Wednesday, February 29, 2012


You know how the saying goes, "It's Leap Day. Real Life is for March." No? Oh, I guess that's just a 30 Rock thing. Whatever, I still thought it as I went about my day doing crazy Leap Day things like chasing down three separate buses before giving up and getting an iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, then slamming it down before the next bus came.

If you're thinking my morning didn't go exactly how I planned it out in my head, you're right.

It got better after the coffee, though, as things usually do. I commandeered M & G's iHome so I could listen to my "getting shit done" playlist while I made beds, washed dishes, changed thermostat batteries, and took apart the multitude of LEGO creations M has decided to part with.

Then I took my weekly Whole Foods trip. At the checkout my cashier asked what I planned on making for dinner. I was buying mostly fruit, so I'm not sure what provoked the question. I answered honestly: "Not sure yet, but I have plenty of options!" Turns out Subway is what I made for dinner, at least for me. Since today's the last day of FebruANY, and because I didn't want to cook after running post-work errands/walking home in the rain, I got myself a falafel sandwich.

So I didn't really let Leap Day wonder inspire me to do something crazy, something I'd only do once every four years, but at least the weather definitely channeled the "Real Life is for March" mantra today. Sunny, windy, and in the high 50s this morning, it suddenly switched gears this afternoon and started raining. That means back to real life and 30 degree weather tomorrow...and Shamrock Shakes! (Seriously, how often do I post about those? I deserve a share of profits I think. Or free Shamrock Shakes. O gosh so excited right now. Do they serve them with the breakfast menu?)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Characters From My Commute

People you encounter every day while commuting, working, or running errands are like Neighbors-Without-Walls. Despite seeing them regularly, they're still strangers. Unless you're the type to strike up small talk (shocker: I'm not), you never actually speak to them. You both go about your days and rarely take the time to think about how your lives intersect. There are several people I see daily or weekly due to my work routine; I know nothing about them except what I've observed during my brief interactions with them. [Nicknames given to protect privacy and because nicknames are fun.]

North Bound California Bus Driver

This is the first "regular" I see during the work week. He has a need for speed and more often than not catches up to the bus ahead of us (mind you, buses are ideally spaced 6-12 minutes apart). He then pulls up alongside said bus and shouts over to the other driver to give him some of her (it's always a woman he catches up to) passengers. I'm never sure what this accomplishes. Based on the sprinkling of gray in his short beard, I'd put him at 60-ish--a younger Morgan Freeman. Because he's usually more concerned about making the light by my stop, doesn't really say much when I board. He wears his CTA-regulated baseball cap, a pair of driving glasses, and a silver earring in his right ear. Possibly there's one in his left ear as well, but I've honestly never seen that side of his face.

East Bound Belmont Bus Driver

Depending on how quickly my first driver gets to 3000 N California, I make the second half of my commute with a guy who looks like the Soup Nazi's very calm uncle. He sits almost regally in the driver's seat and merely nods when people board. He has thick gray-white hair and a mustache and looks like he's just returned from a tropical vacation, what with his tan skin and relaxed composure. Still, there was one day I was clearly crossing the street in the middle of traffic to get to the bus stop before the bus. He had to have seen me stopped on the yellow line, waiting for him to pass so I could finish crossing (I could practically reach out and touch the bus as he drove by). Instead of pausing at the stop so I could make my way around and onto the bus, he tapped his brakes, making his "stop," then gunned it down Belmont...all I could think to myself was "No Bus Ride for You!"

Jewel Cashiers

Jewel is the closest cheapish grocery store to my job, so I'm there at least once each week. I've learned to go before 2:45 pm unless I feel like fighting my way around the store as hundreds of Lane Tech-ers get bus passes at the kiosk inside, walk up and down the aisles holding hands with their significant others, or eat the food they are about to purchase before getting to the self checkout lines, supervised by a middle-aged Mrs. Potts-looking woman. It is during these after-school hours that the two Customer Service Managers are most frazzled. The younger cashiers and baggers--the skinny kid with the slicked back hair, blue hair extension girl--remain unfazed. I usually end up in line with the other grown up shoppers. (Senior citizens and housewives, who else goes shopping in the middle of the day?) The cashier I see most reminds me of Carlos Solis, if he had a little more paunch. He's always pleasant and during Jewel's winter giveaway contest tended to go liberal with handing out game pieces.

