Archive | July, 2013

The Writer’s Room

31 Jul

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I came to NYC with three goals in mind: Grow closer to my now fiance, find a job in my field, and write a YA novel. One, check; two, sort of check; and three … yeah, about that.

Last week, I attended a writer’s meet-up in Tribeca. It was one of those “we heard about it on Facebook, so…let’s go” kind of things. Last year, this event happened and hundreds of people attended. It advertised free drinks, appetizers and a good atmosphere to network with a collection of writers, editors and publishers. We arrived at the basement event, which was almost pitch black excluding a few dimmed lights here and there for ambience purposes. Besides that, people were crammed in every which way, unable to walk through the crunch of bodies. If there were free beverages and cheese on crackers around, we must have missed that, because drinks were selling for at least $8 a pop. Not exactly an ideal place to meet up (for me, at least).

While we were crammed in a corner, a couple of people meandered over to meet the small group of writing cohorts I was hanging with. I’m sure that we could have tried to mingle with others, but after a full-day’s work and feeling overwhelmed by the total lack of space, it just wasn’t my jam. (My jam included getting in my jammies and watching some Netflixed flicks while stuffing cookie dough in my mouth.)

Sure, it would have been nice to make some new friends that have similar interests as me. It could have been. Yet, I was also taking in the swell of individuals (many non-native New Yorkers) that were in this tight space because a majority of them were aspiring writers.

Yeah, it shouldn’t still be so surprising that so many artists live in this city and its surrounding areas. But I am. When I see a columnist or popular blogger post pictures of their surroundings and I realize that I either live near them or just walked near a place they referred to, it’s pretty eerie. I don’t think I will ever get used to the situation, either.

We walk by a brownstone, find out an established writer resides there. In conversation, a friend mentions another friend that just landed a major book deal. Not to be repetitive, but “overwhelmed” is the word here. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to see something published in book form, and maybe that will happen, maybe not – who knows. And while being in a place with useful contacts is ideal, it’s also a place that can sink your hopes when you realize how much of a guppy you really are.

You hear the words “network” “contacts”, and the phrase “it’s all about who you know” all the time, and yes, it’s all true. But mentally, sometimes I’d rather snuggle under the covers and dream about it all happening. I’ve networked. I’ve made a few contacts. I know some people, I guess. Can I have a break?

Last Thursday was more of a realization that I’ve got a long way to go to seeing one of my goals ever completed. Maybe it’s good to have reality hit you in the head. Maybe?

Adventures in being frugal

29 Jul

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I will admit it: We’ve landed on lean times here in NYC. In all of my constant explaining on why and how this happens, I also had to learn to deal with it. Couponing, not eating out for the foreseeable future or spending money on costly activities have all been main goals for at least the next month.

Trust me, this isn’t new to us, we’re not spending our money on four-star restaurants or extravagant trips. NYC is just expensive, in every way possible; but we knew that going in. There have been a lot of crock pot dinners and perusing movies on Netflix happening during our downtime in the city. So in an effort to be even more frugal, we decided to stop by Target and purchase a puzzle. Why not, we shrugged. We both enjoy games, and each of us has put a puzzle together a time or two in the past. The 2,000-piece Las Vegas skyline looked bright and colorful, and for only $9 it would be a cheap, fun weekend activity, so we thought.

After bringing it home, we realized that we needed to transform our living room. We took all the in tables in our apartment and connected them to our coffee table. We used books to make a somewhat even flattop for our massive project. At first, it seemed like fun; we turned all the pieces over while having my beloved Gilmore Girls DVD collection sounding in the background. Bonding time.

The first few days of the week, we spent a couple hours here and there after work snapping pieces into place. Our backs were a bit sore leaning over constantly, but it was enjoyable.

On Tuesday night while Nate graded papers, I decided to watch something new while working on the puzzle alone. I decided to try out Orange Is The New Black, since there seemed to be a constant buzz about it online. Well, I quickly got sucked in to the TV show and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching 50-minute episodes.

On Wednesday, it was more of the same, we worked on it for a few hours and I binged on the Netflix show later (having found that I needed to pay attention and not work on the puzzle while watching).

With very little sleep, we attended a NYC writer’s party on Thursday. Although we could have networked and hung out with friends, we chose to leave earlier to work our obsession. While other people spent time outdoors in the newer, cooler weather, we feverishly continued, having to stretch out our backs and necks every hour or so.

Friday came and went. Yes, I came home from work to find Nate bent over the puzzle with Gilmore Girls buzzing on the large screen nearby. It was starting to be annoying. Our backs hurt, we bumped into all the tables in the living room over and over, and we should have been enjoying ourselves and the fact that it was the weekend. We didn’t.

