A weekend challenge

Because I am trying to save money before leaving for Chicago (a week from today) and taking a cross country road trip next month, I tried something last weekend: I did my best to not spend *any* money. I wasn’t 100 percent successful, but I definitely saved more than I would have if I hadn’t been making a conscious effort not to shell out some cash.

Last Saturday I bought Starbucks with a gift card (it was also “happy hour,” for half-price frappuccinos) and spent $8 in quarters doing laundry. I also caved and bought a decidedly NOT half-priced iced mocha at Caribou the next day, but all in all, I did alright.

This weekend, I can’t tell myself not to spend at all, because I have plans that require cash: breakfast with Eileen, farmers’ market visit, an acquaintance’s short film premiere and the LOST series finale at Studio 35. However, I have some control over these situations and the LOST premiere is free — although I fully intend to order food there to support Studio 35. I decided to get $50 in cash out of the ATM tonight and refuse to spend any more than that amount. I have a fridge full of food (minus some fresh veggies I intend to get at the farmers’ market) and a tank full of gas. I should be good to go, in theory. Bonus: Cash is a little harder for me to spend, like I understand it is for a lot of people; you’re physically handing over something instead of swiping an almost invisible number onto a thin piece of plastic someone then hands right back to you.

What are some of your money saving strategies? Do you ever try to trick yourself by making a game out of not spending? Or is that just me…

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Brace yourself

I just submitted two sketch ideas to the Shadowbox online forum – a more generalized version of “The Hills” parody I described to my dad, and a sketch making fun of “Twilight.” It’s for the Halloween show, after all. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I am feeling better about it all than I was 48 hours ago.

The day after my interview/confirmation of insanity, I was sent my personal login information for the writers’ team forum, where they share basic sketch ideas, outlines and drafts. There, the other writers will read, comment and give direction for an idea and the original writer (or another writer, if so inclined) will go from there and take the next step. I was encouraged to take other people’s ideas and work from them if I felt like I had a good direction to take it in.

On Friday after work, I pored over the sketch ideas already posted. I had mixed feelings about them as a whole; some, I thought to myself, were out of my league but there were some I felt I could have written and hopefully even improved on. This made me feel a little better, as if I was being told maybe I could belong to this team after all. Hours after I was accepted for this internship, my confidence took a nose dive and I began wondering what I had been thinking by even daring to ask for a role. My dad told me I don’t take criticism well, to which I snapped, “YES I DO”. Just kidding. I actually said in a whiny voice, “I think I’ve gotten better about that…”

I think he may be thinking of the time he once politely questioned my decision to major in journalism, when at the time I was hardly a news junkie. I accused him of saying I was simply not smart enough to be a reporter and promptly burst into tears in a canoe in the middle of a lake. It’s true – at that moment in my life, I was not terrible receptive to constructive criticism. However, to be fair, being judged by our parents, whom most strive hardest in their whole lives to appease, feels far worse than being criticized by anyone else on the planet. And besides, that was years ago. And look how far that journalism degree got me! …Oh, wait.

But, back to today. Confidence slightly restored, I resigned myself to submitting at least two ideas, since the head writer had e-mailed and requested two outlines by the end of this coming week. Much like in college, when I couldn’t *possibly* write a boring paper when my half of the room was dirty (remember when you were confined to/responsible for only half of a room?), I couldn’t bring myself to submit any sketch ideas with a sink full of dishes. That is why I am announcing this pitiful accomplishment at 10 p.m. on Sunday night. This has been my weekend.

Well, the rest of my weekend has mostly been made up of me talking to other people about how very excited I am to have the chance to show my stuff as a sketch comedy writer – there was little sketch comedy writing involved until very recently. I went to a going-away party for a couple Muskingum friends who are moving out of state in two weeks. There were lots of people there, only four of whom I knew prior to, but I really enjoyed meeting all those new people last night and talking to them. Seth and Amy have cultivated a pretty awesome circle of friends in their time in Columbus. I am sure they are sad to leave them for the time being.

Today, I picked up Owen and Jamie at the airport and ended up spending a good part of the day with Owen. Sadly, Jamie had to head to her hometown because her uncle passed away while they were on vacation, which they were afraid might happen. Owen picked up their cat, which I watched while they were away, and he bought me pizza for my cat-watching troubles. (Of which there were none.)