Whole Foods Crew Members

These guys, I tell you. They're a little like Disney employees (sorry, "cast members") in that the whole thing sorta feels like an act, except at Whole Foods a beard is not only allowed, it's revered. Along with flannel, old man stocking caps, Birkenstocks, thick-framed glasses...I think you get the picture. The Whole Foods near my job is where foodie-hipsters go to have minimum wage jobs. Everyone seems super nice, almost too nice. I think they all get high on the natural cheeses. Another word about the cheese section: it's the perfect place to pass a little gas without suspicion, thanks to the competing smells of Munster and Limburger. Not that I've ever done this...just an observation.

WalGreens CTA Girl

Every month I need another 30-day CTA pass and every month this woman sells it to me. Once she mistakenly sold me a One Day Fun Day for the price of a 30-day, but graciously made the exchange for me when I came back fifteen minutes later. I think she'd get along well with Carlos from Jewel. Do you think there's a way I can get them to meet?

Belmont Bus Buddy

This is the guy who inspired this post. So far all of these people are at work when I see them, but this is just another commuter who I see at least once, sometimes twice, each day. We both get off the 77 at Damen in the morning and walk north, then we see each other again at night when we get back on the 77. He's tall and stocky with long scraggly hair and he walks as if he's perpetually about to fall forward, but catches himself by taking another step. I have no idea where he spends the seven hours between commutes, but I can only guess he's at work like I am. He's the only "regular" I see that I've thought to start talking to, only because it's so painfully obvious we see each other all the time, but (again) that's not my style. One day I took a different route to work and still saw him, walking on the sidewalk ahead of me. And today he wasn't on the bus with me, but as I was walking past the Speedway on the way to work, he came walking out. It's absurd how often I've seen this man.

South Bound California Bus Buddy

I recently noticed this dude on my rides home, mostly because I get on at the third stop of this route so the bus tends to be on the empty side. And this guy is hard to miss. Again, he has longer, scraggly hair and is on the huskier side. Now that I think about it, he could very well be the Belmont guy's son or much younger brother. Because the bus is so empty, he always sits in the same seat and spends the ride playing games on his Kindle. Then he gets off at Milwaukee, presumably to get on the Blue Line.


As with my geographical neighbors, I wonder if these people I see so often have their own character sketches of me and how true to form they are. I should also note that while these people do see me fairly often, I've tried to not get too routine-y. There's a lot to be said for spontaneity: you're less likely to be robbed, it shows you can go with the flow (see, I AM flexible!), and sometimes a small change is what you need when things get dull. (Or when things get frustrating--see here.)

Need practice being spontaneous? Tomorrow's a great day to start--take a leap and switch things up for the extra day we get. I know I'll be taking full advantage...I might even have granola instead of oatmeal for breakfast, whoa, dream big!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just a Little Dust

"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return" always reminds me of my mortality. Technically, that's a morbid thought, but it can also be inspiring, or at the very least comforting. To know that we only have a certain amount of time on this planet forces us to think about our priorities and accomplish what we absolutely want/need to before dying. And it's nice to know that at the end of the day--at the end of our lives--we're just going to turn back to dust; even if we don't cross off everything on our bucket lists, we'll just be dust and so will everyone else.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fat Tuesday, Please

Let's try Fat FriSatSunMonTuesday, because that's what I'm actually celebrating. In the past two days alone I've used nine sticks of butter in three different dishes. Paula Deen can't touch this. I don't think anyone who's seen me glued to Grandma & Grandpa's candy drawer or attacking a carton of ice cream would doubt  my ability to consume enough sugar to give diabetes to anyone within a five foot radius of me, but (full-disclosure style) here's a breakdown of my recent fat consumption:

Polish Pączki

Our housekeeper brought these custard-filled pastries to work on Friday and I demolished mine before she could explain what they were. Paczki (pronounced ponch-key) are popular wherever Poles can be found, aka Chicago, especially in the days before Lent. The front page of the Trib's Business section featured an article about local bakeries meeting the demand for this comforting and fattening treat.

Freezer Cookies

I found this quick and easy kitchen staple while I cleaned out the freezer at work on Saturday and baked them alongside other random items that needed to be eaten up. By the time I returned next afternoon, they were gone.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Cookies devoured, I searched for something else at work to make for the guys to eat when they came back from pass and before we left to go ice skating. Muffin mix did the trick, and I even got a few of them to help me scoop the batter into the muffin cups (the hardest/most annoying part). Like their cousin dessert, the muffins didn't last long sitting out on the table in program.

Quick Cookies

1 stick softened butter
1/4 c brown sugar
1 c flour
1 tsp vanilla
chocolate chips optional

Mix ingredients, form into one inch balls, place on cookie sheet, bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. (Easiest way to eat a stick of butter that I know of.)