We could have worked on our chores list, our writing projects, wedding planning – but no. We had to keep going on this puzzle. In between Friday night and Saturday morning, I watched the rest of OITNB, so thankfully, that was out of the way (SO GOOD!) But we had a birthday party in Central Park to attend, the puzzle to work on and so many things on our to-do list.

Saturday. Well, we hurried to the birthday party, stayed for a couple hours and seriously, almost jogged back to our apartment after getting off the train. We wanted to finish this puppy. It was taking a toll. The apartment was looking pretty awful, plates were piling in the sink, and we were worse for wear. Our personal hygiene was kind of lacking and while we had every intention of making casseroles and healthy dishes this past week, we found ourselves scrounging for crumbed potato chips and frozen burritos. And while we continued to work separately on our corner of the puzzle, we were snapping at each other constantly. Season after season of Gilmore Girls aired in the background, the theme song sounding more annoying each time. We ended up making coffee at around midnight, hoping to stay up all night through Sunday morning to finish. Instead, the pieces all looked the same and blurry and we were not making any progress.

We woke up late on Sunday and continued on our merry way. It was about 6:30 p.m. last night that we finished. We hugged and looked wearily around. I was close to tears. My weekend was gone in a flash and all we had was this flashy puzzle to show for it. As we assessed all that we needed to do in a flash to get ready for the next work week, we broke up the puzzle, the masterpiece we had spent an entire week completing. I didn’t want to look at it ever again. I didn’t care.

In a couple hour time span, the apartment became immaculate, the living room returned to normal, the laundry pile gone, and we wiped out our weekend to-do lists. (It’s funny what a bit of determination and shame will do.) We didn’t spend a penny, we completed that goal, so in that way the puzzle was well worth it. But we decided never again. There are so many other ways to be frugal, but this ate our time, sanity and our shower time. So if anyone is looking to put together the Las Vegas skyline in puzzle form, the box and pieces are yours. Never again.

Boxes of Childhood

24 Jul

I’m planning on going home for a wedding in a month, and my parents asked me to do something specific: Go through my old toys and collectibles. By collectibles, I mean paperback Sweet Valley Twins books and Barbies with missing legs.

I have been curious about what is in all of those basement boxes. I mean, I went through my childhood bedroom before I moved out east and purged basically everything and anything besides one closet shelf and one box of books. On the shelf is a box of papers from college and high school that I deemed worthy of not being pitched. My trusty clarinet lies resplendently in its case, and a couple handmade quilts made by my grandmother sit next to it.

But the basement? Wow. I’m going to imagine that these are a few of the things that I will find:

I have slammers, pogs, containers - the whole enchilada.

I have slammers, pogs, containers – the whole enchilada.

Pogs. I have a shit ton of Pogs. Did I actually ever play the game? No. Never. But I had the best, THE BEST, collection out of anyone in the fifth grade – and I planned to keep it that way. There used to be a hologram store in the Mall of America. I spent all my saved allowance money one year on silver, shiny wood pieces with ever-changing scenes. Well, I also spent some money on some fake eyeballs and boogers to freak everyone else, but priorities, man. There used to be a baseball card shop in our small town. Many Saturday mornings, my dad and I spent time going through the huge trash can bin in the corner of the shop full of beautiful, beautiful Pogs. Due to this process, I have the entire collection of Simpsons Pogs – every character showcased. While I never played the game (because you would likely lose a few), I sure did trade some. I was quite the miser and knew if I was getting a good deal or getting screwed. One time, I wiped this girl’s collection of mint-condition first-edition Pogs. The ones that came from Hawaii. She got one of my cheap wildlife collections. She liked Pandas, I liked money. That’s that. So I know that each and every one of these Pogs will still be sitting organized in their baseball card-style binders.

This was my absolutely favorite folder of all time. I think I may have got it for my homework a few years in a row. Not ashamed.

This was my absolutely favorite folder of all time. I think I may have got it for my homework a few years in a row. Not ashamed.

Lisa Frank memorabilia. I have a box, I know I do, of all of my middle school and elementary school projects and papers. Yeah, not throwing that away. That’s inked gold, in my opinion, like all of my journals and diaries that I have kept over the years. Papers will be contained in glittery unicorn-covered folders. For sure. There is a likelihood that unused LF pencils, erasers and other desk supply items will be there too. Because I always got double – the regular yellow No. 2 pencils and pink erasers are what I actually used every day, just so I could stare at all the brand new shiny LF material all the time. There will also be a Garfield pencil from a guy that I had a huge crush on in 4th grade, and a disgusting box full of hair ties from my “sorority” in second grade. We pretended we had “secret sisters” like our own mother’s clubs and we gave each other gifts of things we found around the house. Like dirty hair bands. Yay.

