New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

I never reach all of my goals for a new year, but I do alright. With all the optimism in the world, I offer my resolutions for 2015:

  1. Do as many live lit shows as I possibly can this year
  2. Complete intro roller derby class at Derby Lite
  3. Do Feminine Comique training
  4. Volunteer marketing services to at least one nonprofit
  5. Bike 500 miles by year’s end
  6. Lose final 9 lbs for a total of 30 since May 2013
  7. Re-visit ASL skills, even if just via YouTube video practice
  8. Take an intro ukulele or fiddle class at Old Town School of Folk
  9. Mull over possible tattoo idea for at least six months
  10. Have the best Chicago summer ever
  11. Travel to visit Eileen and Margaret in Massachusetts
  12. Write for DNAinfo, NewsCastic, and other sites as much as I can
  13. Make a plan for better savings
  14. Ring in 2016 from Portland, OR
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2014 Year-in-Review

If each year since I started this blog had a tagline, they might go something like, “2008: The Year I Started a Grown-Up Job After Graduating From College” or “2010: The Year I Moved to Chicago” or even “2012: The Year of The Ear Surgeries.”

What would 2014 be? The year all of Chicago’s crazies/misogynists descended upon me at once? The year of my breakup? Or would it be the year I said yes? This is how I choose to look back on this year.

I wrote 18 blog posts in 2013. This is my 54th for 2014. I wrote more this year than possibly any other, save the year I was a full-time reporter. I also traveled more in 2014 than ever before, from California to Vegas to Portland to Salt Lake City to home.

It was a good year. I couldn’t see how it could possibly turn out to be so when it started, but it absolutely was. I started out this year feeling like someone’s ex-girlfriend. I’m wrapping it up with such a solid sense of self, and a clearer understanding of who I am and what I want for my life. For me, 2010 was a similar year of growth, when I made a life-saving recovery thanks to grief counseling, and ended it with the decision to hit re-set by moving to Chicago. This year was less dramatic, but just as eye-opening and productive and soul-feeding.

I spent the first half of 2014 in complete upheaval: breaking up with my live-in boyfriend; spending the first three months of the year unsure if I was going to get hired for a new job I was in the running for; and moving out of my apartment of more than two years to a new neighborhood with a roommate I didn’t know.

The rest of 2014 was spent smoothing things out, leveling them: I am no longer in a co-dependent relationship in which I feel shitty half the time; I love my job; and I live in a much better apartment with an awesome lady who makes me tea and buys me chocolate when I’m sad. The second half of 2014 was spent writing, whether it was an episode of a webseries, freelance articles, blog posts, or a travel series. It was at the start of the second half that I felt the undeniable need to go to Portland alone and experience that city and new place.

I said yes to lots and lots of things. I like myself a whole lot better than I did 12 months ago. So, as I’ve done since 2008, I present to you the inane; the important; the things I deemed worthy of blogging about this year.

January: My ex-boyfriend moved out of the apartment we shared. Was asked to be a contributor for the Addison Recorder. Got an email from an HR department about a marketing job I’d applied for. Enjoyed the company of Mango, a foster kitty that had been left in my custody.

February: Had a rough, cold winter and drove to the suburbs in a snowstorm for a job interview. Spontaneously decided to flee the polar vortex(es) and fly to San Diego to see Eileen and Tim.

March: Debated whether or not to re-sign my lease on an expensive one-bedroom that used to be paid for by two people. The day before my 28th birthday I heard I was hired for the new job, but signed my lease knowing I was going to need to break it in the summer to find somewhere cheaper.

April: A month of goodbyes: Said goodbye to Groupon, and hello to my current company. Said goodbye to Sarah and Evan, who moved to Salt Lake City and Seattle, respectively. Ran a 5K with Jaimi — my first in two years, her first one ever.

May: Said another goodbye, to Mango the cat. Ran another 5K, this time with Travis. Got horribly sick just before Memorial Day weekend, but recovered in time to go on an illuminating bike ride to Evanston with Becca.

June: Rode my bike everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. Made plans to move in with Adele in Albany Park. Was unfortunately assaulted by a cyclist in Lincoln Square just before moving. Began writing in earnest for the Addison Recorder. Ran my first 8K.