The weekend’s gone by way too fast, as usual, but I’ve got plenty going on this week. Aside from trying to convey sketch premises as non-idiotic ideas, I’ll be shooting more footage for the Summit Workshop on Tuesday and doing a wedding related video on Thursday. Bonus: I get to see B.C. and Christina as a result of Thursday’s plans. Hooray!

Funk folk

When I was in college I had the privilege of not only knowing, but living with, the amazing person known as Levi Funk. He was one of the most fun people I knew in college; he was at the same time always with a sense of humor and yet able to be deadly serious when he saw you needed him to be. Also, he played guitar in his room and made up spontaneous songs about our housemates so he was especially enjoyable to be around (“Meryl, yeah, she is writing a paper…”).

Harmonica and guitar – at the same time

Also, small world: I went last night because I saw on Levi’s Facebook that he was in town. My friends Becca and James saw it and decided to go too and we sat together at the show. Incidentally, Eileen and Levi went to high school together, AND he works at WHIZ with a girl I went to high school with. I guess that’s southeastern Ohio for you.

At last night’s show, which was at The Shrunken Head (formerally Victorian’s Midnight Cafe), we heard at least half a dozen very young, local musicians. The only woman we saw perform was the benefactor of the night’s event. She is raising money to help fund a trip to Uganda to make a documentary. You can follow this project’s progress on its Facebook page. I also bought Levi’s CD (a steal at $5) so I am looking forward to listening to that.

On top of getting to see James, Becca and Levi in one place on a Monday night, it was a pretty good time.

Well THAT was awesome

My weekend visiting The Cleve was everything I had hoped and more. The occasion calls for a photo montage.

Four ladies heading out on the town

First: Jessi, the lady we were celebrating with and for, with the theme, "Moving On"

Also, Jessi's roommate Jess, who apparently went to my college yet whom I have no recollection of; she is awesome, as it turns out

Liz, another Muskingum friend

And finally, me. You know me, right?

We did some shopping Saturday afternoon and then went to Coventry, an area of Cleveland I’d never been to before. We ate at the Winking Lizard and then went to Panini’s for the rest of the night. On Sunday, we went to Melt for lunch as I said we would, and oh my God, it’s just as amazing as I was led to believe. Hopefully we won’t have to wait as long to be seated next time though, phew.

Some random lines from the weekend:

“I don’t believe in virtual tacos.”
“You’re my favorite!”
“I can feel it in my ears!”
“There’s a dead Rob in my stock pot?”
“I don’t think they make black alpacas. Hey, its not like they make them in a factory somewhere and ship them to Targets all over the world! Then when they don’t have any you can be like, ‘Why don’t you have any in stock?!’ ”

(Maybe you just had to be there.)

Apartment changes

Brandon moved out on Saturday and I moved back in the next day. The apartment is pretty much the same as it was when I abruptly left two months ago; the neighbors are still effing loud with their dangnabbit rock music. The level of general disrepair remains the same, although another leak seems to have sprung at some point from the kitchen ceiling. It just feels different now, because I am the only person living there. I’m sure Brandon’s aware of the feeling since he was there alone for a while. I knew it was going to be weird going back after this long and so, so many people expressed surprise that I’d be going back at all. Maybe it’s a mistake, but a girl’s gotta live somewhere.

We'll see how long this lasts

To cheer myself up, I decided to make some changes. I don’t think I’ll be living there past July, since that’s when my landlord said I’ll either have to re-sign the lease or move out to make way for college students in the fall. Still, some small changes are worth it, despite the short time I’ll have to enjoy them. I re-organized the walk -in closet and packed away some clothes to give away. And last night, despite my doubts, I managed to set up the color printer I bought online last week. Unfortunately the USB cable it requires wasn’t delivered until today, so I’ll have to see if I’m able to get anything to actually print from my computer aside from that printer test sheet the thing spat out last night. We’ll see.

I no longer have a TV, or internet access, so I’m spending lots of time in Cup O’ Joe’s this week until I can get internet installation scheduled. I’m thinking of buying a relatively small TV this weekend; I’m pretty sure I remember enough of the research Brandon talked me through when we bought our giant TV a year and a half ago. In leiu of “Veronica Mars” episodes online and network television, I’ve been doing some cleaning and reading. In that sense, it is like that time I lived alone two years ago, although I’m pretty sure I can’t go a whole month without that stuff like I did then.