This is not what it looked like. I can't find the image right now. It was clear, full of purple glitter liquid, and I thought the scent was so great. Now, I hate almost every B&B scent. Almost.

This is not what it looked like. I can’t find the image right now. It was clear, full of purple glitter liquid, and I thought the scent was so great. Now, I hate almost every B&B scent. Almost.

Bath and Body Works Freesia. I am expecting this. Yes, I am. In sixth or seventh grade, I don’t remember which, B&B products were all the rage. And for a group of my classmates, this slivery $12 hand liquid was amazing. We carried our bottles everywhere and set them on our desk, like it was a necessity. Just this giant bottle sitting there. We would only use dots of the liquid as an empty bottle would be totally not cool. Anyways, I barely ever used the stuff, , and I don’t ever remember throwing it away. I’m scared to find out what kind of congealed goo I’m going to find.

I had a few of these in my collection. The Genesis one for sure.

I had a few of these in my collection. The Genesis one for sure.

My tape collection. I was given my first tape player at a wee age. And my beloved tapes, in their red plastic box, were my go-to stress reliever as a 7-year-old. Well, that and Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies. So many stresses. Wilson Phillips, The Jets, Madonna, Atlantic Starr, and Janet Jackson. I fell in love with my mom’s Pretty Woman soundtrack and my dad’s The Best Of The Beach Boys. Those were quickly stolen and added to my ever-growing collection. I listened to Mariah Carey’s Fantasy on repeat for so long that I had to piece the tape together after it shredded in my broken player. It worked, with many, many pauses and slow-motion singing  included.

Whenever you saw this display in the front of the restaurant, it was go time. More than once, did a worker give my a boy toy and each time it was exchanged for a pretty-haired doll. Can't fool a child on a mission.

Whenever you saw this display in the front of the restaurant, it was go time. More than once, did a worker give my a boy toy and each time it was exchanged for a pretty-haired doll. Can’t fool a child on a mission.

McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys. We were never allowed to eat at the Golden Arches very often, but every once and awhile, it was okay. Especially in the summertime. Each year, the offerings of miniature Barbies sent my family flying for plain hamburger dinners. My dad has been quite the collector over the years, and helped nurture my love of Pogs, baseball cards, and miniature Barbies. I have this Barbie carrier filled heavy with these toys, and I played with them sometimes more often than their larger leggy friends.

I had most of the PP play-set, but the gazebo was my favorite. It turned in a circle, while the magnetized orange-haired girl danced. And it played a haunting music box sound.

I had most of the PP play-set, but the gazebo was my favorite. It turned in a circle, while the magnetized orange-haired girl danced. And it played a haunting music box sound.

Toys. Of course. The Barbies, O’Jennys, Precious Places, Little People (not exactly PC, I know), Ghostbusters, She-Ra and her castle, and Carebears. At one time, I had quite the collection of stuffed animals. But after my mom and doctors realized I had a non-stop sinus problem and allergies, those were thrown out. But my pillow Rainbow Brite was my best friend. She went with me everywhere, and was so thread-bare that she could no longer be thrown in the wash. I slept with that doll for longer than I’d care to admit, and once when she was left in an Omaha, Neb. hotel, I threw an absolute fit. Luckily, a hotel maid realized that it was a beloved item and mailed it back to me. She will never, ever be thrown out.

This is the exact Rainbow Brite pillow form that my Great-Aunt Luella used to make the doll for me. She doesn't exactly look like this anymore. There might be a slight resemblance in the boots.

This is the exact Rainbow Brite pillow form that my Great-Aunt Luella used to make the doll for me. She doesn’t exactly look like this anymore. There might be a slight resemblance in the boots.

I’m actually kind of excited to sort through all of that. A nostalgic trip back through the years. I’m sure many memories will come peeking out – with all the smells and sights those boxes contain.

Oh, and one last thing that will be in there that I just remembered. This is really weird, but here goes: Plastic baby fetuses. Yes, I just said that. At the county and state fair, the pro-life booth would have these container on the table chock full of them. My sister and I innocently asked for them all the time and stuffed them into our jean short pockets. We have bunches. Seriously. Why, you wonder? At that time, there was no baby Barbies. And when you wrapped each up in a little piece of cloth, there’s a baby for Barbie and her boy-toy Ken. We never thought anything of it. Well … until now. So, I will, uh, leave you with that. Don’t judge.