July: Went to Ohio for Fourth of July weekend. Threw myself a moving-out party. Wrote an episode of a webseries. Had a meltdown after procrastinating packing for weeks. Packed. Said goodbye to my home of 2+ years and cried a lot. Decided to visit Portland by myself in the fall.

August: Settled into the new apartment and was surprised by how much better I felt just by getting out of the old place. Got really into using Twitter. Tallied up my miles and realized I’d ridden more than 200 over June, July, and August.

September: Bought myself a tiny blue record player and held its importance close. Finally read at a live lit event, sharing an essay about moving out of the old place and away from the memories it was built from. Went to Vegas for work and began to feel mounting excitement for Portland. Ran my best 5K yet, this time by myself.

October: Flew to Portland by myself Oct. 1. Fell in love with a part of the country I was unfamiliar with and biked everywhere I went for four days. Took a bus to visit Evan in Seattle. Read at two more live lit shows. Starting making lists for NewsCastic. Began to imagine myself living in Portland.

November: Climbed all the steps of the Sears Tower with Jaimi, Becca, and Jodi. Felt the heavy weight of my mom being gone for seven years. Had an essay published on Hello Giggles. Saw the final version of the webseries episode I wrote. Flew to SLC to see Sarah with Stef for a very fun Friendsgiving.

December: Had a really effing terrible cab experience. Signed up for a January stand-up comedy class taught by a live lit woman I admire and respect. Took up roller derby. Got bangs! Went home for Christmas and was gifted the skates I needed for game play. Flew home thinking about what I want to get out of 2015 and began making some plans.

One of Us

This is an essay I wrote for a live lit event. The theme was “musical guilty pleasures.”

Cover of Joan Osborne's "Relish"

Joan Osborne’s “Relish” (image via)

It is 1996. I am in the 5th grade, and so is my best friend Nicole. Nicole lives up the road from me and rides my school bus, and we have almost nothing in common. Even at age 11, she has much more of a rebellious streak than I do, and her mom isn’t around much. I, however, am the daughter of two librarians who always know where I am, and my idea of a rebellion at this point in life is trading a whole grain natural peanut butter and sugar-free jelly sandwich at lunch for a Little Debby Zebra Cake — if anyone would have been willing to make such a trade at my school.

It’s almost the end of the school year, and we are beyond excited. It’s been announced that there’s going to be a talent show at the elementary school’s spring fling, and we are going to perform. Neither of us can sing, but we love singing anyway, and we’re pretty sure we have just the right amount of heart to pull this thing off. We believe whole-heartedly in Disney movie endings.

Nicole and I are very different people, but we both know what we’re going to perform: We are completely enthralled and obsessed with Joan Osborne’s “One of Us,” a song whose artist will later be known as a strange one-hit wonder. But we don’t know that yet. All we know now, at age 11, is that this song speaks to us, on a deeply profound and important level.

We listen to it all the time. We try to record it off the radio with a tape deck, because it’s the mid-90s and that’s how we listen to our favorite songs. Neither of our moms wants to waste money on more band’s cassette tapes we will inevitably play on loop until they want to tear their hair out. This does pose the immediate problem of having a copy of the song for us to play at the talent show. I find what I see at the time as a creative solution, after many failed attempts at taping it from the radio at the very beginning.

We live in rural, southeastern Ohio, and my family’s house is just up the hill from one of several country bars along State Route 564. Weirdly, I’m allowed to go down there by myself on Saturday mornings to play video games and buy candy bars, armed with a coin purse full of quarters. This morning, however, those quarters are otherwise spoken for. I bring down my portable cassette player and park myself in front of the bar’s juke box, which contains a copy of Joan Osborne’s 1995 album, “Relish.” I play “One of Us” on the machine and hit record. I do this at least three or four times at 10 a.m. in this empty dive, where the woman behind the bar must surely wonder what the hell I am doing. She does not ask.

Satisfied, I back walk up the hill to my house.

I listen to this song over and over and over. I can’t then put into words what draws me into it so much, but as an adult I can supply a theory: This song asks some big questions and is pretty much a highly-diluted version of Christianity. It makes God a person. I mean, what if God WAS just a stranger on the bus, you guys? Just think about that.

