just kind of stopped asking about her after a while. We were both at fault when it came to our Great Communication Breakdown.

My dad went to a counselor in the months after my mom’s passing. I hated his counselor. I didn’t agree with anything she told him; she put him on a grieving time line and once it had been a year since my mom died she told him it was time to get rid of her stuff. I fought this tooth and nail and I couldn’t understand how my dad could do something like that. To my mom, to me. For a long time, my dad and I were on the same page. We would call each other and talk about her. We cried. We screamed at each other. We had more fights in the weeks after she died than we did in my four years of high school. We were not in a happy nor healthy place but by God, we were there together.

Then he got better. He moved forward and I stayed in the same place. There I stayed, for months.

I told him over breakfast back in March that I was going to go. He was incredulous as to why I needed to see a therapist and asked what was wrong. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him about it and that was why I was going to talk to someone else.

“Is it Mom?” he asked.

At the very mention of her I broke down, crying into my pancakes in one of Caldwell’s three restaurants.

“Then you should go,” he conceded.

My dad has been seeing a woman named Lee Ann for almost a year now. She is a wonderful, smart, kind person and she really seems to get my dad. He obviously still misses my mom but he hasn’t let her death keep him frozen in time, in grief. I did. I felt like I was betraying her by letting go, by accepting this loss and God forbid, moving on with my life. I felt like I had to go on missing her forever, or she’d be forgotten. She wouldn’t want that for any of us, and I really believe that now. Today I can take comfort in the belief that she would be proud of me and my choices. I try to think about honoring her every day with the words I say and the decisions I make and go on with life, knowing she’d be at peace with what’s transgressed since her passing.

She would be a wonderful, loving grandmother to my little niece and while it of course pains me to know Hannah will never meet her, I am am sure she’ll grow up hearing all about her. We can’t be afraid to talk about her just because it hurts; and I’m learning the more I talk, the less it does hurt.

Day 3 of filming for “The Candidate”

This means WAR

We filmed a guy willingly getting hit with a water balloon Thursday night. Steve, who is playing Matthew, was braced for it and took it like a champ. My brother got caught in the crossfire/aftermath but being the pro he is, he didn’t stop rolling despite the shock (or the droplets of water on the lens).

We had 11 people on set last night, and it was kind of crazy, including two extras, the talented Sean Eaton on Camera 2, our producer, assistant director, crew and actors. It started off on a frightening note when I realized I’d told Becca to be there at 7:45 instead of 7. Fortunately, we had a scene we could shoot while we waited for her and she got there as soon as she could. She was really nice about my mistake, too. We shot one interview scene in my office, a scene with Becca and Matt in Stacey’s office and the rest over on the other side of our building. The later scenes were the first ones actually in the campaign office. While Owen, Sean and Steve shot a quick scene outside before it got dark, everyone else teamed up and set up the office set in less than ten minutes. It was pretty impressive. The IKEA panel curtains we purchased last week seemed to suffice as a way to block off the long hallway we wanted to hide and Aryeh pointed out they could pass as window shades, merely covering a giant window in the office.

What the....?

The water balloon scene was tricky; we only had one chance to hit Steve with the balloon so it had to be good. To make things more complicated, it was dark by the time we got to that scene so we couldn’t show Steve entering the door as we’d planned. We worked around this by instead showing the office employees (Becca, Matt, extras Christine and Samantha) going nuts in all-out Nerf gun warfare before showing Steve step into the frame. So instead of him getting hit with the balloon the second he entered, he stood shocked for a few seconds watching the chaos and THEN getting pelted. I think the end result ended up being funnier than originally planned so it all worked out. Also we ended up having three cameras on Steve when the balloon hit. Action shot to the max.

I heart my actors

I love all the actors because they totally get their characters. I feel like the ones I wrote for this are more developed than ones I’ve written in the past and they seem more real. I am really happy with our casting and how everyone seems to be getting along.

Tomorrow the scariest scene of my life takes place, with every cast member on set and lots of craziness going on. It’s a good thing we now have three cameras, but we’re kind of going to need people behind them. Also, my dad will be there, yay! Hooray for the most supportive dad on the planet who randomly agreed to come to Columbus on a Monday night to be in a very silly production with me, my brother and our friends. It’s just like when we were kids, right?

Celebrating their lives

Last night I was hanging out with Joe and Jessie and she was talking about a 5K event Joe ran in remembrance of Jessie’s dad, who passed away in March. She was talking about how emotional the event was, which is understandable because the wounds of her loss are still so fresh. She’s in what she is calling a season of grief and I won’t forget how lost that can make you feel.

Something she said last night triggered a memory I’d completely buried somewhere in my mind. I have to share it, even though now, years later, I can see how sad it is. But it’s important.

I don’t know how old I was– either in junior high, or maybe a freshman in high school. My mom and I used to sing together at various events, like Marietta’s annual choir performance of “The Messiah” with the orchestra, or in this case, a choir in Caldwell that rehearsed for a few weeks in order to sing at the local Relay For Life event that spring.

I don’t know what songs we sang, but I remember thinking during our weekly rehearsals how pretty those selections were, and maybe one in particular. It was a long time ago. But the night we finally performed, I got really emotional, thinking about my mom, and how she’d had cancer herself but lived to be there to sing at an event memorializing those who hadn’t been so lucky. I remember literally crying while singing, and after we were done I went off by myself and cried so, so hard. My mom found me sitting on the ground and somehow she knew exactly what I was thinking. She assured me she was better now, and we had nothing to worry about.

Of course, years later, those comforting words are no longer true, but they were then. I am glad we had that moment together and I wish I had said more. But maybe I didn’t have to with her.

She was sick the first time, leukemia then, when I was four or five and by the time I understood what a terminal illness was she was out of the woods. I do remember a couple of occasions as a kid or teen when I really did stop and profoundly feel and think about it, and I just marveled at how lucky my family was that my mom beat such gloomy odds. I think I remember hearing a figure of something like a five-year life expectancy, and I’ll be damned if she didn’t stretch that out to 17. Thank God she didn’t go before I was ten, because I’m absolutely sure I’d be a different person.

Slowly recovering from a summer bug thing

No haircut for me before the wedding. I’ve been home sick since Tuesday. Luckily I slept most of the day today and woke up feeling better. The DayQuill probably didn’t hurt, either.

It sounds like attendance at last night’s audition was not awesome, either. I don’t know how to cast this thing if the usual method isn’t working. Hopefully since I’ll be back at it tomorrow we can brainstorm some ideas on how to get this done. It sounds like we have a location for our campaign office, as the guy who asked me to do this got permission from the right people to film at our work location. I have to say, it’s pretty awesome they’re letting us do that. So, we’ve got all of our locations taken care of, which means once we have a full cast we can make a production schedule.

Meanwhile I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family this week, since I’m not going out or, in the last two days’ case, to work. My sister-in-law unfortunately lost her job last week so she’s been home with her daughter during the day since then. It is a blow to their plans, but I think they see it as a blessing in disguise. I hope everything works out for her and my brother. They are probably the most financially conscious people I know, so it’s definitely a slap in the face that something like this has to happen to them.

This week’s flown by, but that’s probably only because I slept through most of it.