Expensive City

22 Jul

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Living in NYC on a dime, it ain’t easy. Especially for this girl. I’m a person who every once and awhile glances at her checking account, and goes about her day as usual. When I lived in central Iowa that was usually a pretty safe deal. If I was going to go out and spend money, I might have to travel 25 miles away to do so, so it wasn’t happening every day. There were things to do that didn’t cost much money, and that was fine by me. I could go to our town’s library, take a long run through the woods, or maybe take a dip in the community pool for a few bucks. Perhaps I’d head to a local restaurant for a reasonably priced lunch or hang out at the local bar for a $3 drink. It didn’t put a huge dent in my bankbook, and I was okay with that.

Here, though, spending money freely is expected and encouraged. It’s not just a weekend thing. It’s an everyday event. Everywhere you walk, there’s a cute little pub or diner. Stores clog the streets, selling their wares. “You’re so lucky to live so close to this and that,” I hear constantly. “You have all of these crazy food options at your fingertips.” True, I do. And it is great to have options, I don’t deny that. But how many options of material goods and cuisine does a person possibly need? At first, my eyes were huge at the prospect. And I went into almost every cute boutique or funky restaurant that I saw. That definitely surprises your money supply. Quickly. We halted that spending soon after arriving in the Big Apple. It’s the everyday wallet digging that continues to shock and awe.

Want a quick bite to eat during lunch? It will run you around $13-14. And that’s for a brown-bag sandwich, chips and soda. Want a drink after work? That Lower East Side bar has specials for $7 a glass. Yeah, that’s on sale and just from the tap. And afternoon at the museum? No less than $25.

The ice cream parlor a few blocks away is another great example. It’s delicious, organic (of course it is) and will cost you about $5 for a single scoop. No cash? No problem, if you don’t mind spending the minimum $15 for a card swipe. (It’s a pretty common problem we find here. Places have high minimums or they offer an ATM in the corner that charges exorbitant fees.)

But you don’t have to worry about gas or car fees, you say. True, but I have public transportation to pay for. $2.75 per trip to be exact. And while it might not seem like a lot, if I want to get to work quicker, I pay double that price. (I save money by walking a good 25 minutes more each day.) Want to make it across town? Perhaps you’ll take a taxi for a good chunk of change.

I forgot quarters for the laundry. $2 per wash and $2 per drying cycle (it sometimes takes a couple drying cycles for towels).

And while we live comfortably in a small apartment across the water from the city, the living space would probably be four times less where I am from. We are also doing this on salaries that are pretty near to the ones we had in the Midwest (there was no expected “cost of living” factored in like we had originally thought. Thank you, English degrees.)

When I finally asked to look at my savings account balance, I was definitely astonished at what I found. Not what I expected. But I haven’t bought that iPad or camera that I have wanted. Those designer heels for my upcoming nuptials. We haven’t taken our East Coast summer vacation yet. How did it dwindle that fast? NYC, is the answer. We weren’t stupid. We knew that this would be an expensive place to live, but it still shocks you just the same when you realize just how much it would cost to do so. And although we live pretty minimally and frugally these days (crockpot dinners, basic cable, and nights spent going through our own DVD collection and putting together 2,000 piece puzzles), the expenses keep coming.

The Midwest keeps looking better each and every day. 🙂

Still Hurts

21 Jul

448It still hurts.

When a friendship ends, it sucks.

You can think about it over and over, yet nothing will change. It’s done, that’s it.

It especially hurts when you were the person who was dumped. Although I’ve tried to jump start this deadened heart, they’re done and that’s that.

I’ve been the one who has broken things off before. When someone close to me didn’t bring anything to the table but more pain, time after time, I realized that things needed to stop. So much negative energy was being tossed back and forth, and our meetings only deepened the black hole that I was currently living in. Of course, now, I would have handled it with a little more grace. Then, I just coldly ended the relationship by not returning phone calls or answering emails. The person obviously got the hint, but I still feel bad about how it happened. It was immature, inconsiderate, and just plain childish.

I’ve been that source of bitterness and pain, too. I’ve gone through more than a few bouts of depression where the conversations only languished on “me, me … ME!” I can’t imagine having to listen to the same problems on repeat, a broken record for months at a time. A few of those friends stuck by. One of them will be standing by me at my wedding this fall. She should be nominated for sainthood.

But unfortunately, I have had a couple friends just flit away and never come back. And of course, they ended the friendship as coldly as I once did. It still gets me down once and awhile. Especially when we had hit it off and clicked so well just a few years back. Sometimes circumstances, locations, jobs, well, they interfere with the friendship and cause things to get rocky. Maybe they didn’t agree with choices you made. There’s always a multitude of reasons. But sometimes, it just wasn’t worth it to the other person.

