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.

Improv 101

I went to my first improv class Saturday. As I walked over to the studio, absurdly enough I found myself trying to think of funny situations I could create if it came down to it, and what funny things I could say if they actually did arise. Then I realized I was mentally trying to prepare for an improv class. The irony. That’s when I got really freaked out, as I saw there was literally nothing I could do to get ready for what I’d gotten myself into. I wish I had pictures to post here.

There were eight of us, and our teacher, Bill. At first we stood around awkwardly, and then I sat down at a table with another woman and a guy. I asked how they’d gotten interested in taking the class. I really don’t want to use names here, so consider these classmates Woman 1 through 3 and Man 1 through 4. Woman 1 said she knew a guy in the troupe, See You Thursday, and he’d talked her into trying it out. Man 1 said he was taking the class as part of a New Year’s Resolution to try new and terrifying things. I could relate.

As the class started, we made our introductions. The class varies in age; the men all seem young, or at least around my age, but the three women are likely middle aged. It sounded like only two of them had previous improv experience, so I felt better about that. When it was my turn I told the group I was more used to being behind the camera since I am an amateur filmmaker in my free tie, but that lately I’ve become more and more interested in improv and stand up comedy. Our teacher told us briefly about the history of improv, and about how the three big schools in Chicago, Second City, The Annoyance and iO came to be. He also told us a bit about the philosophies of improv the different schools hold, and the philosophy we would be learning for our purposes. Then, before we knew it, we were being called on stage in pairs to act out our very first two-person scenes.

My partner and I went last and I seriously had no idea how I was going to react. Our teacher gave us a location and a relationship: We were a minister and a member of the congregation, and we were at a county fair. We were not specifically told which was which character, but my acting partner decided this as the scene started and he walked up to me and said “Hey, pastor, how are you doing?”

That’s probably not how I would have gone with things, but once it was said and out there, that was where we went with it. If I were to say in response, “No no, YOU are the minister,” that would have left my partner in a lurch, on top of killing the scene. Doing something like that is called a denial, and it must be avoided. Even if you walk out on stage hunched over like an old person and your partner doesn’t notice and refers to you as her grandson, that’s too bad, she’s got a really old grandson for the rest of the scene. This is called, in Bill’s words, “holding onto your shit.”

And so I said to Man 1, “I am well, my child, God has blessed me very much,” or something like that. I rambled on long enough for Man 1 to come up with something else to say to guide our conversation and our scene. (This may or may not be a good thing. I discovered Saturday that my reaction to being on stage without memorized lines is to NOT SHUT UP. I didn’t expect that at all.) The scene went on with Man 1 consulting me about his dream of one day becoming a magician. I told him God wouldn’t approve of using such dark arts and, since we were supposed to be at a fair, I suggested he become a carnie instead. Bill ended the scene there, thank God.

He had us do another two person scene, and in the next one I was paired with Man 2 and we were supposed to be Siamese twins in a snuff film (Man 3 had some dark suggestions to make). Had I been the one to start the scene I would have pretended my twin was trying to kill me, but since he started it, he indicated we were both being chased by a killer. I learned an important lesson in this one; it got really repetitive as we both, arms linked, tried to run away from (on a very small stage) an imaginary killer. We shifted the scene slightly to making jokes about how, despite being attached at the hip, we never talk anymore. We should have continued down this direction, but because I thought we were supposed to keep the scene about running from our killer, I interrupted my partner and pretended to spot our killer and made us start running again. After the scene ended, I learned that you should go where the scene takes you. Just because you start a scene based on an audience suggestion doesn’t mean it is strictly limited to those parameters. If it did, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Instead of taking up the boring running again, I should have asked my Siamese twin something like, whatever happened to that girl he had been seeing who had seemed so nice. Just imagine a Siamese twin on a date. There’s a lot of material to work from there.

The third exercise we did was about building dialogue. We were advised to stay away from arguments, which can turn into repetitive “Yes you did/No I didn’t” conversations on stage. Specifics are good. For example, don’t say, “Did you see that?” Say, “Did you see that man running away in the chicken costume holding a rattle snake?” Our dialogue exercise started with one person making a declarative statement, and the other person building onto it by saying, “Which means that…” and following up with what could be a conclusion, and a direction for the scene to take.

  • Woman 1: We really need to clean up around here.
  • Me: You think we need to clean up more around here, which means that, I am a messy roommate. (Bam! It is established we are roommates, just like that)
  • Woman 1: You are a messy roommate, which means that I am always cleaning up after you.
  • Me: You are always cleaning up after me, which means that you take joy in cleaning up after people.
  • Woman 1: You think I like cleaning up after people because you are self-centered.
  • Me: I am self-centered, which means that I think we should hire a maid rather than you make me clean.
  • Woman 1: You think we should hire a maid, which means that I think you should pay for it.
  • Me: You think I should pay for a maid, which means that I will have to take on a second job to pay for it.
  • Woman 1: You will have to take on a second job, which means you will be around less to make messes.

End scene.

Our fourth exercise was intended to make us think about object work, or the use of invisible props. Basically, if you start out holding a glass, you better either set down that glass on an imaginary table or keep holding on to it until the scene ends. We each had to pantomime carrying out an every day task and the rest of the group had to guess what they were doing. One person acted out brushing snow off his entire car, one guy made soup in a kitchen we could almost see, one woman walked her two dogs who were determined to go in opposite directions. I acted out putting in my contact lenses. I was told I was convincing. I probably felt silliest at that point, on stage, by myself with no dialogue, standing at a sink that wasn’t there.