I live and breathe this song. I play the lyrics out in my mind like a movie, and think about deceased grandparents and wonder where they are now. I hold the tape player close to me and find myself trying to picture God’s face. I don’t know yet that my life will later be filled with lots of bigger questions and conflicting feelings about organized religion and the meaning of faith. I don’t yet know that my mom will get cancer and die and that I will be really unhappy with God over that. “Good” and “evil” are still black and white to me at age 11, and God personified is a comforting thought.

We memorize the words and get ready for the talent show. We decide Joan Osborn’s vocal range is just in line with each of ours, and we wonder why we are not famous musicians yet. We practice and practice and make up a dance to go with the song even though we both know ultimately we will never perform it in public. But we feel ready.

It’s the big night of the talent show. We see our peers perform before us and we judge them silently to distract ourselves from our nerves. A girl who is a perfectionist and source of constant irritation for me in my classes sings a beautiful rendition of Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me.” I seethe at her success and also feel pangs of envy over the fact that I didn’t think of doing that song first. We watch two boys in our class cover a Green Day song and years later I will have crushes on both of them because my type of man will be partially defined by this performance.

Finally it’s our turn.

At this point I need to mention that “One of Us” is a five-minute song. Years later I will come to know that any halfway-decent karaoke stand-by should not surpass the four-minute mark, with the exception of certain 80s classics and even then, only with a very forgiving audience. But we are 11, and we are not thinking of how long those five minutes are going to feel for us or for anyone watching.

We get on stage, and stand too far away from the mics because we are terrified. The AV person hits play, and a static-y, second-hand recording of “One of Us” begins to play. It is now dawning on me that we probably should have told at least one of our parents about this talent show because someone would have likely stepped in and told us that using a recording of a recording was a bad idea. But it’s too late for that now. We both very quietly sing, “What if God was one of us…?” and look out at our peers in our half-full school cafeteria.

The song seems to go on forever but mercifully, it ends. We stand in silence as the final notes fade out, and the audience stares at us. We stare back, and then someone politely claps. The rest of the audience kicks in, and we jolt back into action and scurry off stage.

It is awful, but somehow we are running high from our achievement, or from our own daring. We hug each other and laugh backstage.

To this day I am unclear as to why none of our parents were there, or at the very least my mom, but it doesn’t matter. We got through it, and we shared our message with the world. Tonight I leave you with that same message:

What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus, just trying to make his way home?

Think about that.

Live Lit At Last

Me reading an essay at Story Club

Photo taken by Stef (Thanks!)

I can finally cross “read an essay at a live lit event” off of my bucket list (and I guess my 2013 list of New Year’s Resolutions). I got the chance to read at Story Club Thursday night, and even though I thought I might tremble off the stage during the entire first page, I am so glad I did it.

I read a more polished version of a blog post I wrote the morning I moved, while waiting for the movers to show up.

Thanks to Stefanie who encouraged me from the start (Sarah too, who was with us at Holiday Club in spirit, all the way from Salt Lake City!). Stef gave me  a couple last-minute detail suggestions that really added to my piece, and she also gave me a giant hug the moment I got off stage. Thanks also to Christina, who came out to see me and who helped me revise my essay in our writers group. They were among the very few people I told, so I apologize to those of you who wanted to see me finally make this happen. If I get another chance, I’ll let more people know with the hopes that I’ll be less nervous in the future.

The live lit community in Chicago is so overwhelmingly supportive. I met a lot of great people that night and was glad to see the folks I already knew who are a part of that crowd. I felt lifted up by them all. I hope I get the chance to read again soon.

Settled In

I moved three weeks ago, and as of right now, I have only one unpacked box. Before today, at least half a dozen boxes still sat in our living room, backed up against the sun room wall with the boxed-in dining room table. When I moved, I immediately ran out of storage space in my bedroom, but even more so in my bathroom. So on Friday, I bought a boxed set of shelves at Target.

Back in 2008, when Christina from college and I moved in together, she and I built a similar bathroom storage unit — just the two of us. We’d been pretty proud of ourselves because we hadn’t needed to ask either of our boyfriends for help, and the thing turned out looking like it was supposed to. I knew deep down, however, that I’d played second banana in that project, and had with every similar one since. Kevin took the lead in building all of our IKEA purchases, and even helped me build my bed shortly after we broke up and he moved out.