When I'm stressed and/or tired, I often just want to watch trashy TV while I eat trashy food. Last night I made quick cookies with The Bachelor on in the background, then ate them while watching The Office and SNL. My mental state quickly improved, though my physical state deteriorated. I made up for it with blueberry yogurt and hummus today...foods cancel each other out, right?

Chocolate Sheet Cake, Yellow Layer Cake, Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This wondrous medley of flavors and textures takes the junk food cake, if you will, for this past week. M and I were bored yesterday and decided to celebrate President's Day by baking a cake. That quickly turned into baking three cakes, two vanilla and one chocolate, in order to construct a triple layer cake. Making cake from scratch is quite fun, and you definitely feel more accomplished after doing so.

Today we finished the cake by making frosting and separating it into three bowls for red, white, and blue. With G's help, we frosted and layered each cake: vanilla/blue frosting/chocolate/red frosting/vanilla/white frosting. Then we finished by mixing the extra red and blue frosting into purple and using that to decorate the top--thereby giving the cake a dual-purpose, President's Day AND Mardi Gras.

Even though Lent begins tomorrow, I know the sweets don't stop here. Brooke's birthday is today and we're celebrating with brownie ice cream cake on Friday. Plus it's just about March, and everyone knows that means only one thing: Shamrock Shakes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Activities & Successes

I'm currently in the middle of another 12-day week, two regular work weeks linked by picking up shifts at Mercy over the weekend. I have a feeling this one won't burn me out, though, seeing as today we went to the Bulls game and were treated to custom-made cupcakes later in program and tomorrow we're ice skating downtown. Can't really call that "extra shifts,"...more like "extra activities I get to do for free."

My day job continues to spoil me with its dream hours and a work load that's neither too easy (boring) nor too challenging (stressful). I hit a lull a few weeks ago when I had no pressing projects, but with the purchase of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and the discovery of the household WD-40 and food processor, I have lots of new things on my to-do list at work.

To top this week off, I finished not only the Friday crossword puzzle (in about 15 minutes, thank you very much), but also this week's Friday Sudoku (in two days, but it's the very first Friday Sudoku I've finished ever). I hung it up on my fridge.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Clowning Around

I just finished I Love You More Than You Know and while I am very different from the author, Jonathan Ames, we share a few similarities. He writes about bizarre situations he finds himself in, or normal situations that somehow turn bizarre thanks to the monologue in his head. I like to think my life is similar to that--things may seem normal on the outside, but I'm creating a complex world with my rampant imagination. There's also this excerpt:

"I answered the interviewers questions as playfully as I could, making sure to let them know that I am simply a literary clown and my goal is to bring some laughs to people, that perhaps this has some value and meaning in our world, whatever it is that value and meaning mean, you know what I mean."
Yes, Mr. Ames, I do know what you mean. I've said almost the exact same thing--one of my biggest goals in life is to make people happy. I like it because there are infinite ways to make people happy (unlike if my goal was to become an astronaut, because I'm pretty sure there's only one way you can accomplish that), but this freedom of how to reach my goal doesn't make it an easy task. Ideally the things I write would make people happy, while at the same time making me a living. Until I get to that place, though, I'll have to settle for making myself happy by blogging and making others happy by not shrinking their cashmere sweaters.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I went to a different yoga class than usual tonight since I got out of work early. I regretted it as soon as my co-yogis (Yoginis? It was an all-female class.) unrolled their mats, set up their towels, placed their water bottles next to them, and sat down like they were about to have tea. Did I unknowingly sign up for the Type-A class? I was hoping for an increase in physical flexibility from learning new/different poses and mental flexibility by trying out a new teacher. Instead I spent the class cursing my hips/thighs and missing my regular teacher's very German way of saying, "Hold here for three breaths now, yah."

I know you're supposed to focus on your own practice during yoga, but everyone else was doing exactly as the teacher prompted, exactly when she prompted it, or at least as best as their skinny little bodies could manage. (Seriously. I also missed the awkward-bodied people from my regular class...I really fit in much better there.) I seemed to be the only one a little bit off, sacrificing following directions for following what felt right in my body and with my breathing. Which I guess means I did focus on myself, even though I felt annoyed at the teacher for being so upbeat. When I'm holding poses in a 95-degree room, I don't want to hear the voice of a kindergarten teacher cheering me on, I want to hear something...more mature. Again, what I'm actually saying is I miss yoga with Will, possibly short for Wilhelm if he's as German as I hope he is.