I have no idea what’s going to happen after July. I’m banking on some puzzle pieces falling into place before then, because it’s just too much to worry about right now. I’m taking some people’s advice and chilling the hell out. Things are going to happen, yes, but I can’t make them all happen this second, right now, all at once. And that’s a good thing, I do believe. I’m taking baby steps, but at least they are steps at all.

This weekend is going to be awesome because I get to spend some more quality time with Jessi, who I wrote about seeing a couple weeks ago. This weekend would have been her five year anniversary with her boyfriend, and why waste two days you already requested off from work? We’re going to go to Melt Bar & Grilled (get it? Grilled?) at some point, which means I’ll be checking that off my Cleveland area to-do list at last. On Saturday night a group of girls and I will be getting gussied up and going out for girls night, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do this weekend. It also brings to mind a certain Dane Cook bit about girls nights out and it makes me giggle a little bit just thinking about it.

“I just wanna dance! Let’s just stand there in a circle around our shoes and our pocketbooks and let’s just dance. If guys come near us we’ll tazer them.”

Trusting my instincts

This weekend I went shopping with my friend Jessi from college and met her friend, had dinner and a movie with Christine, with whom I attended Muskingum for only one semester, yet we’ve kept in touch. I had breakfast with Eileen, who afterward spontaneously decided to drive down to Cincinnati with me for a Plum St. Productions meeting. It was a great weekend filled with girl time and good conversation. It’s something I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of lately and I’m  feeling grateful for that. Really grateful, actually.

I had a work conference all day Friday, and I ended up missing an SNP going away party that night. SNP continues to have going away parties for people I worked with there, and I never cease to be amazed that there are still people I knew leaving. I was extremely disappointed I missed the party, and went home feeling dejected and exhausted. I also had to work Saturday, but got a break early in the day, allowing me to see Jessi, who was down from Cleveland for the day, shopping at Easton. My conference was at Easton, so she and I, along with her friend Shellie, walked around together. I got to have a good heart to heart with Jessi, who can relate to my life situation these days. Breaking up is hard to do, kids. She’s a trouper, though. And I enjoyed meeting Shellie, who was very pleasant and easy to talk to.

Later Saturday evening I stayed at Easton where Christine met up with me. She and I had planned on getting dinner at Max & Erma’s but while waiting for a table, we spontaneously decided to go see “Avatar” and have AMC food for dinner instead. She’d already seen it, and was so dismayed that I hadn’t yet that she insisted we see it right then, even if it was no longer available in 3-D. I didn’t realize how long that movie was going to be, but it was pretty good. My cousin described it as “Fern Gully” meets “The Matrix” and I can totally see that. I probably would have been more engaged if we had seen it in the 3-D format for which it was intended, but alas.

She and I went back to her apartment after and began planning our October trip to NYC. She’d mentioned it earlier this month and I have been wanting to go back to the city for a while now. It’s probably not a good idea to visit the city alone, so I jumped on her suggestion when she asked if I’d be interested in the trip. There’s a concert there for one weekend only that she wants to see, and she’s never been there before.

The next morning, Eileen and I went to Spinelli’s Deli, our old breakfast stand by. She’s going to be moving to San Diego in June, and she’s been compiling an ever growing list of things she wants to do before the big move. Breakfast at Spinelli’s one more time can now be crossed off. She was telling me about her big idea for moving all of her belongings across the country. Perhaps on the high of planning the NYC trip with Christine, I asked her if she’d like company. The answer was an enthusiastic yes. So, if I can get vacation time, I’ll be going on a cross-country road trip in a van filled with Eileen’s clothes and furniture.

But that wasn’t all; in the spirit of spontaneity and road trips, Eileen asked me if I’d like some company for the trip I was about to make to Cincinnati. She went into her apartment, grabbed a book and her laptop and on to Cincy we went. She read while I sat in on a Plum St. pre-production meeting for next weekend’s commercial. Afterward, we went to be extras in a short video two Plum St. writers were filming across the river in Bellvue, Kentucky. It sounds like a fun concept; it’s intended to poke fun at Foursquare. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t on camera at any point but there’s a good chance Eileen was. Also, while we were there, she talked to her old roommate, who I was friends with as well, and it sounds like she’ll be going on our road trip with us as well. It was pretty serendipitous.