The last exercise we did had us in two groups of four, acting out a scene without dialogue. Our group decided to be a cashier and three customers at a grocery store. I was a mom with a bratty son (who was well over a foot taller than me) at the register and a guy waited impatiently behind us. That was the hardest scene yet, since we had to pay attention to what the others were doing and act accordingly. Then, we ran the same scene, but added dialogue. That made it even harder, because then we had to watch each other and think of things to say.

Our class took the full three hours, but it was so fun and interesting that it didn’t seem like it. I’m looking forward to continuing in the class and getting to know everyone better.

Weighing in, off the wagon

When I fall off the wagon, I fall hard, you guys.

It snowed a whole bunch last night, so I didn’t go to the gym. Instead, in my lethargic state, I ordered a pizza. Poor pizza delivery guy. And those mini fried apple pies I ordered probably weren’t necessary. I won’t be going to the gym tonight either, because I have an SNP going away party to go to at 6 (good luck, Rachel!). If I have any hope of completing the third day of week two of Couch to 5k, I’ll have to either go tomorrow before my first improv class or (God forbid) run outside on Sunday. Why is my gym closed on Sundays? Grrrr.

I haven’t lost any more weight, but I gained two pounds back. Yay. EDIT: This is after running twice and roller skating once this week. Lame.

Also, it seems that running gives me lower back pain. But just on one side. Thoughts? Someone said new running shoes would help. Running shoes = very expensive. Worth it?

Making further progress

I am not doing so bad on those resolutions. Yesterday I started a book and today I found out I lost a little more weight. I have lost 13 pounds since Oct. 12!

The book I am now reading is “Whip It!” and I have to say, so far I like the movie character better than her paperback counterpart. The book’s narrator is just mean. But, I’m only around 40 pages in. Perhaps she sweetens to more of an Ellen Page standard at some point, although I am doubtful.

Speaking of “Whip It!” look at what I got for Christmas this year:

OMG

Ohmygoodness. You have no idea how excited I was to open that box. I had roller skates on my wish list this year but I didn’t really expect anyone to shell out the cash for them. And purple, even! Thank you, Owen and Jamie, for loving me this dollar amount’s worth! (And thank you, Michael Scott for that one). They said they were going to get me these along with the movie, but it turns out it’s not on DVD yet.

Last week I started Couch to 5K, a running program that, in theory, trains you for a 5K in nine weeks. I downloaded an iPhone app for it (one of the three apps I have now been willing to pay for). Brandon got me an arm band for my phone, so I strap the phone in, open the app and start the day’s run. Until you are more used to running (around week 5, as far as I can tell) the program has you alternating running with walking. A scary man’s voice tells you over your head phones to run, and then a minute or so later it tells you to walk. The app lets you play your iPod’s music through it and when you’re done with your work out it gives you the option to post a braggy message on facebook. I start week 2 tonight and will be running 90 seconds, then walking for 2 minutes, running, walking, etc. I am not a runner, and I was so sore all last week from doing what was essentially a mere 9 minutes of actual running three days a week. It’s a lot different from the elliptical machine, but you’re supposed to vary your cardio routine. Too bad running doesn’t burn as many calories. Thanks to Jessie E. for telling me about the program; she begins week 2 today as well.

Also, Brandon got me a work out game for the Wii in an after Christmas sale online. EA Active should be coming in the mail today or tomorrow, and then we’ll both be able to work out at the same time for a change. I got a Marshall’s gift card from Brandon’s brother and used it over the weekend to invest in some new work out clothes and a yoga mat. I do aerobics in our living room and our scratchy carpet does me no favors.

Another thing I bought this weekend is this:

I actually went to a sporting goods store of my own volition

College friend (and The Sleeper Hit reader) Jessi D. told me her thoughtful boyfriend picked up a set of these bicycle pedals for her to use at home. He also helpfully suggested she take them to the park and sit on a bench reading a book, pedaling away, to see how many odd looks she got. I am all in favor of this idea (videotaping = a must). I took these babies into work only to discover they don’t fit under my desk very well. Some furniture rearranging is needed. I tried to smuggle them into the building surreptitiously, but alas, there was one witness. He looked at me kind of funny.

From my family for Christmas, I was lucky enough to get not one, but TWO Hungry Girl cook books. I’ve been making one recipe from them every week night. Brandon likes what I’ve made so far, so that helps. It’s hard to lose weight without the support of the people you live with. In fact, with all this outpouring of love from my friends and family, I best be skinny come my birthday.

New Year’s Resolutions

I made a list of things I’d like to do in 2010. In no particular order, my new year’s resolutions:

  1. Put more money in savings
  2. Lose 15 more pounds by March 21 (my 24th birthday)
  3. Be a better listener
  4. Be better at keeping in touch with friends and family
  5. Buy fewer clothes, even if they are ridiculously on sale
  6. Cook more, go out to eat less
  7. Read more books, watch less crap on TV
  8. Finish a screenplay and attempt to sell it (key word being attempt)
  9. Blog more. Write more.
  10. Give more money to charity