Despite all that, I'm still plenty sore as I type this. I keep shifting my body into different positions so it doesn't cramp up. At the end of class, I always think I'm getting more flexible/relaxed/zen, and then I go back two days later and once again I can barely touch my toes and I'm stressed out over the same petty things. Staying flexible requires daily upkeep, but I wish there was some way to get it to stick for longer than one night. I think all I can do is breathe into it and hold here, yah.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Speak My Language

A notable quirk of my Valentine's Day this year was the lack of bitter status updates on facebook, you know, the "Rah rah rah, my name's Debbie Downer & I'm alone today/I hate corporate holidays" type. My only conclusions as to why the updates were either positive or just not there are that I'm at/near the age where, a) people I know are in steady relationships, so they have nothing to be bitter about, and/or b) people have matured and don't really care that Valentine's Day is a consumer holiday.

I pretty consistently fall into the indifferent to Valentine's Day camp, which leads people to sometimes view me as a Love Scrooge. In actuality, I have plenty to say on the subject. As of late, my big thing with capital "L" Love is Love Languages.

You may have heard of these five languages--words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical touch--but I challenge you to really consider them. These are the ways we know people care about us and how we reciprocate that care . Knowing your love language is knowing what makes you feel loved, appreciated, and overall a worthy human being. There are several quick and painless assessments here to learn the language in which you are most fluent.

An easy way to figure yours out is deciding which language put into action you prefer the majority of the time. Note, most people have several that apply and even though these are "love" languages, they apply to any significant relationship, not just romantic ones. I think it's also interesting that typically we express and receive love through the same language, but this doesn't have to be true. So maybe you feel loved when people write you nice letters, but you express love/care/concern by mowing their lawn or giving them a hug. Here's a quick overview (taken from the official website):

Words of Affirmation (I receive love this way, but struggle to show love in words unless I write them.)

Even though I'm a firm believer in actions speaking louder than words, it's hard to deny how nice it feels when someone tells me I'm awesome at everything I do compliments me. If you like to hear the three little words, "I love you," and like even more to hear the reasons, you're probably a word person. In contrast, insults leave a particularly nasty sting.

Quality Time (My top scorer for love reception, and I do pretty well reciprocating with it as well.)

Those of us labeled "attention whores" by friends and family (sometimes strangers) probably speak the language of Quality Time really well. We like people to be there for us--with no distractions. When those we care about don't reply to our texts or pretend not to see us when we stand on furniture ignore us, whether intentionally or not, we take great offense and often to go to greater attention-seeking lengths.

Gifts (I can receive love from gifts, but they definitely rank low. I'm not a great giver of gifts either, unless they come in limerick form.)

Gifts can mean a multitude of things, but for the receiver, "it's the thought that counts" really does count. Something simple that regardless took intentional effort is huge, and giraffe-themed items every day gestures go a long way to show Gift receivers that they mean something to the giver. Re-gifting not recommended.

Acts of Service (Another low scorer for me. I'm fairly independent & don't want to feel indebted. I like to think I'm decent at serving others, though, especially since I just spent a year focusing on doing just that.)

Think of this love language as doing favors for another: cooking, cleaning, fixing things, giving rides, running errands--all with a smile on your face expecting nothing in return. Leaving messes or general laziness says to Acts of Service receivers that you don't really care about their feelings.

Physical Touch (What's great about this one is it's hard to give love this way without receiving it right back. Unsurprisingly, it's the one I generally go to.)

This is more than just hugs and kisses. Touch is holding hands, playing with hair, sitting next to someone on the couch while you watch TV, and being in close proximity to another. It's easy to disregard people's personal bubbles go too far with touch (we have a word for it: touchy-feely), but the absence of it in a Touch receiver's life is destructive.

Again, these languages are useful in a variety of relationships in our lives. It's a great way to understand family and friends so you can best show them you care. If Grandma is clearly a Quality Time person, a gift basket does little for her. She'd more likely "feel the love," so to speak, if you went for a walk with her or called her on the phone.

And before any of you think/say it, yes, I absolutely made sure to let you know what my top love languages are to help you know how to GIVE ME ATTENTION show me I'm appreciated.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Truth in Fact and Fiction

My current read, I Love You More Than You Know, is a collection of essays by Jonathan Ames. He's very funny, albeit ragingly inappropriate (read: not for the prudish among us). The front cover calls him "genuine, daring, and unabashed" and compares him to David Sedaris.