Of course, the hurt starts to fade year after year. But it burns. It truly does.

I can’t be bitter, can’t dwell on the what might have been’s, or even try to ignite what once worked. I’ve taken my hint, and am continuing to move down my own path. But I admit, it still hurts.

And so it goes.

Hot Child In The City

19 Jul

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This past week has been … sweltering. I come to work in a ponytail and summer dress clothes, I return sopping wet, my head bathed in sweat. It’s that time of year where daily or twice-a-day showers are a necessity and not just for vanity reasons.

Walking in Lower Manhattan, the sidewalks and cobblestone streets seem to radiate the heat. Everything looks dirty, dry and in need of a good dousing of rain. Dogs pee on the sidewalk, and I realize how gross everything feels. You don’t crave food. Just water, an ice cold beer and a some fanned air. When a few drops of chemical laden water falls from the single A/C units from apartments above, you are grateful.

It doesn’t matter if you look good. It doesn’t matter if you have sweat stains from every crevice of your body. It just matters that you don’t fall over and faint in this stifling heat.

Yesterday, I wore a short dress which exposed all my gross scabs from my recent fall. Everyone just turned and stared at them while I was on the PATH train home. I didn’t want to care, but I did. Today, I decided to wear a long flowing skirt to hide the monstrosities, but had to hike it up to briskly walk to my workplace. Construction workers pointed again at my angry wounds. The only time I ever get paid attention to by them, oh well.

I don’t have any plans for the weekend, I have plans to sit in front of the A/C with a bunch of movies. And for once, I’m not going to beat myself up over not visiting a new museum or park. No, it’s too hot to torture one’s self with such activities. Much, much too hot.

Facebook Lawyers

18 Jul

badgavel

YOU’VE BEEN SERVED!

It happens whenever I log on to Facebook. There I am, minding my own business, when I scroll down to see this political rant, that polarizing viewpoint, here’s how this should be done -yadi yadi ya. LAWYERED. By civilians.

Sometimes I click on the news articles, questionable blog sites, Bible verses, or HILARIOUSLY snarky comic photos (not really) – but most of the time I move on. I’VE GOT BABY PICTURES TO LOOK AT, SON.

Am I clean of this uncouth behavior? Hells to the no on that one, my friend. It was only a year, perhaps two, that I stopped posting really anything politically sensitive. Why? Because, that’s why! Need no ‘splaining here! Okay, I was originally doing it for the shock value. The “Oh, I’m smarter than you and I’m going to write all about it’ reason. It wasn’t to share information that people might find value, and I will admit that. It wasn’t to appear concerned that other people might have interesting and valid opposing views. It was to start a war, and I was hella good at it.

If you don’t know me, I’m pretty socially liberal, fiscally moderate. Oh, while I’m writing this, I did post a few pictures in the past year supporting gay marriage, but yeah, not going to even defend that. Because that viewpoint is awesome. That’s all. (SORRY, OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS, BUT NOT SORRY ON THAT ONE!)

It’s just when a public court case comes up, everyone get’s all up in arms because the system “failed” them. Probably not. I mean, they might not agree with the outcome, I might not too, but usually it amounts to whether a jury find that there is enough evidence to convict or not. If there isn’t, well, there you go.

While I like to spout my own viewpoints, I realize that taking the LSAT and being pre-law in undergrad usually doesn’t mean shit. While a couple logic classes may show me that certain statements are hyperbolic, I don’t have the training to go lecturing people on why this is right or this is wrong. So I’ve stopped defending every stance I have under the sun.

With Facebook, a lot of peeps have pretty left- or right-swinging positions. The ones who post their stances, anyway. It’s highly unlikely that you are going to change someone’s staunch opinion with a witty remark on their posting or by shoving some more statistics out there in Zuckerberg Land. Just not going to happen. Instead, it’s going to inspire eye rolls, online and public gossiping, and more people to wonder, “Why am I still on Facebook?” Really.

So there you go. Here’s my rant and whining about Facebook for the day.

Also, here are a few other things that make me give the throw-up face:

• Posting vague song lyrics. WHY?
• Posting vague anything. WHY? Just don’t vaguebook, people. It’s so … sigh.
• Negative whining and bitching constantly. YUCK.
• Posting everything and anything that happens in your day. I don’t want to know what kind of salad you had for lunch, but I am so glad you enjoyed it. I had leftover Papa John’s Pizza. TASTY!

But please, please, whatever you do, keep posting animal and baby/child photos. For the love of God, I love me some cute pictures. (THIS IS NOT SARCASTIC. I REALLY LIKE THESE PHOTOS A LOT.)

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