I woke up this morning from a stress dream about this set of bathroom shelves and briefly, hazily, considered asking for Kevin’s help. I woke up a little more and shook the thought out of my head. I was on my own for the shelves and I knew it.

My roommate and I went out to brunch this morning, with her visiting friend (and former roommate, whose place I took in the apartment). Afterward I had the place to myself for a bit. I resigned myself to the task of putting together the shelves, since no one would be around to hear me swearing.

First of all, whatever possesses us to keep buying furniture we have to build ourselves? Does IKEA have some kind of lingering chemical in their products that leads us to forget what a pain in the ass the thing was to construct in the first place, allowing us to buy more later as needed?

That said, the Target shelves, while similar to IKEA’s, were much easier to build than I thought they’d be. I only messed up once and ended up screwing two tiny holes in the wrong end of one shelf, but it’s the bottom one and no one’s going to see it. I sat back and marveled at my own handiwork.

I built these shelves all on my own, and they are mine.

Bathroom shelves from Target

Bow before me, queen of building boxed furniture

It’s a small victory maybe, but to me, it’s one more sign that I’m moving forward in my life. Moving out of my old place has had an extremely positive effect on me. I don’t think I realized how trapped I was in the old apartment — the memories it held weren’t always in the forefront of my mind, but they were present all the same. I lived in that one-bedroom apartment Kevin and I shared for six more months after he left it. I went a little nuts, but I didn’t know it until I was out of there.

Now I live in a bright, sunshine-yellow room and share an apartment with a lovely, kind person and I can’t explain to you how much better I feel for it.

bathroom-and-desk

Private bathroom, desk, bed

desk

New writing space

books

(Some of) the books, DVDs

closet

Clothes shelves, closet

bed

Bed, with Lincoln Square and Columbus art

It also helps that I’ve been insanely busy for all of August. In the last three weeks, I have:

  • Seen Jenny Lewis live with Stef
  • Enjoyed a visit from Rachel and Ryan, which included a trip to the Field, dinner at Crisp, lunch at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Portillo’s, and a trip to Eataly
  • Joined Christina’s writers group
  • Gone to two live lit shows
  • Saw Shakespeare in the park with Travis, Alex, Becky, Andrew, and Leigh
  • Grabbed Giordano’s downtown with my aunt, cousin, and cousin’s friend
  • Attended a fancy pop-up dinner with Laura in support of the upcoming opening of a new cider bar in North Center
  • Grabbed dinner and a show with Jaimi
  • Met with the folks behind the webseries I’m writing for
  • Took two Pilates classes with Becca and Stef
  • Went to parties at Travis and Andrew’s as well as Kate and Erin’s
  • Had brunch with awesome women including Hillary, Anne, Katie, Sarah, Adele, and Sonya

This week I’m lucky enough to see more live lit, go to book club, and take part in Christina’s writers group again.

My summer has been filled to the brim with quality time with women I admire and feel great being around. There are still so many more of them I haven’t seen enough of this summer and I look forward to fixing that. I’ve been keeping myself busy and full and happy, and I find myself so encouraged and inspired by the people around me. I’ve been writing more in recent weeks than I did most of last year, and I’m proud of what I have to show for it.

This time last year, Kevin and I were living together and we’d just gotten back from Colorado. We’d visited my college friends Doug and Chandra and their four-month-old daughter. I watched Kevin get along so well with my married friends, and I saw how good he was with their little girl. I came back from that trip thinking maybe he was coming around to the idea of a long-term future with me, and a day later he told me that being there made him more sure he wasn’t ready for any of it.

It was honest, and it hurt.

That was also the same time that, after months of job searching, I got hired for my dream job at a newspaper — only to have it fold days later and for them to have to retract their offer. It was a rough patch, to say the least.

Some days I feel like I’ve fallen backwards and I miss the way my life used to be. But now I have a job I love, and I don’t spend any time worrying that my boyfriend will never propose.