I dropped her off and went back to my aunt and uncle’s. That morning, I’d had an odd moment with them; I told my family before going to breakfast that Brandon would be moving in with some friends this week, and so I’d be going back to my apartment soon. My aunt said it has been nice having me there for a while, and I suddenly teared up. It has been nice for me especially, and I’m going to miss living with a family. They are not exactly the same as my family was when I was in high school, of course, but it has been so wonderful having a family to be around. There’s always someone home, and they ask how my day went and what’s going on with me, what I’m doing later. I know about their lives, what’s happening with them. We eat dinner together. We help each other out. Well, they help me out. I decided to make dinner for them one night this week as a thank you gesture. When I got home last night from my trip, my aunt told me I am more than welcome to come back on Thursday nights for our tradition of watching “The Office” all together. I can’t wait.

I feel really loved right now; I can’t really explain it, but this weekend was uplifting. Last weekend was great too, of course, with all those people celebrating my birthday with me. But this weekend was full of meaningful conversation and honesty, and general goodwill. Oh, and shopping. I just feel like I’m starting to think maybe I am going to be okay after all. Things are happening in my life in 2010, and I am going to welcome change. I am not usually a friend to change, and I find myself spending far too much time reminiscing about the “old days,” when things were so much better. Until suddenly there’s different “old days” to miss and I was too busy living in the past to appreciate them. I’m not taking the time to be glad for the good times going on right now, happening this second. I am staring dead straight into the rear view mirror, and since graduating from college, I have not taken two seconds to try to look at the future. I’m just stagnant, moving slowly forward while scrambling frantically to go back.

Today, I am looking forward to the future. I am appreciating the present. I’ve got big plans, people. This is kind of a cheese ball entry, but it’s what’s on my mind right now, so there. I have been sitting on my butt since I moved out of my apartment, but that resting time is over. It’s time to plan for the future, and for once, that idea is exciting instead of scary, even though it felt terrifying merely weeks ago.

We’re gonna be okay, and every part of me trusts that feeling. I have to listen to it, even if doesn’t make sense. Maybe that’s what they say having faith is like.

To everything, there is a season

Let’s break it down by numbers, shall we?*

  • Number of miles I’ve driven in the past 36 hours: 208
  • Times I’ve unexpectedly burst into tears in that time: 27
  • Cups of coffee: 9
  • College friends I’ve seen: 8
  • Funerals I have attended: 1

*These are approximations only

It has been an emotional day, friends and readers. I drove up to Huron, Ohio after work and arrived 2 and a half hours later to see my dear college friend Jessie and her family, whom I was unfortunately only speaking to for the first time. Jessie was well composed, and yet very honest about what she was feeling and thinking. The cold, dreaded thoughts I thought about my mom, her body, where she was now — Jessie not only thought them too, she vocalized them.

Maybe I grieved wrong? Maybe you’re supposed to be able to say those almost unspeakable thoughts out loud and that’s how you get the demons out and free yourself from them?

Jessie’s dad’s funeral today was a lot different from the few others I have attended. People actually got up and spoke and shared memories about her dad, and they… they laughed. There were amusing anecdotes, loving stories and regaling jokes that you could tell were particular favorites of the teller shared at this service. Every one of them made me wish I had known Jessie’s father. He sounds like an amazing person.

What surprised me most is that Jessie herself spoke first, sharing a funny story about her dad making her change clothes before going to the mall with some friends when she was in school. She told it in a way that showed a lot about his character and his beliefs as a father. She admitted she and her dad butted heads, and Lord knows the same could be said for me and my dad, because I believe still that I take more of my personality from him than my mom.

And here I am doing something I’ve been trying all day not to — bringing this story back to myself, to my experience, to my loss. I don’t want to do that to Jessie. Her loss is not equal to my loss, nor is it unequal; they are incomparable. I cannot pretend to know exactly how she feels this week. All I can do is remember how I DID feel and try to remember what small things brought me comfort at that time. I was comforted by hand-written letters from the sincerest of well-wishers. I was comforted by kind words from those I rarely spoke to, the ones that came out of the blue and yet were completely on point. I was comforted by hugs, honest looks of consolation. I was comforted by spending time with the members of my family I had left.