I love when writers write about writing because it's super easy to relate to. In his essay titled "Self-Sentenced: My Life as a Writer the Last Few Years," I was tickled to see his writerly role models resemble mine, even down to the order--Kerouac followed by Hemingway and Fitzgerald. He equates this to alcoholism and self-destruction...I'd like to think I cling to the less destructive parts of these writers, but I do enjoy my sweet red wine when I'm writing.

Later in the essay he discusses his parents' reactions to his work. First they hate it, but after a family therapy session they come to accept it. He says, "I guess my parents know that life is short and they might as well get a kick out of things. I also think they're not really listening to me." This I haven't had to deal with, since Mom and Dad have been fans of what I've written (so far). No, but seriously, compared to Mr. Ames they don't really have much to worry about with me.

That being said, I have to admire his honesty/disregard for embarrassment. I have such a thick filter--speaking or writing, unless it's my journal--I don't know if I could ever write stories of his caliber, even if I had such wild tales to tell. Enter fictional writing: a way to tell wild tales that may or may not have actually happened in some way, shape, or form to me or someone else I may or may not personally know. It's nice to have that ability to put lots of layers between myself as writer and the events surrounding my characters. I can write about semi-true events without letting little "T" truth get in the way of big "T" Truth.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nanny Dearest Not So Much

My current read, Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen, is a collection of short stories. Most/all of the stories have sent me to the dictionary several times, which is a humbling, albeit annoying, occurrence.

One story, "Nanny Dearest," resonated with me, as strange as the actual tale was. It features a family with a live-in nanny who also writes. One day the wife finds the nanny's writing, specifically a manuscript for a book about the family. It details awful habits and embarrassing stories; in one section the nanny quotes the husband and wife as they insult friends and neighbors. The wife wants to fire her on the spot, but the husband persuades her not to, as that wouldn't stop the nanny from writing/publishing. Instead, he plans to get rid of her by poisoning her tea. Unfortunately for him, he gets a little drunk before doing this and ends up drinking the poison himself. The story ends with the nanny calling an ambulance for the husband and handing over a letter of resignation, saying nannying bored her and that she also gave up writing her book as the family is "too creepy to hold the interest of any reader with an IQ in the normal range." She then runs off with a millionaire.

Okay, so not exactly my experience as a nanny/house manager, but maybe a super exaggerated caricature of things. I don't live with my family, even though it sometimes feels that way, and even though I write a lot about work, I would never throw my family under the bus the way the fictional nanny does, not that there's reason to do so in the first place. And who knows if I would ever drop everything and run off with a millionaire; the opportunity to do so hasn't presented itself so far...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Terms In Which I Think Of Reality (by Allen Ginsberg)

Full disclosure: I can't think of anything interesting to post. I think it has to do with the fact that I haven't been to the library lately. Reading begets writing. Instead, I changed my blog background, hoping that would shake things up a bit. The washing machines are an homage to my current job, which has me doing approximately 7-8 loads of laundry each week (not counting my personal laundry). Alas, the change of scenery doesn't inspire me. Here's a poem I just rediscovered:

The Terms In Which I Think Of Reality
Allen Ginsberg

Reality is a question
of realizing how real
the world is already.

Time is Eternity,
ultimate and immovable;
everyone's an angel.

It's Heaven's mystery
of changing perfection :
absolute Eternity

changes! Cars are always
going down the street,
lamps go off and on.

It's a great flat plain;
we can see everything
on top of a table.

Clams open on the table,
lambs are eaten by worms
on the plain. The motion

of change is beautiful,
as well as form called
in and out of being.

Next : to distinguish process
in its particularity with
an eye to the initiation

of gratifying new changes
desired in the real world.
Here we're overwhelmed

with such unpleasant detail
we dream again of Heaven.
For the world is a mountain

of shit : if it's going to
be moved at all, it's got
to be taken by handfuls.

Man lives like the unhappy
whore on River Street who
in her Eternity gets only

a couple of bucks and a lot
of snide remarks in return
for seeking physical love

the best way she knows how,
never really heard of a glad
job or joyous marriage or

a difference in the heart :
or thinks it isn't for her,
which is her worst misery.


My favorite lines are:

For the world is a mountain/of shit:
if it's going to/be moved at all, it's got 
to be taken by handfuls.
Mountains need to be moved every day, and sometimes all you can do is pick them up, handful by handful, and start moving. You may not get the entire mountain moved in your lifetime, but just maybe you'll have put a dent in it. Except mountains of laundry. Those are never-ending and continuously-regenerating.