These days I’m afraid to date anyone longer than a month, because I can’t wrap my brain around letting myself feel too seriously about anyone again. My Single Summer has been rewarding in so many ways, but it’s also meant I don’t feel hurt anymore.

It’s been a good summer, though. That much is true.

Small Steps Toward Live Lit

It’s a terrifying thought, but before 2014 is over, I am going to get up in front of a group of strangers and read an essay I wrote. It will probably be about something super painful that I’ve attempted to blend with humor and retrospective wisdom. I am not sure what this will be or when this will happen, but I think about it a LOT these days.

Recently someone pointed out to me that I basically write an essay every couple of weeks for this blog. I’ve got nearly eight years of stories catalogued here (not that I can bear to read my own old posts, eeek). I can’t claim I have no material to work with.

I just went to a Story Club event that was half-performance, half-class. Four seasoned story tellers performed around the event’s theme of “What I Should Have Said Was…” Then after, my friends and I (and the other 17 people there) got to ask questions of some of the premiere live lit folks in Chicago. Our group was assigned to Keith Ecker, co-host of Guts & Glory and the new serialized story-based WBEZ podcast, PleasureTown. He answered our questions about essay writing, editing, and performing. He told us there is value in our perspectives, even if we worry a topic has been discussed before an audience already.

After the event, I told Story Club founder Dana Norris that I’d only put my name in the running for a Story Club open mic slot once before. I spent that entire night feeling terrified of having it drawn, and yet disappointed at the end of it all when it wasn’t. She said she knew the feeling.

“I’ll be sure your name gets drawn next time,” she said with stage wink.

I knew she was kidding but all I could do was give a nervously awkward, “Ha-ha-ha-ahhhhhhhhhh” and back away slowly toward the door in fear.

I’ve been watching live lit for more than two years now. I love the concept but I never saw myself as part of that scene, or somehow believed I couldn’t be. No one even once said, “This is my thing and not yours, and you can watch me do this but you cannot have it.”

But I thought it anyway, because I’m super insecure.

I saw proof of the opposite tonight, though: It’s an extremely welcoming community, and those who do it want anyone who is interested to do it, too.

A few weeks ago I submitted to Essay Fiesta after seeing a friend absolutely rock it last month, but I haven’t heard back from them. And I’ll try to get up the nerve to put my name in again at the next Story Club. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep editing my essays and practice performing them out loud. I hate public speaking, but my job is requiring me to do it more and more, and to work hard at getting better at it.

I got this. Who’s coming with me?

Writing & Twitter

Part of my job at my association is to offer social media assistance to businesses, and it’s an extremely rewarding aspect of the work I do. It did, however, mean that I had to start a Twitter account. I’d had accounts in the past, including one for my news site. I knew how to use it, and I posted to it for 60625, but try as I might, I couldn’t train myself to check it often enough to make it worthwhile as a social media tool.

But now, after three months of use, I am here to tell you that I get it now. First off, you have to allow for text or email notifications or else you’re never going to check that nonsense in the beginning. Also, don’t follow every single person/spam bot who follows you first because it will just clog up your feed.

Anyway. Don’t get me started. I now see the value of Twitter, in terms of networking, research, entertainment, and — lately — finding freelance work. I’ve been writing like crazy in recent weeks, and Twitter has a lot to do with this burst of creative productivity.

I’ve been blogging for my friends’ pop culture site, The Addison Recorder, since January. But it was pretty cool to get tweeted at by the author of a book I reviewed for that site:

Additionally, I connected with a friend’s new magazine about the Midwest and expanded on an idea I’d written on here previously about the oil and gas boom in my hometown. I saw on Twitter a call for submissions, so I pitched my idea and got it approved. I turned it in a couple weeks ago.

I later found on Twitter that a friend-of-a-friend’s web series was seeking script submissions for the next episode of their show, so I wrote something and sent it their way. I just heard yesterday that they want to produce what I wrote into an episode. It’s really exciting.

I also started following tons of live lit folks here in Chicago, and now I’m trying to get in on some of those events. Longtime readers may remember that performing at a live lit event has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to finally make that happen. Meanwhile, I keep writing down ideas and outlines of essays that might be suited for that platform.

I stand before you a (years late) Twitter advocate and convert. It took a few half-hearted attempts, but I can’t go back now.