I wish all these things onto Jessie and her family. I found that, even though I have kind of been in a similar boat, I still didn’t know what to say to her mom or her brothers. I can’t imagine how those who have not felt the loss of a loved one feel when they walk up to someone who has. The truth is, there are no words. There aren’t any words that will miraculously bring that special person back, you can’t say anything to change what happened or how they feel. I guess all you can do is let them talk. If they don’t want to talk, and I know all about not wanting to talk, or rather being unable to, check back later. Don’t give up on them, I suppose.

Jessie and her youngest brother recorded a song together a couple nights before the funeral. Her brother played guitar, and she sang “Hallelujah,” that Leonard Cohen song, better known for the Jeff Buckley version popularized by the movie “Shrek.” When I preface it like that, it sounds silly to admit this, but I completely lost it when I heard it today at the service. It was so beautiful. I heard Jessie sing for the first time last year and was floored. This was no different. I seriously want a CD of her singing.

She took the time to make that recording and write something to say about her father at his funeral. All I did for my mom was sit there in front of a casket while a preacher spoke. And I barely recall it. Was I so motionless, so numb, that I could do nothing to honor my mom that day? On that note, it helps if you know Jessie; she won’t sit down for two seconds if there is something constructive to be done. And I’m pretty sure she ate nothing but a granola bar yesterday, and that was while getting her hair done.

I came to see her last night, and stayed with a family friend of hers. This morning, with a couple girls we both knew from college, we went to the service together. I just wanted to sit with her and hug her the whole time. She was so strong.

But it’s in the weeks to come that she might need a hug, a hand-written note, some kind words and some honest looks. I am still in shock that this has even happened. Who knows what that means she’s feeling. No one knows but her.

I drove home alone today, driving down a two-lane highway listening to oldies music. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and a great opportunity to spend some time with my thoughts. My thoughts are of Jessie and her family today. My thoughts are of what she and her friendship mean to me. It was a wonderful drive and I know it’s hard for Jessie to find anything enjoyable right now. I am hoping that time comes, and when it does, she feels the full magnitude of it all, and feels her dad’s presence.

Our greatest fear realized

One of the people who supported me the most when my mom was sick needs my support now, and the support of others. I have talked about Jessie’s generosity and good character before and she is still a close friend I see at least once every couple of weeks. I’ve written a lot of praise about her but it still doesn’t quite do her justice. I can’t really explain to you just how far Jessie will go to help someone and comfort them; you just have to know her.

Her dad died suddenly last night. Her parents had just gotten back from a cruise a day or two earlier. They’d never been on a cruise before, and Jessie was telling me how much fun they were having when I met up with her Thursday night. Can you imagine? I can’t tell you about suddenly losing a parent, only very slowly losing one. So I can’t comprehend the shock of receiving that phone call – it’s a horrible, sickening thing to imagine that makes my heart ache just thinking about. It’s our greatest fear realized. And Jessie is honestly the last person to deserve such a painful event – not that anyone really deserves it, of course. But especially not her. Jessie was not only there for me when my mom was diagnosed with cancer; she checked in on me and my whole family throughout the worst nine months of our lives.

And she stayed. That’s the important part.

I called my dad last night after I heard the news; something about hearing about the loss of a friend’s dad made me want to call mine more than ever, and he reminded me that Jessie knew better than most what it would take to help me through our loss. She was still there after all the visitors went home, the chicken casseroles and cards stopped coming, and the phone stopped ringing. That’s the loneliest part of grieving, months later, and in the moments when you find yourself alone and it’s suddenly almost unbearable. Jessie seemed to have a sixth sense about that kind of despair and knew when to check in and make sure I was doing okay. And if I wasn’t, she could handle the weight of my grief when I couldn’t. She still asks about my dad whenever we meet up for coffee, and I’m not sure they’ve ever spoken.

You don’t get over it, you get through it. And it’s my turn to help her get through this. I am so sorry for her and I have a feeling I know what lies ahead of her. Two years ago I only knew a couple people around my age who had lost a parent. I remember I wanted to talk to them more than anyone else. I’m not sure Jessie will feel the same, but I want to be there for her somehow.

Play date

I went to my hometown over the weekend and found out a play date for my friends and their children had been scheduled for Sunday morning. I told them I would be bringing along my imaginary infant so I wouldn’t feel left out. Four of my high school friends are now moms, and they have five kids among them:

My extended family

Not pictured above are Megan’s oldest and Cindy’s son. They hadn’t met before, but they bonded pretty quickly. It appears to take little more than a couple race cars.

vrrrroooom

It was a nice weekend to be home.